DJI Air 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro Video Quality, Which One To Buy For Footage?

The DJI Air 3 has the same main lens and sensor as The Mini 3 Pro, so one may think that the quality of the footage should be the same or very similar

DJI Air 3DJI Mini 3 Pro
The second 70mm lens opens new possibilities for cinematic footageWeight below the threshold of 250 grams
Superior footage quality in Normal and DLOG M The camera rotates for vertical footage
A host of very useful functionalities for videoVery good performance in low-light footage
Outstanding signal transmission
Waypoints mode for video
Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance
Video resolution limited to 4k
HLG mode not working properly at the moment

In this article, we will see all the differences between the two models regarding video quality and functionalities

Some other articles about the DJI Air 3 you may find interesting

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video

Specs and Features For Video

Air 3

DJI Mini 3 Pro: the wide-angle lens is the same as the one of the Air 3
DJI Mini 3 Pro: the wide-angle lens is the same as the one of the Air 3

The wide-angle lens of the Air 3 has the same specs as the Mini 3 Pro, with a 1/1.3” sensor, a field of view of 24mm, and a fixed aperture of f1.7. The video resolution is 4k and the maximum bit rate150 Mbps

Many users were hoping for a bigger sensor and a resolution of over 5k like the Air 2s, but DJI has chosen to leave these two features for the flagship model, the Mavic 3

In exchange, the new model has been supplied with a host of very powerful features, some of them previously exclusive to the top version, like the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system and the very useful Waypoint mode

The new features of the Air 3 include:

  • A much-improved signal transmission, the only real weak point of the Mini 3 Pro
  • A longer battery life announced at 46 minutes vs. 34 for the Mini 3 Pro
  • Higher speed and wind resistance
  • Two 10-bit color modes, D Log and HLG, besides the 8-bit normal
  • A frame rate of 100 fps at 4k for super slow motion

These functionalities are extremely useful and make shooting footage an enjoyable and stress-free experience. I will analyze them in other articles, as in this one I will focus on video quality

DJI Air 3: the dual-lens system
DJI Air 3: the dual-lens system

The most important new feature is the dual lens system which adds to the wide-angle lens a moderate telephoto one with a field of view equivalent to 70mm and a fixed aperture of f2.8

The second lens is a true game-changer, as it adds plenty of extra creative possibilities for parallax effects and a different representation of the proportions between the elements in the foreground and the ones in the background

Mini 3 Pro

Apart from the more affordable price, the Mini 3 Pro has the advantage of a weight below the important threshold of 250 grams for more relaxed regulations

The Mini 3 Pro can take vertical footage
The Mini 3 Pro can take vertical footage

It has also the ability to rotate the camera to shoot vertical footage maintaining the 4k resolution, while the Air 3 can achieve vertical video by cropping to a resolution of 2.7k

Footage Quality

Air 3 with the 70mm Lens

So, let’s start with the jewel of the crown. When I started using drones, about ten years ago, the one thing I really missed was the ability to switch lenses of different focal lengths, like in ground-based DSLRs

This option was introduced with the Mavic 3 and is now also in the Air 3. I simply love it!

With the first version of the Mavic 3, the telephoto lens had many limitations and the quality of the footage was much lower compared to the wide-angle lens

In the Air 3, the footage shot with the 70mm lens is excellent and very similar to the other lens, which makes it easy to integrate footage on the same project

The telephoto lens is compatible with practically all the functionalities of the Air 3, including the intelligent flight modes. The only feature not compatible that I have found so far is Panorama photography

70mm is the ideal focal length to pair with the wide–angle one. I like the compression of the elements on different planes in the foreground and in the background and the parallax effect when rotating around a target

The telephoto lens of the Air 3 is useful for reaching far away targets
The telephoto lens of the Air 3 is useful for reaching far away targets

It is also very useful for getting closer to subjects that we could not otherwise reach, to avoid disturbing wildlife, or when tracking subjects from a point of view further away

The telephoto lens is compatible with the three color modes of the Ar 3. In Normal mode, it needs a touch of extra contrast and saturation to shine

For many users, the presence of this second lens could be enough to justify the price difference

8-bit Normal Mode

Let’s now compare the 8-bit Normal video mode, the one meant to be used with little or no editing

Air 3

In the Air 3, Normal mode is a thing of beauty: the colors are rich and very organic, the detail is outstanding and there is a good amount of info in the shadows. It doesn’t need any editing

Mini 3 Pro

Normal mode in the Mini 3 Pro benefits from some extra contrast and saturation

8 bit Normal mode with the Mini 3 Pro
8 bit Normal mode with the Mini 3 Pro

I find it quite good, although a little weak in terms of detail, but it is seriously outclassed by the Air 3

I don’t mean at all to bash the Mini 3 Pro, which has the best video rendition of DJI lightweight models, but in Normal mode, the difference in detail is striking, the footage of the Mini 3 looks a bit mushy compared to the Air 3

10-bit Color Modes

The Air 3 has two 10-bit color modes, D Log M and HLG, while the MIni 3 Pro has the 10-bit Cinelike

An 8-bit mode can display about 16ml colors, vs over 1bl for a 10-bit mode. The 10-bit modes have more color accuracy avoiding banding and other artifacts in uniform areas like the sky or the sea

HLG Color Mode in the Air 3

The 10-bit mode HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) has vivid colors and good detail in the shadows and the highlights

It is meant to perform well in high dynamic range situations without needing heavy post-processing. It can be thought of as something between Normal and D Log M

HLG mode in the DJI Air 3 tends to overexpose
HLG mode in the DJI Air 3 tends to overexpose

In the Air 3, this mode has some issues, at least in my unit. It has a very strong tendency to overexpose and burn the highlight when using the usual exposure settings

The files are also extremely demanding in terms of computer resources

In my first couple of days, I ruined all the footage taken in this mode using the usual exposure techniques, with highlights burnt beyond belief. To get good results I had to expose between 1.5 and 2 stops below normal value, with extremely dark images on the screen

There could be something wrong with my unit. I hope DJI will soon improve this mode, as when it is properly exposed it is a pleasant alternative to D-Log

D-LOG M Color Mode in the Air 3

The other 10-bit mode of the Air 3 is D-Log M

It is a flat profile that needs a good dose of post-processing and the use of LUTs, meant for users with a good experience in color grading

It is similar to using RAW files for photography, although post-processing video is more complex than photos. It is used to adapt footage to different color schemes to fit specific projects

D-Log-M is a softer version of DLog: it is not as flat and easier to edit, but not as solid in high dynamic range situations

When using DLog M with the Air 3, it is easy to visualize the image on the screen, while on other models like the Mavic 3, the image is so flat that a Color Display Assist option has been added to enhance the visibility of the display by adjusting the contrast and saturation

Let’s compare D LOGM on the Air 3 to the 10-bit mode of the Mini 3 Pro, DCinelike

D Log M in the Air 3 is relatively easy to color grade using a correct LUT

10-bit DLOGM with the Air 3
10-bit DLOGM with the Air 3

In easy light conditions, the result is very pleasing with reach colors and good detail, considering the small size of the sensor

In high dynamic range situations, it does a decent job, but it cannot maintain a lot of detail in the shadows while fully preserving the highlights

It is an excellent performance considering the price point, but for professional users, it cannot compete with the Mavic 3, which is in another league, as it should be given the price

D Cinelike Color Mode in the Mini 3 Pro

I was never impressed by the D Cinelike mode of the Mini 3 Pro, and don’t use it much

I think it is great to have a 10-bit profile in an ultralight affordable drone, but the quality of this mode is not something to write home about

In easy light, the colors are decent, but the detail is weak, and as soon as the camera is in the direction of the sun things get disappointing: there is not much going on in the shadows, poor structure of the sky, and overall washed out footage

Night Footage

The low-light footage for both models was taken half an hour after sunset with the very last twilight and artificial light, on two successive days at exactly the same time

Mini 3 Pro

An area where the Mini 3 Pro really shines (forgiving the pun) is low light situations, due partly to the very wide aperture of f1.7

Night footage with the Mini 3 Pro
Night footage with the Mini 3 Pro

Even a very low ISO values the shadows show a good amount of detail without any noise

Air 3

The performance of the Air 3 in Normal mode is excellent, with shadows similar to the Mini 3 Pro, but the colors of the bigger model are richer and, as usual, there is much more detail

Night footage with the Air 3
Night footage with the Air 3

There is also a night mode with auto exposure. In the first iteration of this mode in the Mavic 3, I found it disappointing, with a fake plasticky look

I find that in the Air 3, the Night mode has improved, but I still largely prefer to use manual exposure for better shadows and more detail. This way I can also control the individual exposure values, which is crucial

Later on, in darker conditions, I raised the ISO value to a whopping 3200. The result is still acceptable, even though there is a loss of detail in the shadows

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…

Recent Posts