Back in February, I reviewed the best from DJI, the Mavic 3 CINE drone which offered absolutely stunning visual quality but came with a big price tag. Just 9 months later, I’m now flying DJI’s Mavic 3 Classic. The Classic version of the Mavic 3 still offers stunning video quality, while addressing the biggest criticism of the CINE.
With the Mavid 3 Classic, DJI drops the price to a more approachable price point of A$2,399. If you want DJI’s fantastic DJI RC controller, you’ll pay A$2,599. If you have one already and are upgrading to the Mavic 3 Classic, you can get the drone itself for A$2,299. This compares to the Cine Premium Combo which cost A$7,199.
This is definitely not a small drone and compared to the DJI Mini 3 Pro, it is gigantic. To help with portability, this is another foldable drone, which certainly helps to increase transportability. For those who travel in cars with large centre consoles, it may still be possible to stow the folded Mavic 3 between locations. I found the Model 3’s front trunk is a perfect location for the drone, it fits, with the controller, even with the arms extended making the process to fly, fast and fun.
What you get for that extra size, is a stunning camera, the absolute standout feature of this device. Being able to capture footage from above at 5.1K and 60 fps is great, but the figures don’t always correlate to represent the stunning visual quality captured by this drone. There should also be credit given to the RC controller, the display is brilliant and allows you to see in the field, a great representation of what’s being captured by your drone.
The more prominent form factor of the Mavic 3 Classic also offers far better wind resistance and having flown in very windy conditions over the past couple of weeks, it’s almost confusing how stable the footage is, with the drone compensating well for the lateral pressure.
With larger props, in theory, they could spin slower making them quieter, but given the drone’s size, weight and speed capabilities, the drone still puts out a decent volume. This is most impactful in situations where you’re trying to capture things like wildlife that are sensitive and can be disturbed by noise. If you’re trying to capture cows, kangaroos, horses and similar, then you’d love it to be slightly quieter.
The Mavic 3 Classic offers many of the features of the CINE, with the exception of support for the Apple ProRes 422 standard and the telephoto lens at the top of the camera module. Having now flown both, I can honestly say, I really didn’t miss these features, so would definitely recommend the Mavic 3 Classic over the CINE unless you’re trying to spend the most money possible.
The Mavic 3 intelligent flight batteries are again a different size and shape to other DJI models, meaning if you have any existing batteries or charging docks from different DJI models, you’ll be starting over with the Mavic 3. Thankfully those who do fly a lot and have extended shooting requirements, each battery will give you as much as 46 minutes of flying time.
Naturally, the flight time depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of wind as the motors need to do more work to steady the shot. Recording versus not also consumes more battery, but if you’re not recording, why are you in the air?
What I really loved is the speed at which you can land, replace the battery with a fully charged battery and be back in the air. I didn’t time this but felt like it was under a couple of minutes for the whole process.
While I got 2 batteries for the review, the charging doc actually has 4 slots for batteries. This will support larger workloads and for those doing extended time-lapses, this provides a great capacity to film over longer periods of time. Some other drones struggle to reach half of these times, so DJI really needs to be commended for how power efficient their drones are.
This is where we talk about the smarts or brains of this drone. DJI has something called Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 5.0. This is their latest version of the technology that helps protect your drone when flying.
After piloting a drone for a while, you’ll likely start to get more adventurous as you gain confidence as a pilot. As you begin to push the envelope with flying angles, you risk crashing your drone into objects like trees, signs, wires etc.
With APAS, your drone will leverage the array of cameras positioned to look in virtually every direction, to avoid collisions with these objects.
The Mavic 3 Classic continually senses objects in all directions. Cheaper drones offer some protection, but not always forward/back, up/down and sideways collision detection. In the software, you get to select either to fly around an object, great if your focus is continuous recording, regardless of the flight path, or simply stop the drone in place when an obstacle is detected. In this case, you may ruin the shot and need to re-shoot, but is great to know your drone investment is protected.
If you’re a new drone pilot, this can really save your bacon, just remember, if you fly in Sport Mode for the maximum speed, the APAS system is disabled and you’re on your own. I really hope DJI work on this in future models to allow you to fly at speed and have confidence you won’t crash, but there is a limit to how well something like a power line or fence can be detected when flying fast.
Advanced return to home
Always end on a high note with Advanced RTH. This updated auto-return function enables Mavic 3 Classic to automatically determine the optimal route back to its home point and execute it quickly. Mavic 3 Classic can fly to a designated altitude and then find a safe and efficient route back to its home point, combining the advantages of Advanced RTH and traditional RTH, allowing users to choose the best option according to their environment.
DJI recently released a firmware update for the Mavic 3 and other drones in their lineup that allows you to press a button and continue flying in any direction, without having to continually press the control sticks. The idea here is to make makes long-duration flight and shots, far more effortless and because it’s being done digitally, much smoother than analog inputs from a human.
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to test this out, as my Mavic 3 Classic continues to say it is up to date, despite being on an older firmware version.
DJI drones are now famous for their flight modes that help automate some of the tasks pilots would like to capture. These include the ability to fly between waypoints, circle an object, create a hyper-lapse video, panorama stills, slow motion and one we can’t really test in Australia.. night mode.
Master shots is a great inclusion, allowing you to select objects, and effectively create a highlight reel saving you time as a creator.
If you’re just chasing a single shot, then QuickShots is your friend. These are typically more difficult shots to capture manually, involving both drone and camera movements simultaneously. If you’re an experienced pilot, you may find these limiting, but if you’re just getting started, these are a great way to impress.
To get an appreciation of the quality possible from this drone, I’ve cut together a highlight reel from some of my recent flights with the Mavic 3 Classic.
For those who prefer stills, these are images pulled from the video.
Issues / Room for Improvement
After having spent time with the Mini 3 Pro which features a vertical shooting mode for content on TikTok, Instagram Stories, YouTube Shorts etc, I did miss that feature here.
Outside of vertical video, it is really hard to find things I didn’t like about the Mavic 3 classic. Of course, I wish it was even cheaper so it was an option for more people, but rarely do we see a product live up to the specs and marketing to this degree.
It’s hard to think of many viable alternatives or direct competitors that play at this image quality, flight time, or smarts. This actually creates a challenge for DJI next year, what can they do to improve the Mavic for version 4?
One obvious path forward is to continue to increase the image resolution, and while it’s still early, 8k is going to arrive at some stage in a big way and part of that media pipeline is the source content, which DJI can help with.
DJI also has to be careful to find a balance between the top end of their consumer/prosumer range and their higher end, much more expensive commercial drone range.
It’s likely the software smarts used for both obstacle detection and various flight modes will continue to improve as well and I feel we’re not too far away from them shipping an ‘uncrashable drone’.
Price & Availability
The DJI Mavic 3 Classic starts at A$2,399 with the regular controller, if you want that RC controller with the display built-in (you do), then you’ll be up for A$2,599.
While that price may sound like a lot to people, it is, some people buy used cars for this kind of money, however, buying a drone like this is for one of two types of people.
The first kind of person who buys the DJI Mavic 3 Classic is a drone enthusiast with lots of disposal money and loves to have fun. This buyer will make their own assessments about the return on investment, but chances are they’re looking at impressing friends and contacts with their footage while making themselves incredibly happy, rather than paying off the initial price of admission.
The second kind of person is the commercial one. If you shoot videos of weddings, real estate, or stock footage of environments etc then the Mavic 3 Classic is a fantastic drone for you. Given you’ll have a revenue stream to pay off the drone, it’s simply a question of how long that’ll take you and honestly if you’re any good at being a pilot, this should be fairly easy.
Ultimately the price tag is not outrageous for what’s on offer with the smarts in this drone, the battery life and the visual quality possible.
What DJI has created here, is a stunning example of what’s technically possible in 2022. The ability to accurately capture our amazing world in stunning detail and colour is great, but then you layer over the creativity possible with the different flight modes and the luxury of extended flight times and this really gives content creators significant capability in the sky.
While this won’t fit inside everyone’s budget, those shooting content commercially should definitely be able to justify the price of admission here.
There’s a great chance that when you bring the footage back from your first project with the Mavic 3 Classic, your boss will understand why this was a great investment.