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Hands-on review: DJI Mavic Mini is a punchy sub-250g drone
Fri, 17th Jan 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As it has from the start, drone technology continues to advance faster than the legislation designed to keep tabs on it.

Many countries are now imposing registration systems on drones over 250 grams.

In response to this, DJI's new Mavic Mini, being a sub-250g drone, allows pilots to keep flying without registering.

Thankfully, New Zealand doesn't yet require drones to be registered. But that's not to say that the Mavic Mini should be overlooked.

The Mavic Mini is, to all intents and purposes, a replacement for the DJI Spark. It's intended as an entry-level device, using its own simplified app, DJI Fly, rather than the DJI Go 4 app used by all DJI's other drones from the humble Mavic Air to the professional Matrice 210.

DJI Fly is a cleaner app that gives novice pilots the tools they need without hunting for options, unlike the somewhat esoteric DJI Go. DJI Fly features built-in Quickshots allowing novice pilots to shot cinematic videos like a pro.

The Mavic Mini may be easy to use, but it's not a toy. Despite its tiny size, it is a genuine feat of engineering. The drone draws upon the advanced features of its larger Mavic brethren, packing some sophisticated tech in a chassis that, without the battery, weighs only 150g.

The lighter aircraft, coupled with DJI's tiny, but powerful 2400 mAh battery packs means that pilots will get decent flight time. DJI says 30 minutes per battery, but realistically you are looking at 25min, maximum. It's not a good idea to run drone a battery to empty, you always want to keep some in reserve. That's still almost ten minutes longer than I safely get out of my Mavic Air batteries.

Flight-wise, I found that the Mavic Mini performed as well as my Mavic Air. It's fast, offering some exhilarating flying in sport mode. I'd say it was a lot quieter than the Mavic Air. The Mavic Mini held its position even in a moderate gusting wind. The device's GPS allowed it to automatically land using the one-button-press home function within 100mm on its take-off position.

The drone has a 1/2.3” CMOS capable of taking 12MP stills 4000x3000 (4:3) and 4000x2250 (16:9). Sadly, the drone is not capable of capturing 4K video, the maximum resolution being 2.7K at a 40Mbps bitrate. Whilst the Mavic Mini does not have the fore and aft sensors of the Mavic Air, from a practical point-of-view it was only the lower video quality that put the little Mavic Mini at a disadvantage to the Mavic Air.

Both the video and stills captured during my test were superb. Whilst the video could do with the help of some aftermarket filters, to give it that little extra, on the whole, I was very impressed. 

The drone features the same folding design as the Mavic Air, folding up to a palm-sized 130mm length. This makes it, by far the easiest DJI drone to take with you.     

The Fly More Combo package, which I recommend to anyone thinking of buying this drone, includes some essential items that you will need to purchase anyway to get the most out of your investment. In addition to the drone and controller, the Fly More Combo includes two more batteries (giving you three in total), a charger, a practically-sized carry case, extra propellers and a set of prop guards (worth installing when starting out to protect the propellers should you crash the drone).

Of special note to the way the charger automatically distributes power. Batteries naturally discharge over time. With my Mavic Air I've occasionally gone out with it only to find I've three half-empty batteries. The Mavic Mini's charge siphons power from the batteries with the lower charge, keeping one full and ready to use.

The Fly More Combo give you almost everything you need to start your aerial photography journey. But there's one more essential bit of kit required. The Mavic Mini has no internal storage, so the purchase of a fast UHS-I Speed Class 3 microSD card is a must if you want to capture high-resolution video or stills.

DJI's Mavic Mini is a great drone for beginners or anyone with a passing need to take stunning aerial photos and video. It's easy and fun to use. Its small size makes it very portable and its impressive battery life means more time flying and less time charging.