DJI Mini 3 Pro - first experiences

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In the mean­time, my new DJI Mini 3 Pro, which I had ordered on the release date, has arrived. As promised, I want to report here briefly about my first experiences.

As a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, I pri­mar­i­ly looked at the pho­to fea­tures of the small drone. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the qual­i­ty of the new optics (f/1.7 at 24mm KB-equiv­a­lent focal length) and the res­o­lu­tion of the also new 1/1.3″ sen­sor with its high 48 megapix­el res­o­lu­tion in 4:3 format.

First, a few words about the drone itself:

With its indi­cat­ed weight of 249g print­ed on the bat­ter­ies, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is below the impor­tant weight lim­it of 250g, which makes it much eas­i­er to oper­ate and at the same time sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­es its range of use in the EU.

Operating requirements

Drones in their weight class may be used with­out an EU drone license. How­ev­er, it is still nec­es­sary for their oper­a­tion to have a lia­bil­i­ty insur­ance, to reg­is­ter them with the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Author­i­ty as a drone pilot, and to affix the e-ID issued from there to the drone in the form of a stick­er. More infor­ma­tion on this can be found in my arti­cle “Pho­tog­ra­phy in 3 Dimen­sions”.

Flight areas

The rules and require­ments of the EU Drone Reg­u­la­tion are com­plex and change fre­quent­ly. Accord­ing to the EU Drone Reg­u­la­tion, drones are divid­ed into cer­tain class­es depend­ing on their weight and func­tion. These class­es deter­mine in which areas they may be used and which qual­i­fi­ca­tions the con­trol­ling remote pilot must ful­fill. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the law was passed faster than the nec­es­sary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cen­ters could be estab­lished, so all cur­rent­ly avail­able drones have not yet received offi­cial class registration.

How­ev­er, for drones with a fly­ing weight below 250g, includ­ing the DJI Mini 3 Pro, there is a pleas­ing excep­tion. Even with­out offi­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, they fall into the low­est class A1, which at the same time offers the fewest restric­tions regard­ing the per­mit­ted flight area.

In par­tic­u­lar in the EU, class A1 drones do not have to main­tain a defined min­i­mum dis­tance from res­i­den­tial areas. A wider dis­tance to peo­ple is also not required and indi­vid­ual unin­volved per­sons may also be flown over. Of course, as always in pho­tog­ra­phy, the pri­va­cy of unin­volved per­sons must be strict­ly observed. For exact details I refer to the many rel­e­vant drone pages on the net. Here, the focus is on the capa­bil­i­ties of the Mini 3 Pro as a pho­to drone.

I pur­chased the DJI Mini 3 Pro in a set with the RC con­troller*. A Fly More bun­dle of the drone, which was avail­able with the last DJI drones, is cur­rent­ly not offered. How­ev­er, the Fly More Com­bo with 2 extra bat­ter­ies, triple charg­er, bag and more spare pro­pellers can be pur­chased sep­a­rate­ly from the Mini 3 Pro. Although I ordered the set imme­di­ate­ly, it will not be deliv­ered until lat­er, so I cur­rent­ly have to get along with only one battery.

First flight

The drone is shipped with an inac­tive bat­tery. This acti­vates auto­mat­i­cal­ly dur­ing the first charge. A pow­er adapter for the USB-C charg­ing port is not includ­ed with the DJI Mini 3 - it was still includ­ed with the Mini 2. But since I have var­i­ous USB-C charg­ers for my lap­tops and the Canon EOS R5 any­way, this was unprob­lem­at­ic. By the way, the drone can also be charged well via a power­bank with USB-C PD out­put*, which is espe­cial­ly help­ful when only one bat­tery is avail­able. So I have refu­eled the drone between two flights using my power­bank. The new DJI RC con­troller with built-in bright dis­play came already ful­ly charged.

After ful­ly charg­ing the bat­tery and pair­ing it with the DJI RC remote for the first time, I ini­tial­ly had to down­load and install a firmware update for both drone and con­troller, which took about 15 min­utes. Then every­thing was ready to go. After insert­ing my 256GB San­disk Extreme PRO* Micro-USB, it was ready to take off.

For the first test I drove short­ly before sun­set to our near­by local moun­tain, the Desen­berg with the cas­tle ruins on it. This was already the object of my pre­vi­ous drone reports, so that a cer­tain com­pa­ra­bil­i­ty of the results is possible.


Thanks to the new RC con­troller, oper­at­ing the Mini 3 Pro has become even eas­i­er. The some­times fid­dly attach­ment of the cell phone to the con­troller is no longer nec­es­sary. In addi­tion, there is one device less to charge.

The drone con­trols are iden­ti­cal to those of the old controller:

  • The left stick con­trols the up, down and rota­tion­al move­ment of the drone
  • The right stick steers it for­ward, back­ward or to the sides
  • The left shoul­der but­ton starts video recording
  • The right shoul­der but­ton takes a photo
  • The left wheel moves the gim­bal up (now up to 60°!) and down
  • The right wheel is used for dig­i­tal zooming

Fur­ther adjust­ments are made on the large and bright (700Nits) dis­play, which is sig­nif­i­cant­ly brighter than the one on my pre­vi­ous­ly used iPhone 12 Pro.

I was pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned about the pho­to qual­i­ty, as already men­tioned above. Here a first pic­ture of the Desen­berg with the cas­tle ruins on it in the evening light short­ly before sunset:

The Desen­berg at sun­set, 1/200, f/1.7, ISO 130

In order to be able to rate the rich­ness of detail, here fol­lows a 100% crop from the cen­ter of the image and from the upper image area:

1/200, f/1.7, ISO 130, 100% cen­ter crop
The Desen­berg at sun­set, 1/200, f/1.7, ISO 130, 100% crop from top

I took the pic­tures with the full 48 megapix­el res­o­lu­tion of the sen­sor in RAW for­mat. In addi­tion to the com­pressed JPG for­mat, the DJI Mini 3 Pro sup­ports the DNG for­mat stan­dard­ized by Adobe, which allows direct edit­ing of the files in Adobe Light­room. The files cre­at­ed in this way have a con­sid­er­able size of a good 95 megabytes each!

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the high-res­o­lu­tion 48 megapix­el for­mat is only acces­si­ble via a sep­a­rate set­ting in the pho­to mode. This results in the fact, that all oth­er pho­to modes, like expo­sure brack­et­ing, con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing and panora­mas work only with the low­er sen­sor res­o­lu­tion of 12 megapix­els. Thus, 3x3 panora­mas cre­at­ed this way get a low­er res­o­lu­tion than sin­gle shots with full sen­sor resolution.

I hope that DJI will revise this in a lat­er firmware ver­sion. I man­aged to take the nec­es­sary indi­vid­ual shots for the panora­mas sep­a­rate­ly one after the oth­er. The drone, if you just turn it and move the gim­bal up and down, stays in the air as if it were nailed down. So I gen­er­at­ed the panora­ma shown below from 2 rows of 3 shots each in Adobe Light­room Classic.

The Desen­berg at sun­set, panora­ma from 6 shots

The result­ing panora­ma has a res­o­lu­tion of 120 megapixels.

Firmware wishes

While speak­ing about my firmware update wish:

It would also be nice if it were pos­si­ble to take pho­tos in DNG-RAW for­mat only. This is already pos­si­ble with the DJI Air 2S. I don’t need the JPG files that are com­pul­so­ri­ly record­ed with the Mini 3 Pro. I always delete them imme­di­ate­ly after­wards manually.

Anoth­er impor­tant wish would be the imple­men­ta­tion of an auto­mat­ic shut­ter mode. Cur­rent­ly, the Mini 3Pro can only set the expo­sure either ful­ly auto­mat­i­cal­ly or com­plete­ly manually.

In full auto mode, it autonomous­ly selects shut­ter speed and ISO val­ue and unfor­tu­nate­ly does not dis­play the val­ues it has cho­sen. Only the expo­sure com­pen­sa­tion can be set in 1/3 f-stops. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it quick­ly rais­es the ISO val­ue in poor light­ing con­di­tions, which increas­es the noise. I would often pre­fer it to just increase the expo­sure time instead. Because of the drone’s very good sta­bi­liza­tion in flight, longer expo­sure times are often unproblematic.

In man­u­al mode, the shut­ter speed and ISO val­ue can be set man­u­al­ly. How­ev­er, you always have to active­ly adjust the val­ues to achieve a bal­anced expo­sure. Using the touch screen of the remote con­trol makes this fid­dly and time-consuming.

What I there­fore miss very much is an aper­ture pri­or­i­ty with a fix­able ISO val­ue, e.g. fixed ISO 100. This could be achieved if the time scale would also offer an AUTO set­ting. I have just checked it: This is actu­al­ly imple­ment­ed on the DJI Air 2S and works with­out any prob­lems. If I have so far over­looked an option that allows this with the Mini 3 Pro, I would be grate­ful for cor­re­spond­ing tips.

Image noise

Even at an ISO val­ue of 100, a slight basic noise already appears, which was to be expect­ed with the small pix­el size of the 48 megapix­el 1/1.3″ sen­sor. Obvi­ous­ly, the DNG files cre­at­ed by the DJI Mini 3 Pro are already some­what processed, as you can assume from some vis­i­ble arti­facts. In post-pro­cess­ing, noise cor­rec­tion is usu­al­ly nec­es­sary. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, DxO Pho­to­lab 5 and DxO Pur­eRaw do not yet sup­port the Mini 3 Pro, so denois­ing with the inge­nious Deep­Prime AI algo­rithm includ­ed there, which I high­ly appre­ci­ate, is not yet pos­si­ble. But even in Light­room, noise can still be well con­trolled, at least in suf­fi­cient light­ing con­di­tions. But what about high con­trast con­di­tions, such as backlighting?

Dynamic range

To test the dynam­ic range of the sen­sor in RAW for­mat, I took a pic­ture of the Desen­berg in the back­light of the set­ting sun. Here you can see the image as it looks in Light­room with­out any processing:

Desen­berg with cas­tle ruins, 1/1000, f/1.7, ISO 100, unprocessed

Dann habe ich ver­sucht, in der Nach­bear­beitung die Tiefen und Höhen wieder her­auszuar­beit­en. Ich habe dazu in Light­room Clas­sic die Belich­tung um 0,28 ange­hoben, die Lichter um 100 reduziert und die Tiefen um 94 aufge­hellt. Ausser­dem habe ich den Klarheits-Regler auf +32 und die Dynamik auf +61 ver­stärkt. In der Über­sicht sieht das nicht schlecht aus, allerd­ings ist die Region um die Sonne doch noch immer ausgefressen. 

Then I tried to work out the shad­ows and high­lights in post-pro­cess­ing. I did this in Light­room Clas­sic by increas­ing the expo­sure by 0.28, reduc­ing the high­lights by 100, and light­en­ing the shad­ows by 94. I also boost­ed the Clar­i­ty slid­er to +32 and the Dynam­ics to +61. In the overview, this does­n’t look bad, but the region around the sun is still washed out.

Desen­berg with cas­tle ruins, 1/1000, f/1.7, ISO 100, processed in Light­room Classic

I then cre­at­ed anoth­er expo­sure series (-2, 0, +1.7) from the same spot. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is cur­rent­ly only pos­si­ble man­u­al­ly with the Mini 3 Pro, since the exist­ing auto­mat­ic expo­sure brack­et­ing only uses the 12 megapix­el res­o­lu­tion. I then used the “Merge Pho­tos” option in Light­room to com­bine the images into an HDR image. This way, much more detail can be extract­ed from the highlights:

Desen­berg with cas­tle ruin, 1/1000, f/1.7, ISO 100, HDR from 3 shots, processed in Light­room Classic

I find the result very appeal­ing as it is. Espe­cial­ly in the 100% zoom it shows that the clear­ly vis­i­ble noise, which aris­es when increas­ing the shad­ows, can be avoid­ed in this way. How­ev­er, due to the wind move­ments of the veg­e­ta­tion between the indi­vid­ual shots, the com­bi­na­tion of the 3 images nat­u­ral­ly leads to a decrease in sharp­ness. Noth­ing is for free!

Here is a com­par­i­son from the cen­ter of the last two images, each at 100% magnification:

100% crop - left processed DNG, right HDR from 3 shots

Image resolution

The pre­vi­ous pic­tures already show that the image res­o­lu­tion of the DJI Mini 3 cam­era is also quite decent. This is also good in the periph­er­al areas, but it decreas­es towards the extreme cor­ners. Here is anoth­er example:

Desen­berg, 1/160, f/1,7, ISO 100

And here are three sec­tions from the above image as 100% crops:

Desen­berg, 1/160, f/1.7, ISO 100, 100% cen­ter crop
Desen­berg, 1/160, f/1.7, ISO 100, 100% crop right edge
Desen­berg, 1/160, f/1.7, ISO 100, 100% crop low­er left corner

Long-term exposure

I was very impressed with the flight sta­bil­i­ty of the drone’s big­ger sis­ter, the DJI Air 2S. It allowed for unblurred long expo­sures with expo­sure times of up to 10 sec­onds. I was curi­ous to see how the small Mini 3 Pro would do. It prob­a­bly would­n’t get quite as far as the Air 2s: the longest expo­sure time that can be set is 2 sec­onds. I have not yet been able to per­form an extreme test, but I was able to take a test shot short­ly after sun­set with an expo­sure time of 1/6 sec­ond, which does not look bad at all:

Desen­berg, 1/6, f/1,7, ISO 100

In light winds, the small drone stood steadi­ly in the air, as the 100% crop from the image above shows:

100% crop from the image above

Soon I will make exper­i­ments with longer expo­sure times. Cur­rent­ly I am still wait­ing for the avail­abil­i­ty of ND and polar­iz­ing fil­ters for the drone.


Over­all, I think the results that can be achieved with the Mini 3 Pro are real­ly remark­able con­sid­er­ing the small size of the drone. Of course, the image qual­i­ty does not come close to the results of a full-frame cam­era like my EOS R5. How­ev­er, tak­ing into account the res­o­lu­tion dif­fer­ences of the sen­sors, it is sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter than that of the DJI Mini 2 (12 megapix­els) and in good light, I think, also bet­ter than that of the Air 2s with its 20 megapixels.

How­ev­er, a clos­er look at the images shows that the Mini 3 Pro has already pre-processed the DNG-RAW files. You can see this quite well for exam­ple in the arti­facts in the fence laths, which part­ly appear like JPG arti­facts. This is a pity, because it lim­its the pos­si­bil­i­ties in post-pro­cess­ing. It remains to be seen what the results will be when the drone is also sup­port­ed by DxO Deep­Prime, per­haps this way even more qual­i­ty is pos­si­ble to get out of the RAW files.

The Mini 3 Pro will replace my DJI Mini 2, which I have already sold. Whether it will also replace my Air 2S, I have not yet final­ly decid­ed. The Air 2S is “a step up”, espe­cial­ly in the video area. But only time will tell whether that will be enough for me to con­tin­ue using it, or if I will even­tu­al­ly give it up as well.

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