DJI’s latest addition to its rosy roster has landed and it’s a cracker. We’ve unpacked it, unfolded it, activated it, flown it, fiddled with the settings, used the camera and viewed the rushes, and we’re frankly gobsmacked not just by the all-round quality of the drone itself and the footage it shoots, but also the amazing price.
So, without further ado, let’s go into a little more detail… Or maybe you should just head straight off and buy one. If any further encouragement were needed, we also decided to crown it Best drone at the T3 Awards 2020.
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DJI Mavic Mini review: the price
The new Mavic Mini is priced to perfection and is arguably the first high quality camera-carrying drone for the masses. At just £369, it’s the perfect price point for a spur-of-the-moment pre-holiday purchase or a Christmas present from a loved one. And should the recipient pilot fly his or her new toy straight into the side of the building or stupidly let the drone run out of battery while it’s on its way back over a body of water, then at least it’s not as great a loss as losing a Mavic Pro or something even more costly. Yes, you’ll still be upset but perhaps not suicidally so, if you get the gist.
DJI Mavic Mini review: no pilot registration required
This is the important bit and you’ll like it. The Mavic Mini weighs just 249g fully loaded with battery and 32GB Micro SD card (included). That’s one measly gram shy of the CAA’s new 250g regulation, which means you don’t need to register it, pass an online test, hand over £9 every year and stick a pilot ID label on it. Just fly, baby, fly.
DJI Mavic Mini review: my, that’s a small one
Like its elder brethren the Mavic Air, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom, the Mavic Mini is fully foldable for doddlesome portability, whether it’s stashed in a pair of chinos or carried in a small handbag. In fact, at just 160mm long, 202mm wide and 55mm tall, it’s small enough to hide under an iPhone 11. And yet, when the arms are fully extended, its footprint from arm to arm is about the same as that of the Mavic Air.
The Mavic Mini's tiny size and low weight should also help it survive most crashes and falls. True, it depends on the type of incident, but because it's so light and its front arms are quite flexible, it should theoretically survive an accident better than any of its bigger and heavier stablemates.
DJI Mavic Mini review: camera performance
Given that the camera is arguably the most important part of a drone (not for nothing is DJI calling this the Everyday Fly Cam), this writer is happy to report that it’s a little cracker. Granted, it doesn’t support some of the picture and video profile choices of the larger Mavics, but even the standard picture setting is excellent right out of the box.
The Mavic Mini shoots 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and super crisp 2.7K at up to 30fps. The fact it doesn’t shoot in full 4K is in no way a hindrance because 2.7K is plenty good enough for the average computer monitor and certainly any tablet or phone. Besides, 4K files are so massive (up to several gigabytes for each clip), they tend to take up loads of hard disk space and make editing on anything other than a well-specced computer a stuttering nightmare. And anyway, at this price there had to be some kind of tradeoff.
For those into their photography, the drone’s 1/2.3” CMOS-equipped camera shoots immaculate 12mp stills that really pop when snapped in good lighting conditions; it isn’t too shabby in low light either. As to be expected, the drone’s little mechanical three-axis gimbal ensures that all video remains absolutely rock solid and stills pin sharp no matter how jumpy the drone may look in flight, even when it’s battling against a stiff breeze. Speaking of which…
DJI Mavic Mini review: flight performance
Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Mavic Mini is extraordinarily stable in flight and very fast and nimble when switched to Sport mode. Truth is I expected it to struggle in a breeze but its reliable GPS lock ensured it remained stationary for as long as my fingers were off the sticks. I also had no issues whatsoever with the quality of the video streaming to the phone. In fact, everything just… worked. For those who like their stats, the Mavic Min will happily fly for up to 30 minutes on a single charge and boasts a transmission distance of 4km (way beyond the CAA’s line-of-sight regulation).
DJI Mavic Mini review: the app
The new DJI Fly app is tailor made for the Mavic Mini. Its interface is easy to get a handle on and it isn’t cluttered with too many submenus. It also paired very easily with the craft and completed an update without a glitch. Although the app doesn’t provide any specialised video profile settings like D-Log (a flat, desaturated profile suitable for efficient colour correction during editing), the standard default picture and video settings are good enough for most users and you can always switch to manual for more advanced settings like shutter speed and ISO.
As with the other Mavics, the app also allows you to change flight parameters like max altitude and distance, a minimum height for return-to-home and pitch speed and smoothness for the gimbal. On the automative flight mode front, it offers a small variety of ‘Quick Shots’ including dronie, rocket, circle and helix, but no follow-me mode – at least for the time being.
DJI Mavic Mini review: sorry, no obstacle avoidance here
Given its size and optimum weight limit, something naturally had to give and, sure enough, DJI has decided not to fit the Mavic Mini with any obstacle avoidance sensors. We don’t think this is a deal breaker in any way because we (and other fliers we know) have never needed obstacle avoidance in the past. As long as you use common sense, you should have no problem flying the Mavic Mini as it is.
DJI Mavic Mini review: what’s in the box?
The basic package includes a very simple hand controller equipped with a phone cradle (for viewing the footage streaming from the camera), on/off and ‘return to home’ buttons, a smooth gimbal wheel to control elevation of the camera, and shoulder buttons to take photos and videos. You also get a single intelligent flight battery, a charger, a pair of spare props and control sticks, plus a bunch of different phone cables for your iPhone or Android device. However, we would advise spending just £90 more and grabbing the Fly More Combo which includes a fabulous herringbone carry case, four batteries, a charger for charging four batteries at once and propellor guards for indoor flight. Given that a single battery costs £45 a pop, we think the Fly More Combo is a veritable no brainer.
DJI Mavic Mini review: verdict
If you’ve always hankered after a top-quality camera drone but didn’t fancy the idea of splashing out a small fortune, then this is the bird for you. It’s fantastically small and portable, remarkably stable and reliable in flight, a doddle to control and it shoots ravishingly good cinematic footage. The fact you don’t need to register it with the CAA is a cherry on the cake.
If you want to know which way the wind’s blowing you should always consult DJI, and the Shenzhen-based market leader has not only thrown the rule book away with the DJI Mavic Mini, it's also created one of the best drones ever.