DJI just announced the Mavic Mini, the smallest and lightest foldable drone they have ever made – it’s only 249 grams with the battery, which qualifies it as a toy in many countries. We have already tested it – is it good enough for pro filmmakers?
Mavic Mini weighs only 249 grams – Why does that matter?
DJI’s newest entry into their Mavic line of drones is the Mavic Mini, the lightest and smallest foldable drone they ever made. At 249 grams including the battery, it’s below the minimum of 250 grams which in many countries means that it’s in fact defined as a toy, not a drone – which means you don’t need a drone license or permission to fly. However, drone regulations are complex and different all around the world, so please be sure to always abide by your local regulations!
What’s inside the box?
In the Fly More Package, the drone comes in a nice carrying case, with three batteries which give you around 30 minutes of flying time each, and of course the remote controller and more accessory cables and replacement rotors. The battery holder is also a very compact charger, which is nice, plus you can use it to charge your phone using the USB-connector.
How easy is it to fly the Mavic Mini?
I took the Mavic Mini for a spin to see how easy it is to fly and how the footage looks. And as someone who has flown every single iteration of the Mavic line over the years, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised about how easy and stable this thing is to fly, even on a bit of a windy day. It really does seem like a perfect beginner’s drone from how it feels when you operate it. It’s very hard to describe but it feels very “secure” in the air, even more so than other Mavic drones, which is certainly because of less inertia due to the very low weight.
There is a Position (P) mode that will help beginners with basic operation of the drone, the typical Sports (S) mode for more advanced operation, and a new CineSmooth (C) mode that lengthens the braking time of the drone for smoother shots and more cinematic footage. I recorded most of what you see in the video above in that mode.
Simplified Operator’s Interface and Functions
If you have flown any Mavic before, you will be very familiar with the interface. The only difference is that it’s much simpler than for example the interface of my higher-end Mavic 2 Pro. For fun, there are the QuickShots that were first introduced with the Mavic Air, which can create some interesting professional-looking pre-programmed movements around your subjects.
Other than that, you have the most important information laid out in front of you, but little chance to actually influence your image.
Video Image Compression & Resolutions
You can only shoot video in 1080p or 2.7K 25p or 30p with the Mavic Mini, and photos with 12 megapixels. Video is also highly compressed with a maximum bitrate of 40 Mbps – and it’s only H.264, not H.265 like in the Mavic 2 Pro.
No Picture Profiles, Only Auto Shutter – For Now
There are also no ways to tweak your video image in the gimbal camera. There is no D-Log or any other kind of picture profile or way to change or optimize your image – no sharpness settings, not even white balance control – which, unfortunately, of course, results in some weird color shifts when the light is changing in your shot.
Now, all of these things would be acceptable even for a professional if you consider that this drone will retail for $399 in its basic package. However, one thing that is really annoying for me is the fact that in the version I tested, you can’t manually set the shutter speed in video mode. It will always adjust your exposure. This means that of course there will be overexposed parts of your image in high-contrast scenarios. Yet on average scenes, the auto shutter does a pretty good job at adjusting dynamically so that you don’t see it too badly in your shot, but it’s still unnecessary to force this auto adjustment onto users.
Especially considering the fact that only in photo mode, you can switch to manual shutter speed for some reason. This is something that DJI could fix with simple firmware update immediately and I certainly hope they will!
Conclusion – Impressively Vivid Image Considering the Compression
Other than that, the image is pretty impressive considering its high compression. Yes, it does have the over-sharpened look that we have gotten used to from footage from the first-generation Mavic Pro, and fine details still fall apart if there is too much going on in a shot – but as a one-off establishing shot even in a professional documentary, footage from the Mavic Mini is certainly more than tolerable, and actually quite amazing, for a drone that costs merely 400 Euros.
Is the Mavic Mini a “toy”? Controversy Ensured …
And considering that this thing can probably legally fly where all your other drones can’t without permission, it’s going to be a no-brainer for many camera operators to have one of those super light drone wonders always in their bag with them. I expect to see a lot of controversy about the weight limit popping up soon as the Mavic Mini will most certainly show up a lot even within cities around the world, for better or worse. I expect this to become DJI’s most popular drone to date, even more than the amateur-level Spark drone.
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What do you think about the DJI Mavic Mini? Can you see this in your camera bag as an extra tool for easy drone shots, or as an inexpensive “emergency drone” if the other one crashes? Let us know in the comments below.