DJI just announced the latest addition to its Mavic series, the Mini, and what’s most notable about it is its weight of 249 grams at takeoff. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires registration on all unmanned aerial vehicles weighing between 250 grams (0.55 pounds) and 55 pounds, and similar laws apply in many other countries.
Ultralight weight may be the Mavic Mini’s headline feature, but focusing on that overlooks the fact that it’s also a pretty capable drone at a very accessible price point. Let’s take a look at the Mavic Mini in more detail to understand where it stands out and what you may need to give up to get a drone this tiny.
- 249g total weight
- 1/2.3″ CMOS image sensor
- 24mm equivalent lens (83º FOV)
- Fixed F2.8 aperture
- 12MP photo resolution
- 2.7K/30p and 1080/30p video
- 30-minute flight time
The minuscule Mavic Mini
When folded down, the Mavic Mini is 140×82×57mm and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. It’s lighter than most smartphones. The remote, which resembles those used in the Mavic 2 series, minus the electronic display, is slightly larger and heavier than the drone itself, which really puts the size in perspective.
|The Mavic Mini is small, even compared to the Mavic 2 Pro.|
Propellers need to be removed and replaced with a small screwdriver, which is included. This was likely designed to keep the weight down as springs and additional plastic hubs would have added more bulk. Propeller cages, which are included with the Fly More Combo, are light, easy to install, and don’t add more than a gram to the overall takeoff weight.
What’s impressive is how DJI managed to fit a 3-axis gimbal onto such a light, compact drone. This goes a long way to ensuring smooth, stabilized camera footage. The DJI Spark, by comparison, weighs 50 grams more than the Mavic Mini and only features a 2-axis gimbal.
|ISO 100 | 1/500 sec. | F2.8 | 24mm (equiv)|
Mounted on that 3-axis stabilized gimbal is a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor 12MP camera, similar to the ones found on the Spark, Mavic Air, and Mavic Pro Platinum. The Mini’s camera boasts a 24mm (equiv.) fixed-aperture F2.8 lens with an 83º FOV, and provides an ISO range from 100-3200. The camera doesn’t support Raw image capture, so photos will be Jpeg only. Photo enthusiasts may find this disappointing, but keep in mind this is basically DJI’s entry-level model. Finally, there isn’t a way to attach a polarizing or ND filter onto the lens.
We speculated earlier about some features the camera might include. Unfortunately, rumors of 4K recording never came to fruition. Instead, a maximum of 2.7K/30p or 1080/60p footage can be acquired at a bitrate of 40 Mbps using the H.264 codec. Unlike other DJI models in its class, there’s no way to adjust the shutter speed. Instead, when shooting video, you can adjust the Exposure Compensation. I underexposed at values ranging from -0.7 to -1.3 to avoid blowing out sensitive areas including skies.
Sample video from the Mavic Mini shot at 2.7K/30p resolution. YouTube doesn’t like the 2.7K resolution and automatically downscales it to 1080p.
The Mavic Mini doesn’t come equipped with obstacle avoidance sensors in the front or back. Instead, there are two vision positioning sensors located on the bottom of the aircraft, and these sensors come in handy when flying indoors as they give the drone the ability to hover in place, even without GPS. Considering that DJI’s recent trend has been to include obstacle avoidance systems on its drones, this omission is likely the result of needing to keep the weight under 250g.
The remote is slightly larger and heavier than the drone itself, which really puts the size in perspective.
DJI claims 30 minutes as the maximum battery life for the Mini. Where I’m testing in the midwest, the weather has cooled down significantly and in mild winds, at an outdoor temperature of 3ºC (about 37º F), the drone logged an impressive 25-26 minutes of flight time. It’s refreshing to know that the battery life, in reality, is consistent with what is promised by the manufacturer. It’s also rather impressive given the minuscule size, significantly outperforming models like the Spark and Mavic Air.
Unlike the Mavic 2 series, there isn’t any internal storage for media in the Mini. A memory card slot for a microSD card is located below the battery portal. A micro USB plug is included to charge the drone directly.
A new pared-down app, DJI Fly, was developed for the Mavic Mini. Most of the menu items DJI users have grown accustomed to using on the DJI GO 4 app are either gone or tucked away into a more streamlined display. A simple battery icon lets the user know how much life is left when in flight. Photo mode features timed shots and the option for shooting in Auto or Manual Mode. The video portion is straightforward, allowing users to select Exposure Compensation, resolution, frame rates, and opt for Quick Shots.
|The Mavic Mini’s controller is similar in size to those of other DJI consumer drones. In the case of the Mini, it’s as large as the drone itself.|
Another notable set of missing features are DJI’s Intelligent Flight modes including ActiveTrack, TapFly, and Course Lock. DJI has a history of adding features and modes into periodic app updates, however, so these may be included at some point. Automated Quick Shots available on the Mini include the Dronie, Rocket, Circle, and Helix.
There are three flying modes: Sport, Position, and Cinematic. The latter automatically adjusts the sensitivity of the joysticks making it relatively easy to acquire smooth, cinematic-like video on the fly without having to make in-app adjustments. Unlike some of DJI’s higher priced models, the Mavic Mini doesn’t include OccuSync 2.0, meaning it’s not compatible with a Smart Controller.
The user interface on the DJI Fly app is clean and simple. I tested the beta version and found it to be straightforward – something a beginner pilot will appreciate. A lot of the features more seasoned pilots work with are gone but they would likely overwhelm a newbie.
|The new DJI Fly app replaces the DJI GO app used to control other DJI models. It provides a simpler interface that new pilots will appreciate, but experienced pilots may miss some features from DJI GO.|
Safe Fly Zones have been incorporated into the app. This is especially useful for users not familiar with AirMap, Kittyhawk, B4UFly or other airspace management apps that tell you where it’s safe and legal to fly. I’d like to see DJI reintegrate the Battery/Return to Home Indicator feature from the DJI GO App; it’s a much more effective visual for informing remote pilots at any level about status and when it’s time to start landing the aircraft.
What’s it like to fly?
I thoroughly enjoyed flying the Mavic Mini both indoors and outdoors. The light weight of the drone made me apprehensive at first, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it handled well in moderate winds. It’s much more aerodynamic and durable than the Spark, which feels like a brick in comparison.
But this little drone has its limits. All it took was one flight along the river in downtown Grand Rapids for me to realize that high winds along Lake Michigan, which the much sturdier Phantom 4 Pro can handle with ease, would blow the Mini away – literally. It’s also quite noisy for such a little machine.
|ISO 100 | 1/40 sec. | F2.8 | 24mm (equiv)|
The camera on the Mini is similar to the Spark and, for comparison’s sake, the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, a model I flew 3+ years ago. The images are good enough for the price point, but people looking to capture fine details or who want more flexibility in setting everything in Manual mode are going to want an upgrade.
The Mavic Mini lacks the ability to capture 4K footage, something that may bother professionals or enthusiasts, but it’s still capable of producing decent video thanks to the stabilized gimbal. Even in moderate winds, I didn’t experience the dreaded jello effect – a paint point with older models that caused footage to appear wobbly. It’s clear that DJI limited the ability to manipulate the settings in video since beginners are more likely to rely on Auto mode. I brought it out on a semi-cloudy day and it was able to detect the difference in both sunny and overcast conditions and adjust accordingly.
Who’s it for?
If you’re creating professional-grade work, this isn’t the drone you’ll want in your arsenal. Those seeking out Raw photos, auto exposure bracketing, and high-end cinematic footage will want to start with the Mavic 2 Pro and go up from there. Even though the Mini can fly up to 500m (1,600 ft.) above ground level, and boasts a range of up to 4km (2.5 miles), it’s not something I’d be comfortable scaling a tall structure with or flying further than 1,000 – 1,500 feet away.
|ISO 100 | 1/320 sec. | F2.8 | 24mm (equiv)|
All that being said, this is the perfect little drone for beginners starting on their drone journey. DJI offers up an array of drones suited for specific purposes and this particular model will definitely appeal to beginners looking for a budget-friendly place to start, hobbyists looking for something portable and simple to operate, and people who don’t aspire to be professional remote pilots but would like to share unique aerial footage to their social media accounts. As the trend continues shifting toward more compact drones, it’ll be exciting to see how better cameras and technology get incorporated over the coming years.
Overall, the Mavic Mini is the perfect drone for beginners. It’s lightweight, easy to set up, and a joy to fly. I tested the Fly More Combo which, at $100 more than $399 for the basic package, is a steal. It includes 3 batteries, the propeller cage (which is especially useful as the drone will simply bounce off most objects it collides with), and a case to carry it all that’s smaller than a sheet of paper. The convenience factor, alone, is what makes this drone ideal for many uses.
One final note: while it may not be necessary to register this drone in the US, it goes without saying that users still need to abide by standard airspace rules.
What we like:
- Tiny size makes it a true ‘take anywhere’ drone
- Good photo and video quality for a beginner model
- Impressive 30-minute flight time
What we don’t:
- New DJI Fly app feels a bit rough around the edges
- No obstacle avoidance system
- Does not include some of DJI’s intelligent flight modes