DJI Mini 3 drone
Image courtesy: DJI

The DJI Mini 3 is the best first drone to buy, period.

If you’re looking for the perfect starter drone to add to your adventure kit, you’re reading the right review. The DJI Mini 3 is the best first drone to buy, period. It’s small, it’s easy to fly and it will stay in the air for up to 51 minutes. Shooting up to 4K at 30 frames per second, the Mini 3’s 1/1.3-inch sensor offers dual-native ISO for exceptional low-light performance. It lacks many of the autonomous flight modes offered in the Mini 3 Pro, but that’s the idea. The Mini 3 includes only the things you need when starting out — with nothing to complicate the experience. For new drone pilots, the DJI Mini 3 is ideal.

The DJI Mini 3 is ideal for new pilots

There are several features that make the DJI Mini 3 the perfect choice for new pilots. Let’s dig deeper into some of these highlights.

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It’s easy to fly

First, the DJI Mini 3 is simple for anyone to set up and start flying. This is what we have come to expect from DJI drones. In the decade since launching their first consumer drone — the DJI Phantom 1 — DJI has perfected the flying experience in the DJI FlyApp. All of the flight controls, exposure controls and color settings are simple and easy to use. Take-off and landing are automated, and DJI’s QuickShot options help you capture engaging, dynamic footage with ease.

And if something goes wrong while the drone is in the air, the Return to Home function will take the Mini 3 back to its starting point. That means the drone can still land safely in the event of a dropped signal or low battery.

It can stay up a long time

The Mini 3 can fly with either the regular Intelligent Flight Battery or the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus. When in optimal flying conditions, these batteries each offer 38 and 51 minutes of flying time, respectively. That is especially impressive considering a maximum flight time of just 20 minutes was considered standard just a few years ago. There is a lot you can capture with a 51-minute flight time.

On top of it’s long battery life, the Mini 3 features a wind resistance level of 5. This is the most common level for drones today — even professional drones. It means that you can safely fly the Mini 3 in wind speeds up to 24 mph. The Mini 3 has a maximum forward flight speed of 35 mph — so it’s no slouch. Plus, it’s surprisingly quiet with minimal propeller noise.

It’s small

DJI Mini 3 folded
Image courtesy: DJI

The Mini 3’s foldable, lightweight form factor is another attractive feature for new pilots. Weighing under 249 grams with the regular battery, the Mini 3 is easy to take with you. Its 14.2-inch wingspan shrinks down to just 3.5 inches when folded. That means you can just fold it up and toss it into a backpack before a hike or bike ride. Beyond that, however, the Mini 3’s sub-250 g weight means you won’t have to register your drone with the government.

It doesn’t need to be registered

The FAA requires pilots to register all drones weighing 250 g or more. That’s why every drone in DJI’s Mini lineup comes in at less than 249 g. However, keep in mind that upgrading to the DJI Intelligent Flight Battery Plus adds around 40 g to the total weight of the drone. That puts the Mini 3 above the 250 g registration weight limit.

One last note on the FAA registration requirements: If you plan on making money with the drone, you will need a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA regardless of drone weight. For this, you’ll have to pass the FAA Part 107 exam. For more information, including Part 107 study tips, head to videomaker.com/drone.

It tells you where to fly

Speaking of flight restrictions, DJI also makes it easy for new pilots to figure out where they are and aren’t allowed to fly. (For instance, did you know drones are banned from flying in National Parks?) When you are looking for somewhere to fly, you can use FlySpot in the DJI FlyApp to see if there are any flying restrictions. Beginners don’t have to worry about getting in trouble for flying somewhere they shouldn’t.

It’s fairly priced

Finally, new pilots looking for an entry-level drone with pro-level image quality will appreciate the price point. We don’t know of any comparable drone in its price range. Pricing for the Mini 3 starts at $469 with packages climbing up to $658 depending on the controller choice and battery selection. This is a great price for a drone this capable.

Image quality

One of the major selling points for DJI drones has always been their image quality. Let’s talk about the image quality on the DJI Mini 3. The drone features a 12-megapixel 1/1.3-inch CMOS image sensor paired with a fixed f/1.7 aperture lens with an 82.1-degree field of view. That’s the equivalent of a 24 mm lens on a full-frame camera. It can focus on objects from 1 meter to infinity.

With this setup, the Mini 3 shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second or up to 60 fps in 2.7K and 1080p. It also features HDR shooting at 24, 25 and 30 fps. The drone records to MP4 files with a bitrate of 100 Mbps. You also get a 2x digital zoom in 4K, 3x in 2.7K and 4x in Full HD. This allows you to get closer to your subject while still flying safely.

Though you have a fixed aperture, you can control your exposure using the drone’s ISO and shutter speed settings. Still, we recommend neutral density filters as a must-buy for any drone. An ND filter will help further control the amount of light entering the camera lens.

Overall, the image from the DJI Mini 3 is clear and crisp with vibrant colors. The footage will blend right in with footage from other 4K cameras in the edit.

Low-light performance

DJI Mini 3 accessories
Image courtesy: DJI

The Mini 3 offers an ISO range of 100 to 3,200 with dual-native ISO for improved low-light performance — and it shows. The lower native ISO starts at ISO 100. Then the camera switches to the second native ISO above ISO 800. With noise reduction turned off, this significantly reduces the amount of noise that’s visible at high ISOs. With noise reduction on, the Mini 3’s dual-native ISO preserves more detail when shooting in low light.

During our test flights, we took the Mini 3 inside a poorly lit abandoned building. Despite less-than-ideal conditions, we came away with great-looking footage free from distracting noise.

Vertical shooting mode

For social media content creators, the Mini 3 offers a vertical shooting mode. When shooting vertically, the camera physically turns 90 degrees to the side. That means you still get full use of the image sensor — no cropping of lost resolution.

The result is a 9:16 image that’s actually larger than what’s accepted on most social media platforms. That extra resolution gives you space to crop when needed. Plus, downscaling the higher-resolution footage offers a sharper image overall.

QuickTransfer and LightCut

To further support fast-paced, social media-optimized workflows, the DJI Mini 3 also works with DJI QuickTransfer as well as the LightCut editing app.

DJI’s QuickTransfer allows you to quickly and wireless transfer media from the drone to your mobile device. That means you can share highlights from your flight right away. You don’t have to wait until the end of the day when you can get back to your computer.

To skip the offloading process altogether, the Mini 3 also pairs with LightCut. LightCut is an AI editing app that supports real-time footage preview. With it, you can stream the clip you just shot directly from the drone. This saves you both time and storage space. In addition, LightCut allows you to quickly piece together clips stored on the Mini 3, then export the resulting video for sharing.

The app also offers a number of helpful features, like AI-powered highlight reels, premade video templates and dynamic effects. For example, you can add a tilt-shift effect to your clips to give your footage a toy-like look.

A closer look at QuickShots

Let’s take a look at the Mini 3’s QuickShot options. First of all, we were happy to find that we could use all of the available QuickShot modes for both normal horizontal 16:9 shooting and vertical 9:16 shooting. That gives you lots of flexibility no matter what format you’re shooting for.

Another note: We encourage every new pilot to learn to fly a drone manually. However, it’s nice to be able to lean on the Mini 3’s QuickShot options to get the shot you’re going for in a pinch.

Here’s a rundown of what each option gives you.

Dronie

Taking a dronie is like taking a selfie with the drone’s help. The drone frames the pilot in the center of the shot, then zips backward to reveal the rest of your surroundings. This cute shot is great for capturing the moment for your personal video collection. However, it’s not one you will likely use very often in filmmaking.

Rocket

Like the dronie shot, rocket starts with the subject centered in the frame. However, instead of backing out and away, rocket sends the drone straight up while directing the camera downward.

Circle and Boomerang

More useful is the circle shot. Unfortunately, you are not able to change the speed of the drone as it circles its subject. Also, we notices that the Mini 3 struggled to keep us in the center of the frame during the maneuver. In our tests, the drone circled about six feet away from me. Despite its imperfections, the result is still better than what most pilots could achieve manually.

Boomerang is very similar to circle, but with an oval-shaped flight path.

Helix

The helix shot combines the circle and rocket shots. The drone orbits around the subject while at the same time spiraling upward. This is an effective way to add drama to your drone footage.

Panorama mode

Aside from the flight control QuickShots, the Mini 3 also offers panorama mode. With this setting, you can capture either a wide angle or a full 180-degree field of view for the traditional panorama effect.

For even more immersion, chose Sphere panorama to record seamless spherical video from the sky.

What’s missing?

As we’ll discuss more later on in the review, the DJI Mini 3 is missing a few flight options found in more advanced DJI drones. Most notably, the camera offers no active tracking outside of these QuickShots. And even then, tracking isn’t as efficient as on other drones. This also means MasterShots are unavailable on the Mini 3.

Finally, this drone does offer precision hover, but we still missed Tripod mode. This is something every done should have. Please DJI, bring it back.

Controller options

There are two controller options for the DJI Mini 3. First, there’s the screenless option, the RC-N1. With this option, you’ll need to use your phone as your preview monitor when flying.

If you’d rather not tether your phone to the remote during fly, you’ll need to upgrade to the DJI RC Remote, which does have its own screen. This is the controller that we recommend. It allows you to decouple your drone’s flight control from your phone and results in a better, easier flying experience.

The DJI RC also has a MicroSD card slot, built-in antennas and more customizable buttons and dials than the DJI RC-N1. Interesting side note: At 390 g, the DJI RC weighs more than the drone itself.

Both options charge via USB-C.

DJI Mini 3 vs Mini 3 Pro

Here is a quick head-to-head comparison between the DJI Mini 3 and the Mini 3 Pro. Both are highly capable drones that offer impressive video quality in a tiny package, but the Pro version does offer a few extra perks. Let’s see how the Mini 3 stacks up.

The Mini 3 has fewer shooting options

For example, while both drone shoot 4K video, the Mini 3 Pro can shoot up to 4K at up to 60 fps. The Mini 3, on the other hand, is limited to 30 fps at 4K. Also related to image quality and video capture, the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro each use a 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor. However, the Pro version packs in a whopping 48 megapixels compared to 12 MP on the Mini 3 sensor.

Last-gen video transmission

Another difference to highlight is the video transmission system used by each drone. While both drones transmit 720 HD video at 30 fps, the Mini 3 uses DJI O2 while the Mini 3 Pro uses DJI O3. The newer transmission system extends the transmission range to 12 km over the Mini 3’s 10 km range.

This isn’t a huge deal for most pilots since you’ll want to keep your drone within your line of sight. The transmission range of the Mini 3 is more than adequate for the majority of use cases.

No FocusTrack

One of the most apparent differences between the two models is perhaps the Mini 3’s lack of FocusTrack. This is the technology that powers the Mini 3 Pro’s MasterShots and active tracking features. Without FocusTrack, you’ll miss out on some of the more advanced QuickShot options and shooting modes available on the Mini 3 Pro.

Again, we encourage all new pilots to learn to operate the drone manually, but there are certainly times when active subject tracking is necessary to capture the action. If you need FocusTrack, you’ll need to opt for the Pro version of this drone.

Fewer sensors

DJI Mini 3 bottom
Image courtesy: DJI

Also missing from the Mini 3 is DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS 4.0) and tri-directional obstacle avoidance. While the Mini 3 Pro features with forward, backward and downward-facing sensors, the Mini 3 offers only a downward-facing obstacle sensor.

Unfortunately, this means that the obstacle avoidance system is much less robust on the Mini 3. Because of this, we weren’t confident navigating the drone through complex environments at high speeds. This is probably the reason for the drone’s lower price point.

Although more obstacle avoidance would be more desirable for a beginner drone, the Mini 3 does at least offer downward sensors for obstacle avoidance. This is the minimum required for a safe landing and also gives the drone stability while hovering.

Longer battery life

After all of that, there is one area where the Mini 3 has the Pro version beat. And that’s battery life. Both the DJI Mini 3 and the Mini 3 Pro use the same DJI Mini 3 Series Intelligent Flight batteries.

With the standard battery, the Mini 3 gets around 38 minutes of flight time, while the DJI Mini 3 Pro promises only 34 minutes. If you upgrade to the Intelligent Flight Plus battery option, you can expect 51 minutes of flight for the Mini 3, while the Pro version can stay in the air for just 47 minutes. You can blame the Mini 3 Pro’s shorter flight times on all those extra sensors and fancy flight modes.

Purchasing options

The are several options for purchasing the Mini 3. The most expensive is the Fly More Combo (DJI RC) for $858. Or, you could get the Fly More Combo (DJI RC-N1) for $718. Opting for the Fly More Combo adds a number of useful accessories, including a Charging Hub and two extra batteries. Other purchasing options include the drone by itself for $469 or the drone with the DJI RC-N1 for $559. As a reminder, the DJI RC has a screen; the RKC-N1 doesn’t.

However, out of all the options, we’d recommend getting the DJI Mini 3 (DJI RC) kit for $699. It’s a bit more budget-friendly, and not everyone will need the added flight time you’d get from the additional batteries or a battery upgrade.

If you do decide you need more time in the air, you can always purchase additional Intelligent Flight Batteries for $65 each or get the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus for $95.

Final thoughts

As we said at the start of this review, the DJI Mini 3 is the perfect drone for beginners. Its lack of the Pro’s more advanced features can actually be seen as an advantage since that means it’s ready to fly without a huge learning curve. Additionally, the price is great considering the features this drone offers. Most important, the DJI Mini 3 was easy and fun to fly.

Strengths

  • Beginner friendly
  • Easy to fly
  • Price

Weaknesses

  • No Tripod mode

Tech specs

Maximum horizontal speed
35.8 mph / 16 m/s (S Mode)
22.4 mph / 10 m/s (N Mode)
13.4 mph / 6 m/s (C Mode)
Maximum ascent speed11.2 mph / 5 m/s
Maximum descent speed11.2 mph / 5 m/s
Maximum wind resistance23.9 mph / 10.7 m/s
Flight ceiling2.5 miles / 4000 m
Maximum flight time34 minutes
Maximum hover time30 minutes
Maximum tilt angle40 degrees
Hovering accuracy±1.0′ / 0.3 m Horizontal with Vision Positioning
±0.3′ / 0.1 m Vertical with Vision Positioning
±1.6′ / 0.5 m Vertical with GPS
Maximum angular velocity250 degrees/s (Pitch)
Camera sensor type1/1.3-inch-type CMOS sensor
Sensor resolutionEffective: 48 megapixel
Focal length24 mm (35 mm equivalent)
Field of view82.1 degrees
Maximum aperturef/1.7
Minimum focus distance3.3′ / 1 m
ISO sensitivityPhoto/Video
100 to 6,400 in Manual, Auto Mode
Shutter speedElectronic shutter
2 to 1/8,000 seconds
Video format3840 x 2160p at 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
2720 x 1530p at 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
1920 x 1080p at 24/25/30/48/50/60/120 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
Still image supportDNG / JPEG / Raw
48 MP (8064 x 6048)
12 MP (4032 x 3024)
12 MP (4032 x 2268)
Media/memory card slotSingle slot: microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC (UHS-I) [512 GB maximum / U3/V30 or faster recommended]
Gimbal number of axes3 (Pitch, Roll, Yaw)
Gimbal control rangePitch: -135 to 80 degrees
Roll: -135 to 45 degrees
Yaw: -30 to 30 degrees
Angular speedPitch: 100degrees/s
Control accuracy±0.01 degrees
Vision systemDownward, forward, backward
Obstacle sensory range1.3 to 82.0′ / 0.4 to 25.0 m
Forward field of view106 degrees (Horizontal)
90 degrees (Vertical)
Backward field of view58 degrees (Horizontal)
73 degrees (Vertical)
Operating environmentSurface with clear patterns at >15 lux
Operating frequency2.4 GHz (2.400 to 2.483)
5.8 GHz (5.725 to 5.850)
Maximum operating distance7.5 miles / 12 km
Transmitter power26 dBm (2.4 G)
26 dBm (5.8 G)
Built-in display size5.5 inches
Display resolution1920 x 1080
Display brightness700 cd/m²
Operating temperature14 to 104 degrees F / -10 to 40 degrees C
BatteryIntelligent Flight Battery
Battery capacity 2453 mAh / 18.1 Wh
Weight2.8 oz / 80.5 g
Rotor configuration4
Operating temperature32 to 104 degrees F / 0 to 40 degrees C
Diagonal size9.7 inches / 247 mm
Overall dimensions3.5 x 2.4 x 5.7 inches / 90.0 x 62.0 x 145.0 mm (Folded)
14.3 x 2.8 x 9.9 inches / 362.0 x 70.0 x 251.0 mm (Unfolded)

Nicole LaJeunesse is a professional writer and a curious person who loves to unpack stories on anything from music, to movies, to gaming and beyond.