DJI Mavic Mini full review
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Ever since the rumours started, I've been hoping they were true. Some were: the Mavic Mini is a 249g drone which doesn't have to be registered in the UK, US and other countries. So you can fly it without any kind of permit, so long as you respect local regulations.
The bad news is that it doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance and can’t shoot 4K video (update: the rumoured successor, the Mavic Mini 2, could well support 4K recording). But most people will be very happy with 2.7K video and 12Mp photos at this price. Plus, it will fly for up to 30 minutes on a single battery, which is remarkable for a small drone.
DJI Mavic Mini: Price & availability
Even if you go for the cheaper drone-only pack, you still get the remote control, a couple of spare propellers and spare controls sticks for the remote (they're removable, so you'll probably misplace one or both at some point).
The Fly More combo is better value as it comes with three batteries (normally £45 / $39 / €45 each), a carry case, propeller guards for beginners / indoor flying, a two-way charger and three spare sets of propellers.
The charging hub charges three batteries one after another - not all simultaneously - and is ‘two way’ because it can also be used as a USB power bank to charge other devices such as your phone, although the remote controller also charges you phone.
Because of the younger target audience, there are a couple of unusual accessories: a snap adapter which lets you mount little toys on top of the drone, and a Creative Kit which is basically a kids’ colour-in set of stickers which can be stuck on the Mini.
DJI Mavic Mini: Features & design
In many ways, the Mini is a scaled-down version of the Mavic Air, folding down to a tiny 140×82×57 mm and being only 245×290×55 mm when unfolded (including unfolding the propellers).
In order to get down to the 249g weight, there are some build quality compromises. For example, the four legs have plastic only on three sides, with the fourth basically covered by a sticker.
Overall, it feels reasonably tough but an inadvertent test of the Mini’s crash resistance resulted in a broken gimbal, so the best advice I can offer is to fly carefully and don’t crash.
That’s made a bit trickier than on DJI’s more expensive Mavics because there is no obstacle avoidance at all. Although the Mini has a Vision Position System, it’s only for takeoff and landing.
The small battery slots into a compartment at the rear, below which are the microSD slot and an old-fashioned microUSB port which is for charging and file transfer.
The Mavic Mini benefits from a three-axis gimbal rather than the 2-axis one on the Spark.
The camera is very similar to the one you'll find on the Osmo Pocket, with a 12Mp 1/2.3in sensor but it tops out at 2.7K video at 30fps. If 2.7K isn't a familiar format, that's 2720x1530 pixels. A little strange, but it's something DJI drones have offered for a while.
If you drop down to 1080p, you can ramp up the frames per second to 60, but in any video mode, the Mini is limited to a slightly disappointing 40Mpbs bitrate. Compare that to even the Osmo Pocket which can shoot at 100Mpbs, and it's clear that DJI wants to make sure the Mavic Mini doesn't cannibalise sales of the other Mavic models. It is higher than the 24Mbps bitrate of the Spark, though.
In line with its beginner audience, you can't take photos in RAW, nor shoot video in D-LOG.
DJI Fly app
Surprisingly, rather the use the DJI Mimo app (which is what the Osmo Pocket uses) or DJI Go 4, there's a brand new app for the Mavic Mini: DJI Fly.
This is basically a cut-down version of DJI Go 4 which is meant to be much easier to use for novice flyers and gives presents on screen only the information you really need such as the current flying mode (Sport, CineSmooth or the standard Position mode) and which mode the camera is in.
There are also tutorials which should help first-time flyers get to grips with the controls, and some behind the scenes settings for the camera and safety settings, such as limiting the maximum altitude and distance from the controller.
Speaking of range, the Mavic Mini can technically fly up to 4km and maintain a connection but in the UK, it’s limited to 500m on the 5.8GHz due to regulations. Use 2.4GHz and you can go up to 2km, but again, you must still adhere to local regulations which, in the UK, means keeping your drone in your line of sight and 2km is way beyond that.
Getting back to the app, the only automatic flying modes are QuickShots. They include:
- Rocket: camera points straight down as the drone flies directly upwards
- Dronie: camera points at you while drone flies up and away from you
- Circle: camera locks onto subject while drone flies in an orbit
- Helix: camera stays on subject while drone spirals up and away around it
With each, you select the object you want to focus on from the video preview and then set the distance and / or directon. Since there’s no obstacle avoidance, you must make sure the Mavic Mini won’t hit anything while executing these manoeuvers.
I couldn’t test these as they weren’t working in the beta version of the app, but have used them on other DJI drones in the past, and the resulting short videos (which are speeded up) look great and are perfect for sharing on social media.
In the Album section of the app you’ll find the pre-made templates much like in DJI Mimo. You pick the required number of video clips and can then adjust which segment of each is used in the stylised video. You can’t, however, edit or remove the default titles that are overlaid, which is bizarre.
A ‘Pro’ editing mode lets you take clips and trim them, choose transitions, add filters, text and other effects. But in both modes, you’re actually using low-res versions of the videos: it’s better to use the original files from the microSD card and edit them on a PC or Mac.
In terms of control, the remote has the expected dial on the left shoulder for controlling the camera’s tilt angle, and there are buttons left and right for taking photos and starting / stopping video recording.
Photos are limited to single shots or Timed Shot: there’s no panorama for automatically stitching photos together, but you can of course shoot manually and use a photo editor if you’re prepared to put in the work.
Another missing feature is ActiveTrack, so the Mavic Mini cannot follow someone as they walk, run, cycle, or ski.
There are a couple of features for tracking down the Mini should it land (or crash) out of sight. One is an indicator at the bottom of the screen which shows you in which direction the drone is located in relation to the controller, and the other is a button which you can press to make the drone beep and flash.
Flying the Mini is like just about every other recent DJI drone. It hovers precisely and is very easy to control. It’s wise to start in P or CineSmooth mode which makes the controls less sensitive than Sport mode.
The ‘enhanced Wi-Fi’ connection worked well, although you do have to make sure the two antennae are facing the drone. Otherwise, once the Mini is around 50m away you’ll start to get warnings of weak signal and the video feed may start to become choppy.
It’s decent enough at its 720p resolution, too.
Since the camera has fixed focus, you don’t have to remember to tap to focus before taking photos or beginning to record video: tapping on the screen sets exposure only.
Photos are good quality. They’re roughly on a par with an iPhone a couple of generations old, but you won’t mind that considering the elevated perspective you get. It’s also pretty hard to grumble at this price.
Video is as smooth as you’d hope for: it’s just a shame there’s no option for 60fps at the higher 2.7K mode as there’s a noticeable increase in detail compared to 1080p, which looks fuzzier.
You can see how the 60fps footage looks at the top of this review. If you can't see a video, disable your ad blocker!
Reviewing footage on a 50in TV and a 27in 4K monitor, colours were natural and there was just enough detail. The TV’s sharpness control was set too high which made it appear that the footage was oversharpened, but that’s not the case: it’s actually relatively soft.
Dynamic range isn’t amazing, which means you really need to fly in cloudy weather for the best results. Otherwise skies are blown out or everything else looks too dark.
In ideal conditions, quality is perfectly acceptable at this price.
For some people, the Mavic Mini will be the perfect drone. It doesn’t need to be registered and is DJI’s most affordable model yet. It shoots decent photos and videos for the price, too.
For others, there will be too many compromises to make it a good buy: there’s no obstacle avoidance, no auto follow and the new Fly app lacks features.
DJI Mavic Mini: Specs
- Flight time: Up to 30 minutes
- Range: 4km (2.4 miles) with controller, but limited by local regulations
- Camera specs: 2.7K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, 12Mp photos in JPG
- Max speed: 29mph
- Stable flight in winds up to 17.7mph
- Obstacle avoidance: No
- Weight: 249g
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