With DJI’s Mavic 3 update, I love drones again

DJI recently released a new update for the DJI Mavic 3 drone that adds some important upgrades to the camera. This comes after months of progress that have been steadily improving since the drone was released last year. In many respects, the 2022 Mavic 3 is a brand new drone from the 2021. The most notable upgrades to Mavic 3 with the latest firmware update v01.00.0700 are:

Significantly improved GPS

The constant problem that has plagued Mavic 3 for a lifetime has been the worst speed of getting a satellite connection. For months, whenever I wanted to fly the Mavic 3, I had to stand there and wait patiently. This can be very frustrating when trying to capture a fleeting moment. However, this latest update seems to have finally resolved a long-standing flaw in other otherwise good devices.

Drones are now a bit slower to get GPS locks when they first launch in a new geographic area. If you know where it is roughly, you will know that you can get the satellite you need immediately. My estimation is that it’s at least as good as an Air2S or Mini3Pro drone.

DJI Mavic 3 in flight against the backdrop of trees.
Andyzan / Digital Trends

Giant telephoto camera upgrade

The Mavic 3 telephoto camera has been one of the most innovative features implemented in drones over the years. Yes, the image quality of this secondary camera isn’t as good as the primary camera and its huge sensors, but it’s still a useful tool.

There are many situations where you cannot get close to the subject you want to shoot. For example, you can’t fly in a national park, but the Mavic 3’s 7x zoom range allows you to take aerial photographs from well outside the park’s boundaries. Another example is wildlife photography. Never approach wildlife with a drone. However, with a high quality telephoto camera, you can shoot wildlife from a distance, so they never know that the drone is there.

Bright sunrise in the mount range.
Images captured in RAW format with a DJI Mavic 3 telephoto camera and processed by Adobe Lightroom Classic. Andyzan / Digital Trends

With all this in mind, I’m thrilled to see the telephoto camera improved in some important ways. For one thing, it’s now much more stable. Previously, footage captured with super zoom cameras often required significant post-processing stabilization. Now, unless the jitter is significantly reduced and the footage is accelerated in telephoto timelapse (as I often do), the telephoto camera can get nicely smooth footage without the need for additional digital stabilization. increase.

Small but meaningful changes have also been made to how to switch between the super-telephoto lens and the primary camera. Previously, you had to switch to explore mode and then scroll through the digital zoom options until you reached the 7x optical camera. You can continue to use the search mode if you want, but to access the telephoto camera, just tap the 7x icon next to the shutter button. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you use the telephoto camera frequently with the Mavic 3, it makes a big difference.

The third (and perhaps most important) upgrade to the telephoto camera is the addition of RAW image capture. The lack of RAW functionality in the telephoto camera was disappointing to me as I prefer to shoot stills in this format when I first started flying the Mavic 3. This allows you to correct colors and save overexposed or underexposed areas of the image that are lost in compressed JPEG images. You can also control the shutter speed and ISO when shooting with a telephoto camera, and change some other photo and video settings that weren’t previously available in telephoto mode.

A nifty new option for obstacle avoidance

With the release of new firmware, the ability to capture cinematic video while avoiding trees and other objects has been greatly improved. APAS 5.0 has received an optional new Nifty mode. This basically allows the aircraft to pass closer to the object than in standard mode. This allows the Mavic 3 to fly through terrifyingly narrow gaps with APAS 5.0 active, providing some degree of safety in dangerous situations. As the app warns, the caveat is that this mode increases the chance of accidental collisions.

Flying with APAS 5.0 Nifty active allows you to capture much more dynamic and exciting footage than any other obstacle avoidance mode. Drones flying in Nifty mode can pass through very narrow openings in trees. It is important to note that I am a very experienced drone pilot. If you are not accustomed to flying in close proximity, it is advisable to fly carefully so that you do not fall into a situation where you rely on obstacle avoidance systems to keep you. From the crash. Still, it’s a great feature if you’re used to more challenging flights.

Other shooting options by HLG

HLG is an abbreviation for Hybrid Log Gamma, which is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) format. However, unlike other HDR formats, HLG is backward compatible with standard dynamic range displays. This made it a very versatile format and made me personally love recording. It requires less editing than a D-log, but offers many of the same benefits as its format. This has become my go-to setting on the Mavic 3, but it can only be used when shooting with the main camera.

When shooting normally in D-log format, DJI now offers a compatible Rec.709 vivid LUT to assist in editing. You also have the option to shoot at 1080p up to 200 frames per second using the Mavic 3’s main camera. This is a great option if you need to capture super slow motion. D-Log and HLG are now available in most special modes such as Quickshots and Hyperlapse. This makes these features much more convenient and easier to integrate into your workflow. For the more expensive Mavic 3Cine owners, DJI has added the ProRes422 and ProRes422LT formats to the main Hasselblad camera.

Great drones get even better

DJI Mavic 3 in flight on a blurry green background.
Andyzan / Digital Trends

Adding these major new features to the long list of other minor upgrades and fixes featured in this firmware update, and in addition to other consistently significant improvements over half a year, to DJI’s Mavic 3. You can really see the dedication. It removes virtually all the flaws that were initially revealed at launch, creating what’s called a perfect drone. If you’ve been worried about upgrading to Mavic 3 before, it’s more appealing now.

It’s still a very expensive device and it’s more than justifying its cost, but there are some great options out there that won’t be too difficult in your wallet. For example, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is the drone I got the perfect score last month. Despite being less than half the price of the Mavic3, it is very competitive and size and weight are the main considerations. Another option is Air2S. This is my favorite and can be combined with the Insta360 Sphere to capture unique 360 ​​drone footage.

However, even if you’re looking for the best drone you can buy for money, Mavic 3 retains that title. And now it’s better than ever.

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