DJI Mini 3 Pro Review for Photographers
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is the perfect drone for photographers, especially wedding photographers! It’s small, dead easy to fly and performs sublimely even for a total novice pilot.
Since I was a young boy, I’ve always wanted to own a remote control helicopter. Youth has long since passed and helicopters are non longer the cool place to be. They are also renowned for being extremely difficult to fly. But then along came the drone a far more stable platform to put a camera on.
The idea of owning a drone has intrigued me ever since they became affordable with the DJI Mini original version. Five hundred pounds for a drone brought it into the price range of many photographers. However, it didn’t have a great camera on it and was JPG files only. So it just didn’t feel right. Plus back then you needed to go on a pilots course to get a licence to fly it, which put the price up by another £300 or more. Also there was the time to learn to fly it.
DJI Mini 3 Pro Review
So I just never got around to buying one. My next urge to buy came when I read reviews of the DJI Air 2S a couple of years ago. It had a far better camera, one good enough for photos, which is all I’m interested in. I’m a photographer after all, I have no interest at all of shooting videos at a wedding. However, it was still a £1000 machine even second hand and it was much bigger. So I kept putting off the purchase.
The other thing I had to consider is hassle of flying it and the payback to me for being able to capture images with it. As a documentary wedding photographer I spend my life watching the action of a wedding. I simply don’t have time to step away from the action and go flying. Or so I thought!
DJI Mini 3 Pro
Then along came the DJI Mini 3 Pro and it changed everything!
Price wise, it’s a little more expensive than the £500 pocket money original mini. However, at £860 including the DJI RC controller I’d still say it’s pretty affordable as photographic gear goes. I ordered mine the weekend it came out and it arrived a few days later. As I then had three weddings in a row I didn’t get a lot of time to try it out before having to use it live. This isn’t an in-depth review, but it’s a quick overview of why I think this is the perfect drone for photographers!
Size | How Big is the Mini 3 Pro?
It’s quite simply – tiny!
When it was delivered on Wednesday I just couldn’t believe the size of the box it came in. It weighs nothing and both the controller and drone really are small. For me, that’s great. I discovered I can tuck both drone and the controller in my tiny flash bag, which is a ThinkTank Retropective 6. Not a big bag at all. But they fit perfectly. Meaning I can take them into the wedding, dump the bag in the corner somewhere for later on and grab the drone when I need it.
Licence to Fly | You Don’t Need One!
You don’t need one! This is HUGE. A couple of years ago, you had to pass various flight tests to be able to use a drone if you were using it commercially, i.e. if you’re a professional photographer then it’s commercial use, even if you’re not selling your drone footage itself. During the last two years the drastically overhauled the drone flying laws. Now, because this is a sub 250g drone (it weights 249g), even for professional use, you do not need to pass any tests at all.
Don’t believe me? Read the full rules here on the CAA’s website. For a drone under 250g, you need an Operator ID, but not a Flyer ID.
What you do need though are two items. One is you need to register your drone with the CAA, this is called having an Operator ID. This costs £10 and takes only a minute or so to complete. The second thing is you’d be wise to get insurance, especially liability insurance, just in case the worst happened and you happened to injure someone or damage something by your flying. Probably also a good idea to insure the drone against crashes, you never know. Having said that, if it did crash, it’s only £640 for the drone itself to be replaced. So it’s not like dropping a £4,000 camera on the floor.
Is it as good a my Sony A9’s? No. It’s not. However, is it adequate to use for a wedding photographer? In my opinion it’s more than good enough. The drone has a 12mp camera, however you can set it to take 48mp images. These are in a 4:3 format, so need cropping down to match my normal 3:2 images. Which isn’t a problem. The final image is still more than large enough and sharp enough to be perfect for my couples. The images here have been given a very slight tweak in Lightroom, they were shot RAW (DNG format). But basically the original images weren’t actually that far off being perfectly good enough to supply to my couples. I just like to play and boost the colours and contrast a little. I’m more than happy with the camera quality.
Looking at these images in blog form, I’d say they could do with a tiny more sharpening, easily applied in Lightroom. These only have base sharpening applied. But it’s no biggie in my opinion.
How Easy is it to Fly?
I’ve never flown a drone. Zero experience. The closest I’ve got is flying a tiny remote control helicopter. However, the basic principle of up/down, forward/back, left/right and rotate left/right seem pretty obvious.
What can I say! The DJI Mini 3 Pro is an absolute dream to fly. I had it in the air the moment I’d charged it up enough. There’s a button to press which launches it, takes it up to a height of 1.2mt then it hovers. Then you simply push up the left hand lever and up it goes. The most beautiful thing is when you let go of the levers, it’s not like flying an aeroplane, where the plane suddenly dives. The drone just sits there hovering. It’s totally happy to be left completely on its own while you think about what to do next. So you have plenty of time to look at the screen and think, do I want to rotate left or right, do I want to tilt the camera down or up. Obviously you should keep an eye on the drone that it’s nowhere near any people, there’s no way I’m ever going to use it near people, that’s not what I bought it for. So while flying I made sure it was in a nice open area, so that even if it plummeted out of the sky it would just crash away from others.
But there simply wasn’t any need to worry about that. It just handles so well. It reacts quickly to the controller and the controller is a dream to use. More about that below. It has an button to press to tell the drone to return to home, where you started, so it will simply land itself. But even if landing manually, that was dead easy too. You really get to grips with the feel of it quickly and it in no way feels scary to fly – which I thought it would. I guess because it’s so light and is also really quiet, it just doesn’t feel scary. So quiet by the way, that I managed to fly it in the photos shown without 99% of the guests noticing. There’s always one though that’s bound to look over and spot that you have a drone. But nobody pointed at it in flight, they simply mentioned it to me later – oh I saw the drone, that’s so cool etc.
I took the image below of our back garden within two minutes of being airborne. It was that easy to fly and understand how to take a photo. Amazing for us to see our garden from this angle.
DJI RC Controller
Wow, this thing is so well designed and built. The drone itself is a little marvel, the way the arms fold out is just perfect. I’d read about the older models clashing their arms as they unfold, but this one they can be folded out or in, in any order. The controller feels superb in the hand. Everything about it feels quality. It’s light in the hand, but not so light that it feels cheap. I watched a YouTube review by a guy saying this was built just as well as DJI’s Pro controller and that costs £860 on its own. The little levers, which store in the back of the controller screw in easily. In fact I think I might be able to simply leave them attached, as they are only short and don’t get in the way. All the buttons are like the best game controller, they are just where you’d expect them to be. To take a photo, you simply press the right hand front button. One press to focus or full press to take the photo.
The screen on the controller is excellent. Sure, in very bright sunshine, you might want to shade it a little, but that’s no different to my iPhone screen. The touch screen functions just work. It’s really intuitive to change settings, I hardly had to look at the manual once I understood that the touch screen worked so well. Only things I tweaked were to set it for RAW + JPG and also to set the 48mp option.
The Perfect Drone for Photographers | Conclusion
This little beauty, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is everything I could have wanted in a drone. Dead easy to fly, small enough to carry to every wedding. Fast to fly, you can have it in the air in seconds, fly around for a minute, get some shots, then land in back easily. This will allow me to do shots like the guests at the venue or the other on during the end of the ceremony and still get back to capture the couple walking down the aisle. I won’t be using it all day long, that’s not why I bought it. But to add a couple of aerial venue shots and maybe a shot of the guests during the drinks or something, it really is the perfect drone for photographers. I can highly recommend it.
NB I’m not a professional drone pilot. I don’t want to be. I’m a wedding photographer who wants to be able to quickly and easily take some aerial views at a wedding with zero hassle and very little time taken out of my already busy day shooting. This drone makes that possible.
Any negatives? My only gripe is the plastic cover that clips on to cover the lens when not in use. It’s far too fiddly to put on. However, this is such a small gripe, it certainly wouldn’t put me off buying this lovely little drone.