There’s a drone for every user and the much anticipated DJI Air 3 drone is aimed at users who don’t seem to find the right fit with the Chinese drone maker’s other models, in particular, the popular Mavic 3 and Mini 3 Pro.
While the Mavic 3 offers professional features and the Mini 3 Pro is a great lightweight option for consumers, the new DJI Air 3 is somewhat in between its two capable predecessors.
The new drone will please those who want the flight performance of the Mavic 3 but only need and want to pay for the more common capabilities of the smaller Mini 3 Pro.
In terms of imaging, the DJI Air 3 has 1/1.3-inch 48-megapixel sensors for the wide-angle camera (24mm equivalent at f1.7) and 3x zoom camera (70mm equivalent at f2.8).
The telephoto camera on the Air 3 makes it a compelling feature for users who want some zoom capabilities on their drone, like with the Mavic 3.
The new drone does not reach as far as the Mavic 3’s 7x zoom, but its 3x zoom is good enough for most users who want a more dramatic panning effect for their B-roll shots, for example.
The newly designed drone actually reminds me of the Mavic 3 drones rather than the older Air 2.
It looks sleeker, thanks to the slender propeller arms, and the propellers are slightly larger than the Air 2’s. I have to make more space in my bag because of this.
Good news is, despite the larger size and 720g weight, DJI has made the Air 3’s operate at no louder than 81dB, so it’s a much quieter machine than the Air 2.
It also comes with a newly designed 4,241mAh battery that can last 46 minutes of flight time, well at least on paper.
During my tests, the longest I could stretch it to was 33 minutes on a breezy evening at Singapore’s Marina Bay. To be fair, that’s more than enough for a time-lapse sequence, 360-sphere image captures and panorama shots.
DJI has also paired the new drone with an upgraded remote controller. The DJI RC 2 looks similar to the earlier DJI RC, except for the thicker top with two-rod antennas.
The antennas help maintain a better communication link with the drone, especially in a congested wireless environment in Singapore’s Marina Bay area and the Central Business District.
It helps that the Air 3’s connection to overhead satellites is speedy and strong. It can lock itself into position using 32 satellites within a minute of being switched on. This is useful for getting the drone into the air quickly.
What I also like is that DJI has kept the six obstacle sensors on the Air 3 for obstacle avoidance. The four sensors at the corners are now pointed at a 45-degree angle to detect objects to the sides of the drone, which critical when the aircraft is maneuvering around a subject.
One notable difference with the Air 3 is that its gimbal protrudes a little more than the Air 2S, which tries to mimic the 360 imaging capabilities of the Mini 3 Pro.
During my test, the new drone manages to capture more of a 360 sphere except for a small patch at the top. This is something that the smaller Mini 3 Pro has no problem capturing with its much nimbler gimbal that can point straight up to the sky.
The 1/1.3-inch sensors for the Air 3 are a downgrade from the Air 2S’s 1-inch sensor, sacrificing some image quality for flexibility.
The sensors here matter especially when in low light. For example, the Air 3’s zoom works well in broad daylight but suffers a little in terms of quality during dusk, due to its smaller sensors.
If capturing night scenes and low-light environment is essential, I’d suggest the Air 2S because its 1-inch sensor makes better sense. Plus, the price for the older drone will be lower after the Air 3’s launch.
That said, the Air 3 has its place in DJI’s lineup to fit a niche of users. Many will value the new drone’s more versatile setup with wide and zoom cameras that come in a smaller package than the Mavic 3.
In Singapore, the DJI Air 3 is sold with the screenless DJI RC-N2 controller for S$1,499.
If you can stretch your budget a little, the Fly More package with two more batteries, multi-battery charger hub and the handier DJI RC 2 controller at S$1,899 is a much better buy.