The DJI Mavic 3 is the ultimate camera drone. Not only do you get one incredible Hasselblad camera, but you get two, and the 28x Hybrid Zoom it entails is absolutely incredible.
For most shots, you’ll like use the L2D-20c Hasselblad camera with professional-grade 4/3 CMOS. That camera has a 24mm equivalent focal length.
But if you need to see something far away — like, really, far away, you’ll use the DJI Mavic 3’s Tele Camera. This camera entails a 162mm tele lens with 28x hybrid zoom (digital + optical) and an aperture of f/4.4.
- Get the DJI Mavic 3 from Adorama
- Get it from Amazon
- Get it from B&H Photo
- Or order directly from DJI itself
So what does 28x zoom look like?
I tested out the Mavic 3’s 28x Hybrid Zoom looking into one of my favorite spots in San Francisco, Oracle Park (which is where the Giants play). This Instagram video below shows me in every level of Zoom. It’s insane how close you can get:
How to use the Mavic 3’s zoom camera
You can use the Mavic 3’s tele camera (one half of the drone’s dual-camera system) when using Explore mode in the DJI Fly app. To navigate to explore mode from the DJI Fly app, tap the binoculars icon onscreen while your drone is in flight. You can either zoom by pinching and dragging on the screen, or tapping the magnification levels under the binoculars icon (as I did for this test footage).
Once Explore mode is enabled and the camera zoom exceeds 7x, your Mavic 3 drone switches to the tele camera automatically.
Note: this zoom camera only shoots JPEG photos (not RAW or DNG), which might not work for all types of operations, such as some enterprise projects.
What would one use the 28x Hybrid Zoom for?
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the concept of zoom for a drone. Isn’t the ultimate zoom just flying a drone closer to the object?
But there are just some situations where flying closer to the object either doesn’t make sense, is impractical, is dangerous or maybe is illegal.
I recall when I went to the Arctic Circle with Quark Expeditions to do some drone coverage. While the Arctic Circle is actually pretty bleak, with its harsh conditions making it tough for wildlife to survive, we did at one point spot a polar bear. However, as a group, we explicitly decided not to fly a drone when we spotted the bear. That polar bear already had incredibly low interactions with human, and certainly didn’t have any interaction with aircraft, give how remote the area was. We didn’t want to change that by adding something to complete foreign to the bear’s environment.
I had made the journey to the Arctic and got some pretty stunning drone footage — but never once got any wildlife footage. Had this Mavic 3 been with me, it would have been far more practical and safe to be able to film the wildlife via drone.
It could also make sense in simply saving time. Flying a drone back and forth pipelines, bridges or wind turbines takes time. That might impact battery life (though luckily, the Mavic 3 has an incredible 46 minutes of battery life), or simply require more of the pilot’s time to fly a drone farther out than it necessarily needs you just to see something.
Whether you’re a creative photographer, a commercial operator conducting missions such as inspections or making rescues, rescues a wildlife research or anything else, really, there may be extreme value in the DJI Mavic 3’s 28x Hybrid Zoom.
As you’ll see from my sample Instagram video, the footage does get grainy the more you zoom in. But that’s to be expected (for example, any smartphone camera also loses its quality the more you zoom).
Note, flying within 3 nautical miles within an hour before or after MLB games is not legal under FAA rules (so don’t try to replicate my video during game time!)