DJI Mini 3 Pro vs. Air 3 Photography – Which One to Buy for Photo Quality?

The new DJI Air 3 has the same sensor size, aperture, and photo resolution as the Mini 3 Pro, so we might assume that the photo quality should be very similar, but is it really the case?

 

Air 3Mini 3 Pro
JPEG files of outstanding qualityBelow the threshold of 250 grams
The 70mm telephoto lens is a game changerCan take photos in vertical format
Much improved signal transmissionGood Quality Raw photos
Faster and better wind resistanceExcellent low-light photos
Longer battery life
Omnidirectional obstacle detection

Other articles about the DJI Air 3

Articles about photography with the Mini 3 Pro

If You Prefer to Watch This As a Video

DJI Air 3 vs Mini 3 Pro Photography Specs

Both models have a 1/1.3” sensor with a field of view equivalent to 24mm, a fixed aperture of f1.7, and a photo resolution of 12MP

DJI Mini 3 Pro front view of the camera
DJI Mini 3 Pro front view of the camera

Air 3

A crucial feature of the new model is the presence of a second lens: a moderate telephoto with a field of view of 70mm, the same sensor size, and a fixed aperture of f2.8

The dual lens system of the DJI Air 3
The dual lens system of the DJI Air 3

The dual lens system is a game changer which for many users, including myself, could justify the price difference compared to the Mini 3 Pro

The Air 3 has a host of important extra features, most of them relevant to video, like omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, waypoint mode, and longer battery life

There is one feature that comes very handy when taking photos: the much-improved signal transmission, the only actual weak point of the Mini 3 Pro

It is also much faster and has better wind resistance

Mini 3 Pro

The Mini 3 Pro can take vertical photos
The Mini 3 Pro can take vertical photos

On the other hand, the Mini 3 Pro can rotate the camera to shoot vertically, but this is a feature more useful for video, as with photos it is extremely easy to crop to the desired format

Both models have a 48MP mode available. In the Mini 3 Pro, this mode is in the video photo menu, while in the Air 3, it can be selected in the settings and in the window for the white balance. This means that it can be used for Automatic Exposure Bracketing and for burst shots, quite handy!

JPEG Files

So far in all my reviews for photography, I have always used RAW files, but in this case, I have chosen to start with JPEGs for two reasons:

  • Several users have asked me to analyze the JPEG files as they use them for quickly posting on social media
  • In the Air, the quality of the JPEGs is outstanding
The JPEG files of the Air 3 have rich colors and plenty of detail in the shadows
The JPEG files of the Air 3 have rich colors and plenty of detail in the shadows

One thing that I immediately noticed is that the JPEG files produced by the Air 3 are much bigger. More than double the ones of the Mini 3. There must be differences in the processing and probably they contain more info in the shadows or in the colors

The JPEG files taken with the Air 3 have a noticeable tendency toward magenta. Nothing to worry about, as it is easy to fix while editing. It is the first version of the firmware and I expect DJI to fix this small issue with upcoming firmware updates

More importantly, I immediately noticed that the JPEG files of the Air 3 respond much better to post-processing than the ones of the Mini 3 Pro, and the colors are much richer

Photo Quality Comparison of the two lenses of the Air 3

First of all, let’s compare the same scene taken with the two lenses of the Air 3

Photo taken with the telephoto lens of the DJI Air 3
Photo taken with the telephoto lens of the DJI Air 3

The quality of the 70mm lens is astonishing, even better than the wide angle one with a touch more contrast and definition

Photo taken with the 70mm lens of the DJI Air 3
Photo taken with the 70mm lens of the DJI Air 3

The images taken with the telephoto lens are about a stop darker with the same setting. I suggest always shooting in Automatic Exposure Bracketing and then choosing a brighter one

The quality of the images and the color palette with the two lenses are very similar, so it is very easy to integrate the photos into the same project

Air 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro Photo Quality with JPEG Files

And now a face-to-face between the two drones using the wide angle lens of the Air 3, which has the same specs as the Mini 3 Pro

Hazy Conditions

It is the end of the summer and the air is very hazy, it is hard even to see the difference between the sea and the sky. These are not conditions to choose for a session of landscape photography, but it is an excellent test for the photo quality of the two models

JPEG photo taken with the DJI Mini 3 Pro
JPEG photo taken with the DJI Mini 3 Pro

Let’s start with 12MP photos in daylight. I always had the feeling that the Mini 3 Pro is a bit weak in the rendition of detail, and by comparing it to the Air 3 the difference is massive

JPEG photo taken with the DJI Air 3
JPEG photo taken with the DJI Air 3

The new model is in a different league in terms of the richness of the colors and detail in the shadows

The building and the vegetation in the Mini 3 Pro look mushy compared to the richness of the detail of the Air 3. The structure of the sky is also much nicer with the new model

It is hard to believe that the same lens can produce totally different results, I am not talking about small improvements, the Mini 3 Pro simply doesn’t cut the mustard compared to the Air 3 under these conditions. I am really impressed by the new model

Top-Down Photos

Moving to top-down images we can concentrate on the detail

Top-down photo with the DJI Air 3
Top-down photo with the DJI Air 3

The Air 3 shows much more detail in the shadows, especially in the trees, and much richer colors

Top-down photo with the DJI Mini 3 Pro
Top-down photo with the DJI Mini 3 Pro

The difference is not subtle, the Mini 3 Pro cannot compete with the new model

Photos Against the Sun

Let’s try a couple of photos in the direction of the sun, one with the sun just outside the left edge of the image and the next one with the sun on the screen

Mini 3 Pro: JPEG photo against the sun
Mini 3 Pro: JPEG photo against the sun

The conditions are still very hazy, so the sun is slightly covered

The wide-angle lens of both models is a big improvement compared to previous models: there are hardly any chromatic aberrations or loss of detail and saturation near the sun

Air 3: JPEG photo against the sun
Air 3: JPEG photo against the sun

But the difference between the two models is again very evident: the images taken with the Mini 3 Pro look washed out compared to the beauty of the colors, the detail in the shadows, and the structure of the sky of the Air 3

Night Photos

When I analyzed photography with the Mini 3 Pro, I was impressed by the performance in low light, due in part to the very wide aperture of f1.7

DJI Mini 3 Pro: NIght photo
DJI Mini 3 Pro: NIght photo

I made this test on successive days at exactly the same time to have the same light conditions. In both cases, we are 20 minutes after sunset with the last twilight and artificial lights

DJI Air 3: NIght photo
DJI Air 3: NIght photo

Both models perform very well, it is hard to believe how much the technology and the quality of the lenses have improved in the last generation of DJI prosumer drones

It is now possible to maintain the ISO value at the base level of 100, and noise is a thing of the past

The difference between the two models is not as noticeable as in other conditions, although I still prefer the structure of the sky of the Air 3

Photos in “48 MP” Mode

Both models have a 48 MP mode, obtained by splitting the 12MP of the sensor into 4 smaller ones

This mode is supposed to improve detail in easy light conditions, although the tiny pixels can only collect a limited amount of light

Mini 3 Pro

In the Mini 3 Pro, this mode has progressively improved via several firmware updates

Mini 3 Pro: 48 MP photo

Compared to regular 12MP photos. I can only see the slightest increase in detail in the buildings, maybe, but even pixel peeping and zooming in it is very hard to tell

The colors are certainly richer in the 48MP version, but the shadows look a bit muddy

So, in the Mini 3 Pro, this mode has only the tiniest benefit compared to the normal 12 MP mode and only in friendly light conditions

Air 3

Air 3: 48 MP photo
Air 3: 48 MP photo

The same applies to the Air 3: there is maybe the slightest increase in detail in the building, but it is hardly noticeable, even zooming in quite deeply

In my opinion, it is still a work in progress and also a bit of a marketing gimmick

Air 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro Photo Quality with RAW Files

So far we have only analyzed JPEG images and it has been a colossal win for the Air 3

Let’s see if we find the same differences with the RAW files

I notice that the file sizes are the same between the two models and this makes sense, the difference in the size of the JPEG file is therefore due to different software processing

The RAW files of the Air 3 don’t have the same magenta tint as the JPEGs

DJI Mini 3 Pro: Photo taken in RAW format
DJI Mini 3 Pro: Photo taken in RAW format

After post-processing, the results of the two models are very similar

DJI Air: Photo taken in RAW format
DJI Air 3: Photo taken in RAW format

Only by pixel peeping on the zoomed-in face-to-face images, can I probably detect just a bit of extra detail in the vegetation and the buildings for the Air 3. The color rendition is also very similar

Bottom line

With the Mini 3 Pro it is strongly suggested to use RAW files, as the JPEG cannot even be compared to the ones of the Air 3. The Air 3 has another ace on its sleeve: the excellent 70mm lens that adds plenty of extra possibilities for photography

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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