The Mavic 3 has an awful lot going for it, but even so, that doesn’t mean it’s an absolutely perfect drone. After all, nothing can be perfect, right? Here are a few of the issues you can expect to find with the DJI Mavic 3.
1. Expensive: 3x the price = 3x the performance?
Let’s face it, the DJI Mavic 3 is not for everyone. This is not a $500 drone like its smaller brother, the DJI Mini 2. This is a product designed for professional use, and therefore it comes with some features only found in top-tier UAS.
The problem here is that the new flagship consumer drone from DJI costs three times more than the first Mavic. Therefore, everyone would assume that the quality of the product would have tripled in every aspect.
To see if this price increase is justifiable, let us compare both products:
|FEATURE||MAVIC 3 (2021)||MAVIC 1 (2016)|
|Camera Sensor||4/3 inches||1/2.3 inches|
|Range||9.32 mi. (15 km)||4.35 mi. (7 km)|
|Flight time||46 min||21 min|
|Max Speed||42.25 mph (68 km/h)||24.85 mph (40 km/h)|
|OBS Avoidance||Omni Directional||Front and Down|
Sensor comparison: Full Frame (36×24 mm), Mavic 3 (26.60×17.30 mm) and Mavic 1 (6.17×4.55 mm)
Looking at that table we can understand a few things:
- The camera sensor size in the new Mavic 3 is more than three times the one found in the 2016 Mavic 1, which allows us to record amazing footage, even in low light conditions. Apart from that, it includes a second camera capable of using a 28x zoom, which is very useful.
- The obstacle avoidance system has also been greatly improved, from having only two sensors (front and down) to being omnidirectional. We will talk later about how it performs.
- The Mavic 3 has doubled the range if compared to the Mavic 1. This feature has not been tripled, but a 15 km range is more than enough for the vast majority of flight operations.
- The speed has been almost doubled, and again I feel that flying at 68 km/h (42 mph) should be enough.
- Another feature that has not been tripled is the battery, though we must be fair and say that this characteristic is probably the most difficult to improve with the current technology available. A 46-minute non-wind flight time is good, but if we compare it to the Mavic 2 Pro flight time of 31 minutes, we shouldn’t be too impressed.
The new DJI Mavic 3 costs three times more than the first Mavic, with a price tag of $2,199. However, the latest DJI drone does not seem to offer what we all expected, and the justification for that big price increase is nowhere to be found. More on this later.
2. Overpriced accessories
One of the traits that makes DJI drones so attractive to consumers is the wide range of accessories available for them. The few official options are a must have for the professional pilot, but not everyone needs to have a transport bag, as you might have built your own case.
Some accessories in the official shop are pretty expensive compared to the unofficial ones, and I cannot help but wonder if it would not be better to just put a fair price and actually sell them in great quantities (like the unofficial shops have been doing for years).
To further understand what I am talking about, let us compare some official items to those that are sold in other retailers, like Amazon.
|DJI Convertible Carrying Bag||$319||$59.99||See on Amazon|
|Remote Controller Hood||$29||$17.99||See on Amazon|
|SD card (128 GB)||$30||$21.79||See on Amazon|
|DJI 65 W Charger||$79||$34.99||See on Amazon|
I know what you are thinking; all companies charge a bit more for their official accessories. That’s true, but when you have over a 50% share of the market, as DJI has, you are in a position to do things right for your customers, and not doing it is your responsibility, and yours only.
Let me make myself clear, I am not saying that they should give away the Mavic 3 accessories, but charging $319 for a carrying bag seems to be a little bit too much, even if everyone is loving it, as seems to be the case.
3. Combo packages
Having options in life makes all the difference; choosing friends, car, house, etc. I think we should also be able to choose the perfect combination for our beloved drone, don’t you?
When buying a UAS for our day-to-day work operations, we should have the opportunity to actually select what accessories we want to include, just like when you buy a car. If DJI offered several different packages according to the needs of their customers, everyone would win, but the options seem to have been chosen poorly and are also limited.
For instance, the DJI Mavic 3 Fly More Combo comes with the $319 carrying bag that I mentioned earlier, but what if you don’t need that bag? It also comes with a lens that costs $179, for a total of $498 that you would be paying extra for some things that you may never use.
The package offered by the Fly More combo with other drones, such as the Mini 2, is worth it. However, due to the large increase in price suffered by the Mavic 3, not everyone can afford to pay that extra money. Let us not forget that this is a pro drone, a tool for working, and for some companies, $800 can make all the difference between getting the drone they need or having to search for a similar, cheaper product.
There are several things that DJI could do. For instance, if they offered a package that included only extra intelligent flight batteries with the charging hub at a good price, I am quite sure that it would become a best-seller. Another option could be including the expensive DJI RC Pro, which costs in the official store a whopping $1199, in a bundle with a fair price tag. It is easy to think of other great options that would be a win for everyone.
Probably the biggest novelty of the new DJI Mavic 3 is the telephoto camera. Most Mavic 3 owners were super excited to get their hands on the drone and test what it was capable of doing, but soon their excitement faded away. Don’t get me wrong, the telephoto is a great addition to the most famous professional consumer drone, but, as with many other features, it falls short.
The following points will help you understand why the telephoto is not what we expected:
- Poor quality: There is one big difference between the main camera and the telephoto, which is that the latter is not Hasselblad. This means that the telephoto sensor is much smaller, giving you a lower picture quality in low-light conditions.
- 2 in 1 filter: As we saw in the packages section, the Mavic 3 includes its own ND filters in the fly more combo version. They are of very good quality, but the problem is that they come in a 2-in-1 package. This may seem convenient to some, but since the sensors are different, when using an ND filter for the Hasselblad, it will not work well for telephoto.
- Different Resolution, Same Problem: In a similar way as with the filters, the telephoto camera does not record in Apple ProRes format, neither in 5.1 K. For this reason, matching the footage taken by the Hasselblad sensor with the one from the telephoto can get too complicated, or even impossible if we are recording in low light.
- Accessibility: It is inevitable to compare the Mavic 3 Cine with the Mavic 2 Zoom. Both drones were made for cinematic recordings. However, the accessibility of the remote controller included with the Mavic 3 is not ideal. Having to zoom in on the app gives us one of the worst experiences that we could have when performing this task. How hard was it to include a zoom wheel? The RC Pro does offer other interesting zooming options, but to get it, we need to pay extra money.
5. No mechanical shutter
Months ahead of the Mavic 3 launch, YouTubers, bloggers, and users in the most popular drone forums started wondering if the highly anticipated UAS by DJI would be released with a mechanical shutter. Disappointingly, it did not.
Why is the mechanical shutter so important? Most notably, it removes the rolling shutter effect in aerial photography. For this reason, the DJI Phantom Pro v2.0 is one of the most popular drones for professionals who work in aerial mapping and photogrammetry projects. Having a mechanical shutter translates into less distortion, which gives more accurate results in maps and 3D models.
However, the Phantom mechanical shutter can only be used in photography, as it cannot function at high frame rates such as 24, 30 or 60 FPS, the standard in video recordings. DJI does have a camera that includes a global mechanical shutter – that is the DJI Zenmuse P1, but will cost you around $6300.
6. D-Log (Only at ISO 400 – 800)
The Mavic 3 is a professional drone that comes with a special price tag. Therefore, we should expect it to be top-notch in every sense. Many pro pilots need to record their footage in D-Log mode, and even though it was not available from the get-go, luckily DJI included this option in the DJI Fly app with a software update a few weeks after the release of the drone.
The D-Log mode is a setting designed to maximize the dynamic range captured in the video recorded by your drone. If you were to shoot in low light conditions, with strong highlight and many shadow components, using D-Log you would preserve much more detail than shooting in the default mode.
In other words, it provides us with more options to color-correct the footage, further tweaking the white balance, saturation, and contrast. Why? For example, to make the colors look as natural as possible.
Here comes the problem with D-Log in Mavic 3. For some reason, they have capped this mode to use only an ISO setting between 400 and 800, which limits our dynamic range options. Some experts in the field have pointed out that D-Log mode in the Mavic 3 is not terrible, most of the time we can make it work in our projects. However, on some other occasions, that limitation will make all the difference, holding you back from achieving the results you want.
7. Advanced Return to Home (ARTH)
Any pilot can be scared of crashing the drone in some environments, it can happen to all of us if we don’t know the place we are flying very well or if it is truly challenging. Because of that, we were all pretty excited when we first heard that DJI was implementing a new system for the drone to safely return to its take-off point.
The Chinese giant promised “enhanced safety” with the new Advanced Return to Home (ARTH) system, as announced on its official website. This feature was designed to make the drone automatically return to its take-off point (or any point that you set manually) using the omnidirectional set of sensors included in the aircraft. The procedure is simple, the drone will ascend to the altitude previously set by the user, fly in a straight line, then land on the home point.
The new system allows the aircraft to automatically determine the shortest, safest, and most energy-efficient route, while at the same time measuring wind speed and calculating the power requirements, all in real-time.
However, it turns out that this new system might have promised more than it could deliver. There are a few videos on YouTube of people who challenged advanced return to home in certain situations, resulting in them crashing their drones (Have I told you that this is a $2199 product?).
The reason why Mavic 3 crashes using its obstacle avoidance system is that there are blind spots and an issue with the display.
As we can see from the illustration in the user manual (page 20), there is an important blind spot cone facing forward in the upper part of the aircraft. This three- to five-foot blind cone could explain why the drone is jumpy when flying slowly. DJI specifically promoted the system in an official video showcasing a Mavic 3 avoiding trees in a forest, which is exactly the type of scenario where the drone could fail due to the blind spot. Not cool.
The other big problem is related to what we see on-screen. In situations where the light is low, a message reads: “Ambient light too low. Vision system and obstacle sensing unavailable. Fly with caution.” will be displayed on your device.
The message only lasts for a few seconds, so if you are busy keeping your drone in your visual line of sight, you might easily miss it! A notification this important should only disappear once we tap on it, right? Well, this is not the case.
That being said, the new obstacle avoidance system is pretty good in most simple scenarios, but the lesson to be learned here is that you should only rely on it in emergencies. Pushing its limits may result in a crash, so be warned.
8. Active Track
The omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system included in the Mavic 3 allows Active Track 5.0 to sense obstacles continuously in all directions thanks to the six fish-eye and two wide-angle sensors included.
In the DJI promotional video, we see a biker riding while the drone follows him avoiding trees at what seems to be a nice speed. The problem with this video is, once again, that in reality, the system is not as good as showcased.
While flying the aircraft, if it detects an object and it is within the safety radius around the drone, it will reduce the speed to around 6 mph. This safety radius on the Mavic 3 is 4 feet (13 m), so if the obstacle is beyond that distance, the drone will go full speed, but within that ‘bubble’, it will fly much slower.
When tracking a car, the system works well most of the time, even though the options to change position fail on some occasions. Even though the maximum speed of the Mavic 3 is 37 mph, while tracking a car (or any fast-moving subject) it will only reach 27 mph.
Lastly, the system seems to have been tested with humans, bicycles, and boats. This means that it will not track other vehicles, such as ATVs, SUVs, or any other four-wheeler.
All of these issues with Active Track 5.0 could easily be solved with a firmware update, so let us wait and see what happens.
9. Missing Flight Modes
As we are seeing, there seem to be a lot of missing characteristics in the Mavic 3, and together with the disappointments that we have covered, many professionals are considering whether they should buy it or not.
Even though DJI introduced some great missing features in the latest firmware update, released on December 10, 2021, several must-have intelligent flight modes are still missing. Let us take a look at what are these and what is it that they do.
- Tripod Mode: When using this mode, the drone’s speed is limited to 2.2/6.5 mph (depending on the drone), which allows you to capture super-smooth footage. It also reduces the braking distance. This mode is very useful for recording cinematic shots and for doing real estate projects. Why is it not included in Mavic 3? No one really knows.
- Waypoints: As I explained fully in this article, with Waypoints we can create automated flights based on two or more reference points, controlling the angle of the gimbal, if we want the camera to take pictures or record video, etc. The possibility of saving the mission and repeating it at another time gives you great options for certain tasks.
- Spotlight: In this interesting mode, the drone keeps the subject centered, but it does not move to follow it. Instead, it yaws and tilts the gimbal automatically to keep track of it. Additionally, you have the opportunity to move the drone by yourself, while it will use those functions to track the object.
It is hard to compare the Mavic 3 with other drones, as this is the most recent product from DJI, and other manufacturers have not released similar aircraft in this price range for a while. One aspect that users are criticizing of Mavic 3 is the geofencing system.
Geofencing, as this word made of two suggests, is a feature that creates a geographically localized fence for the drone, forbidding it from flying in prohibited areas. This is something that should protect the user from flying where he/she should not, but it can be a serious problem for professionals flying in restricted areas under permission.
For example, at my job recording football games, I sometimes fly close to airports. The company has all the permission to do so, just as I have all my certifications, but DJI forces me to do some extra paperwork so that I can disable Geofencing.
If you are looking for a professional drone that does not limit you with geofencing, check out the Autel Evo 2 Pro.
11. SD card placement
Luckily, not every Mavic 3 issue is something serious, like the blind spot in the obstacle avoidance system.
The drone design is outstanding indeed. I can only imagine how much work it must have taken to produce a product like this. Nonetheless, it is not perfect, and one example of that is the SD card placement.
This is not a big deal, but sometimes you need to remove the battery to be able to take out the SD card, and I feel like this issue could easily have been avoided.
From a minor problem to another that is being well discussed on the forums and YouTube. The controller has a lot of users angry about it.
When you pay $2199 for a professional drone, you expect it to come with a remote controller much cooler than the one included in the $449 product. The reality though, is that the Mavic 3 uses the exact same controller as the Mini 2.
But wait, there is more. It does not include a button to switch between the two cameras, has no zoom wheel, and is not even the same color as the drone. In short, it feels like they have been lazy about it. Let us be honest here: How long does it take to paint it?
I am not saying that it should come with a controller like the new RC Pro, like the Cine version, but an extra screen to show some telemetry or some useful buttons, like the ones in the Phantom 4 RC would have been awesome.
However, probably the major criticism of this drone is the connection problem. That is simply unacceptable for a professional drone. When we are working, we need something that is fully reliable. After all, is that not why we are paying so much for a drone?
Truth be told, maybe all disconnections are related to the DJI Fly app and its latest update, but no matter the reason, the controller should provide better connectivity for such a product.
13. No support for dual operators
Controlling the framing of your drone footage can sometimes be tricky. For example, if you are manually following a car on a road that is riddled with curves, you will need to move the aircraft forward and backward while also yawing to keep it centered. This is much easier if there are two operators, one pilot in command (PIC), and a camera operator (also known as Drone DOP).
Drones such as the Yuneec Typhoon H, the DJI Inspire, or the DJI Mavic 2 Pro offer the possibility of using dual operators. Thus, the Mavic 3 has suffered a downgrade in this sense, as its predecessor had that feature available.
Luckily, as with other missing aspects, this probably can be fixed with a simple firmware update.
14. 4G functionality missing in North America / Europe / UK
One of the most interesting features presented by the Mavic 3 is the support for 4G connectivity. This can be achieved by attaching an official dongle to the aircraft, giving the user an immense increase in range, only limited by the battery duration.
The problem with this dongle is that DJI has officially commented that every country has its own regulations for communications and radio frequency equipment, so it might never be available in North America.
This is very unfortunate, as the dongle could provide better connectivity for the Mavic 3, especially in places where we can lose communications with the drone, such as underneath a bridge.
If they eventually brought this dongle to the United States, keep in mind that the pilot would require a waiver to fly the drone beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).
15. The new app feels like a downgrade
The new Mavic 3 Hasselblad camera is impressive, as is the new intelligent flight battery. Unfortunately, good hardware is nothing if it is not paired with good software. One thing I cannot comprehend, and I have tried very hard, is why DJI has chosen to change the DJI Go app for the DJI Fly.
During the past year I have been enjoying my Mini 2 like a kid, but I couldn’t help it, sometimes I felt a little jealous of the features included in the DJI Go app. As I flew other drones for work, such as the Inspire, I hoped that maybe someday DJI would stop supporting the DJI Fly app and use DJI Go in all their drones. Apparently, they are doing exactly the opposite.
The new DJI Mavic 3 is a great product, despite many shortcomings. Most of its problems and shortages can be fixed with a simple firmware update, so I am hopeful that DJI will do the right thing and give us the product that we all expected.
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