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DJI Mini 3 vs. Air 3 (Here’s My Choice)

The DJI Mini 3 is a drone that is still wildly popular despite the fact that it was released more than a year ago and has the Mini 3 Pro and Mini 4 Pro in line after it. It’s one of DJI’s most classic creations.

Image: DJI

Then there’s the Air 3, different in many ways, such as its exceptional second camera and extended flight time without the need for a battery upgrade.

These two drones are both excellent choices for commercial pilots, albeit destined for different audiences. 

The Mini 3 is beginner-friendly and appeals to a social media crowd who want to make a big impact without being drone experts. The Air 3 is for the seasoned pilot who wants to step it up.

So, which is better?

This article will review the differences between the DJI Mini 3 and Air 3, touching on areas like battery life, performance, obstacle avoidance, camera quality, and all the other factors affecting your decision-making when buying a drone. It won’t be hard to see why I selected the Air 3 as my drone of choice between these two excellent DJI models. 

I know you’re ready to buy your drone now, so let’s not waste a second. 

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Brief overview

DJI Mini 3 

As mentioned, the Mini 3 is an “older” drone in some respects, released in May 2022. It was followed within that same year by the Mini 3 Pro, then the Mini 4 Pro in September 2023. 

Unlike those two Pro editions, the Mini 3 has accessibility and inclusivity going for it.

It looks like the kind of drone anyone could pick up and fly, and many first-time drone owners confirmed that to be true. It is so easy to learn and master, which feels very rewarding.

Here are its standout features:

  • An ultra-capable 1/1.3-inch CMOS camera that shoots in 48 MP image quality and 4K HDR video. That’s a large step up from the Mini 2’s quality, and the Mini 3’s quality still holds up over a year after its release. That’s the kind of quality that can spoil you if this is your first drone, especially if you buy a drone from a manufacturer other than DJI.
  • An FAA-complementary weight of under 249 grams. If you use this drone recreationally, you don’t have to bother registering it. It’s always nice to save time and the $5, especially for beginners who don’t want to do anything else before they can fly.
  • The battery life is surprisingly decent, with 38 advertised minutes with the standard Intelligent Flight Battery. If you upgrade to the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus for an additional fee, DJI says this drone can fly for over 50 minutes!
  • A strong suite of Intelligent Flight Modes that beginners will delight in, including more QuickShots modes, Vertical and Horizontal shooting, and access to DJI’s free, intuitive editing app LightCut, which runs on Wi-Fi. You can shoot, polish, and post your footage before you even head home for the day, maintaining a posting schedule that keeps your name top of mind. 
  • Surprisingly great Level 5 wind resistance for a drone so lightweight. DJI recommends flying this drone in winds of 24 miles per hour or less.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro (Which Drone Is Better?)

DJI Air 3

Following about a year after the release of the Mini 3 was the Air 3, an entry in the long-running Mavic series.

This drone won acclaim for its dual-camera system, which sent shockwaves through the drone community.

So, which are the most noteworthy features? Here’s a list:

  • The dual-camera system has a medium tele and wide-angle camera. Both cameras achieve 12 to 48 MP image resolution depending on the shooting mode. The cameras have different format equivalents and apertures according to your mood and environment. The medium tele camera also features 3X optical zoom.
  • Dual 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensors can produce 4K HDR video at 60 frames per second. This video quality is excellent, and with strong color grading, the lifelike richness of your videos and photographs will help you build a five-star project portfolio. 
  • An advertised baseline battery length of 46 minutes, without the need to upgrade to another battery. 
  • More advanced features make flying the Air 3 safe, such as omnidirectional obstacle sensing and Smart RTH. You can fly this drone with fewer worries.
  • Amazing Intelligent Flight Modes, including FocusTrack via the medium tele camera, 2.7K Vertical Shooting, QuickShots, and MasterShots. LightCut is also compatible with this drone for faster editing. 

» MORE: Best Camera Settings for DJI Air 3 (Photo & Video)

Quick verdict

Between the Mini 3 and Air 3, which drone comes out on top?

The DJI Air 3 is the better drone between it and the Mini 3. It doesn’t solely come down to its dual-camera system, although that was certainly a contributing factor. The Air 3 also has more Intelligent Flight Modes, a sturdy obstacle avoidance system, and a stronger battery life out of the gate.

Of course, you know I could heap praises on the Mini 3 all day. It’s that good of a drone.

It still stands up well against the Mini 3 Pro and Mini 4 Pro, even though those drones might have some advanced features the Mini 3 lacks. 

The Mini 3 remains a cost-effective entry in the Mini line for beginners who want top-notch image and video quality, starter Intelligent Flight Modes, and a battery that doesn’t quit. It’s just not as good as the Air 3. 

» MORE: Where Is the Serial Number on DJI Air 3 (Answered)

What are the main differences?

Although both drones are manufactured by DJI, their differences are not negligible. These two drones belong to different series, making each a refreshingly unique flight experience.

There’s plenty to engage you no matter which of these two drones you select.

Let’s delve into what makes them dissimilar. 

  • Number of cameras: Like many DJI drones before and after it, the Mini 3 is equipped with a single camera. The Air 3 offers two, providing more versatility. 
  • Weight: As you’d likely figure, the Air 3 is a heavier drone because it has two cameras. It’s also not designed to be as lightweight as the Mini 3, which weighs under 250 grams. The Air 3 is 720 grams by comparison, so it’s more than twice the weight of the Mini 3. They don’t call it a Mini drone for nothing! 
  • Obstacle avoidance: The Air 3 has omnidirectional obstacle sensing and APAS 5.0 to detect and dodge obstacles. It’s a smart system and one of the best DJI offers at current (at least as of this writing). By comparison, the Mini 3 has no obstacle avoidance. That makes it considerably less safe to fly, even though it’s suited for beginners more so than the Air 3. 
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: Both drones have Intelligent Flight Modes; these are DJI drones, after all. However, the Air 3 has more, including MasterShots and FocusTrack. 
  • Beginner-friendliness: The Air 3 is an awesome drone, but let’s be real, it’s kind of intimidating if you don’t have a lot of flight experience. Even though it has obstacle detection and avoidance, it’s not the most beginner-friendly drone from DJI. The Mini 3 is much easier to pick up and fly by comparison. It has features like auto-launching that I think are so helpful!  

DJI Mini 3 

The Mini 3 continues an ultra-successful line of DJI drones designed to be flown recreationally without FAA registration

How Do I Connect DJI Mini 3 to Computer?

These travel-friendly drones under 250 grams have inspired many copycats, but there’s something about the originals that just can’t be beat. 

The 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor is the same found in the Air 3. Its highest image resolution is a stunning 48 MP. That’s about as good as it gets in DJI’s consumer-level drones. 

You’d have to upgrade to an enterprise solution for better, and that might not fit your needs even when working commercially

The 4K HDR video quality is about as good as DJI does it, too. Sure, some of its cameras can achieve 5.1K video, but the difference between the two isn’t large enough that you’d have to consider another series besides the Mini if you love everything else about the Mini 3. 

Besides those excellent camera qualities, the 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor has dual native ISO, four-in-one pixels, and f/1.7 aperture.

Although an adjustable aperture is always more fun, I found the default settings of the Mini 3’s camera are well-suited for day and night photography and videography. 

» MORE: DJI Mini 2 SE vs. DJI Mini 3 (Here’s My Choice)

You should expect incredible highlights, details, and shadows in your work, the kind of head-turning quality that would put a smile on any client’s face. Oh, and did I mention this camera has 4x zoom for getting in close without flying your drone too near the scene?

The three-axis mechanical gimbal supports Vertical and Horizontal shooting alike for social media-friendly shots.

The QuickShots features are some of the most plentiful in any DJI drone, with five togglable modes for more fun: Dronie, Boomerang, Rocket, Circle, and Helix.

These features automatically lift the Mini 3 into the sky, shooting videos as it maneuvers. You can expand the Mini 3’s camera capabilities with the Panorama feature, shooting in Wide Angle, Sphere, and 180-Degrees. 

Smart RTH is a failsafe in case of low battery or loss of signal. You can also launch the Mini 3 automatically through Auto Takeoff, a feature DJI found so good, it returned in the later Mini 2 SE. 

The infrared sensors, downward vision system, and GNSS keep this drone hovering stably to increase your self-assurance as you learn how this drone maneuvers. 

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03/03/2024 09:36 pm GMT

DJI Air 3

The Air 3 continues DJI’s esteemed line of drones in this series, producing a double-camera system that’s one of the manufacturer’s most crowning achievements to date. 

If you own the Mini 3 and you’re looking for a drone to upgrade to after you learn its features and gain enough experience, the Air 3 will feel like a familiar companion.

After all, it has the same 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor you’re used to, producing excellent video and image quality. 

The cameras can shoot in 12 MP in some modes, which is not that great, but with a max quality of 48 MP, I’m not sweating the 12 MP settings much, and you shouldn’t either. 

Let’s take a closer look at the cameras. 

One is a medium tele camera with an f/2.8 aperture and a 70-millimeter format equivalent. This is the 3x zoom camera. The wide-angle camera includes f/1.7 aperture and a 24-millimeter format equivalent.

The cameras capture the same scenes quite differently. Rather than bring several drones on a project or adventure, you can use just the Air 3 to take footage that matches the mood and environment. 

» MORE: Does DJI RC Pro Work with Air 3 (Answered)

Plus, with 10-bit HLG and 10-bit D-Log M, the range of colors in your videos and photos will enhance your footage so beautifully that you might only need to spend minutes in post. The dual native ISO and crop-free videos also reduce your editing time. 

You can spend more time flying and uploading, perfect for content creators who never take a day off.

The Air 3 has safety features aplenty, far more than you’ll find in the Mini 3. It uses the Advanced Pilot Assistance System or APAS 5.0 to avoid obstacles and omnidirectional obstacle sensing.

That’s a comprehensive safety system for beginners and more experienced pilots alike.

Like the Mini 3, the Air 3 has Smart RTH, Vertical Shooting (in 2.7K for both cameras), and QuickShots.

Additionally, it has FocusTrack via the medium tele camera, with Point of Interest 3.0, Spotlight 2.0, and ActiveTrack 5.0 for finding subjects, locking on, and zooming in. 

MasterShots is a social media star’s dream, as it has effects and cuts for quickly putting together your cinematic masterpiece. You can even add music. 

Then, between SmartPhoto 3.0 (which selects the scene, hyperlight, and HDR according to your environment, taking single-shot photos), Night Mode, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse, you’ve got all you need. 

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03/03/2024 07:36 pm GMT

Head-to-head comparison

Camera system

Winner: DJI Air 3 

The Mini 3 and Air 3 have the same camera sensor systems and image and video resolution. While it would have been a closer battle if these were single-camera drones, they aren’t. 

The Air 3 has two cameras, so it has an advantage. The wide-angle camera expands the world around you more beautifully than you’ve perhaps ever experienced with a drone before, while the 3x medium tele camera zooms and maintains excellent quality, whether shooting images or videos. 

Then, between the 10-bit D-Log M and 10-bit HLG, you get a dazzling array of colors the Mini 3’s camera can’t quite live up to. It’s close, don’t get me wrong, and I still love the colorful videos and images you can take with the Mini 3, but they’re not quite as vibrant.

The detail, highlights, shadows, and dynamic range you can expect in the Air 3 are also superior, although I will give the zooming capabilities to the Mini 3.

Its camera can zoom in 4x rather than the 3x the Air 3 achieves. It’s a small win, but a win, nevertheless. 

» MORE: Camera Technology in Drones (Explained)

Performance

How to Fly a DJI Air 3 Drone (With Smart Controller)

Winner: DJI Air 3 

The Mini 3 is an amazing drone across the board, and it excels in performance. However, it doesn’t excel to quite the same degree as the Air 3, at least not in most categories. 

In terms of launching and keeping your drone airborne, yes, the Mini 3 wins. It does all this almost automatically to facilitate confidence in new pilots. 

However, once you’re in the sky, the Air 3 provides a better experience.

It has more Intelligent Flight Modes than the Mini 3. I love the Mini 3’s smart features, but yes, after a while, you want more. The Air 3 delivers. 

The Air 3 is also a safer drone to fly, as it has obstacle detection and avoidance. The Mini 3 has a downward sensing system, but that’s not quite obstacle detection, and it certainly can’t avoid obstacles. That’s all on you.

It’s a curious omission in this beginner-friendly drone made curiouser by the fact that some Mini drones have no obstacle avoidance whatsoever, and others do. Go figure. 

» MORE: Drone Safety Features (All You Need to Know)

Portability

DJI Mini 3

Winner: DJI Mini 3 

The Mini 3 is the clear winner in this category. This drone is designed to travel here, there, and everywhere. It’s lightweight, small, foldable, and the ultimate in portability.

You can carry it in a small bag, a larger one, a backpack, or just about anything, and it won’t weigh you down. 

The Air 3 also folds, but it’s larger than the Mini 3 and also weighs more. It’s the kind of drone you take on your travels with a knot in your stomach, hoping it reaches its destination in one piece. 

Traveling with it won’t be a back-breaking experience or anything of that sort, but this drone isn’t exactly that light, and you might feel it after a while. 

» MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with a Drone

RC compatibility and transmission range 

Winner: DJI Air 3 

The Mini 3 uses the DJI RC, a sleek, smart controller with a large, 5.5-inch screen for accessing the DJI Fly app, LightCut, flight diagnostics, and more. 

This lightweight, easy-to-use controller is compatible with the Mini 3 Pro, Air 2S, Mavic 3, Mavic 3 Pro, Mavic 3 Cine, Mavic 3 Classic, and Mavic 3 Pro Cine. 

The touchscreen is super responsive, and you can customize the control buttons to fly the Mini 3 (and other compatible drones) how you like. What’s not to love?

The Air 3 includes the DJI RC 2, which DJI calls a “next-generation” remote. 

This controller has a screen size the same as the DJI RC, but it’s got an FHD display. The processor is also new and improved, as is the transmission system and antenna system, the latter of which boasts four receivers and two transmitters. 

It’s a nicer-looking controller that handles well, and then there’s that glorious screen. It’s the ultimate way to see how your drone is handling all the flight controls. 

This controller debuted with the Air 3 and is so far only also compatible with the Mini 4 Pro, so the Mini 3 wins in the controller compatibility department. 

However, the DJI RC can only transmit video data 10 kilometers away, while the O4 video transmission system included in the RC-N2 doubles that, making it the better remote. 

» MORE: DJI Transmission System (Everything You Need to Know)

Battery life

Winner: DJI Mini 3 

The Mini 3 has a standard flight time of 38 minutes with the base Intelligent Flight Battery. Well, that’s the time DJI advertises. You can expect to get around 33 minutes, which is okay but not as long as some of DJI’s competitors these days.

The base battery life of the Mini 3 doesn’t have to be excessively long, considering you can upgrade to the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus to get an advertised 51 minutes of flight time. 

Now, it’s a bummer this battery doesn’t come with the base Mini 3, but it’s worth upgrading. If you do, you can get well over 10 minutes more than what the base battery gets you.

The Air 3 doesn’t have an upgradable battery. Its battery life is an advertised 46 minutes, so around 42 minutes. It’s a much better battery life for a 2023 drone. 

I would have picked the Air 3 if not for the Mini 3’s ultra-tempting 51-minute flight time, even if you don’t get it with the base drone. 

» MORE: Drone Batteries (In-Depth Information)

Conclusion

Selecting between the DJI Mini 3 and Air 3 doesn’t produce a loser either way. Your choice should come down to what you’re looking for in a drone.

If you seek an ultra-lightweight model, the Mini 3 won’t disappoint. Its high-quality camera, base Intelligent Flight Features, and on-the-go editing make it a powerhouse. That said, it’s missing obstacle detection and avoidance.

The Air 3 is for the pro drone photographer and videographer who wishes to simplify their fleet.

This drone has two cameras in one to suit more moods and photography and videography scenarios, not to mention great Intelligent Flight Modes and top-line obstacle avoidance.   

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 vs. DJI Air 2S (Which One is Right for You?)