There is a drone for everyone these days. There are a few big brands in the market but none is bigger than DJI with a solid lineup that covers entry-level to professional cinema. Within the past year they have shaken up their consumer series as well, so if you are in the market for a new drone you could have a lot of questions.
Focusing in on the Mini 2, Air 2S, and Mavic 3, the crew of Air Photography highlights all the differences which should make any decision a little bit easier. Each drone is fairly unique in the range so it should be a fun little comparison.
As you begin to search for a drone you will have to decide on one crucial aspect first: budget. Even if you really want that brand-new Mavic 3, if it is out of your budget you have to be honest with yourself about it.
Another important area to research is local regulations. Different rules might make one more viable than another. For example, any drone over 249g in weight has to be registered in the US and Canada. You may also need an actual license to do some types of work. If you are just flying for fun then the Mini 2 with its under the limit weight might just make the most sense.
Finally, in determining your own needs, you should decide what you need. Are you shooting just photos? Are you just flying for your own amusement? Are you planning on shooting cinematic videos? Decide what features you want to prioritize.
To get into the comparison we should start with the price. All the drones are available in a base package or a Fly More Combo that includes some extra batteries and accessories. The Mini 2 is the cheapest, running just $450 for the base and $600 for the combo.
The Air 2S is the mid-range drone running $1,000 for the base and $1,299 for the combo. At the very top is the Mavic 3. The base model runs $2,200, the Fly More Combo bumps up to $3,000, and a more advanced cine model with an SSD and ProRes costs $5,000.
As for usability, in the US the rules aren’t too strict for non-commercial use. Anything over the 250g limit (which is everything except the Mini 2 in this comparison), costs $5 to get it registered and you are free to go. Canada and Europe have some other rules.
Getting deeper into the features we are starting with the Mini 2. This is a shockingly good drone for the size and price. It flies well and will shoot 4K video. If you are shooting in lower light the drone isn’t the best since it has a smaller sensor camera. Image quality will improve with the 1” sensor of the Air 2S and the 4/3” sensor of the Mavic 3.
A huge advantage to the Mini 2 is that it is, well, mini. The size and weight make it extremely convenient to carry around or toss in a bag on a whim. Hiking and other travel that demands a lighter kit will likely prefer a small drone. This also translates to smaller accessories like batteries.
If you are looking for a little more the Air 2S is the next up. This model is an amazing value with the most recent upgrades. A big change compared to the Mini 2 is the addition of obstacle avoidance. This model has sensors at the front, back, and bottom—not perfect but better than nothing.
For video, we already mentioned it has a 1” sensor which should deliver pretty satisfying video. It’ll record in up to 5.3K resolution and it is very good. There are also a bunch of fancy intelligent features like QuickShots and tracking modes for getting those nice drone shots without requiring manual control.
There are some more pro camera options, like D-Log for getting good latitude and color for grading in post. It is absolutely worth the extra money over the Mini 2 if you are looking for better performance all around.
Last is the Mavic 3 – the best and most expensive drone on the list. It is the latest release and has a huge boost up to a 4/3” sensor and flight times up to 46 minutes. That’s 12 more minutes than the Air 2S.
There is also a second camera above the main one that offers a telephoto zoom. It’s a nice extra bit that you just can’t get with the other options making the Mavic 3 much more versatile.
The Mavic 3 is absolutely not for your average shooter. This is for people who need the best possible video quality for professional applications.
It does also have the best obstacle avoidance all around the entire drone. Where you might be surprised is that a lot of the software is practically the same as the Air 2S.
If you are just looking for something fun then the Mini 2 is great. For getting into more photo and video applications you should choose the Air 2S or Mavic 3.
The Mavic 3 is by far the best, assuming it is in your budget. The extra cost may not be worth it for many, but there are features in the Mavic 3 that might push you up to that range.
[source: Air Photography]
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