DJI released the Mini 3, a more affordable version of the Mini 3 Pro that forgoes obstacle avoidance and a few other features, but keeps the same large 1/1.3 inch sensor, at a price of about $200 less than the Mini 3 Pro. Is it good for photographers?
Here’s a sample aerial 360 photo I shot with DJI Mini 3 and posted on Google Maps:
Earlier this year, DJI launched the Mini 3 Pro, a drone equipped with a large 1/1.3-inch sensor with the unique ability to rotate its camera into a portrait orientation. Although DJI intended this feature primarily for social media, that same ability enabled the Mini 3 Pro to do something that no other DJI drone has been able to do to date: capture [almost] fully spherical aerial 360 photos, with almost no hole in the zenith.
Today, DJI launched the Mini 3, a more affordable version of the Mini 3 Pro. There had been previews and leaks about the Mini 3, but I thought they would make it more affordable by using a cheaper sensor. Instead, they saved on costs by removing obstacle avoidance sensors, reducing the maximum 4k frame rate to 30fps (instead of 60fps) and removing some automated shooting modes. For 360 shooters, this is perfect because aerial photos are almost always taken at a distance from the subject (among other things, to reduce stitching errors) so we don’t really need the avoidance sensors, nor do we need the automated shooting modes.
Although Mini 3 is a lightweight drone at 249 grams, DJI says it Level 5 wind resistance and can fly with winds up to 10.7 meters per second (about 23 mph). I have been impressed by how steady and stable it is, which can reduce stitching errors. However, please note that when winds are a bit stronger, then the Mini 3 is forced to hover while tilting forward against the wind direction. This can prevent it from capturing a fully spherical 360 photo. Note: this limit applies to the Mini 3 Pro as well.
Another useful feature of the Mini 3 is the availability of the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus which DJI claims to enable flight times of up to 51 minutes.
HOW TO SHOOT A 360 PHOTO WITH DJI MINI 3
Shooting a 360 photo with the DJI Mini 3 is very easy:
- Launch the Mini 3 and on your DJI Fly phone app, select photo mode (as opposed to video).
- Tap on the Photo mode to reveal additional options. One of those will be Pano. Tap on that and you can choose the type of panorama, one of which is Spherical.
- Optional: you can tap on “JPG” on the bottom right and select JPG+DNG to shoot in both JPG and DNG.
After you land, you can view 360 photos in your gallery. The phone app will stitch the photos for you in a low-resolution preview. The stitched photo will be available in the Micro SD card.
To get smoother stitching and higher resolution, you can use a third party stitcher such as PTGui or PanoramaStudio 3 Pro to stitch the individual photos. Each 360 photo will have its own subdirectory within a folder called Panorama. If you stitch the JPG photos, you can get a photo with about 40 megapixels, and it will be fully spherical with no gaps. If you stitch the DNG photos, you can get a photo with about 162 megapixels, with a very short and thin gap in the zenith.
CONCLUSION; WHERE TO BUY
For 360 shooters looking for an aerial 360 photo drone, the Mini 3 is currently the best option for an affordable drone, while those who want the best quality can the Mavic 3 Classic, which has a much larger sensor but will have a hole in the zenith that you’ll have to patch. Mavic 3 Pro, Mavic 3 Classic, Mini 3 Pro and Mini 3 are all compatible with the RC-N1 controller or a DJI RC Remote, so a single controller can control them all. Mini 3 with the basic RC-N1 controller is $469 (check latest price here). If you already have the RC-N1 from the Mavic 3 or another drone, then you can get just the Mini 3 by itself for $449 (check latest price here).