If you’re looking for a high-specification unmanned aerial vehicle with advanced visual and technical capabilities, it’s highly likely that the recently released DJI Mavic 3 and Air 2S may show up on your radar. These two drones feature some of the UAV industry’s latest technology, with demonstrable performance that can as easily meet the demands of professional pilots as the advanced amateur or vlogger.
In this article, we line up the DJI Mavic 3 and the Air 2S, with a deep-dive comparison of the price, specs, and more to help you evaluate which of these two drones is going to meet your professional or prosumer needs! Let’s dive in!
What is the DJI Mavic 3?
The DJI Mavic 3 is a teleoperated quadcopter drone that is part of the Mavic series of drones by the manufacturer DJI. This lightweight, compact, and foldable drone series has had commercial success as a preferred drone for both personal and professional videography and photography.
The Mavic series of drones include several popular models including the Mavic Pro Platinum and Mavic Air. The range is geared towards professionals or prosumers. The product line has since been phased out in favor of newer models like the Air 2S, which we discuss below.
The DJI Mavic 3 is one of the latest models in the Mavic series. It was released in late 2021 as a model to replace the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom which were released in 2018. The Mavic 3 has upgraded features and drone capabilities including:
- 5.1K video capture and raw stills capability
- A dual-lens camera for wide-angle views
- A telephoto camera for added perspective
- A Hasselblad color four-thirds camera
- Obstacle sensors
- 8 GB storage (standard model)
- 895-gram takeoff weight
- 9.3 miles (15 km) maximum transmission distance
- Over 40 minutes of flight time
This model is certainly ambitious but it has the specs and capabilities to stretch the repertoire of experienced UAV operators.
DJI Mavic 3 series drones are compatible with 3 different DJI controllers:
- The DJI RC
- The DJI RC Pro
- The DJI RC-N1
The DJI RC and RC Pro are smart controllers. They have an integrated high-resolution screen and offer easy setup and configuration. The cheaper DJI RC-N1 relies on an attached smartphone or tablet as the screen. This means that the visual quality is inferior, and if you use a smartphone, your flight tracking may be interrupted by text messages or calls.
Advanced Safety Features
The DJI Mavic 3 introduced some market-leading safety features that deliver safer handling. These include:
- Advanced return to home using proprietary technology that calculates the fastest and safest route home with rapid execution
- Downward, upward, and horizontal omnidirectional vision systems
- APAS 5.0 technology senses and avoids in-flight obstacles and obstructions
- Precision positioning for stable hovering
In Europe, amateurs who are prepared to pay a premium price for a drone can also get their hands on this drone without training or certifications. This is because, under new EASA regulations, it is a C1 class marked drone. The DJI Mavic 3 is the first UAV to receive this certification, which allows it to be flown under A1 rules. This offers operators much more freedom to use the drone close to people.
In the U.S., the DJI Mavic 3 will be subject to the Federal Aviation Authority’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107). This means you’ll have to register your drone and obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA to show that you understand all the regulations and operating requirements to safely fly your drone.
DJI is a Chinese technology company that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology and is based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China. The DJI trade name stands for Da-Jiang Innovations, a shortened version of the full company name, Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies, Ltd. The company was founded over 17 years ago by Frank Wang and is known to have investments from financial entities owned by the Chinese state.
DJI’s UAV development and manufacturing spans all aspects of drone functionality, aerial photography, and videography. Its expertise extends to technical camera equipment including gimbals, action cameras, propulsion, and flight control systems. This has made DJI a market leader for consumer and professional drones with a market share of over 75% in 2021. UAVs are used in many industries including film and television, defense, and law enforcement.
Versions of the DJI Mavic 3
The DJI Mavic 3 comes in three versions for the best fit to your use case. Standard, Classic, and Cine versions introduce further variance in the specs and features you can expect from the Mavic range.
- With a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, the sensor provides a 12.8-stop dynamic range that retains more details in highlights and shadows
- 46 Minutes of flight time
- Equipped with advanced Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, letting you fly confidently and safely wherever you are
- 15-kilometer max transmission range, which means you can fly farther to explore and capture more
- O3 Plus Transmission system for smooth and stable live feeds are smooth and stable.
- Smart Return to Home with a new Advanced RTH system whether activated by low battery or the pilot
This is the standard version that was originally released in November 2021 alongside the Mavic 3 Cine. It has enhanced zoom, a 162 mm telephoto lens, and up to 28x hybrid zoom. This drone also benefits from a gimbal lock that prevents the camera from shaking when the drone is deployed and secures it when it is not being used.
- 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera - The legendary Swedish brand Hasselblad customized the L2D-20c aerial camera for the Mavic 3 Series, embedding a professional-grade 4/3 CMOS into an incredibly compact...
- 5.1K HD Video - Professional-grade imaging performance for sharper details. It can also record 4K/60fps pictures through oversampling technology.
- 46-Min Max Flight Time - Compatible with Mavic 3-Series batteries for up to 40 minutes of hovering and up to 46 minutes of flight time. Empowers creators to capture more content with less worry.
- Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing - With APAS 5.0, Mavic 3 Classic can detect objects in all directions at all times during flight, and smoothly avoid obstacles, making flights exceptionally safe.
- 15km HD Video Transmission - Mavic 3 Classic offers a 15km (9.3 miles) max transmission range. This extends shooting possibilities with stable signal and a crystal-clear 1080p/60fps feed.
This is a “budget” version of the Mavic 3, and probably the best-suited version for amateurs. It does not have a telephoto lens or gimbal lock and its 3x zoom capabilities are significantly reduced compared to the standard DJI Mavic 3.
- 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, providing a 12.8-stop dynamic range
- 46 Minutes of flight time
- DJI Mavic 3 Cine is equipped with advanced Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, letting you fly safely no matter where you are
- 15-kilometer max transmission range, which means you can fly farther to explore and capture more
- O3 Plus Transmission system, for smooth and stable live feeds
- Smart Return to Home with a new Advanced RTH system, Mavic 3 camera drone can return to its home point on a fast, safe, and optimized route whether activated by low battery or the pilot
The DJI Mavic 3 Cine is the premium version that targets professional filmmakers. It has several additional features that deliver the performance required for professional aerial videography. Like the standard model, it has a 162 mm telephoto lens, 28x zoom, and a gimbal lock. It keeps up with the demands of filmmaking with 1 terabyte of in-built storage along with space on board for an additional SD card. The DJI Mavic 3 Cine also supports Apple ProRes 422 HD Codec for professional image quality and ease of editing footage.
What is the Air 2S?
The Air 2S is an alternate UAV model that is also manufactured by DJI. It was released in April 2021 and is considered an updated and rebranded version of the popular Mavic Air 2. The speed of UAV innovation has meant that the Air 2 improves on a drone that was only released in 2020.
This lightweight foldable drone is only 600g in weight and has a broad appeal due to its easy handling and all-around performance. Its headline features include:
- A 1-inch, 20-megapixel CMOS camera that can capture JPEG and RAW images and 5.4K video with a 30 FPS rate
- 12km (7.45 mi) maximum transmission with a resolution of 1080px
- HDR video
- 12.6 exposure stops for aerial photography
- Over 30 minutes of running time
- 8 GB storage
- APAS 4.0 obstacle detection and avoidance sensor technology
In addition, the Air 2S is equipped with automated camera movements and innovative MasterShots, SmartPhoto, and Hyperlapse modes for photo and video. It is competitively priced and serves pro pilots adequately, though transferring data from the drone can be a bit complicated.
- 【1-INCH IMAGE SENSOR】Equipped with a 1-inch image sensor and large 2.4μm pixels, DJI Air 2S is capable of 5.4K/30fps and 4K/60fps video.
- 【MASTERSHOTS】The next evolution of QuickShots, MasterShots is an advanced intelligent feature that gives users the best shots in any location with just a tap.
- 【THE CENTER OF ATTENTION】FocusTrack features Spotlight 2.0, ActiveTrack 4.0, and Point of Interest 3.0, making it a breeze for DJI Air 2S to follow or circle your subject.
- 【ONE BILLION COLORS】The 10-bit Dlog-M color profile can record up to one billion colors while retaining all the little details that make footage pop.
- 【7.5 MILES MAX VIDEO TRANSMISSION】DJI Air 2S features DJI's most advanced O3 (OcuSync 3.0) image transmission technology, giving you an ultra-smooth, clear, and reliable image feed every time you fly.
Air 2S Controllers
The default controller for the Air 2S is the Mavic Air 2 remote controller. This USB-C-charged controller is designed to work with a linked smartphone or tablet with app-based visuals and controls. It has all the standard controls including a power button, flight-mode switch, and RTH button to initiate the flight home.
Air 2 S controllers will soon also be compatible with the DJI RC remote, which is a smart remote that is also compatible with the DJI Mavic 3 series. This controller has a 5.5-inch integrated screen with adjustable brightness on its low-latency live video feed. The buttons and dials on this controller can be customized.
Intuitive Safety Features
The Air 2S has a range of automated safety features including precision positioning using GPS geofencing, visual sensors, obstacle avoidance, and automated return-to-home technology that plots the quickest and safest route back to base.
The Air 2S also limits the drone’s ability to fly into zones that are restricted, using an interactive map to locate restricted areas.
What’s the Difference Between the DJI Mavic 3 and Air 2S?
The DJI Mavic 3 is a much more advanced drone compared to the Air 2S which is essentially DJI’s Mavic Air 2. The DJI Mavic 3 adds many more new technologies and is equipped with a camera, sensors, and high-definition zoom features that make it suitable for professional work.
The Air 2S will be a step up for amateur pilots who want to raise their game, but a true pro would require the DJI Mavic 3 at a minimum. It is at least $1,000 more than the Air 2S, but has more technical specifications with enhanced flight time, data storage, and versions specifically designed for professional filmmaking.
DJI Mavic 3 vs. Air 2S: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|DJI Mavic 3||Air 2S|
|What is it?||Unmanned aerial device (UAV)||Unmanned aerial device (UAV)|
|Primary Use||Aerial photography and videography||Aerial photography and videography|
|Influential Developers||Da-Jing Innovations (DJI)||Da-Jing Innovations (DJI)|
|Technologies Influenced||UAV flight systems, UAV controllers, camera drones, first-person-view drones, industrial drones,stabilized cameras and gimbals||UAV flight systems, UAV controllers, camera drones, first-person-view drones, industrial drones, stabilized cameras and gimbals|
|Controllers||DJI RC-N1, DJI RC, DJI RC Pro||Mavic Air 2|
|Flight App||DJI Fly||DJI Fly|
|Take-Off Weight||895 grams||600 grams|
|UAV Dimensions (Without Propellers)||Folded: 221 x 96.3 x90.3 mm|
Unfolded: 347.5 x 283 x 107.7 mm
|Folded: 180.0 x 77.0 x 97.0 mm|
Unfolded: 183.0 x 77.0 x 253.0 mm
|Max Flight Time||46 minutes||30 minutes|
|Obstacle Sensing?||Yes: APAS 5.0||Yes: APAS 4.0|
|Transmission Distance||15 km (9.3 miles)||12km (7.45 mi)|
|Internal Storage Capacity||Up to 1 TB (Cine version)||8 GB|
Similarities and Differences
- Both the DJI Mavic 3 and Air 2S are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
- Both drones are quadcopters.
- Both drones are made by the Chinese manufacturer Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI).
- The DJI Mavic 3 and the Air 2S are lightweight, compact, foldable drones and under 1000 grams in weight.
- Both drones can be used with DJI controllers that require a smartphone or tablet to be attached as a screen.
- The Air 2S and Mavic 3 both have 5.4 K video.
- Both drones can capture JPEG and RAW still images.
- The DJI Mavic 3 and the Air 2S both have 8GB storage.
- The DJI Mavic 3 and the Air 2S were both launched in 2021.
- In the USA, both the DJI Mavic 3 and the Air 2S are subject to the Federal Aviation Authority’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107) which requires drone registration and a Remote Pilot Certificate.
- There is a price difference of approximately $1,000 between the DJI Mavic 3 Classic, the cheapest Mavic 3 model, and the Air 2S.
- The DJI Mavic 3 is 295 grams heavier than the Air 2S.
- The DJI Mavic has higher specification imaging with a dual-lens camera, telephoto camera, and Hasselblad color four-thirds camera.
- The DJI Mavic 3 has more sophisticated obstacle sensors than the Air 2S, with the latest APAS 5.0 safety technology versus APAS 4.0 on the Air 2S.
- The DJI Mavic 3 has a longer transmission distance of over 15 kilometers versus 12 kilometers for the Air 2S.
- The Air 2S has a 16-minute shorter flight time than the Mavic 3.
- The Mavic 3 is available in three versions: Standard, Classic, and Cine.
- The Cine version of the Mavic 3 drone has 1 terabyte of onboard memory.
- The DJI Mavic 3 is C1 classified in Europe and can be used without a license.
Is the DJI Mavic 3 Worth It?
If you are looking for a professional quality drone with the performance to extend your aerial imaging and videography capabilities the DJI has a strong feature set that is consistent with its $2,200+ price tag.
Independent creators benefit from the versatility of this model that can produce amazing work in the hands of filmmakers, aerial photographers vloggers, and videographers. Location work is a cinch, as this drone folds down and has a gimbal lock to keep the camera secure when transported.
If tight visuals are a must, the Mavic 3 has the high-spec 5.1K video, with Hasselblad color science and up to 28x zoom to pack a punch with image quality. If you opt for the Cine upgrade, the dual-lens camera gives you the wide-angle views you need for classic cinematography along with a telephoto camera to add perspective to your shots. When this drone gets up in the air, you have around 46 minutes of flight time and a transmission distance of over 15 km which massively outstrips the Air 2S.
Taking a closer look at the $5,000 Cine edition, the 1 terabyte of storage is an exceptional feature that will make pros look twice at this model. The Cine edition of the Mavic 3 is certainly a worthy competitor of larger and heavier drones like the Sony Airpeak S1 and will up the game for any independent filmmaker.
One of the best reasons for opting for the Mavic 3 versus the Air 2S is that it has an industry-leading safety profile with the latest APAS safety technology and multiple sensors for deft obstacle avoidance. Integrated GPS/GLONASS technology supports precision positioning, avoidance of restricted airspace, and an efficient return-to-home when necessary. In fact, this drone carries a favorable C1 rating in Europe.
So, if you are a true professional, the DJI Mavic 3 is a worthy investment, with enough new technology and hardware onboard to keep your projects future-forward.
Is the Air 2S a Suitable Buy for Pros?
This is a good question, especially as the Air 2S is basically the Mavic Air 2, which is a respectable professional drone. In fact, there is very little difference between the two, especially as the two drones were released only a year apart.
The Air 2S does carry a high-specification camera that is capable of 5.1K videography and versatile video and imaging technologies including HDR HLG, RAW photos, and D-log that add depth to your work. The detail and dynamic range of the Air 2S will really show up in your editing room and given the significant price difference with the DJI Mavic 3, it is a great value buy for a professional who needs a competent UAV with visual versatility.
DJI Mavic 3 vs. Air 2S: 6 Must-Know Facts
- DJI is the world’s leading manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
- The U.S. Department of Defense is prohibited from using DJI products because of spying concerns.
- In 2015, a DJI drone was able to crash into the South Lawn of the White House. This incident led to DJI releasing a firmware update with enhanced geo-restriction.
- DJI Mavic drones are available in combo packages that include essential accessories like ND filters and a charging hub. By buying a combo, you save money instead of having to purchase accessories individually.
- The DJI Fly app, a free Android and iOS smartphone app, is required for using a smartphone or tablet to see the view from your drone’s camera.
- The DJI Mavic 3 and Air 2S carry onboard sensors including infrared, ultrasonic, and stereovision sensors. These sensors are vital for effective obstacle avoidance.
The DJI Mavic 3 and Air 2S are competent UAVs for professional use. The DJI Mavic 3 delivers the most advanced video, imaging, and navigation technologies, with a Cine edition that is ideal for a professional aerial videographer. The Air 2S is also a competent drone that can provide professional-quality videos and stills, but its more limited capabilities, specs, and lower price make it a better fit for skilled amateurs who are ready to up their game.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©VY Media/Shutterstock.com.