DJI Mavic Mini controller

DJI Mavic Mini Review: DJI proves ‘smaller and cheaper’ doesn’t mean ‘worse’

The mail had arrived with a small box. I had just gotten DJI’s newest drone so I could post this Mavic Mini review. And I’ll spill a secret: I was prepared to be disappointed. DJI’s newest, smallest drone wasn’t exactly positioned as an “upgrade” to drone technology.

While DJI’s product launches typically have some sort of ‘new feature’ every time — the DJI Phantom 4 wowed us with sense and avoid, the Mavic Pro shocked us with its small size, the Spark amazed us with gesture control — the Mavic Mini didn’t really have any new features going for it.

In fact, DJI stripped out many features on the Mavic Mini. There’s none of the comfort from sense and avoid — that feature is done. The video quality is supposedly worse — 2.7K on the Mavic Mini vs. 4K on every other Mavic drone.

The big shocker with this drone? It’s price is $399, compared to the more than $1,000 that most of its big sibling Mavic drones go for (it’s closest competitor, the Mavic Air, starts at $919.

Perhaps the world of artisan toast and craft coffee has primed me to believe that more expensive is better. DJI proved me wrong. The Mavic Mini is quite possibly my favorite drone to fly for most use cases. Here’s my DJI Mavic Mini review:

DJI Mavic Mini review

Why DJI made the Mavic Mini

Before I get into my DJI Mavic Mini review, it’s important you understand a bit of the Mavic Mini’s roots — why it exists, and its importance.

Now I’m not the decision maker at DJI — I don’t even work for them — so I can’t tell you exactly why DJI created the Mavic Mini. But after covering the industry for seven years I can speculate.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s threshold for what sized drones need to be registered by recreational pilots is 250 grams. Some speculate that policies like that have been a turnoff to casual consumers who aren’t clear on (or don’t want to accidentally break) the law. Or, it could be a turnoff to aviation enthusiasts who don’t like government regulation.

It’s no coincidence that DJI designed the Mavic Mini to weigh 249 grams exactly.

People flying big, expensive drones for commercial purposes likely won’t be turned off by rules like needing to register drones. Recreational flyers might be.

Thus, the Mavic Mini, in its 249-gram glory, is clearly targeted at recreational flyers, both in its regulation-avoiding size and its more accessible price tag.

And in order to reach that small size (and small price tag), DJI stripped out a lot of features that are beloved in its other drones.

This drone doesn’t have obstacle avoidance. Instead of the 4K camera, it’s a 2.7K camera. There is no auto tracking, and no internal storage — a feature I loved when it was introduced on the Mavic Air.

So why do I love the Mavic Mini? Here are my three top reasons (though there are many more):

  1. The new Cinesmooth mode
  2. Ease of use (no need to register, pack an extra bag, etc.)
  3. Price: the reduced price tag more than justifies the reduced features

That’s the tl;dr, but read on for my entire Mavic Mini review:

DJI Mavic Mini controller smartphone flight modes

Mavic Mini camera review: flight modes improve your piloting and photography — especially Cinesmooth mode

The DJI Mavic Mini, much like DJI’s other drones, has a number of flight modes to make flying easier for pilots of all skill levels, as well as to automate cinematography for more advanced content creators.

You’ll recognize a lot of the flight modes from other Mavic drones, but the Mavic Mini has a new one that I’m obsessed with: CineSmooth.

CineSmooth lengthens the drone’s breaking time, which creates smoother shots, thus a more cinematic look. I found that this really helped me avoid problems that I constantly coach my students who want to fly drones for photography to avoid: don’t fly too fast, don’t turn too sharply, etc. Drones are fun to whip and zoom around, but that typically isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. The CineSmooth mode makes turns appear as though you are gliding around a bend. It makes rising shots appear as though you are floating up like a balloon.

I’ve been flying almost entirely with CineSmooth mode, because I think my video is automatically so much better with it. Even though the DJI Mavic Mini’s camera isn’t as good as the Mavic Air or Pro’s (more on that later), based on CineSmooth mode alone, I think the Mavic Mini is “better” in a lot of ways.

Other modes include:

  • Position mode: this is the most basic drone operation, designed for new pilots
  • Sport mode: this makes the drone fly faster, for advanced pilots

The easiest way to choose modes is on the top right of the camera view interface (tap the C icon for Cinesmooth, S for sport, etc.)

Pre-programmed flight maneuvers: Quickshots

If you want your drone to fly a certain way to get a specific shot (ie. camera flying up then pointing down, or camera pointing in and outward circle), rather than try to fly the drone yourself, DJI has a number of automated modes called “QuickShots” that position the drone and camera for you. Those modes include:

  • Rocket: The drone flies straight up into the air with the camera pointing down, following you (or another subject of your choice)
  • Circle – The Mavic Mini circles around you/ the subject at a constant altitude and distance
  • Dronie – The drone flies backward and upward, with the camera tracking your subject
  • Helix – The Mavic Mini flies upward and away, spiraling around you

I love the flight mode software, but what about the actual hardware? Here’s my Mavic Mini review in relation to the camera…

Camera quality: You’re probably getting the Mavic Mini to shoot photos or video. And while the Mini’s video quality isn’t quite as good as its big sibling drones (the Mini shoots 2.7K/30fps at 40 Mbps, vs. the Mavic Air’s ​4K/30fps at 100 Mbps, it’s not a noticeable difference on most computer screens or smartphones. If you’re shooting video for your Instagram feed, this is more than sufficient.

Plus, I thought the drone performed very well in darker light (I shot at sunset).

Related read: Mavic Mini getting started guide: what you need to do and set up before flying your drone

Still photographers are in luck. This drone has a ​1/2.3” CMOS, 12 MP sensor. That’s just like the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro Platinum — yet this drone is less than half the price.

DJI Mavic Mini flying stock hawaii palm tree

DJI Fly app review: simpler app interface makes flying less complicated and less stressful, and makes video editing way easier

With the launch of the Mavic Mini, DJI also launched a new app called DJI Fly. DJI typically adds its new drones to its DJI Go app, but Mavic Mini users got a whole new app, that’s a simpler (yes, that means better!) version of DJI Go.

The new app is much more intuitive. You’ll find fewer pieces of information that might be confusing to newbies like telemetry data. Instead, seriously important information like battery life, signal strength, whether it’s safe to fly, etc. is more prominently featured.

Video editing in the DJI Fly app: The app makes flying easy, and it makes video editing even easier. Perhaps my biggest complaint about flying drones is that I hate editing video after the fact.

There’s a reason there are so few drone videos on my Instagram account; I hate editing them!

Generally when I fly drones, I get really hyped about a shot and am super excited to share it. But sharing it involves connecting my memory card to my clunky, slow old computer, where I have to open my video editing software, which makes my clunky, slow computer even clunkier and even slower. I put it off so long, that I eventually forget about it. DJI has previously had in-app video editing capabilities, but I found those pretty frustrating to use too. I could never get the video quite how I liked it. I found it hard to mix and match clips, or to cut them at the right moments.

Related read: DJI Mavic Mini unboxing: here’s how much it actually weighs

The video editing software in the DJI Fly app is magical. With DJI Fly, shooting, editing, and sharing can all be done in-app. I was easily able to cut multiple video clips together and set them to music. I was able to also pull out shorter individual clips to publish on my Instagram story.

When I was flying as part of my Mavic Mini review in Hawaii, I spotted a turtle, which I was so hyped about. It was great to be able to drone over said turtle. Then, I was starving, so I ordered some food. As I was waiting for my spam musubi and poi to show up, I edited the video and had it on my Instagram account before the food even arrived!

And since 90% of my drone footage goes in the trash (no one wants to see you takeoff and land, sorry!), the app makes it easy to manage storage, export and delete footage.

DJI Mavic Mini The Drone Girl Sally French

Mavic Mini price: A big drop in price and (thankfully) not a big drop in quality

If money is a big factor in your decision whether to get a drone, the Mavic Mini makes it easy. No other drone on the market offers as high a value for the pricetag.

You won’t find any other drone out there for less than $400 that offers the combination of 2.7K camera, long (30 minute) flight time, easy, in-app video recording and editing, portability, advanced cinematography flight modes and more.

Here’s how much the Mini costs against some of DJI’s other popular drones:

DroneLaunch DatePrice at LaunchPrice as of February 2020
Mavic MiniOctober 2019$399$399
Mavic AirJanuary 2018$799$919
Mavic Pro PlatinumAugust 2017$1,099$1,149
Mavic 2 ProAugust 2018$1,499$1,729
Phantom 4 Pro V2.0May 2018$1,499$1,729

Situations where you might want to skip the DJI Mavic Mini

While I love the DJI Mavic Mini for most people, there are a number of situations where the Mavic Mini is not for you. If so, consider another DJI drone, whether it’s the Mavic Pro, Mavic Air, DJI Phantom, Inspire, etc.

You need obstacle avoidance: Obstacle avoidance is an incredible safety feature, and this drone doesn’t have it. The Mavic Mini has a single downward facing sensor to help it land, but no forward or backward-facing sensors to detect obstacles like trees or humans.

DJI’s obstacle avoidance feature (found on other drones like the Mavic 2 Pro or DJI Mavic Air) causes the drone to loudly beep when it gets close to an obstacle.When it gets too close, it literally will not be able to fly any closer to it.

I’ve gotten so used to obstacle avoidance, and for what it’s worth, I’ve sort of become dependent on it. I was a little shocked when doing this Mavic Mini review to realize that I needed to brush up on my slightly more careful flying skills. The robots can’t save me here!

I actually think it’s great that this beginner-focused drone doesn’t have obstacle avoidance, as I realized in testing the Mavic Mini that it has become a crutch, enabling lazy flying. Beginners should learn to fly without crutches.

But still, obstacle avoidance is important for a number of use cases and if you need it (particularly if you fly in dense areas like through forests), you might find the Mavic Mini’s lack of obstacle avoidance to be problematic.

You need 4K video: Like one of DJI’s other hobbyist-focused drones, the Spark, the Mavic Mini only shoots 2.7K video (many videographers are accustomed to 4K).

The Mini shoots 2.7K video at 30fps or 1080p at 60 frames per second.

For stills, you’re looking at 12-megapixel photographs using the 1/2.3-inch sensor.

DJI Mavic Mini controller

Other things to know about the DJI Mavic Mini

The signature Mavic style is foldable drones. Once again this drone proves itself to be highly portable. I could fit it in a larger pocket, and had no problem carrying it with me pretty much every stop of my vacation.

Yes, there’s a physical controller: Unlike many lower cost drones, where manufacturers cut costs by forcing you to use a smartphone or tablet to control it, this drone does have a controller. You don’t need to upgrade to any sort of bonus “Fly More” kit to get it. Controllers are included. I always prefer flying with a controller.

And yes, this drone also has little screw-off sticks to make it even MORE portable. Just don’t lose them. I may have already lost one. Luckily, DJI includes spares in the box.

No internal storage (but you can still record video to your phone): One thing I loved about the Mini’s big sibling, the Air, is a unique feature: internal storage. Ever gone out for a shoot and forgotten your memory card? I’ve 100% been there. The Mavic Air’s Internal Storage feature made it so that you could still record video directly to the drone.

While you will need a MicroSD card on this drone, the drone actually still records video to the app. So if you’re just looking to record video for your social media profiles you theoretically never have to take out the memory card. I love that! I brought the Mavic Mini on vacation with me and didn’t want to pack a card reader (I’m also a proponent of the pack light, Basic Economy lifestyle), so I otherwise would have had to wait until I got home to edit my videos. But since the video recorded directly to my phone, I had it up on Instagram account the same day.

Ability to customize the aesthetic: I love that DJI allows Mavic Mini owners the chance to get a bit more creative. For a few bucks extra, DJI sells a “Mavic Mini DIY Creative Kit,” which comes with a blank shell, markers specially designed to ink on the shell material, which is 3M Scotchcal Film printed with UV print. The stickers are cut to fit your Mavic Mini exactly.

Before flying, make sure you check out my Mavic Mini Getting Started Guide. If you’re still on the fence and want to know exactly what’s in the box before you buy, check out my Mavic Mini unboxing video.

Grab your own DJI Mavic Mini for $399 on the DJI store. Shipping is free!

Do you love the Mavic Mini as much as I do? Why or why not? Leave your own Mavic Mini review in the comments below!

Happy flying!

One Comment

  • Tim says:

    Hello Sally,
    Another informative review and your timing is amazing. I just came from the DJI website where I ordered the Mavic Mini fly more kit.
    Although it is a very scaled down version of the drones DJI had come out with in the past I think this one will suit me perfectly.
    I never used the obstacle avoidance on my Mavic Air, never used the fancy flight modes like follow me.
    I have seen videos taken by the mini and they have great quality.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your opinion and review of this little drone.

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