DJI Mavic 3 and 3 Classic Night Footage

Low light performance was traditionally a weak point of drones, due mostly to the tiny sensors. Until a couple of years ago, the results were disappointing, with noticeable noise. The issues were mostly for footage, as in photography it is possible to use much slower shutter speeds to gather more light

Things have improved a lot with the last generation of DJI models, especially with the Mavic 3 and 3 Classic and their larger 4/3” sensor, and with the Mini 3 Pro, thanks to its very wide aperture of f1.7

The Mavic 3 and 3 Classic have new functionalities for improving low light performance: the new Night mode and the ability to shoot at a higher ISO value in the two 10 bits modes, D Log and HLG

Night Mode failed to impress me and needs some more work, but the quality of low-light footage with the Mavic 3 and 3 Classic is now excellent. I suggest using HLG at ISO 400 which does a sensational job.  If a higher ISO value is needed, the choice is between Normal and HLG, according to personal preference

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DJI Mavic 3 and 3 Classic Low Light Test

Before the latest firmware update, the quality of low-light footage with the Mavic 3 in Normal mode was already excellent, with maybe just a bit of luminance noise. In D Log there was in my opinion more room for improvement

I often see tests of low-light performance with footage shot at night in some big cities with huge amounts of artificial light. Even though the images are often very interesting, I would not consider them a good test for the low-light capabilities of a camera

These are not low-light situations at all, actually, there is even too much light and the challenge is to avoid overexposing the highlights. The shadows will always be completely black, regardless of the sensor’s ability

A suitable scene for testing low-light footage

For a better test of a camera’s ability in low light, it is preferable to shoot about an hour after sunset, with the last bit of twilight choosing a scene with a limited amount of artificial lights and plenty of unlit areas with vegetation, the sea, or the sky

Under these circumstances, there will be different degrees of dark areas and it will be possible to test the ability to reproduce them properly and recover the shadows

The process of a sunset is much faster here in Sicily compared to areas further up North, therefore the intensity of the light decrease in a matter of a few minutes. To get the same light conditions for this test I shot the footage in the same location on different days but at the same time, between 5 and 5.15 pm

DJI Mavic 3 and 3 Classic: How Good is Normal Mode for Low Light Footage?

Normal mode at ISO 800 with the Mavic 3

In normal mode at ISO 800, the footage looks extremely good: there is plenty of detail in the shadows, the colors are very rich and pleasant and there is not a hint of noise. It looks almost like daylight in cloudy conditions, but believe me, it was very, very dark. Here they are trying to save money on energy as much as possible, so if artificial lights are on it must be pitch dark

Normal mode at ISO 1600 with the Mavic 3

At ISO 1600 and there is no degradation in the footage: the detail and the colors are still excellent and again, hardly any noise at all, just the first hint, but very hard to notice it

Normal mode at ISO 1600 with the Mavic 3

At ISO 3200 there is a slight loss of quality. The detail is not as rich as before, although more than acceptable, the same goes for the colors. There is a hint of noise, but very well controlled. I would probably prefer to use ISO up to 1600, which is fine on most occasions, but if needed 3200 is still very usable

Normal mode at ISO 3200 with the Mavic 3

At ISO 6400 there is no degradation at all compared to 3200, the footage is still excellent. Comparing it to other footage taken a few months before, I have the impression that the quality of Normal mode at high ISO has improved a lot, and this is not a surprise, as with every update of the Mavic 3 I  have noticed increased quality, both for video and photos

DJI Mavic 3 and 3 Classic Night Mode

The settings for Night Mode

In the main Photo/Video menu above the shutter, there is an icon to access the new Night Mode. The image punches in, as the field of view is slightly tighter. Obstacle avoidance is not available. It is available at a resolution of 4k and a frame rate of 30fps. The maximum ISO value is 12800 and some noise reduction is automatically applied

Night Mode is noiseless

There is absolutely no noise and this is remarkable at such a high ISO

Night Mode vs Normal in the Mavic 3

But there is less detail in the shadows compared to Normal, as we can clearly see in this side by side

Aggressive noise reduction in Night Mode

The noise reduction looks very aggressive and there is something fake in the buildings, they look a bit like plastic, In this clip, the see looks like a uniform mass of blue, without any waves or reflections from the sky

Night Mode is to be used without any editing

Night mode might be interesting for users who don’t rely on computer post-processing and need to use footage just out of the camera, maybe for social media. But I am much more impressed by the improvements made in the standard Normal mode, which looks absolutely excellent now with high ISO values. After denoising, I certainly much prefer the results

To reduce noise I always use Neat Video, an excellent video denoiser. More details about Neat Video in my specific article

DJI Mavic 3 and 3 Classic: D Log and HLG Modes for Night Footage

Another new feature is the increased maximum ISO value for the two 10 bits mods: DLog and HLG. Previously in these two modes, the only ISO values available were 400 and 800, while now it is possible to push it to 1600

HLG mode at ISO 400

The best surprise for low light footage with the Mavic 3 comes with HLG mode. At ISO 400 the detail is mesmerizing, the colors are wonderful and the structure of the sky is excellent. Noise is nowhere to be seen. The scene looks perfectly natural and organic. One of the best low-light renditions I have seen with any drone

Let me reiterate one more time that it was very dark, although it might not seem so. The 4/3 sensor is able to make the most of the tiniest amount of light

HLG at ISO 800

At 800 ISO the footage is still very good, but part of the magic has gone. There is some nose both in the sky and in the dark areas, the detail and the colors have lost part of the magic powers

HLG at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600 there is no real degradation compared to 800

D Log at ISO 800

This is DLOG at ISO 800. Although I do like DLog in the Mavic 3 in most situations, I always found it a bit lacking in low-light conditions: compared to Normal mode there is certainly more noise, the colors are not as exciting and there is less detail in the shadows

D Log at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600 with the same light conditions, I find that DLog behaves a bit better, although a good dose of the magic Neat Video is needed

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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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