If you’re considering buying a Mavic 3 drone, you actually have quite a few options to choose from. Most people who aren’t professional cinematographers will find themselves choosing between the lowest-cost drones of the lineup: the DJI Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Classic.
There are really two key differences between the DJI Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Classic. In terms of the drone itself, the Mavic 3 Pro has three cameras versus just one, two of which are telephoto cameras. But perhaps more of a crucial deciding factor for most people is the price. The DJI Mavic 3 Pro is 37.5% more expensive than the DJI Mavic 3 Classic.
For the standard configuration kit, the DJI Mavic 3 Classic goes for $1,599. Meanwhile, the Mavic 3 Pro is $600 more at $2,199. So is it worth paying 37.5% more for the Mavic 3 Pro? Here’s how to know:
A brief history of the Mavic 3 lineup
Before we dive into comparing the Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Classic, it’s important to understand the history of the Mavic 3 line.
The original Mavic 3
Original retail price: $2,199
Launch date: November 2021.
The initial DJI Mavic 3 drone launched in November 2021 as a dual-camera drone. The primary camera was a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad sensor with a 20MP resolution, and then there was a second, digital zoom lens with a 1/2-inch CMOS (12MP) sensor. It offers an incredible 28x Hybrid Zoom.
Mavic 3 Cine: a Mavic 3 for serious photographers
Original retail price: $4,999
Launch date: November 2021.
In coincidence with the DJI Mavic 3 came the launch of an upgraded version called the Mavic 3 Cine. It has a few minor differences like bonus accessories, but the primary difference between the Mavic 3 Cine and the Mavic 3 is Apple ProRes 422 HQ encoding, which means higher-quality video for richer video processing. There’s also an internal 1TB SSD onboard for high-speed data storage. The DJI Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo launched at $4,999, making it more than twice the price of the Mavic 3.
Mavic 3 Classic: a stripped-down version for pilots on a budget
Original retail price: $1,599
Launch date: November 2022
A year after the launch of the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine, DJI did the budget-conscious drone pilots a solid by launching the DJI Mavic 3 Classic, essentially a stripped-down (and much cheaper) version of the original Mavic 3. Most notably, the Mavic 3 Classic does not include the telephoto lens. At launch, it retailed for $1,599.
Mavic 3 Enterprise: a version for industrial use-cases
Original retail price: $3,959
Launch date: October 2022
The same year DJI gave us the Classic, DJI also gave us the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise, which has features more appealing to the industrial crowd including a 56× zoom camera and RTK module for centimeter-level precision.
Mavic 3 Pro and Mavic 3 Pro Cine: the latest and greatest (with three cameras)
Original retail price: $2,199 (Pro) and $4,799 (Cine)
Launch date: April 2023
And that brings us where we are today, with the DJI Mavic 3 Pro — a drone that can claim the title of world’s first three optical camera drone. Much like the 2021 launch of the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine edition, the Mavic 3 Pro also comes with a ‘Pro’ Cine option.
What’s impressive is that — despite inflation in pretty much every other aspect of life — these drones cost either the same or slightly less than the initial Mavic 3 cost, despite being more advanced. The Mavic 3 Pro matches the Mavic 3’s price at $2,199, while the Cine edition is actually $200 cheaper at $4,799 versus the original Cine that went for $4,999.
Comparing all the Mavic 3 drones
Unless you’re buying a used Mavic 3 drone or have otherwise found it at a deep discount, there’s little reason to compare the Mavic 3 vs. Mavic 3 Pro, as the Mavic Pro is better by almost every metric (there are only a few small drawbacks such as 6.5% lesser flight time (43 minutes vs. 46 minutes).
And in fact, DJI has discontinued sales of the original Mavic 3 drone on its website (though you can still find it through other third-party sellers such as Amazon), so we’ll skip that comparison here.
The Cine version of the Mavic 3 Pro is targeted at serious photographers who value Apple ProRes 422 HQ encoding (if you don’t know what that is, it probably means you don’t need it). The Enterprise version is good if you need RTK (and again, if you’re confused what RTK means, you definitely don’t need it).
But most people are left with a choice: Mavic 3 Pro? Or Mavic 3 Classic? Here’s how to decide:
Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Classic: are the two zoom cameras worth the extra cost?
Is the Mavic 3 Pro worth the upgrade? Let’s start with a comparison table of the two drones:
Let’s put those specs head-to-head:
|DJI Mavic 3 Pro||DJI Mavic 3 Classic|
|Takeoff Weight||958 grams||895 grams|
|Dimensions: folded, without propellers (LxWxH)||231.1×98×95.4 mm||221×96.3×90.3 mm|
|Number of Cameras||3||1|
|Primary camera and lens specs||Hasselblad Camera:
4/3 CMOS, Effective Pixels: 20 MP
4/3 CMOS, Effective Pixels: 20 MP
|Medium Tele camera and lens specs||1/1.3-inch CMOS, Effective Pixels: 48 MP
|Tele camera and lens specs||1/2-inch CMOS, Effective Pixels: 12 MP
|Digital zoom||Hasselblad Camera: 1-3×
Medium Tele Camera: 3-7×
Tele Camera: 7-28×
|Gimbal mechanical range||Tilt: -140° to 50°
Roll: -50° to 50°
Pan: -23° to 23°
|Tilt: -135° to 100°
Roll: -45° to 45°
Pan: -27° to 27°
|Sensor||4/3″ CMOS||1/1.3″ CMOS|
|Obstacle Avoidance||Omnidirectional binocular vision system, supplemented with an infrared sensor at the bottom of the aircraft||Omnidirectional binocular vision system, supplemented with an infrared sensor at the bottom of the aircraft|
|Max Flight Time||43 minutes||46 minutes|
The biggest difference between the Mavic 3 Pro vs. Classic is that you’re getting those two telephoto cameras. Whether those two additions are worth it to you depends on your photography style.
When to skip the Mavic 3 Pro upgrade
If you prefer shooting big, sweeping landscapes or panoramas, the telephotos likely won’t be of use to you. Even if you like to zoom in relatively close to a subject, what’s cool about drones is it’s usually easy to just fly right up to it. If you can’t get close to a subject, fly the drone closer!
Even among photographers who do use the zoom lenses, they’re primarily going to be flying with the Hasselblad camera anyway. Hasselblad is one of the most top-of-the-line camera companies, and so you’ll want to maximize it by making it your primary camera anyway.
After all, the Hasselblad camera on the Standard has incredible specs like:
- 4/3 CMOS 20-megapixel camera
- Hasselblad Natural Color Solution
- 4K video at 60 fps and 1080p video at 60 fps
- H.26x encoders
- 10-bit D-Log for video (and 12-bit RAW for photography)
- Night mode for video recording
When to opt for the Mavic 3 Pro upgrade
Where the telephoto lenses often comes into play is in scenarios where you can’t fly the drone closer. Perhaps you’re a wildlife photographer but you don’t actually want to fly that close to the animals so as not to disturb them. Maybe you’re flying in an environment with lots of ‘noise,’ where you don’t want to risk losing signal, or there is something on the ground that you cannot fly over — namely people.
The zoom enables it to look like you were flying much closer to (or over) something that you actually weren’t very close to at all.
The two separate lenses also offer up different aesthetics than what you’d get solely with the generally-single aesthetic that you get with the Hasselblad camera.
The medium tele camera compresses the depth of field and depth of focus to highlight the subject and give a unique sense of depth and space. You might use it for shots that aren’t super tight, but not wide either, like perhaps a building or a car. Among its specs:
- 1/1.3″ CMOS sensor
- 3x optical zoom
- 48MP/12MP photos
- 4K/60fps video.
- Supports the new D-log M.
The standard tele camera is truly best for situations where you just can’t get as close as you’d otherwise like to (typically because you’re prevented from flying drones in a certain area due to government restrictions or common sense, like an inexperienced pilot flying over crowds of people or animals). Among its specs:
- Aperture from f/4.4 to f/3.4
- 4K/60fps video
- 7x optical zoom
- 12MP photos
Joanna Steidle, one of the best drone photographers in America and the owner of Hamptons Drone Images, got her hands on a Mavic 3 Pro early and shared some sample video of its video capability up to 28x:
Other factors to consider
The more-expensive pro has an incredible 43 minutes, but that’s actually slightly less than the 46 minutes on the Classic (presumably the extra cameras adds extra weight that drops flight times). Three minutes out of 43 likely wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for anyone, but if you do fly in scenarios where every minute is precious, then that could be something to consider as a reason to actually prefer the cheaper drone.
The Pro drone does offer a few extra upgrades that will be seen as minor to most drone pilots. The Pro version supports recording oof up to one billion colors via its new 10-bit D-Log M color mode. That’s good for pilots filming in high-contrast scenarios (like during sunrises and sunsets). That also reduces the difficulty of color grading, allowing an efficient post-production without losing quality or image clarity.
But since both drones entail use of Hasselblad’s Natural Colour Solution (HNCS) technology — which can accurately restore the colors the human eye perceives without post-production — both will deliver stunning colors.
Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Classic: the bottom line
If you’ll never need the extra telephoto lenses, save your money and go with the Classic. But if you’re looking to experiment with new photography techniques (or already have a need for zooming in) then you’ll certainly want that Pro, as the different lenses unlock new possibilities of the types of images you can take.
There’s also slightly better color capabilities (but slightly worse flight times) on the Pro.
Of course, if you’re really a serious photographer, you’ll skip the Mavic 3 Pro altogether and go for the Inspire 3 that launched earlier this month and ships at the end of June. That drone offers up a full-frame Zenmuse X9-8K Air Gimbal Camera that allows for interchangeable lenses. Lens options for that include:
- An additional 18 mm F2.8 full-frame ultra-wide lens
- A new telephoto lens specially made for 8K aerial cinematography
- Full-frame 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm lenses
That said, there’s one glaring problem with that Inspire 3 telephoto lens: it hasn’t been formally released yet and there’s no firm date when it’ll arrive (but it likely won’t be until after June 2023). If you need a telephoto sooner than that, well then the Mavic 3 Pro (or Mavic 3 Cine) might actually serve you better.
The DJI Mavic 3 Pro begins shipping at the end of May 2023.
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