Most people can’t hide a grin when they hold the DJI Mavic Mini in the palm of their hand because they just can’t believe how light it is. Battery installed, this diminutive drone weighs just over a half pound—249 grams—which means you don’t have to pay to register the drone with the FAA. DJI has done it again. They’ve literally redefined the concept of a take-anywhere aerial camera by designing a feature-rich drone that will fit in the most compact spaces.
- Like other drones in the Mavic family, the Mavic Mini features a foldable design with small, fixed-length props. Folded, the Mini is comparable in size and width to a smart phone, which enables it to fit in pockets, glove compartments, and backpacks with ease. It also sports a number of features:
- Long battery life. With nearly 30 minutes of flight time, the Mavic Mini can stay airborne longer than most drones on the market. It has about twice the battery power of the DJI Spark, which it replaces in DJI’s lineup.
- Imaging. The Mini’s 1 2/3-inch CMOS sensor can capture video up to 2K (2,720x1,530) at 24, 25, and 30 frames per second and at a bit rate of 40 bits per second. You can capture 12-megapixel still, images, which is typical for a camera sensor of this size. The Mini features a 3-axis gimbal—an improvement over the DJI Spark, which had a less stable, two-axis design.
- Control. One of the DJI’s Spark’s weaknesses was its use of a Wi-Fi signal to control the drone and send images back to your smartphone. The Mini uses a new enhanced Wi-Fi with control distances of more than two miles that can switch between 5 GHz and 2GHz modes. This provides a more robust connection to the drone, especially in urban environments that can be congested with signal traffic.
- DJI Fly App. DJI introduced a new flying app with the Mini to simplify the user experience and make accessing key features easier. There are less menus to interact with, a full suite of video editing tools, and plenty of options to share aerial images and video via social media.
- CineSmooth. This new flight mode slows down control movements to enable pilots to capture smoother panning shots or navigate tight spaces.
- Quickshots. Familiar automated flight modes like the ever popular Dronie, Circle, Helix. and Rocket help you capture cinematic drone videos with relative ease since the drone does the flying for you.
© Justin W. Moore
“Family on the Basketball Court,” captured by the DJI Mavic Mini, 1/160 second at f/2.8, ISO 100
In the Field
If you purchase the Fly More Combo you’ll get a compact case designed to hold the Mini, three batteries, the controller, and charge cables. This means you have all the essentials you need to go on a trip, get nearly 1.5 hours of flight time, and recharge the batteries for your next adventure.
Unfold the Mavic Mini, and in just a few moments, via the DJI Fly App, you’ll be airborne. It’s impressive to see the Mini in flight. At low altitudes it uses DJI’s vision positioning system to maintain a solid hover, and at higher altitudes it flies very much like its bigger brother, the Mavic 2. The enhanced Wi-Fi in the controller provides precise control and relays a clear, high-definition view from the drone that makes composing shots or taking video effortless and enjoyable. Engage the Sports mode on the Mini and you’ll reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. There’s no doubt about it, the Mini is fun to fly.
© Justin W. Moore
“Hanging Out on the Ford F-150,” captured by the DJI Mavic Mini, 1/160 second at f/2.8, ISO 100
- Windy conditions. DJI describes the Mavic Mini as an ultralight drone, and you’ll never appreciate this more than trying to fly the Mini on a windy day. Don’t get me wrong, the Mini will impress you with its courageous fight to maintain a steady hover in windy conditions and is even rated to handle winds up to around 17mph. The Mini’s heavier big brother, the Mavic 2, seems to handle almost any wind thrown at it, but think twice before operating the Mini when winds are gusting. The wise Mavic Mini pilot will take careful note of wind speed and direction and plan the flight accordingly. Worst case scenarios, which have been documented in more than a few YouTube videos, involve flying too high and too far downwind on a windy day only to discover that the Mini does not have the motor power to return home against a stiff headwind.
- No collision avoidance. Unlike the past several drones released by DJI, one of the trade-offs for the Mini’s ultralight weight was removal of collision sensors (something the DJI Spark had), which means pilots will need to exercise additional caution to ensure they’re clear of hazards. It also means it’s important, as it always has been, to evaluate a safe return-to-home altitude prior to flying to ensure the Mini will clear any obstacles on its way back.
- Limited still photography options. More experienced photographers will quickly recognize several key photography capabilities missing in the Mini: support for raw image capture, auto-exposure bracketing, panoramic shooting modes, and native HDR capture. The hope is that some of these features may be rolled out in firmware updates, as was recently done with a firmware update that added 24fps video capture and manual white balance selection. In the meantime, the ability to adjust shutter speed means that bracketing shots can still be done manually.
- Fewer automated flight modes. Autonomous flight modes like ActiveTrack (to follow subjects as they move) and WayPoints (to program a series of flight points ) are not included with the Mini. This is likely because of the drone’s lack of collision avoidance capability, which is important in both of those flight modes.
The DJI Mavic Mini is an extremely compact, ultralight drone that is easy to take with you just about anywhere. It’s a capable drone that is a ton of fun to fly. When the wind isn’t howling, the long battery life and 2.7k UltraHD video capture makes it an excellent traveling companion. It’s a great first drone that can help you learn important flying skills and gimbal movements to explore the possibility of adding aerial photography to your suite of products.
Justin Moore is the owner of Airborne Aerial Photography and the author of the book “Drone Photography Basics.”