The DJI Mavic Mini is the company's smallest and lightest camera drone ever. It was designed with the goal of getting the weight down below 250 grams (8.8 ounces), which not only makes it safer, but means in the US you don't need to register with the FAA. The Mini is likely to open up the world of camera drones to a whole new group of people.
The Mini, which starts shipping on Nov. 11 for $400, looks like , but don't expect that drone's features. This is actually more like , but the Mini folds and actually weighs less. To get the weight down, the Mini doesn't have any extra sensors for obstacle avoidance or recognition. That means you'll have to learn how not to crash this one on your own.
The good news is you really shouldn't have too much trouble learning to fly it. Like the Spark and other Mavic drones, the Mini is stable and nimble. I got to fly it for a few minutes and it's just as easy and responsive as the others and since it's smaller you can fly it in tighter spaces.
It's also really quiet. I was standing within a few feet of it having a conversation without shouting or having problems hearing. Less noise and a small size will make this a better choice for more discreet, inconspicuous flying, kind of like the difference between shooting pictures with your phone instead of a large SLR camera.
The controller is compact like the drone and folds up nicely. Neither it nor the drone are so large that you'll hesitate bringing them with you. Despite the small size, you do have controls for the camera in back including a tilt dial so you can point the camera straight down, straight forward or anywhere in between. What it can't do is point straight up like.
The Mini's camera is a step up from the Spark's. It can shoot video at up to 2.7K at 30 frames per second and 1080 at 60fps and 12 megapixel photos. The camera's on a three-axis motorized gimbal so you'll still get the same smooth video and stable pictures as you would with DJI's other drones.
Also, there's a new streamlined DJI Fly app for the Mini that gets rid of a lot of the onscreen clutter of its other drone apps. That makes it easier to focus on framing your shots and flying. And you still get features like its preprogrammed cinema shots and flying circles or helixes around subjects.
When I first saw the Mini I fully expected the battery life would be down around 15 to 20 minutes. I was wrong. Between the lightweight body and other design efficiencies, DJI said the flight time is up to 30 minutes on its battery pack. That extra time can easily mean the difference between getting and missing a shot.
DJI has some accessories coming for the Mini, too, including a desktop charging base that looks a bit like a specimen display and stickers to add your own designs to the putty gray body. Also, in addition to the standard $400 package that comes with the drone, controller and a single battery, you can get a $500 Fly More kit with three batteries, charging hub, extra propellers and a carrying case.
The Mavic Mini walks the line between a little backyard flier and a more serious camera drone. But with it being smaller and lighter, it's also safer to fly and when you add that it's also quieter, you've got something you can fly more freely than the company's other drones.
What do you think? Is a more travel-friendly drone that doesn't require registration, but is leaner on features a good move for DJI?