DJI Mavic 3 review: The best consumer drone, period

DJI nailed it with the Mavic 3. It shoots super stable video, has professional-looking pre-programmed modes, and an incredibly-smart obstacle avoidance system for crash-free flying.

DJI Mavic 3 drone review: best consumer drone period
Jackson Chen / Input

Having a drone means you get access to breathtaking angles. Having a good drone means all your photos and video will come out nice and stable. But, having a DJI Mavic 3 means you get all that and some of the smartest obstacle avoidance technology on the market.

After flying the Mavic 3 around for a few weeks, I got to experience a completely fresh perspective when it comes to finding the perfect angle. And the best part was that I never really had to worry about crashing the drone.

The Mavic 3, its controller and two backup batteries take up most of my camera bag, but I still have room for another camera.Jackson Chen / Input

For $2,200, the Mavic 3 is easily the top choice when it comes to consumer drones in this price range. For an extra $800, you can go for the Mavic 3 Fly More Combo which includes three batteries, a battery charging hub, an ND filter set, and a convertible bag that carries it all.

After the quick setup, there was barely a learning curve for getting used to how the drone flies and the sensitivity of the joysticks. The more I flew it, the more confident I felt in the omnidirectional obstacle sensing system, even putting down the controller sometimes or trying to fly it directly into trees other times.

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Maiden voyage

For my first time using the Mavic 3, I ventured to my town green since it offered plenty of open space. I was definitely timid at first because I didn’t want to crash the drone on my first day, but it didn’t take too long to get the hang of it. Flying the Mavic 3 around felt very responsive and it didn’t struggle to stay in place with some wind blowing.

I noticed the Mavic 3 fighting a little more to stay in place on gustier days, but it can hang in winds around 26 mph. Jackson Chen / Input

Once I felt confident, I was ready to see what the Mavic 3 could really do, especially with its pre-programmed cinematic video features that were finally added. In November, when DJI released the Mavic 3, it didn’t actually come with a lot of the promised features. A few months down the line, they added the MasterShots and QuickShots modes that make for professional-looking drone shots with just a press of a button. Even for someone without a lot of experience flying drones, the shots came out looking impressive with very little effort involved.

MasterShots makes the Mavic 3 film for two minutes and then edits it all together into an overly-epic package. Jackson Chen / Input

After a few days of drone practice under my belt, I was eager to see how good the obstacle avoidance was. So, I set the Mavic 3 to automatically bypass obstacles and sent it flying straight into some trees. It feels like you have to try really hard to crash the drone because no matter how fast I was going or which direction I was coming from, it would smoothly maneuver around the trees without me having to do anything.


Now that I could fully place my trust in the object avoidance, it was time to see if the Mavic 3 could keep up with a full day of rock climbing. I knew the spot that we were going to was full of trees, which would make for a perfect obstacle course. I wasn’t completely reckless when it came to navigating between all the dormant trees and their dead branches. Even though I was mostly in Normal Mode on the controller, switching to Cine Mode — which makes for smoother, more controlled movements — came in clutch for navigating particularly branchy passages.

You have to try really hard to crash the drone.

The Mavic 3 was nimble enough to negotiate between all the tiny, little branches and get to the right spot to post up for some photos and videos. It was an absolute blast experimenting with all the new angles that I could now reach with the Mavic 3. The drone opened up an entire world of possibility since I could just fly to wherever I needed to be for the perfect shot.

I cropped in heavily for this image, but you can still make out fine little details on the rock.Jackson Chen / Input

I ended up having to land the drone early in the day because I didn’t even realize that I almost drained the 5,000 mAh battery. After I put the drone away because I didn’t bring any extra batteries, I told my friends that I felt like I was only flying the drone for around 15 minutes. But they were quick to correct me, saying that I was glued to it for closer to 45 minutes — which is about right since DJI said the Mavic 3 has a max flight time of around 46 minutes.

I was impressed with the amount of quality you can get out of the Hasselblad camera and the 4/3 CMOS sensor. Jackson Chen / Input

The Mavic 3’s 4/3 CMOS sensor is a lot smaller than full-frame mirrorless lenses or even APS-C sensors found in regular cameras, but the image quality is still solid. The 20 megapixels and the amount of detail you get with the main camera is plenty, in my opinion. And the 12.8 stops of dynamic range was able to capture all the details in the shadow of the boulder, while not blowing out the top of the rock that the sun was hitting. The Mavic 3’s dual-camera system also offers a telecamera that gives you 28x zoom, but I didn’t actually find the extreme zoom that useful in the time I spent with it.

Fast follow

Learning from my mistakes, I knew to bring the extra batteries that come with DJI’s Fly More combo for some testing at the skatepark. There are a lot more moving parts at the skatepark so that’s where I really wanted to try out all the different QuickShots features.

The gimbal was so reliably steady that I didn’t have to edit out any video shake or blurriness. Jackson Chen / Input

I admit that I was probably too trusting of the obstacle avoidance since I even set down the drone controller for QuickShots’ Rocket mode. I’m not quite sure that DJI would recommend that, but the Mavic 3 didn’t crash. Being a little more responsible with the other QuickShots options, I was also able to get some cool expansive videos of my local skatepark by just setting a subject and hitting go.

In Boomerang mode, the Mavic 3 started to head towards the trees, but knew not to go directly into them.Jackson Chen / Input

I figured skating around the park was the perfect way to test DJI’s Active Track feature, where the drone dynamically follows whatever subject you set. But, there were some times where the Mavic 3 struggled to lock on me as a subject and other times where it’d completely lose track of me since I was going too fast.

The Mavic 3 did a pretty good job at following me around the skatepark, even with some close calls. Jackson Chen / Input

When recording with the ActiveTrack, that’s where I noticed some serious wonkiness with the obstacle detection system. It felt like the Mavic 3 was more concerned with following me than avoiding obstacles, sometimes flying directly toward the tree line or getting way too close for comfort to some of the kids at the skatepark.

There were a couple of close calls where the Mavic 3 even thwacked some branches, but luckily, it recovered just fine. The ActiveTrack is definitely a knock on the Mavic 3. I don’t think this is an issue caused by the stellar built-in obstacle avoidance, but rather is something that’ll probably be addressed in a future firmware update.

Still, those QuickShots videos required minimal effort and produced some incredibly smooth footage. For me, it’s definitely evidence that DJI still has the gold standard when it comes to drone video stabilization.

When it comes to video quality, the Mavic 3 can shoot up to 5.1K at 50 fps in both Apple ProRes 422 HQ and H.264/H.265. You can bump it down to film 4K footage up to 60 fps, with the option of 120 fps for slow-mo videos. The Mavic 3 can even hit 200 fps in FHD resolution for some ultra slow-mo action. The drone also lets you film in D-Log and shoot in RAW, so you get a good amount of flexibility in post for color correction and adjustments when editing afterwards.

Drone king

Even if you factor in the ActiveTrack issues, I still feel like the Mavic 3 would be my top choice if I had to shell out good money for a drone. The combination of those super easy-to-use QuickShots and MasterShots, and the surprisingly-smart object avoidance really makes the Mavic 3 feel like a well-polished and easy-to-use drone. After spending the last few weeks with its latest drone, it makes total sense why DJI has such a stranglehold on the consumer drone market.

Jackson Chen / Input
Even late during the sunset, the Mavic 3 was able to tweeze out the last bits of light so you can see homes, the movie theater and the highway in this high-in-the-sky shot.

If you’re perhaps worried about the security risks or human rights concerns that the U.S. agencies have brought up about DJI, you could always go with Washington-based brand Autel and its Evo II Pro. The Autel drone is slightly cheaper at nearly $1,800 and offers 6K video, but has a slightly smaller one-inch sensor and a max flight time of 40 minutes. DJI’s Air 2S at $999 is a more affordable option that can still record up to 5.4K video at 30 fps, but you give up all the bells and whistles.

It was an absolute blast experimenting with all the new angles that I could now reach with the Mavic 3.

While any drone can expand the limits of my photography, I feel like the trust and confidence I can put into the Mavic 3 is what separates it from its competition. I’m not much of a video guy either, but all those pre-programmed modes showed me how easy it is to get some cool drone shots wherever you’re at. I’ll definitely be bummed the day I inevitably crash a drone, but until that day comes, I’ll keep putting my trust into the Mavic 3.

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