DJI’s Mavic drones is probably the most popular range of drones for consumers and photographers. Their foldable and lightweight design makes them ultraportable and great drones to travel around with. There are many excellent drones in the Mavic range and in this article, we shall compare the Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic 3.
The Mavic Air 2 was released a couple of years ago and still remains a very popular and one of the most technologically advanced drones on the market today.
The Mavic 3 is DJI’s long awaited successor to the Mavic 2 and technically, it is the most advanced Mavic drone. However, it carries a huge price tag, which will be a huge factor if you are thinking of purchasing one of these drones.
Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic 3 – Key Features
Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic 3 – Camera
The camera specs are probably the first thing people will compare when they are choosing between photography drones.
While both drones come equipped with very impressive cameras, there is no doubt that the Mavic 3 comes out on top in this battle.
With the Mavic 3, DJI have something completely different and innovative, the drone has a dual-camera system. On the bottom is the main camera that has been engineered by Swiss camera manufacturers Hasselblad (like the Mavic 2 Pro camera).
This is a custom version of the Hasselblad L2D-20c camera that has been exclusively engineered for the Mavic 3.
The camera comes equipped with a 4/3 sensor with an adjustable aperture, 24mm lens and 84° FOV. This makes the Mavic 3 the first compact drone to come with this type of professional-grade sensor.
In photography, a larger sensor means better quality images as more data can be captured thanks to the large surface area of the sensor.
The camera comes with Hasselblad patented natural colour technology that uses advanced image processing protocols to accurately reproduce natural colours.
The camera can capture 20MP images in 12-bit RAW, allows you to shoot HDR images and videos, records video in 5k at 50fps, 4K at 120fps and HD at 200fps. Videos are recorded in 140Mbs or 200Mbps depending on the codec and the Mavic 3 Cine version allows users to record in Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ codec.
The second camera also comes with some impressive specs, it has a 1/2-inch sensor with a fixed f/4.4 aperture, 15° FOV and 162mm lens.
The camera can capture 12MP images, 4k video footage and has both digital and optical zoom functions. The camera allows users to explore areas from a distance using its zoom feature with minimal loss in image quality.
In contrast to the amazing specs of the Mavic 3, the DJI Mavic Air 2 may seem a bit of a downgrade (which it is), however, this shouldn’t hide the fact that the Air 2 also comes with an impressive camera.
The camera has a 1/2-inch sensor, which is bigger than is larger than most other Mavic drones apart from the 3, 2 Pro and Air 2S.
It has a fixed f/2.8 aperture with a 24mm lens which has an 84° FOV, the camera is stabilised by a 3-axis gimbal.
The sensor features a Quad Bayer filter, this technology improves the overall image and video quality by combining pixels of the same colour. This technology is especially useful in low light conditions, especially for videos.
The camera can capture images in 12MP and 48MP and record video footage in 4k at 60fps at 120Mbps.
Other camera features include recording slow-motion videos in HD at 240fps, 8k timelapse videos, HDR videos and images.
Both the Mavic 3 and Mavic Air 2 have a Smart Photo mode that can be accessed on the DJI Fly App.
Smart Photo mode uses advanced computational photography to automatically adjust the camera settings to capture highly optimised images. It uses a combination of HDR, Hyperlight and scene recognition for optimal performance.
The Mavic Air 2 does not have a log-colour profile but has something similar, it’s the D-Cinelike colour profile and allows users to shoot HDR videos.
When you compare the specs of the Mavic Air 2 camera to the Mavic 3, there is no doubt which one is the superior camera.
However, the Mavic 3 is very expensive and depending on what kind of videos and images you want to capture, it may not be worth the price tag.
On the other hand, the Mavic Air 2 costs less than $800 and is probably the best drone in this price range.
Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic 3 – Design
The Mavic Air 2 is the lighter of the two drones, it weighs 570 grams, has a diagonal wingspan of 30.2 cm.
It has a pair of obstacle avoidance sensors on the front and back and dual vision sensors and an LED light on the bottom that assists with better positioning and safer landing.
There is a micro SD card slot that can take memory cards with a maximum capacity of 256GB and has a UHS-1 speed grade 3 rating.
The drone has a maximum wind resistance of 36 km/h and a top speed of 68 km/h.
The drone comes with a dual GNSS receiver and uses DJI’s enhanced WiFi technology that allows it to transmit live video footage from 10km.
The Mavic 3 is a little larger, it weighs 895 grams and has a diagonal wingspan of 38.01 cm.
The Mavic 3 has a more advanced obstacle avoidance system, in total it has 6 sensors for obstacle avoidance.
It has an internal storage capacity of 8GB, it has a micro SD card slot that will allow you to expand its memory with up to a maximum capacity of 256GB.
The drone has a much better wind resistance of 43 km/h and can reach a top speed of 68 km/h.
The drone uses DJI’s latest enhanced transmission technology that allows it to stream videos from a maximum distance of 15km.
Both drones are powered by intelligent lithium polymer batteries, the Mavic 2 comes with a 3S lithium-polymer battery that has an 11.55v and 3500 mAh rating while the Mavic 3 has a 4S LiPo battery with a 15.4v and 5000 mAh rating.
These batteries provide the drones with some impressive flight times.
The Mavic Air 2 comes with a flight time of 34 minutes, while the Mavic 3 boasts the best flight time for a prosumer drone at 46 minutes.
Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic 3 – Controller
Both drones are controlled by the RC-N1 controller, this is a large controller that has a nice ergonomic design. It’s powered by an internal battery that provides around 6 hours of run time.
It automatically charges android phones and can do the same for iOS phones provided the settings are turned on.
There is an attachment on the top that can hold a large smartphone or tablet. The controller has buttons for automatic take-off/landing, return to home, photo/video and a dial on the top for gimbal control.
There is a different controller for the Mavic 3 Cine, it’s called the RC Pro and the main difference is the 5.5-inch HD display that eliminates the need to attach your own smartphone/tablet.
The controller runs on the Android 10 operating system and has 32GB of internal storage which can be expanded with a micro SD card. It’s powered by an internal lithium polymer battery and has a run time of 3 hours.
Both drones use the DJI Fly App for FPV and gives you access to the drone’s intelligent flight modes, advanced camera settings, automated flight modes and video editing features.
Flight Features & Performance
Both drones come with three flight modes, normal, cinema and sport, the obstacle avoidance system for both drones only works in normal and cinema mode.
Speaking of obstacle avoidance, the Mavic 3 has a far superior system, it can sense and avoid obstacles in all directions and may even rival the Skydio 2 in this area.
The Mavic Air 2 only has obstacle avoidance for front and back, it works as advertised, but when you use it with the Active Track mode, it can be a bit hit and miss.
The Air 2 comes with three intelligent flight modes, they are Active Track, Point of Interest and Spotlight.
The Active Track feature on the Mavic 3 is slated to be released in early 2022 and I do expect them to add more autonomous flight modes later on.
Both drones come with QuickShots which allows anyone to capture short videos at the push of a button.
The Mavic 3 also comes with a feature called MasterShots, which was first introduced with the Air 2S.
This feature is similar to QuikShots but the manoeuvres are a bit more complex and the videos are longer.
While both drones come with an automatic return to home feature, the Mavic 3 is more advanced, the drone will work out the shortest route and use that flight path to return home.
Which One Should You Purchase?
This all depends upon what your requirements are, both are exceptional drones but the Mavic 3 is clearly the superior drone in all departments. If you are a professional videographer and have the budget, the Mavic 3 is the obvious choice, it just gives you more options and flexibility to produce professional-grade videos. However, there is another option, The DJI Air 2S, this is one of my favourite drones and it falls nicely between the Air 2 and Mavic 3 in terms of features and price tag.
- Large 1-inch image sensor
- 20MP images (RAW & JPEG)
- Multiple photography modes
- Records videos in 5.4k at 30fps
- 10-bit D-log for HDR videos
- Mastershots for one-click cinematic videos
- Autonomous flight modes
- 31 minutes of flight time
- 12km range
There is no doubt about which is the superior drone, the Mavic 3 beats the Air 2 in nearly every department. However, the drone is not for everyone, I personally believe for the average consumer and photographer, the Mavic Air 2 is the best choice. It’s one of the best drones in its price range, comes with many impressive features and has an excellent camera.
Of course, if you have the budget and require many of the features in the Mavic 3 camera, then that is the best option for you.