Welcome to our comparison feature on the new DJI Avata and its larger stablemate, the DJI Mavic 3. Both of these drones represent the pinnacle of aerial cinematography – which is why they feature in our guide to the Best Camera Drones – yet they are entirely different beasts.
For this reason, this comparison won’t be about which drone is best but how each model performs and how they individually shoot aerial footage from such vastly differing perspectives.
In an ideal world, any self-respecting professional or amateur aerial cinematographer would do well to have both drones in their armoury, if only to have the wherewithal to cover every conceivable angle for all of their creative works.
But this is a far from ideal world right now so what I’ll try and impart is the way these two drones differ and the types of aerial video and stills they’re capable of providing.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: key differences
DJI’s new Avata FPV drone provides a portal to a whole new style of cinematography that simply isn’t attainable using a conventional camera drone like the DJI Mavic 3. Where, up until relatively recently, aerial video footage from a drone like the Mavic 3 was restricted to being flat, gentle and smoothly cinematic, the new Avata produces footage that dives and sweeps like an angry peregrine falcon homing in on a kill. Hence, where the Mavic 3’s footage is similar to looking over the passenger basket of a hot air balloon, the Avata’s is like being strapped to the nose of a jet fighter.
Both of these drones can be flown with an FPV (first person view) headset but only the Avata is predominantly designed for it. In fact, you’re better off flying the Mavic 3 line of sight so you can keep an eye on the drone at all times and compose your camera angles by looking at the screen on the phone attached to the hand controller.
The Avata’s DJI goggles are amazingly comfortable and not too heavy on the head. Furthermore, the quality of the footage streaming live from the nose of the craft is outrageously sharp which makes flying it a confidence-inspiring hoot. Using goggles to fly a drone is an extremely immersive experience but it can also be nauseating for beginners, so take it one step at a time and be sure to sit down when flying lest you lose balance.
Aside from the fact that one drone is flown line of sight and the other wearing goggles, the biggest difference between these two drones is that the DJI Avata is much, much smaller and therefore narrower than the Mavic 3 – the Avata is 18cm in width and the Mavic 3 is 28.3cm without propellers – and this makes the Avata a shoo-in for tight flying through windows and around obstacles. For this reason, the Avata is equipped with a robust propeller guard that will help protect the drone in crashes and when flying within the vicinity of people.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: speed differences
When it comes to speed, the Avata is in its own league. For instance, where, in Sport mode, the Mavic 3 is capable of reaching an acceptably nippy top speed of 42mph, the Avata in manual mode can hit an incredible 60mph. This is still a lot slower than some racing drones but to most pilots 60mph is plenty fast enough.
- Brush up on the UK drone regulations before you fly
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: flight characteristics
Both of these drones fly in much the same way. That is to say they both tilt forward when accelerating and both bank into turns, although the Avata seems to bank a little more. However, because the camera on the Mavic 3 has a mechanical 3-axis stabilising gimbal, the horizon on the Mavic 3 remains straight at all times. By contrast, the Avata’s camera is fixed so that when the drone banks, the image does too. Yes, you can set the Mavic 3 to lock its gimbal so the image also banks but you won’t get quite the same visual effect for certain scenes like diving down a waterfall.
This is because the Avata can also be flown in full manual mode which opens up a raft of control options. I should add that before selecting manual mode, the pilot should first use the DJI Virtual Flight app to learn the ropes of manual control because it is stupefyingly difficult to get a handle on. Basically, the simulator app connects with the goggles and hand controller to provide as realistic a virtual flight as possible. In fact, the graphics are so good it’s like playing a computer game.
Once mastered, manual mode is the go-to function that all FPV pilots use when shooting video. It’s the only mode that allows pilots to quite literally dive down the side of a waterfall and instantly flip around to shoot straight up again. Which brings me to control response.
The DJI Mavic 3 isn’t really designed for flying around at breakneck speed while the Avata most certainly is. Indeed, one of the biggest differences between the drones is the way they respond to input by the pilot. The Mavic 3 is much slower to turn while the Avata can turn on a sixpence. This makes the Avata much more suited to creating eye-waveringly fast video content, replete with lightning quick turns and flips.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: control systems
The Mavic 3 ships with a standard hand controller while the Avata comes with DJI’s amazing Motion Controller. To use it, simply tilt you hand forward, backwards, left and right and the drone will follow suit. However, you can’t engage manual mode using the Motion Controller so if you really want to open up full manual functionality, you will need to invest in the DJI FPV Remote Controller 2. This will provide full control in all directions so you can control the Avata to turn instantly and dive nose down.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: cameras
The Avata’s camera is equipped with a 1/1.7“ CMOS sensor capable of recording in 4K at 60fps and 2.7K at 120fps. Since the Avata’s gimbal has only one axis, images are steadied using horizon-steady electronic image stabilisation. The camera’s field of view is a super wide 155˚.
By contrast, the Mavic 3 is fitted with a stunning Hasselblad camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor capable of shooting in 5.1K at up to 50 frames per second, 4K at up to 120fps and 1080p at up to 200fps. Its 24mm lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/11 and it shoots 20 megapixel stills in both JPEG and RAW.
The Mavic 3 is also available as a ‘Cine’ model which comes with DJI’s superb RC Pro controller with bright display, a built-in 1TB SSD and support for Apple ProRes 422 HQ, Apple ProRes 422, and Apple ProRes 422 LT video recording. This model is extraordinarily expensive, mind, and only suitable for pros who also have the computing power in their editing suites to deal with much larger file sizes.
In a nutshell, there is a world of difference between the two cameras and the quality of the images they produce. Granted, the speedy footage the Avata produces is much more dramatic to watch and it’s perfectly acceptable to be viewed on a large computer monitor, phone or tablet, but it can’t hold a candle to the Mavic 3, which produces much better video that has a lot more detail in the frame.
Hence, if you want to shoot aerial video of very near professional quality that can be viewed on a huge screen, opt for the Mavic 3. But if you want to create jaw-dropping video content while enjoying the immersive experience that only FPV flying can provide, go for the Avata.
The upshot is that these two drones create such different content that many pros and prosumers have added both models to their armouries.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: video styles
As explained throughout this article, both of these drones provide quite radically different content that is difficult to illustrate in words, so I think the best form of explanation is to show you a couple of YouTube videos that perfectly illustrate the different styles of video each drone produces.
As you’ll see, the Avata’s footage ducks and dives around at great speed giving the viewer a brilliant sensation of what it must be like to be a dragonfly – on steroids. It’s a great choice of drone for shooting fast-moving vehicles and dodging around obstacles both indoors and out. By contrast, the Mavic 3’s footage is slow and gentle, as if drifting across the sky at about 3mph.
In musical terms, watching Avata footage is like listening to a speed metal band at full volume while strapped to a rollercoaster while the Mavic 3 is akin to listening to Fauré’s Requiem while sitting by a trickling stream in the spring sunshine.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: shooting stills
If you are likely to shoot more aerial stills than video, the Mavic 3 is undoubtedly the best option since its camera is simply much better suited to shooting stills. Also, the Mavic 3’s three-axis gimbal can be angled by the pilot on the ground to help with framing. By contrast, the Avata is simply not designed for shooting stills so don’t even think of buying one if photography is more your bag than videography.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: Obstacle sensing
The Mavic 3 is much better equipped to deal with obstacles in all five directions – forward, backward, lateral, upwards and downward. By contrast, the Avata only has a downward facing sensor, mostly because it’s so fast that no sensor would prevent a collision at such great speed. On the plus side, the downward sensor on the Avata is brilliant at keeping the drone from crashing when flown close to the ground. In fact this drone can fly half a metre off the ground at up to 60mph in Manual mode and 31mph in standard mode.
DJI Avata vs DJI Mavic 3: verdict
Since these two drones are so radically different, you ultimately need to weigh up the kind of footage you think you’ll want to shoot. The DJI Mavic 3 is generally easier to control and much better suited to beginners. It also shoots much sharper footage and stills.
The DJI Avata, on the other hand, provides a much more immersive flying experience and the footage it’s capable of shooting is much more dramatic though not as detailed as the Mavic 3. Also, the Mavic 3 is much quicker to get in the air and its prop arms fold up for easier porterage.
Want my personal opinion? Watch as many YouTube videos as you can to learn about each drone’s characteristics and the type of footage they’re capable of shooting and then make your decision.
Just be mindful that the Mavic 3 costs about £700 more than the Avata, in which case you could lower your horizons by some margin and opt for the new DJI Mini 3 Pro or Autel Evo Nano+ instead. Although these two sub-250g models aren't as well equipped as the Mavic 3, both are still capable of shooting amazing footage.