DJI Air 3 Telephoto Lens for Optical Zoom

When I started using drones about 10 years ago, what I missed the most was the possibility of swapping lenses of different focal lengths, like in DSLR cameras

The main selling point of the DJI Air 3 is the dual lens system, with a 70mm moderate telephoto lens besides the traditional 24mm. This lens performs well in video and photos with good contrast and detail and rich colors. It is compatible with most intelligent modes and functionalities of this model

The first model of DJI prosumer drone supplied with a double focal lens was the Mavic 2 Zoom, which I used a lot at the time

Then came the Mavic 3, at first with a second lens of a whopping 7x zoom factor and then with a three-lens system

I have written several articles about the Air 3:

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video

Specs of the Dual Lens System of the Air 3

DJI Air 3: front view of the two lenses
DJI Air 3: front view of the two lenses

The two lenses of the Air 3 are a 24mm wide angle with a 1/1.3” sensor, a very wide aperture of f1.7 and a photo resolution of 12MP, and a 70mm moderate telephoto lens with the same specs, but with an aperture of f2.8

Video Quality

Consistency of Footage with the Two Lenses

When the first iteration of the Mavic 3 was released, the quality of the telephoto lens was inferior to the one of the wide angle one, making it hard to integrate video and photos taken with the two lenses in the same project, even though it has constantly improved since

With the Air 3 DJI seems to have started immediately in the right direction. Let’s start with the video side, I will analyze the photos later on in this video

The footage of the same scene taken with the two lenses is very consistent

With the telephoto lens, the clips are a touch darker, which is understandable, due to the difference in aperture. The footage looks great, maybe with a touch of extra contrast and detail compared to the wide-angle one

The white balance is almost identical and the clips produced by the two lenses can be perfectly integrated into the same project

For me the dual lens is a big winner, in a few minutes I can produce a much bigger variety of shots by alternating the two lenses on the same scene

Color Profiles

The 70mm lens is compatible with the three different color modes of the Air 3

Normal is the 8-bit mode meant to be used with very little color grading, or none at all. It performs well out of the camera but it can be improved with a touch of extra contrast and resolution

D Log works perfectly fine, and again the result is very similar to the one obtained with the wide angle, the same LUTs can be used with the two lenses for color grading

HLG is an excellent alternative, it is probably the one that gives the best results to my taste, but it still needs a bit of work

When I tried it the first time, all the footage I took was hugely overexposed, unusable

After several tests, I found that the correct exposure is obtained by underexposing by one and a half to two stops, with the image on the screen quite dark

On a few occasions, in low light situations, I noticed some small artifacts in the shadow, but only randomly

A main limitation is that the files produced in HLG mode are extremely demanding in terms of computer resources. it is hardly possible to visualize the clips in real time and the encoding goes on forever. I trust DJI to fix these issues very quickly

Functionalities available with the Telephoto Lens

The telephoto lens is compatible with all the different intelligent modes of the Air 3: Spotlight, Active Track, Point of Interest, Waypoints, Cruise Control, MasterShots, Quickshots, and even Hyperlapses

This is excellent for quickly gathering very interesting footage. With the longer focal length, any slightly abrupt move is magnified in the resulting footage, so it is suggested to use intelligent modes whenever possible

It is also very useful for tracking when we cannot get very close to the target

The Mavic 3 Pro is supplied with three lenses with focal lengths of 24, 70, and 166mm

Even though the extra-long telephoto is occasionally useful for dramatic parallax effects, for footage of people, and for tracking from long distances, the choice of the 70mm moderate telephoto as the second lens for the Air 3 is wise, as this is the most versatile focal length and can still provide some interesting parallax effect

Photography

JPEG Files

For photography with all other drones, I used to only consider RAW files

But with the Air 3, I have decided to also take into account the JPEG ones for two reasons:

  • Many users have asked me in my YouTube channels to analyze the quality of the JPEG files as they use them for publishing on social media with little editing
  • The processing of the JPEG files in the Air 3 is excellent, a huge leap forward compared to the Mini 3 Pro and other previous DJI models

When watching JPEG files taken with the telephoto lens alternated with others taken with the wide angle we can appreciate how similar they are and how well they can be integrated into the same project

With both lenses the quality is outstanding and they can certainly be used as they come out of the camera, although a touch of extra contrast and saturation can be at times beneficial

DJI Air 3: photo taken in RAW format with the telephoto lens
DJI Air 3: photo taken in RAW format with the telephoto lens

I have the impression that the images taken with the 70mm lens have just a touch of extra contrast and detail, but it is hardly noticeable

RAW Files

And now a look at the RAW files

The telephoto lens shows excellent detail and contrast, nice colors, and a good structure of the sky

Watching side-by-side the images made with the two lenses, we can see that they are very similar and can be used in the same project

The ones made with the wide angle have at times a slight magenta cast in the middle of the frame

DJI Air 3: photo taken in RAW format with the telephoto lens
DJI Air 3: photo taken in RAW format with the telephoto lens

I have a slight preference for the ones made with the telephoto, and again I appreciate the different perspective and the wider choice offered by the dual-lens system

Other Photo Functionalities

The only functionality not available with the telephoto lens is panorama photography, but it is still possible to make them manually using a photo editing program for very interesting results and huge resolution

I explain how to make a manual panorama with the Air 3 in this article

DJI Air 3: manual Panorama photo made with the telephoto lens
DJI Air 3: manual Panorama photo made with the telephoto lens

The telephoto lens is compatible with the hyperlapse mode. I find this very interesting, as I am addicted to this technique. Sadly I have not yet received the ND filters that are crucial, so I will soon do an article about it

More Photos That You Can Download

VicVideoPic

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): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgaBlrFDONJ4BSEUHa2cLKg My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkeoY8rPPj-fypUKHckTtwQ 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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