The DJI Mavic Mini is an ideally timed masterstroke from DJI. It tackles drone law changes in the US and UK head-on while delivering excellent video quality in a premium, compact package. The new laws now require drones weighing over 250g to be registered with the aviation authorities – the FAA in the US and the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK – and before the Mavic Mini was launched, there were no well-reviewed options in this featherweight category. This means that DJI currently has a monopoly on the sub-250g premium drone market. This is our DJI Mavic Mini Review.
So unlike one of its primary rivals, the Parrot Anafi, which captures 4K images but is more expensive and weighs around 300g, the Mavic Mini doesn’t need to be registered. The Mini also has three-axis mechanical stabilization (the Anafi has two – its ‘third’ axis is EIS), includes useful features such as a hot-swappable microSD card slot. It promises better battery life than the Anafi, with a quoted flight time of 30 minutes.
However, the Mavic Mini is not without speculations. Video resolution of 2.7K and a frame rate of 30fps, allowing some videographers who need 4K images, or the option to slow things down with 2.7K, to look elsewhere. It also lacks the incredibly convenient avoid object feature than its larger DJI siblings. We tested the Mavic Mini for a couple of weeks – so does the reality match the buzz of this lightweight quadcopter, or is it missing too many premium Mavic features? Let’s find out!
DJI Mavic Mini Review – Design
Mavic Mini is an ideal name for DJI’s newest drone. Just like his bigger Mavic brothers and sisters, it’s collapsible, with arms that unfold to transform him into a pair of spring-loaded maneuvers. When it comes to design, you can easily say that it’s a DJI product. The color scheme is mixed grey, just like the Osmo Action and Osmo Mobile 3, and the front is embellished with a pair of ‘eyes,’ which sit under a flat, beveled, angry-looking top. It’s one of the better-looking drones that we’ve seen in recent times.
At the front of the Mavic Mini is the 3-axis stabilized camera. It is shielded from the box by a camera guard, which can be removed when you fly it. At the back, there is an exposed microSD card slot and a micro-USB port for charging. Above that is the battery cover. Compared to the Parrot’s Anafi, whose SD card slot is tucked under the battery, DJI’s design is much more convenient for frequent storage changers.
As mentioned before, the Mavic Mini is specially built to weigh a fraction below 250g so that it can bypass the registration with aviation agencies in the US, UK, and Australia (but check your local laws). DJI achieved this by using a drone that weighs about 150g with a battery of about 100g. The fact that it doesn’t struggle every time it’s flown is a miracle, and while lightweight is often compared with cheap quality, the Mavic Mini feels anything but cheap.
However, the Mini isn’t crash-resistant; there are no obstacle avoidance sensors on the sides, front or rear, as is the case with the Mavic Air. However, there are a few sensors on the base to ensure a smooth landing, along with a battery meter and light so that you can keep your drone in the air and insight, even at night. The Mavic Mini’s arms are relatively slim, and we’ve even cracked one with a 1.8m drop – although it still works perfectly, it wouldn’t have done so if the safety gates had been fitted.
If you’re a beginner, anticipate flying indoors, or else you’ll be flying in strong winds. So, it’s worth picking up the Fly More bundle to get the 360-degree propeller guard.
DJI Mavic Mini Review – Controller
Unlike other drone controllers, the DJI Mavic Mini’s do not have a screen, but an Android or iOS smartphone. The housing contains screw-on joysticks, so the controller has a flat profile when it collapses and gives a traditional feel when opened. On the left side of the controller, there is a micro-USB port for charging and connecting the phone. The drone also comes with Lightning, micro USB, and USB-C cables, so whatever smartphone you have, provided the software is compatible with the DJI Mavic Mini’s Fly app, you’ll be taken care of.
The jog dial on the top of the controller rotates the camera vertically by 90 degrees so it can look down. Unlike the Anafi, it cannot look up, which would have been a bonus, but its range is typical of most drones. Buttons of the note include the L-tractor, which starts video recording, and the R-tractor, which takes a picture-perfect if you operate the drone while wearing gloves. Setting up the flying experience is a bit tricky – you have to run cables from the controller to your smartphone, screw on the joysticks, and start up the app, all of which takes about a minute.
However, from a portability point of view, the experience is about as compact as we could hope for when the drone and controller have collapsed, while still feeling robust and natural when flying. Once connected, we didn’t have any problems pairing the drone with our smartphones. I tried it with Android 9 and 10 devices, as well as an iPhone 11.
DJI Fly App
DJI’s Fly app has been updated since we first used it, and now comes with guides and sample videos so you can see what kind of footage you’re recording in the different modes. But it’s a bizarre mix of experiences. On the one hand, some aspects are outstanding – the feature tutorials and in-app tips are handy, and the core UI is also clean and responsive. However, some elements pop up in Chinese, and the Fly Spots component, which focuses on areas that are safe to fly in, is not located outside China.
But if you get past these niggles, you’re in for a treat. The modes are simple to get your head around, and the three speeds, which we’ll come up with in the next section, are a dodge to switch between and offer a lot of versatility. Quickshots, like those on the Mavic Air, has also returned, which is brilliant. These pre-programmed flight paths can engage dynamic pans, rotating around an object at the touch of a button. While the re’s one striking omission – Asteroid – the rest of the Quickshots, including our favorite, Helix, are accounted for.
The control over the images and the video recording is relatively minimal, without the possibility to adjust the contrast or saturation. You can still overlap useful tools such as a histogram and a grid line to help with framing, but we would have appreciated having seen more options to improve the images. The gimbal supports two modes: the tracking mode, which maintains the horizon line, and the FPV mode, which takes control of the drone itself while remaining incredibly stable.
This is not only useful while flying – you can use the Mavic Mini as an incredible handheld steady cam in a pinch, and switching between these modes makes this possible.
DJI Mavic Mini Review – Camera
The DJI Mavic Mini can record 2.7K video at 30fps or Full-HD (1080p) video at 60fps. The 1/2.3-inch sensor can also capture 12MP footage in a range of modes, including Positioning mode for primary control, Sports mode for faster flight, and CineSmooth mode, which extends pause time and slows down things for smoother shots and footage.
Once you’ve got it on your computer, the drone footage seems to be faster than in the field, so we’ve locked ourselves into CineSmooth mode to give us the continuous shots we’ve been chasing most of the time. The fact that the re’s no 60fps 2.7K option also reinforces the need to slow things down in the air, as you don’t have the opportunity to do that with 30fps images in the editing phase. However, if you are satisfied with shooting at 1080p, frame rates do increase to 60fps.
You can use manual mode, with the option to use shutter speeds of up to four seconds, and up to ISO3200; as a result, shots in low light are entirely usable. The low-light video has been improved since we got our hands on the Mavic Mini, but it’s still not something you want to capture on a drone with a 1/2.3-inch sensor unless you’re going to edit and stylize it heavily, or like it with a healthy amount of noise.
Flight Time, Connectivity, and Range
The Mini establishes a Wi-Fi connection, sending the live video feed to the controller, which connects to your phone and connects to the app’s interface. With our phone’s Wi-Fi connectivity enabled, our Mini has disconnected from the controller about 60 meters away in an environment with many ambient Wi-Fi connections. By switching our phone to airplane mode, this range has been significantly extended.
Also, the Mavic Mini users flying a drone in less built-up areas have reached distances over two miles, with the quoted maximum distance of DJIs being 2.5 miles. When connected, the controller charges your phone, with its 2,600mAh battery providing enough juice for a few hours of flight time. As for the Mini itself, the batteries are 2,400mAh, with a specified flight time of 30 minutes, depending on the environment and usage. We found this roughly on the money, although flying mainly in Sports mode reduces a few minutes of flight time.
We would have loved to see USB-C charging on the DJI Mavic Mini, but that’s our biggest gripe for a drone from a connectivity point of view.
The DJI Mavic Mini is now available in two versions: the basic package (drone, battery, controller) or the Fly More Combo. It also includes a two-way charging hub that can serve as a power bank, a 360-degree propeller protector, and two extra batteries. The base drone costs $399, while the Fly More Combo is $499. If you ask us, then we recommend the Fly More Combo, as it is worth the extra cost for the extra batteries and gives you a total of around 90 minutes of flying time.
DJI Mavic Mini Review – Conclusion
The DJI Mavic Mini is a quirky class that combines a compact, light body with robust flying experience and excellent quality video recording. It’s not entirely our dream drone; the absence of 4K or 2.6K 60fps video recording is palpable. We’d also have liked to have more grainy control over the video recording or just a flatter cinematic profile. Besides, a ‘follow me’/object tracking feature, available on some drones that cost the same as the Mavic Mini or less, such as the UPair One Plus, would also have been a treat.
However, nothing else that this size does what the Mavic Mini does, and if you look at the competition, our wish list is easy to ignore. The Mavic Mini is DJI’s lightest, most affordable drone yet, leading the industry in portability and performance, delivering an impressive 30-minute battery life, with most sub-250g drones dying after 10-15 minutes.
Overall, for casual users who want to even out their aerial photographs, and for newcomers who don’t want to register their drone, the DJI Mavic Mini is undeniably your best option.