Thanks for reading this article on which drone I would choose: the DJI Mavic 3 Pro or the Air 3.
This year, DJI has been releasing drones seemingly back to back, and I have had the opportunity to thoroughly test all of the new releases.
With a specific interest in finding the best drone to act as the main workhorse for my photography and videography business, I have been using the Mavic 3 Pro and Air 3 in a professional capacity for two months.
In this article, I’ll examine the key differences between the Mavic 3 Pro and Air 3, the upgrades in the Mavic 3 Pro, my experiences over the last four to five weeks with each, and why I consider the Mavic 3 Pro to be the best overall “pro-level DJI consumer drone” available.
If you’re a commercial drone pilot, like I am, I can help you decide which drone is right for your business needs.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Mavic 3 Pro
Released in May of 2023, the Mavic 3 Pro is an upgrade to the original Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic in that it has a tri-camera system that allows for three different focal lengths.
When looking for the absolute best image quality in a DJI prosumer drone, the Mavic 3 Pro (along with the Mavic 3 Pro Cine) is the drone to acquire if you have the budget for it.
- Tri-camera system for bringing cinematic vision to life from varying perspectives
- Multiple Color Profiles for added color grading flexibility
- Waypoint Missions in-app to easily plan repeatable and complex routes
- Apple ProRes Video Encoding, included in the Cine version, for professional TV and Video productions
DJI Air 3
Released a few months after the Mavic 3 Pro, in July 2023, the Air 3 was a highly anticipated upgrade to the very popular and much-loved Air 2S.
The Air 3 is a strong choice drone for pilots who are solo content creators and those looking to do various commercial projects for clients.
While the Air 3 has a smaller main camera than the Mavic 3 Pro, it has much-needed upgrades in other aspects.
- Dual-camera system, which gives viewers superb parallax effects
- Omnidirectional obstacle sensing to ensure the safety of the Air 3 while in flight
- OcuSync 4 Video Transmission System for stronger, interference-free video signals
- Enhanced tracking and added flight modes for those looking to film themselves or particular subjects
Because I was looking for a drone to retire my current client workhorse, I have used both the Mavic 3 Pro and the Air 3 on various commercial jobs.
For my purposes, the Mavic 3 Pro is the clear choice for client deliverables.
With a full spectrum of clients, all of which have various needs, the camera on the Mavic 3 Pro is perfect for delivering the imagery my clients want, need, and have come to expect.
Whereas the Air 3 has great quality photo and video capabilities, the Mavic 3 Pro takes this up a notch, with a higher dynamic range for videos and higher resolution photos.
With higher-resolution photos, my clients are able to blow their images up for various types of printing, some even using the images for large vehicle wraps.
The Mavic 3 Pro, on the other hand, is a complete commercial workhorse, one that handles all content demands with flexibility and the highest quality.
What are the Main Differences?
I honestly enjoy using both the Air 3 and the Mavic 3 Pro. However, when looking for a daily driver that accomplishes everything needed, the Mavic 3 Pro is the go-to for my purposes.
When taking various types of photos for clients, the Mavic 3 Pro performed flawlessly.
The variety of photos ranged from Real Estate properties to City landmarks to landscapes for lake management companies, and even for companies doing custom wraps for company fleet vehicles.
What the Mavic 3 Pro has over the Air 3, for those looking for a commercial workhorse, is primarily camera-related:
- Tri-Camera System: Like the Air 3, the Mavic 3 Pro has both 24 mm and 70 mm equivalent camera lenses. It also has an additional 166 mm camera lens, adding yet another dimension for creativity when filming video.
- Camera quality: This is where the Mavic 3 Pro really sets itself apart from the Air 3. The main 24 mm camera is a 4/3 20 MP Hasselblad camera with excellent color science. For professionals, having a higher resolution camera, with larger pixels than the Air 3, allows for more dynamic range and flexibility when working in post and delivering content to clients, as we’ll discuss shortly.
Additionally, if opting for the more expensive Cine version of the Mavic 3 Pro, Apple ProRes video encoding is available for all three cameras.
- Adjustable Aperture (24 mm camera): Unlike many drones on the market, even those dubbed as “Pro”, the Mavic 3 Pro has a much-appreciated adjustable aperture of f/2.8 – f/11, which enables much more control over the main camera’s exposure.
- Size and Weight: This is more of a preference thing. However, the Mavic 3 Pro, being a heavier drone, means it is more stable in the air than the Air 3, making it even more ideal for windy filming conditions. Its larger size also makes it easier to keep within VLOS (visual line of sight) if flying further away from home base.
Mavic 3 Pro
The Mavic 3 Pro is the next iteration in the Mavic 3 line.
Originally released in 2021, it succeeded the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic, and is specifically intended for photography and videography professionals looking to deliver the highest quality content to their clients.
The Mavic 3 Pro adds a medium-tele camera at 70 mm and improves the tele camera of the Mavic 3, increasing the focal length from 162 mm to 166 mm, while simultaneously bumping up the image quality.
While the physical performance of the Mavic 3 Pro is pretty much identical to the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic (regarding speed and stability), the main improvements are found in the technically improved and expanded camera system.
The Mavic 3 Pro continues the tradition of having 360-degree obstacle avoidance protection due to the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors throughout.
For many professionals, this is essential, especially when filming complicated sequences in difficult locales.
Key features of the Mavic 3 Pro:
- Triple-camera system
- Pro-level Remote Controller option
- Hasselblad 24 mm Main camera
- 5.1k 50 fps; 4k 120fps 10-bit D-Log, D-Log M color profiles
- Apple ProRes (Cine Version)
- DJI Goggles and DJI Motion 2 compatibility
- Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance
DJI Air 3
The Air 3 is the successor to DJI’s popular consumer-level “commercial” drone, the Air 2S, and an incremental step up from the newly released Mini 4 Pro.
The Air 3 appeals to drone enthusiasts, content creators, and professional drone pilots on a budget looking to get great low-light shots and 10-bit, 4k video for clients in various industries, particularly the real estate market.
In most aspects, the Air 3 is a major upgrade over the much-loved Air 2S, even after moving from a 1-inch camera down to a 1/1.3-inch camera.
The quality of the 24mm and 70mm medium-tele cameras, along with their low light performance, gives the Air 3 a decent footing in the professional space.
Along with 10-bit capabilities and 4k 100fps slow motion, the Air 3 is great to work with.
Air 3 key features include:
- Dual Cameras – 24mm and 70mm
- Omnidirectional obstacle sensing
- OcuSync 4.0 Video Transmission System (12.4 miles)
- 4k 100fps, 10-bit D-Log M color profile
- Active Track 360
- Excellent price-to-features ratio
DJI Air 3 Fly More Combo with DJI RC 2 (screen remote controller), Drone with Medium Tele & Wide-Angle Dual Primary Cameras for Adults 4K HDR, 46-Min Max Flight Time, 48MP, Two Extra Batteries.
Winner: Mavic 3 Pro
When filming, having not one but three camera options gives you the flexibility to get really creative and tell stories in a much more dynamic way.
Using the 166 mm camera brings a particular subject into focus while utilizing the 70 mm camera in the same scene not only brings focus to a particular subject but also establishes the immediate surroundings.
The 24 mm wide angle then puts into perspective the subject in relation to the entire scene.
To better present visual content, the Mavic 3 Pro can shoot video in various color profiles in 10-bit, these being:
- D-Log M
10-bit gives greater flexibility for color manipulation and grading when editing video in post-processing, as there are a little over a billion colors and variations to work with.
Additionally, shooting in the flatter D-Log color profile means capturing a higher dynamic range than possible with the Air 3’s D-Log M profile.
Improving over the Air 3’s maximum of shooting in 4k 100 fps, the Mavic 3 Pro can shoot at a maximum of 5.1k 50 fps.
With this higher resolution comes the ability to crop in even more than 4k footage to get better framing options, if not totally locked in during filming.
4k 120 fps is fully aboard and accounted for, with the addition of FHD 200 fps for smooth, ultra-slow-motion shots.
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention here, again, that there is support for Apple ProRes 422 video encoding which caters to those shooting for professional film and television production.
Outside of the prosumer Mavic series, there is no other prosumer drone that does this. You’d have to move up to the professional-level Inspire series to take advantage of this video encoding.
Lastly, the Mavic 3 Pro has an adjustable aperture on the main 24 mm camera. The aperture can be adjusted between f/2.8 to f/11 in the DJI Fly app.
This is primarily useful for precise adjustments to the exposure, especially when filming video.
When the aperture is adjusted in conjunction with the shutter speed, video can more easily conform to the 180-degree rule when trying to incorporate motion blur.
In some cases, an ND filter may still need to be used to dial in the exposure perfectly.
Remote Controller Compatability
Winner: Mavic 3 Pro
Because the Mavic 3 Pro remains on the OcuSync 3 video transmission system, there are presently more controller options available to the Mavic 3 Pro, which include the following:
As the Air 3 has comparable remote controller counterparts (DJI RC 2 and DJI RC-N1), the main differentiating factor here would be the Mavic 3 Pro’s compatibility with the professional-level, aptly named DJI RC Pro.
From a professional standpoint, the DJI RC Pro is currently the absolute best control method for the Mavic 3 Pro as it is a very solid and well-built, true all-in-one device.
Referring to the RC Pro as an all-in-one device is fitting because of being able to install 3rd party apps that can be used to assist during client shoots, such as having access to drone-specific apps like UAV Forecast, B4UFLY, and Aloft Air-Control, which enables on-the-fly LAANC authorization.
» MORE: Best Drone Controllers
Winner: Air 3
While the Mavic 3 Pro is clearly the winner when it comes to the camera, the Air 3 surprises in the performance department.
This might be because, where the Mavic 3 Pro uses the same drone motors and airframe as the 2021 Mavic 3 series, the Air 3 has been redesigned from the ground up.
The Air 3 has both faster ascent and descent speeds at 22.36 mph over the Mavic 3 Pro at 17.89 mph and 13.42 mph respectively.
The Air 3, when in sport mode, can travel at speeds close to 47 mph, which is on par with the Mavic 3 Pro. Likewise, both the Air 3 and Mavic 3 Pro can resist winds up to 26 mph.
In addition to outstanding performance and speed, the Air 3 also has quieter propellers, which is due to a smaller size and pitch compared to the Mavic 3 Pro.
Winner: Air 3
When out in the field filming, minutes matter, and the Air 3’s batteries are rated at 46 minutes, whereas the Mavic 3 Pro is rated at 43 minutes.
Of course, if not flying down to zero % on a totally calm day, these ranges are not practically achievable. However, through constant use of both drones, I can say the Air 3 did indeed last slightly longer than the Mavic 3 Pro when flying down to 25% on various jobs.
Where the Air 3 really shines, though, is not necessarily in how long each battery lasts individually, but instead how power from each battery can be transferred to another for longer battery life.
Using the three-battery charging hub, while unplugged, press and hold the black function button, and the remaining power from multiple batteries will be transferred to the battery with the highest remaining power.
So, instead of having three partially powered batteries, you can now have one fully charged, or close to fully charged, battery for your next flight, extending the amount of shooting time significantly.
An option like this would fully benefit the Mavic 3 Pro!
Winner: Air 3
The Air 3 operates using the upgraded OcuSync 4 (O4) video transmission system, over the Mavic 3 Pro’s O3 system.
With OcuSync 4, the video signal range has been extended from the previous 9.3 miles of the Mavic 3 Pro to 12.4 miles.
Likewise, the Air 3’s transmission is at 2.4 GHz, 5.1 GHz, and 5.8 GHz, as opposed to the 2.8 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands of the Mavic 3 Pro.
This all means that the Air 3 has an even stronger and cleaner signal running between the drone and remote controller, which is ideal for both urban and downtown areas.
The Mavic 3 Pro’s signal is very strong. However, the Air 3’s signal is a fair bit stronger.
After two months of using the Mavic 3 Pro and Air 3 commercially for repeat clients, I have to say that the Mavic 3 Pro suits the particular needs of my clients perfectly.
The camera on the Mavic 3 Pro provides me with the absolute flexibility and quality needed to give the most professional end results to my vastly different clients, whether this be photos or videos online commercials.
The Air 3 is an excellent drone, especially for content creators and those wanting to delve into commercial work while on a budget.
However, if you are a serious professional needing to deliver the highest quality content and media to clients, the Mavic 3 Pro is the obvious choice.