DJI Air 2S vs Mavic 3 and 3 Classic Video Quality

Is the new Mavic 3 worth the difference in price compared to the excellent Air 2S for a professional videographer? Should I upgrade from the Air 2S to the new Mavic 3? These are frequent questions that I get asked

The only difference between the Mavic 3 and the 3 Classic is the presence of a second lens, a telephoto one, in the Mavic 3. The specs and the quality of the footage are exactly the same, therefore I will only refer here to the Mavic 3

The Mavic 3, 3 Classic, and Air 2S are excellent drones for video. The quality of the footage is very similar with a slight advantage for the Mavic 3, due to the bigger sensor. The Mavic 3 has some extra features that can attract several professional users, notably the variable aperture, omnidirectional obstacle sensors, and much longer battery life

The dual lens system of the Mavic 3

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video

Video Specs of the DJI Air 2S and Mavic 3

Mavic 3Air 2S
Weight895 grams595 grams
Flight Time46 minutes31 minutes
Sensor Size1.33″1″
Field of View84° (24mm)88° (22mm)
Aperture f 2.8-11f 2.8
Color ModesNormal, D Log, HLGNormal, D Log, HLG
Video Resolution 5.1k at 50fps
4k at 120 fps
5.4k at 30fps
4k at 60 fps
Video Bitrate200 Mbps150 Mbps
Obstacle SensorsOmnidirectionalTridirectional
Source: DJI website

Is the Mavic 3 worth the upgrade from the Air 2S?

In terms of video and photo quality, the two models are both excellent with the slightest advantage for the Mavic 3. For most users, the quality offered by the Air 2S is more than enough

The main reason to upgrade to the Mavic 3 (or 3 Classic) from the Air 2S is the extra features. For some professional users the variable aperture, the much longer battery life, the omnidirectional obstacle sensors, Waypoint mode for video, and the superior options for slow-motion could be worth the difference in price

The sensor size at 4/3” is much larger than the 1” one of the Air 2S. The bigger sensor should translate into better quality in low light and high dynamic range situations and contain more info in the shadows

Video bitrate is a whopping 200 Mbps vs 150 for the Air 2S, which was already a very high value compared to previous models. A higher bitrate means less compression, therefore footage shot with the Mavic 3 should be able to stand all sorts of post-processing tortures

A weak point of the Air 2S is tracking. The lack of lateral sensors made it unsuitable for any kind of sport or action shooting from close range. The bigger model has omnidirectional sensors and a much improved APAS 5.0 system for obstacle avoidance. I have been trying very hard to crash the Mavic 3, but I did not manage to do it

The Mavic 3 has an announced battery life of 46 minutes, vs 31 for the Air 2S. In real-life conditions, the battery of the new model lasts about 38-39 minutes, which is about 15 more than the Air 2S. This makes a lot of difference when shooting videos and it is a real life-changer for hyperlapse

The Mavic 3 has a variable aperture, a very important feature for video and hyper lapses, as in most cases we have less latitude for shutter speed compared to photography

The Mavic 3 has more options for slow motion, as it can shoot 5.1k resolution up to 50 fps and 4k at 120 fps for extreme slow-mo. Another very welcome upgrade

The telephoto lens is a powerful tool for very unusual shots, or for close-up views of subjects that we cannot get close to. This lens is not available in the Mavic 3 Classic. Please refer to my specific article about the Telephoto lens of the Mavic 3

Photo taken with the telephoto lens of the Mavic 3

Finally, the new model has more power, higher wind resistance, and a stronger signal. I shoot a lot of footage and hyper lapses and for me, the much longer battery life and the manual control of the aperture are already reasons good enough for upgrading

Normal Video Mode in the Mavic 3 and Air 2S

Normal is the mode to use right out of the box, without any post-processing, meant for users who don’t rely on computer post-processing or need to post footage immediately on social media. It is an 8 bit-mode, therefore able to display around 16 million colors, versus over 1 bl for the 10 bits modes, D Log and HLG

Normal mode in the Air 2S is very pleasant although it needs a slight increase in contrast and saturation, as right out of the camera it looks just a touch flat

Normal mode in the Air 2S

In the Mavic 3 Normal mode is the sensational Hasselblad Natural Color Solution. The colors are incredibly rich, a thing of beauty. It is a big leap forward for drone footage quality. The files respond to post-processing much better than other 8-bit files. I use this mode quite often with the Mavic 3, even though with other drones I tend to use only the 10-bit modes

Normal mode in the Mavic 3

Both models perform extremely well in low light conditions, noise is extremely contained even in very dark conditions. The clips I am showing are without any denoising applied, but the tiny amount of noise can very easily be removed by using Neat Video, the excellent denoising program I use. More info about Neat Video in my specific article

Normal in low light with the Air 2S

The footage you are watching was shot before sunrise with extremely low light, but I was able to recover plenty of info in the shadows. Excellent performance for both drones, but the colors of the Mavic 3 are breathtaking

Normal in low light with the Mavic 3

When shooting toward the direction of the sun, Normal mode in the Air 2S starts to struggle, with a noticeable loss of detail, contrast, and saturation in the area closer to the direction of the sun. In high dynamic range situations, the 10 bits modes are the ones to use

Air 2s Normal mode against the sun

The Mavic 3 performs much better against the sun and maintains more info in the colors. Even with the full sun on the frame there is no flare and the sky has an excellent structure, but to extract more info in the shadows and increase the dynamic range, DLOG is the one to use

More details in my specific article Mavic 3 and 3 Classic Video Quality and Air 2s Video Quality

Mavic 3 Normal mode against the sun

D Log and HLG modes in the Mavic 3 and Air 2S

The Air 2S has 2 10 bits modes, DLog and HLG. I have always found that HLG has nicer colors and more contrast. The performance against the sun is a big improvement compared to previous models of the Mavic line, the new lens manages to prevent nasty flares and a decent amount of info is retained both in the sky and in the shadows, but shooting towards the sun is still better avoided unless absolutely needed

More details in my specific article about Color Modes of the Air 2s

D Log mode with the Air 2S
HLG mode with the Air2S

When the Mavic 3 was released, HLG was not available and it was very difficult to shoot footage in D Log, as the on-screen display was extremely flat. After several firmware updates and the release of the Mavic 3 Classic, these issues have been ironed out. In the window for exposure and color modes settings, when choosing D Log, there is now an option Color Display Assist for a much-improved reproduction of the footage on the screen

HLG mode is finally available and the good news is that the quality is excellent, with very pleasant colors and contrast. Both 10-bit color modes are now compatible with the intelligent flight modes, and this is fantastic news

HLG mode with the Mavic 3

I find that DLOG works quite well, even though it is not easy to obtain colors as engaging as with HLG or even Normal mode. But when shooting against the sun, the results obtained with the Mavic 3 in DLOG are in a different league from any other drone of the Mavic line

D Log mode with the Mavic 3

Even with the full sun on the frame, the structure of the sky is astonishing and we have a huge amount of info in the shadows without any noise. The Mavic 3 opens new territory for prosumer drone videography. We can finally get results close to a good full-frame camera 

D Log against the sun with the Mavic 3

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I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

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