Review: DJI Mavic 3 CINE Premium Combo

DJI’s Mavic 3 drone is the best consumer drone the company offers and their flagship Mavic 3 CINE model offers the best of what’s possible technically, with amazing visual quality and stunning flight time.

For those after the ultimate drone experience, you can select the Premium Combo which comes with a really nice fabric carrying bag to take your drone to more places. This packs in the rest of the bundle including a new DJI RC Pro controller, 3x batteries, a charging hub, ND filters, additional props, USB cables and more.

This drone is incredibly capable with a generous 46 minute flight time per battery, stunning 5.1k video quality and 20MP photos from a Hasselblad designed professional-grade 4/3 CMOS sensor and that all gets stored on a generous 1TB SSD.

It’s also the smartest drone, with an array of cameras and smart software to fly around obstacles. There’s Active Track version 5, allowing for even more creative shots and a crazy 15km transmission range from the controller.

DESIGN

Curves in all the right places

The Mavic 3 is available in just a single colour, matte grey, so let’s hope you like that. Personally, I think I’d like to see a black option, but once you’re flying the colour matters little.

Once you’ve unpacked the contents of the box, you’ll find the drone is substantial, even when folded, but when you unfold the arms and add the props, you get an appreciation for how artfully DJI designers have worked to minimise the footprint when folded.

The foldable design of the Mavic 3 feels familiar to anyone who’s owned a recent drone from DJI and while this was introduced to the design a few years back in responding to complaints that the Phantom range was cumbersome to transport. The rear arms rotate down, while the front arms rotate out into the standard quad position. Each arm features an LED to enable you to spot your drone at a distance and help you determine which is the front and rear of the drone at a distance.

The drone is full of cameras like I’ve never seen before. There are 2 cameras upfront looking left and right, two cameras underneath looking down and another 4 at the rear that looks up and to the rear. With no less than 8 cameras positioned around the drone, it monitors the environment around it making it the best part of an uncrashable drone thanks to computer vision detection of objects and the drone will fly around obstacles, keeping itself safe, as if it has a brain.

When you’re done shooting, you’ll fold up the drone for transport. The Mavic 3 comes with a molded plastic hood to protect the camera array, this wraps around the drone so perfectly with a fabric strap that has one of the best latches I’ve ever experienced and is quite satisfying to clipit into place.

One end clips over a latch, then magnetically snaps into place. Better still is the design of this protective hood and strap, which actually accommodates the folded props perfectly, ensuring they’re safe during transport. It takes just a couple of seconds to attach this cover and remove when you’re at your next location.

The great design work doesn’t stop there. If you select a combo when you buy the Mavic 3, you’ll also get a travel bag and this feels really high-end with a great fabric exterior, as well as metal clips to secure the drone. Inside the bag, the folded drone slots easily into place, as does the controller and 3 batteries. This bag can also convert into a backpack if you’d prefer to travel that way, rather than a hand-held option. I would like to see them add a shoulder strap in the future.

PERFORMANCE

How does it perform ?

The visuals coming out of this drone are nothing short of amazing. While the footage looks great on the controller display it’s only 1080p, so it’s really when playback on a large 4K TV, or high resolution displays you’re familiar with, that you really get to appreciate just how amazing the quality of the footage really is.

The Mavic 3 CINE shoots with a Hasselblad designed professional-grade 4/3 CMOS sensor. When you pair this with the ability to switch from Autofocus to manual focus, it is possible to capture environments amazing footage with depth of field, offering a seriously professional result.

The CINE edition also includes a 1TB SSD which ensures you can shoot video or photos with freedom. If you’ve ever arrived at a shoot location only to realise you’ve left an SD card at home, you’ll understand how frustrating that can be and know you’ll never be in this situation again with the CINE.

When it comes to photos, you can capture up to 20MP in quality which allows for great quality, even after some cropping. To be honest, I have created plenty of wallpapers from still frames off the 5.1k footage, but if you want to go to the next level, switching to photo mode is just a button away. If you want to get more advanced control, that is definitely offered with bracketing providing the ability to shoot HDR-style photos, merging the different exposures for that perfect shot.

Something I really wish was possible but sadly isn’t, is the ability to fly in Sport mode, and have the smart obstacle avoidance systems still enabled. Sadly once you kick into the faster Sports mode, all the smarts are disabled and you’re on your own. Given the price tag of this drone, that does place a certain level of nervousness to your flying.

FEATURES

Stand out features of this drone.

This drone is packed full of features and it’s the specific set of features that DJI has assembled in the Mavic 3 that makes it the best consumer drone on the market.

To begin, there’s the camera system upfront, that you’ll use to capture the amazing (and at times terrifying) world we live in. This is done using a 4/3″ Hasselblad Sensor that captures greater detail than ever before.

The camera offers a massive 12.8 stops of dynamic range, and an adjustable aperture from F/2.8 to F/11 allowing for filming in a variety of lighting conditions. Sadly Australia’s drone laws don’t permit flying at night, but I’m led to believe the low-light performance is also amazing.

While there is a wide-angle lens availale for this, the default is pretty wide, offering a 84° Field of view. This equates to what you’d get with a 24mm-equivalent on a DSLR. One of my favourite parts of this camera system is its zoom capabilities. This works like many hybrid-zoom systems on today’s smartphones, you get so far with optical, then it switches to digital zoom.

While there’s probably not a lot useful footage captured at the maximum zoom levels, the ability to zoom in, does offer some new opportunities to capture content that you’re unable to physically position the drone close to.

Of course, with 5.1K quality footage, it is also possible to scale the footage in post-production to frame content in a more dramatic fashion, whichever technique you choose, it’s great to have options.

This drone isn’t all about the video though, it’s still frames can be captured in up to 20MP quality. The still is one thing, but it’s the smart panorama or even sphere captures that really show off the drone’s capabilities.

I sit in front of a 49″ Ultrawide monitor and there’s nothing better than a 180-degree panorama from the drone, to fill the 5120×1440 pixels of my desktop wallpaper.

There are also great timelapse options, perfect for snapping photos at specific intervals to capture events that play out over time. It would be possible to simply record video, then increase the speed to shrink the duration, although that’s a lot more filesize to deal with.

If you select timelapse mode, the drone will capture photos and assemble them into a completed video, all with the on-board software. What’s great about the really long battery life of more than 40 minutes, is that this provides opportunities for timelapses, that simply aren’t possible with other drones.

Flying the drone is really familiar for anyone who’s flown a DJI before, but the controls can also be customised to suit your personal preference. As you fly, you’ll be able to command the drone from an incredible 15km away. Again this is an instance where our local CASA regulations are outpaced by the technology.

Technically you’re meant to keep a line of sight to the drone, but honestly, once a hundred meters away, you’re far better to watch for obstacles using the display on the controller. Even if you don’t plan on flying the Mavic 3 very far, the ability to, without losing signal makes for an incredible flying experience and one you can be confident about.

Easily one of my favourite features is this drone’s ability to alert you of aircraft in the area. This is one of the massive differences between an expensive, intelligent drone like this, and a cheap drone, they simply lack this kind of safety feature. When flying at a park on day, I received the message on screen, landed the drone and not 10 seconds later, seen a plane fly overhead.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind if DJI took this tech to the next level and automatically landed the drone (returning to the Home point), to ensure everyone is safe.

 

Obstacle avoidance

When you’re investing this kind of money into a drone, the last thing you want to do is crash it, so thankfully DJI included a bunch of cameras to prevent that from happening.

Obstacle avoidance is not a new technology for DJI, but I have flown earlier models that lacked rear-facing obstacle avoidance and have crashed into a tree before as I pulled back for a wider shot.

I don’t want to say this drone is uncrashable, but it basically is. It has a great ability to see in virtually all directions and the cool bit is, you can choose if you want the drone to fly around an obstacle, or simply stop if it detects one. You can literally have your control stick hard in the up position to fly straight at a tree and it’ll go around it and here’s the great part, the footage is really smooth as it does this.

While I certainly haven’t tested every power line, or tree branch, the tests I did do, left me seriously impressed with the computer vision DJI is showing off here.

 

Flight Modes

While not all flight modes were available at launch, DJI has since resolved that, adding many flight modes with a software update.

MasterShots is a feature that allows you to enter the drone into an autonomous mode that moves around you, capturing a series of common shots. It then combines the clips together for a highlights-style video. This is an amazing showcase of DJI’s software capabilities and while they’ve definitely nailed the hardware, it really exciting software features like this, that can help drone pilots capture great video, particularly if you find yourself flying solo.

QuickShots are really fun, small pre-programmed flight paths for the drone to fly in and capture events in interesting ways. These include Dronie, Rocket, Circle, Helix, Boomerang and Asteroid.

Each of these has a number of configurations, generally to customise the length or direction of the flight sequence. While these may not be something you use everyday, I really do love that DJI included these.

Active Track – A very common use for a drone like this is to track a moving object. That may be a person walking, someone riding a bike or scooter, or even a car. Active Track is always available, just by drawing a selection rectangle on the touchscreen.

With a subject identified, you then move on to select what angle you’d like to follow that subject from and with the Mavic 3, you get serious options here. You can have someone tracked in left, right, forward, or backward, and even the 3/4 angles between each 90 degree view. This offers amazing flexibility in filming and all that is available, as a result of having superior obstacle avoidance.

With a subject selected, your controls stop being relative to the drone, but rather relative to the subject. Pushing forward moves closer to the subject, back is further away. You can rotate the drone around the subject too, providing great establishing shot, great for scenic locations.

Spotlight – This allows you to select stationary objects like buildings, amazing for anyone in real estate. There is an option to animate the flight path, circling around objects and of course, can adapt to the environment, avoiding any obstacles.

 

DJI Smart Controller (v3)

Many of you have will have used a drone controller that requires you to clip in your phone or tablet to the top of it, so you can see the video feed from the drone, all run through the DJI Fly mobile app.

The DJI RC Pro controller comes with a built-in display offering a 1920×1080p resolution at 5.5″ in size. While this sounds very similar to the standard controller, having the display position below the control, provides far better weight distribution and feels great in the hands. Hidden in the battery grips, is 5000 mAh of battery, ensuring your controller will last, many hours between charges.

It also features a MicroSD card slot, allowing you to have the peace of mind of capturing footage locally, in case anything happened to the drone, as unlikely as it that is. It also offers a mini HDMI-out port and for those in more of a TV commercial or movie production setup, this is likely going to be helpful for multiple people to experience the framing of the scene on a larger monitor or TV.

The controller feels great in the hand, with a nice weight (created mostly by the rechargeable batteries inside), and has removable thumbsticks for easy transportation, although I found myself regularly leaving these attached.

The controller supports microSD capture, to ensure you have a redundant capture and can make it easy to share on your favourite social platforms.

The controller runs Android, which means, you can install Android apps on it. It is unfortunate that this doesn’t come with the Google Play Store on it, to enable quick and easy app installs, but the transfer of .APKs isn’t too difficult.

Once you’ve added your favourite apps, you can leverage all their functionality, including live streaming to social platforms like Facebook, YouTube etc.

There’s great portability on offer here too, with the removable thumbsticks, able to be stored conveniently in the back of the controller, and the antennas at the top also being foldable, this can easily slide into the bag between flight locations.

The controller also features 3 flight modes, N, or Normal is your starting point, which allows for standard flight operation and all the obstacle detections enabled, but not at the highest speed. If you shift up to S mode, you’ll be flying in Sport mode.

This allows the drone to fly at the highest speed possible, as much as 70km/hr. If you engage this, you’ll see a prompt warning that obstacle avoidance is not going to help you, so fly safely.

Built-in 1TB SSD

A first for a DJI drone, the CINE model of the Mavic 3 comes with a built-in 1TB SSD. This is so large, it’ll store video from many shoots all on a single drive. If you’ve ever turned up to a brilliant location, with the perfect weather, only to realise you’ve left the SD card in your laptop at home, then you need this drone.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this feature so much, but it really is freeing to have the ability to just focus on flying and capturing the perfect shot, rather than the storage issues that come as part of filming for hours.

When you get back to your editing desk, you can transfer the footage over a fast USB-C cable from the conveniently place USB port which is accessible, even when the drone is folded.

For those who do want to store their footage on removable cars, that option is also still available.

 

Flight Time

This drone has amazing capabilities, like a generous 46 minute flight time. Having a really generous flight time like this enables you to set up shots like never before. What’s great about buying the combo is that you get 3 batteries, which could provide between 120 -130 minutes of flight time. If you can’t capture what you need to in that length of time, something is really wrong.

What’s also great about having longer flight times is a feature like Timelapse will allow you to capture sunsets and condense that footage to seconds. (the attention span of most audiences).

The final thing around flight time is that it provides new opportunities. Given some more complicated shoots may involve flying some distance to a location, let’s say an island, you can easily fly there, capture what you need, then return home safely.

 

Travel bag

Something included in the CINE Premium combo is this really great travel bag. This allows you to slip in the drone (with its included lens cover on), into a dedicated pocket, along with the 3 batteries and controller. There’s also space for additional cables, filters, storage cards and more.

This is really great quality and is perfect for protecting the drone during transit. I loved being able to load this in the frunk of the Tesla Model 3 and know that it’s safe.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

With a quality drone like this, there’s really very little to complain about. If I had to suggest something for DJI to improve, it’d be these two things.

Collision avoidance in Sports mode

With the Mavic 3, you can either have a safe, virtually uncrashable drone, or you can have a really fast drone, but you can’t have both. When you flip the controller switch over to the S (Sport), you get a message on the screen to let you know, collision avoidance is now disabled. At this point, all the smarts go away and you’re on your own.

While I appreciate most people buying this drone will be chasing slower, more cinematic shots, there are times when dramatic, fast-moving shots are necessary. This raises the question of why DJI would need to disable this at speed?

I believe this vision-based collision detection works using computer vision to detect objects that are in the path of the drone. Perhaps this speed limitation reflects a processor limitation in this hardware, obviously, at speed, detection needs to occur faster to be effective and once an object is detected, the evasive maneuver has to be completed faster to avoid a collision.

If this is indeed a processor performance issue, relating to its ability to process frames at and make decisions fast enough, then I’m hopeful we’ll see the supported speed improved in future versions.

Smart flight modes

As impressive as the smart flight modes are, like Active Track 5, there are times when the drone moves in a way that you don’t feel in control of. It would be good to see DJI offer a way to tell the drone exactly the flight path, distance, angle etc from the subject and adapt dynamically to objects in its path, so you can nail the perfect shot.

Persistent Waypoints

Waypoints is a way you can fly the drone to multiple locations, set the camera angle and then playback through the waypoints while recording, to capture a scene in a very structured fashion, while the rotations are smoothed out to look like you are an absolute pro.

I imagine scenarios where a pilot may like to repeat the same shot sequence between Waypoints, day after day, or week after week. Imagine a farmer with a crop monitoring challenge. This would also be useful for longer journeys and allow you to come back to land, change batteries and then return to the same route between waypoints. This could also have advantages for those who wish to perform extended time-lapses and with 3x batteries, up to 46 minutes each could really provide an amazing result.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

The DJI Mavic 3 does not come cheap and after reading through it’s capabilities, that probably doesn’t surprise you.

The DJI Mavic 3, starts at A$3,099 and comes with the drone, the transport cover, regular controller (BYO phone), usb cables, charger and additional props.

Those who fly more regularly should consider the DJI Mavic 3 Fly More Combo that costs A$4,199. For the extra money, you get 3 intelligent flight batteries, a charging hub, the fantastic convertible carry bag, and ND filters to help with shooting in different lighting conditions.

Finally, we step up to the top offering, the DJI Mavic 3 CINE Premium Combo for A$7,199. This sizable jump in cost includes the Mavic 3 CINE drone (that has CINE branding so everyone will know you paid up for it). This supports Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ video recording and includes that 1TB SSD, as well as the seriously great RC Pro controller.

Something that is exclusive to the CINE edition, is the inclusion of a DJI 10Gbps Lightspeed Data Cable. This ensures you can transfer that stunning footage in seconds, despite files being tens of gigabytes each.

Naturally, DJI offers a number of accessories from their online store including MicroSD storage cards, additional batteries (A$289) and a Wide-angle Lens A$229.

OVERALL

Final thoughts

Those who buy at the top end of the drone market should absolutely consider the Mavic 3 CINE as their next drone. The combination of collision avoidance technology, amazing flight time, stunning 5.1k video quality and smart shooting modes, means the Mavic 3 is without a doubt, the most impressive consumer/prosumer drone on the market.

While the steep price point will be a challenging hurdle for many to get over, those who can use the drone for commercial work, will be able more easily justify the cost of admission. For those who read this review and want one, it is likely the Mavic 3 will do the vast majority of jobs you throw at it, and only those after the very best should consider the CINE edition.

Haivng a flagship drone like this in the lineup will certainly leave many thirsty for it. For any brand, having a lustworthy model at the top of the lineup helps people put other models into perspective, but if you’re an avid enthusiast and can afford the price, this is a stunning offering from DJI that cements their position at the top.

The capabilities of the Mavic 3 actually gets awfully close to their professional-grade Inspire 2 drone and in some cases eclipses it. The Mavic 3 offers 5.1k video quality, very close to the 6K from the Inspire 2, although you can do some neat tricks like remote focus control on the Inspire.

The speed of the drone is probably the biggest differentiator, with both offering the intelligence to avoid obstacles in its path and fly around them.  The Mavic 3 also has a better flight time and more storage than the Inspire, so there are definitely some advantages to both.

Ultimately the Inspire 2 is out of stock right now, so the Mavic 3 CINE really is the best you can buy from DJI today, save your money and buy it, you won’t regret it.

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