The Mini 3 Pro has been receiving a lot of attention and love from the drone community, for a good reason. Aside from being a sub-250g drone, the Mini 3 Pro is also equipped with a few higher-end specs.
With that said, can the Mini 3 Pro be used for professional work? That depends on the field you are working in.
When it comes to producing great-looking videos for clients in certain situations, like in real estate or producing social media-related content for clients, the Mini 3 Pro is an excellent drone. When it comes to picture or image quality, depending on the industry, the Mini 3 Pro might likewise be used.
We’ll be looking at a particular instance where the Mini 3 Pro was used in a professional Real Estate setting for a client and my thoughts on the results of that client project.
Why the Mini 3 Pro was used (Real Estate shoot)
In general, as a rule of thumb, I always carry 2 drones with me on client shoots, whether they be for local small business commercials, work for local city agencies, real estate, or anything in between.
Usually, I have a DJI Air 2S and an Autel Evo in my gear bag. The Air 2S is the main shooter, and the Autel Evo is the backup, in case there are geo-fenced take-off “issues” at any given location, even with proper authorizations.
In this particular situation for our real estate client, I reconfigured my gear bag, removing the Autel Evo and putting the Mini 3 Pro in the bag, 1) just in case I wanted tighter fly-through footage than either the Air 2S or the Autel Evo could produce, and 2) to use the DJI RC for the Air 2S, so bringing along the Mini 3 Pro actually made sense.
The following is why the Mini 3 Pro was used as the primary shooter.
Ok, bear with me here. The day DJI released the new firmware for the Air 2S to work with the DJI RC, I had done all of the proper steps in order to get the 2S to pair and work properly with the Mini 3 Pro’s DJI RC.
The entire week prior to this particular job, the Air 2S worked admirably with the DJI RC.
Because I was going to be on this real estate shoot all day, I figured I’d purchase yet another battery for the Air 2S. You really can never have too many batteries when doing client work.
Long story short, after running the firmware updates on the new battery (on my home WiFi network), and trying to launch the next day at the shoot, I received the dreaded error 30064 “aircraft will not take off”.
No matter what I tried on location, I was never able to launch.
It was at this point I decided to use the Mini 3 Pro for the photos and videos of the property, along with local area footage we needed for the client.
In the past, we ran several drones for real estate clients that did not have 1″ camera sensors and did the job well, so the Mini 3 Pro should easily fit as a tool we could use.
The Mini 3 Pro performed quite well.
A Few Mini 3 Pro specs/features & observations
Of all the features the Mini 3 Pro is packed with, there are three, in particular, that I am interested in, when it comes to real estate.
In this case, they would be:
- The 1/1.3″ CMOS sensor with a fixed 1.7f aperture
- Video in the 10-bit D-Cinelike color profile
- Plus-sized batteries rated to achieve 47-minute flight times
We will look at these a bit closer, in the following real-world usage scenario.
The Mini 3 Pro camera has upgraded in size and aperture, from the Mini 2’s 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor with a fixed f2.8 aperture to a 1/1.3″ CMOS sensor with a fixed f1.7 aperture.
This means that the Mini 3 Pro, due to its slightly wider aperture and larger sensor, has better low-light capabilities than its predecessors, the Mini, Mini Se, and Mini 2.
Although the Mini 3 Pro has Pro in its name, it is not using the standard-sized image sensor that is oftentimes synonymous with professional camera equipment, that being a 1″ sensor.
The 1/1.3″ camera on the Mini 3 Pro is quite good, however, and takes two different-sized images:
- Standard 12mp Photos
- Optional 48mp Photos
For many individuals, shooting 12mp photos is just fine. As it stands, in the early years of drones, 12mp was actually the standard and was used on plenty of commercial jobs, real estate included.
Most current-gen cellphones shoot 12mp photos and they look good when viewed online.
I personally do not like to deliver anything shot at less than 20mp to our clients, as I don’t know what they will do with the images after they are delivered, ie: perhaps having the images enlarged for use on larger media, etc.
For those that would like a little more oomph in their photos, there is indeed an option to shoot 48mp photos.
For many photography purists, this is an area of contention as there are some tricks, rather, processing that is done with the pixels to get them to display at 48mp.
For the shoot I did that particular day, the focus of this article, I used the 48mp option.
Below are just a few of the images captured and posted to the MLS (real estate Multiple Listing Service), with my initial thoughts on the process.
For real estate purposes, the 48mp option works quite well, with one caveat that needs to be addressed vigorously in post, something I immediately noticed: Chromatic Abberation, galore!
What is chromatic aberration?
Simply put, chromatic aberration is when there are noticeable colored edges (normally purple, green, or magenta) that appear around objects in high-contrast situations. This is caused by a camera’s lens (drone, mirrorless, DSLR, etc).
In my experience the day the Mini 3 Pro was used, chromatic aberration was particularly noticeable on unedited photos around the branches of trees and on the roof tiles when the drone was closer in.
Regardless, if taking pictures of the subject property, or in the neighboring areas (which the client requested), although not as visible in these shots (due to being edited in Adobe Lightroom), there was initially a ton of chromatic aberration.
To counter this, I simply had to use a heavy hand in Lightroom when using the defringe tool, along with pulling back the purple and magenta saturation some, as the standard removal of chromatic aberration option was not nearly enough.
With that said the images came out usable for my client, with a little bit of work in post, which is actually standard fair in Real Estate photography.
When looking at the delivered pictures, we can see that the Mini 3 Pro does an excellent job, of retaining information in the shadows when shooting in RAW.
None of the shadow detail appeared crushed, likewise, none of the information in the highlights was blown to the point of being unrecoverable.
As long as the image is properly exposed, you will have an excellent foundation to work with in post.
Not very noticeable in the delivered property pictures, but largely evident in the delivered video, is that most of the property shoot was done in super variably cloudy skies.
The f1.7 aperture lens did an excellent job of letting in the necessary light to properly expose the shots and then manipulate them in Lightroom to appear bright and cheery.
Some food for thought when using the Mini 3 Pro for Real Estate work: regardless of the resolution shot in (12mp or 48mp), most MLS services require lower resolution photos to be uploaded (than might have been shot and edited).
A standard 48Mp edited photo from a Sony A7RIII will look similar (resolution-wise) to a 24.3Mp photo from a Sony a6500 once compressed and delivered. The same goes for 20Mp Air 2S or, 12 or 48Mp Mini 3 Pro photos.
To illustrate this point, below are two photos that were previously taken for our real estate clients, along with the one taken with the Mini 3 Pro, in this article.
Many would be hard-pressed to tell which were taken with drones with 20Mp 1″ sensors cameras vs the one with a 12Mp 1/1.3″ sensor.
I have to say this, the video that comes out of the Mini 3 Pro is excellent. If you didn’t know a video was shot with the Mini 3 Pro, it could be hard to tell the difference.
There are tons of Youtube videos that have made exhaustive comparisons between the Mini 3 Pro, Air 2S, and even the Mavic 3 that highlight this.
Some of the video specs that interested me in using the Mini 3 Pro as a backup drone for Real Estate work are:
- 4k 60 FPS (frames per second)
- D-Cinelike, 10-bit color profile
- the f1.7 aperture (a blessing AND a curse – more on this soon)
Below are just a small fraction of the clips used in the final deliverable for our client, showing very usable footage for our client.
THE 4k 60 FPS VIDEO
All of our clients expect 4k videos. For many of them, perhaps because 4k is the standard they see and hear about continually, although they might not be able to distinguish a difference when looking at 4k video on cellphone screens.
For us, we primarily use 4k because of the ability to “punch in” some in post, without losing resolution or definition. This comes in handy with framing shots in editing and/or when slightly zooming in on an area of interest.
The 60fps or frames per second enables us to slow the footage down, giving a slightly slow-mo, dreamier feel/effect to the video on windier days. As a standard, we shoot 30fps at 80% speed for just a touch of smoothness.
D-CINELIKE 10-Bit Color Profile
The D-Cinelike profile in 10-bit color is something that I have come to appreciate, and expect from prosumer drones. Our Air 2S is 10-bit along with a couple previous drones in our fleet.
The reason 10-Bit is appreciated when doing video is that a higher bit-rate (10-bit) enables the Mini 3 Pro to capture more colors (1 billion) over that of an 8-bit counterpart (16 million colors).
10-Bit color is excellent for those of us who color-grade footage and match drone shots with interior mirrorless camera shots, as the color can be worked with very well in post, with less fear of destroying the colors (banding and pixelation).
The D-Cinelike color profile is a flat profile, that retains shadow and highlights data well. Not as well as, say, DLog, but it is a great addition to have for those that like color grading.
While the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t have the DLog profile that the Air 2S and Mavic 3 have, the D-Cinelike 10-bit works well and the end results can look great.
THE f1.7 APERTURE
One of the many interesting things to note about the Mini 3 Pro is that the aperture is a very wide f1.7 which allows a LOT of light into the camera’s sensor.
Most prosumer drones have an aperture of around f2.8, while a few higher-end DJI and Autel drones have adjustable apertures.
For picture taking, especially in darker/dimmed conditions, a higher aperture is appreciated.
With taking video, IN FLORIDA, where I’m located, such a wide aperture has to be carefully managed. Why? Because it is bright outside. Even when it is cloudy, it’s still really bright. I know, sounds weird, doesn’t it?
When shooting video, most video professionals come out of Auto mode and shoot manually, as this gives the flexibility to manipulate the exposure triangle and get footage at the correct exposure settings the videographer wants.
With a fixed aperture of f1.7, only 2 aspects of the exposure triangle can be adjusted: ISO and Shutter speed.
As a rule of thumb, the ISO should be kept as low as possible. With super bright skies like we have in Central Florida, the ISO on all of my drones stays at 100.
This leaves the shutter speed. To get the proper motion blur our eyes are accustomed to seeing, the shutter should be double the frame rate being used. In our case, we generally shoot at 30fps so the shutter would be 1/60, etc.
With an f1.7 fixed aperture, shooting at 30fps at 1/60 or even 60fps with a shutter speed of 1/120 is going to result in extremely blown-out and over-exposed footage. The footage will be almost all white.
Because of this, ND or Neutral Density filters are a must.
For this particular shoot, I upped the frames per second to 60 and the shutter to 120 and still had to use an ND 64 filter to keep the sky from totally blowing out, while trying to retain some detail in the shadows.
This was a difficult feat, as the sky conditions were all over the place, the entire shoot.
Now, when shooting at sunset or later, that f1.7 is absolutely great. At the end of the evening when heading home I stopped to get a few seconds of sunset footage, which I accidentally deleted.
The footage wasn’t for the job or client, it was just something I wanted personally as the sky was so beautiful that evening.
Below is a picture I took at that same time as the footage. Yes, the f1.7 and larger sensor do their job well.
You might be asking why battery options come into play when deciding whether a drone can be used for professional client work.
The Mini 3 Pro has the option to use standard, lightweight batteries, keeping the drone within the <250g categorization DJI Mini drones are applauded for, and, important for some, forgoing the necessity for registering the drone.
The second battery option is the Plus battery, which enables the Mini 3 Pro to fly upwards of 47 Minutes, although I have yet to see these flight times.
The Plus battery pushes the Mini 3 Pro over the 250g weight threshold. However, this is a moot point in that if you are using a Mini 3 Pro for the furtherance of business, the drone needs to be registered with the FAA.
For me, the option to use the Plus batteries does not determine if I’ll use the drone for client work or not. It is just another great option on an equally well-done drone, that enables us to shoot longer, with less equipment.
For the shoot in this article, we took 6 batteries – 3 standard and 3 Plus. We ended the day with a few unused batteries, although we did shoot for quite a long time.
For quite a while, I had contemplated using the Mini 3 Pro as a backup. Because of the situation that we found ourselves in, the Mini 3 Pro was used in a primary position and performed very well on a professional level.
For clients that need real estate video and photo, the Mini 3 Pro provides deliverables you can be proud of, with a bit of work in video and software editing software, something real estate photographers and videographers are well versed in.
At this point, our company has not used the Mini 3 Pro for our local business commercials. I am quite confident, based on this experience, that the Mini 3 Pro will be able to produce excellent client projects.
For those looking to do mapping or more complex waypoint mission-based assignments for clients, the Mini 3 Pro will not be in a position, currently, to comply.