The DJI Mavic Mini launched at a crucial time for the drone market. Drone laws were changing rapidly around the globe, and the allure of a consumer-grade machine priced at a thousand dollars or more was becoming a tough sale.
Potential drone pilots that want to get a good drone, without breaking the bank, have another option now. The DJI Mavic Mini may actually be the very best option for under $500. What do you get for the price? Let’s find out in this DJI Mavic Mini review.
Note: This review was originally posted in December 2019.
DJI Mavic Mini overview
DJI Mavic Mini
November 2019Release Date
With a long list of drones that start with the name Mavic, DJI has launched yet another consumer machine, perhaps their most consumer friendly yet, the new, very compact, folding DJI Mavic Mini.
As the name implies, the DJI Mavic Mini is a very small machine, and in true DJI fashion, it has few compromises to make it all work. The first thing to note is that the Mavic Mini weighs less than 0.55 lbs, which means you do not need to register it with the FAA before flight. Registration is quick and easy, but not requiring it at all is a bonus.
Related reading: DJI Mavic Mini review
Reminder: You may not have to register the Mavic Mini, but it's still a drone, you still have to follow the rules!
Don't let the small size fool you, this drone packs a 12MP camera, shoot 2.7K video from a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal and has all of the flight features you'd expect from a Mavic drone today.
Android Authority Podcast: Mavic Mini
The DJI Mavic Mini is the sort of drone that we’ve all wanted. It’s small, light, extremely portable, capable, reliable, affordable, and it shoots good photos and video from the sky.
DJI Mavic Mini may not need to be registered, but it is still a drone, you still have to follow the drone rules in the sky.
Weighing in at 249 grams, or 0.548 lbs, you do not need to register the Mavic Mini with the FAA before you fly. Of course, the moment you add the prop guards, or a heavy decorative sticker, it may tick over and require registration. Part 107 operators need to register regardless the weight.
Having said all that, the DJI Mavic Mini may not need to be registered, but it is still a drone, it’s still an aircraft in the sky, there are rules you must follow.
As great as the Mavic Mini seems to be for beginner pilots, and folks that do not need the very best camera in the sky, it has compromises that the larger drones offer. Primarily, the Mavic Mini has a downward facing visioning system, which is superb for helping land safely, and often directly in the same spot if you’ve enabled auto landing through the RTH function.
Other than the downward facing sensor, there are no other obstacle avoidance sensors. It does use the camera on the front for some avoidance techniques, but there are no dedicated sensors for the task. The DJI Mavic 2 series of drones offer all-way sensing to avoid a crash in any direction, for example. This is an understandable compromise in order to keep the price and weight down, but an obvious disadvantage compared to the larger DJI drones.
Thirty minutes of flight time is fantastic for a drone this size. At this weight, the Mavic Mini competes with mere toy-class drones, most of which offer less than ten minutes of flight time with a very limited set of flight features.
The Mavic Mini is equipped with GPS functionality, as practically all DJI drones are. In between this and the downward facing sensor, the drone has the ability to hover in place extremely well. Again, this is a trait of all recent DJI drones, but we were very worried that GPS would not be included when we first heard how light this drone is.
The Mavic Mini manages to scoot around at up to 29 mph, and the little 2,600mAh battery provides up to 30 minutes of flight time. Not bad at all!
Overall, the flight capabilities and camera quality exceed our expectations of a drone this size, and at this price point, we are impressed.
DJI Mavic Mini design
In terms of the build and configuration of the DJI Mavic Mini, it is true to the Mavic line of drones. It offers the same folding propeller arm configuration as the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. It has the same design of remote control as all the other Mavic and smaller DJI drones, even if it has fewer buttons on it.
The body shape is similar to the Mavic Pro and larger machines as well. The camera hangs off the front of the drone, mounted on a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal. The camera housing itself is more rectangle shaped than the circular Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom offerings.
The materials used to build the Mavic Mini are very light-weight. Obviously. They are very obviously plastic, and things are quite flexible. After the extreme flexibility of our toy Syma X5C, we like this about drones. Rigid frames tend to snap easier than soft and twisty frames. Just be careful with the front landing gear, there are antenna in there.
We can’t deny, the overall feel of the drone in hand is a tad underwhelming, at least as compared to previous Mavic models. One of the compromises to keep the weight down was a sacrifice in premium materials and some of the fit and finish. There are many exposed plain screws, as opposed to some of the hidden and all Torx or other fancy screws in the larger Mavic models.
We have mixed feelings on the two-piece propellers. On the one hand, it’s great that you can replace a single blade if it breaks, instead of having to replace the full propeller, but on the other hand, the props screw on, instead of the quick release design we’ve come to love.
We like that the battery lives inside of a trap door at the back. Just slide the battery in and out, leaving almost the entire top of the drone as a flat surface to decorate or attach things. There is an optional accessory mount you can snag, it clips on and mounts thins above the drone. Which can be fun.
There is a microSD card slot and a micro USB port at the back of the drone as well, situated below the battery and just above the single LED light on the drone. We’re not going to get into the topic of choosing micro USB instead of USB Type-C, that’s just not a battle we want to fight right now.
Although it sounds like we’re thoroughly unimpressed with this thing, the truth is quite the opposite. DJI has managed to build a reliable machine, that offers much of their best features, into a frame that weighs only slightly more than my smartphone. (If you care, I’m now using the Google Pixel 4 XL with a hefty case.)
Bottom line, if you enjoy the design of the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and/or the Mavic 2 Zoom, but wanted something a little smaller, the Mavic Mini is, well, a mini Mavic. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like.
DJI Mavic Mini Specifications and performance
The list of specs is always deceiving when we look at drones. Particularly camera specs, as the software processing can make the exact same camera sensor perform very differently. In addition, we’ve seen many drones with 3-axis stabilized Gimbals, some are buttery smooth, as the saying goes, while others have serious jitter and wobble issues.
The overall video capture from the Mavic Mini camera Gimbal is not perfect. It does produce quite smooth video overall, but when the drone is spinning, there are a few hiccups we’ve seen.
While recording video and spinning the drone around in a circle to follow the horizon, we noticed some hitches in the clips. The camera would stutter or lag behind the rotation of the drone. This could have been a result of unexpected wind gusts on a 3-5mph wind kind of day, or it could have been a connectivity issue between drone and remote. A software patch can modify how the stabilization works when the drone spins, if that’s the cause.
In my inaugural flight with the Mavic Mini, after keeping it close for 15 minutes to make sure all was well, I pushed the drone out to about 550 feet at about 325 feet above the ground. The drone never disconnected from the remote, but at any distance beyond about 350 feet (direct line of sight) I noticed infrequent spottiness in the video feed.
The video feed never froze, but there was lag that made me overshoot a rotation or Gimbal tilt for my desired shot. At first I assumed it might just be the live video stream that was lagging, but I remembered that I need to test these things for you, so I noted for myself when I witnessed lag, then checked out that timestamp in the recorded video. Bad news, there were jitters in the recorded video as well.
Once again, I’m being very particular here, perhaps even over-analyzing the recordings, but there is no mistaking the few times that I held the sticks as absolutely still as I could during a rotation, and the drone spun at different speeds. Sometimes in conjunction with visible video feed lag.
Most of the video lag is to be expected. I know full well that I fly in a part of the world with lots of magnetic interference from the metallic and volcanic rocks in the ground. That, and the Wi-Fi connectivity of the Mavic Mini, rated for up to 4 KM (2.49 miles,) is destined to not perform as well as the 8 KM (4.97 mile) range of the Mavic 2 series drones, which I consider to be the current gold-standard for consumer drones.
While up there, the flight time rating of thirty minutes held as true as all of DJI’s battery claims. I have no doubt that the drone can manage 30 full minutes of flight in ideal conditions, I averaged 55% battery consumption in an average of 16 minutes in the air. I had gusty winds, only up to about 5 mph on the ground, but I was not flying for battery optimization, I was putting the drone to the test with maneuvers, and speed runs.
In the default P mode, the drone got up to 18.1mph. In CineSmooth mode your max speed is closer to 9mph, and Sport mode is how you get up to 29 mph.
Before we move on, I wanted to mention a couple hiccups I experienced with the drone. During initial setup, while installing the first round of software updates, I had to re-connect my mobile device several times to get everything to talk to each other after each restart. Not a problem, just be ready to fiddle with cables.
The second issue I had was a failure to read my Samsung 64GB and 128GB microSD cards. I took the 64GB card out of the Mavic 2 Pro, (copied the data to my PC,) and put it into the Mavic Mini. I tried formatting the card right in the drone through the DJI Fly app, it still would not read it properly. I did not try shooting video anyway to see what would happen, I gave up and stuck with the 32GB Sandisk card that DJI sells alongside the drone.
The DJI Mavic Mini ships with a brand new application for your phone or tablet. The new DJI Fly app offers a similar, but more simplistic experience from the DJI GO 4 app you may be used to. You’ll get a map and some drone telemetry, but many of the advanced settings and controls have been stripped away.
To be expected, the Mavic 2 Pro has many manual camera controls, while the Mavic Mini is almost full-auto. You can control some input sensitivities, and we find it interesting that switching between the flight modes is all in the app now, instead of the physical switches we’ve seen on other DJI drones. Be careful what buttons you tap, else you may end up in the high-speed Sport mode unexpectedly.
There are links to DJI’s Recommended Zones and Fly Spots tools in the app. Recommended Zones is more of a view of DJI’s own geo-fencing limitations than it is a tool to find good spots to fly. Load it up to see a map of your area that shows the zones in which your drone will automatically be limited in operation. These are mostly no-fly zones around prisons and airports.
Fly Spots is another story, these are crowd-sourced ideas for spots to capture great photos and video from the sky. If you have not heard of DJI’s SkyPixel social platform yet, this is your introduction. Users have been uploading their best drone images into the platform for years now, Fly Spots is a simple map view of where those images were captured, and a tool for you to upload your own.
Running through the settings, you’ll find tools to calibrate the drone, check for software updates and such. You can see and manage your connectivity options as well. Under the camera settings you’ll find a short lost of controls, mostly to choose between what resolution and frame rates you would like to shoot at. We are choosing 2.7K at 30fps as the full-time setting for our drone.
If you head into the Safety tab in the settings, you can get into some trouble. There are values in there for your Max altitude, maximum distance and your RTH altitude. First and foremost, most countries have a drone law limiting you to 400 ft (120 meters) altitude. If you are certain that your country allows flight beyond that, just move the slider, otherwise, don’t touch! Actually, you can change the setting for viable reasons, just be aware of your altitude when you fly.
The Max Distance setting is great for new pilots, and is a good tool to ensure that you do not fly beyond your ability to see the drone. I was able to keep an eye on the Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 series drones to about 1,800 ft, but even with new glasses I find I’m losing sight of the Mavic Mini by about 1,000 ft. Partly due to the color, the Mavic Mini is almost a stealth drone under some grey clouds.
Bringing it all back together, the app does a lot to control your drone. We highly recommend that you fly with a mobile device connected, as the actual remote control for the Mavic Mini offers you the two navigation joysticks, a camera button, a video button, a dial for the Gimbal and a RTH button. Aside from the power button, that’s it. There is no display with basic telemetry, no Pause button to make the drone halt where it’s at, no, this is the least feature packed remote DJI has produced to date.
The DJI Fly app is free and available for Android and iOS.
DJI Mavic Mini camera overview
We’ll ask you to stay tuned for a more in-depth camera review, but for now, know that you are getting a 12MP shooter that has enough pixels for 4K video, but limits your recording to just 2.7K so the extra bits can be used for stabilization.
The 2.7K video recording, at 25 or 30 fps, is smooth and fairly clean. We’re not going to pretend that the captured video is as good as the Mavic 2 Pro, not even as good as the Mavic 2 Zoom, but it’s absolutely better than the Spark and we think better than the Mavic Pro. We’d like to say it’s as good as the Mavic Air, but we’ll have to put that to the test.
While the DJI Mavic Air and later Mavic drones all offer 100Mbps video data rates, the Mavic Mini does not share that specification. The mini drone offers just a 40Mbps video bitrate. The original Mavic Pro from 2016 had 60Mbps.
The lower data rate is evident in demanding video situations. One of our first flights with a retail unit we put the drone into the sky and stared at the sun. The foreground of the shot is a shaded community of houses, with some fairly dark spots, dark patches of trees, bright reflective water from a creek, and the bright sun in a partly cloudy sky above.
In the above situation, the camera sensor is obviously struggling to decide what to focus the exposure on. In the end, it found the middle ground, making the houses very dark and the sun blown out in the sky. This is not a fault, and it handles very well, all things considered, but in shots like this there is a loss of clarity in the image. Sure, there’s grainy spots as well, but mostly it appears the software is allowing things to turn into blobs instead of the speckled grain we were expecting.
Problem is, when you look too closely at any drone footage from machines with sub-1-inch sensors, you’re going to see similar results. Allow me to rephrase that: The great news is, the Mavic Mini, with it’s 40Mbps data rate and only 2.7K video recording is producing similar results to more expensive drones with bigger, and somewhat better cameras. That’s a win!
Finally, we feel that the default color profile is fairly flat. This is not a bad thing, but it does mean that you’ll want to run some post-processing if you want those vibrant and highly-saturated colors that we’re getting used to seeing these days.
In terms of the files, the photos are capturing at about 9MP (4000×2250 pixels) for the 16:9 aspect ratio. The files are about 4.5MB each and saved as JPG. In terms of video, we’re capturing 2.7K at 30fps — the specific values are 2720×1536 pixels at 29.97 fps, if you need to get technical. Recording at a bitrate of 40Mbps, we’re seeing an average of 284MB per minute of video. That’s just short of 2 hours of video on a 32GB card.
Enough of us chatting, let’s see some sample photos and video.
Who is the Mavic Mini made for?
The DJI Mavic Mini is not the drone you want if you are ready to upgrade from your original Mavic Pro. I would also debate the merits of replacing your Mavic Air as well. No, the DJI Mavic Mini is a drone that a new generation of pilots can get into.
For those that could not afford a Mavic Pro back in the day, the Mavic Mini comes in at the lowest price point for a DJI drone to date. This price, and the minimal take-off weight, make it a fantastic starter drone. Sure, it lacks some of the more advanced safety features found in many drones, but it’s also small enough it may survive some bumps that heavier drones might break. It’s certainly more flexible than other DJI drones.
The DJI Mavic Mini has another major benefit. Rather, I should say another use for the same benefit: It weighs less than 250 grams.
When we talk about not needing to register the drone with the FAA, this also includes registration in countries like Canada as well. The need for registration, and even licensing as Canada requires, can prevent travelers from using their drones. I used to fly my drones in Canada all the time, before there were drone laws.
As I do not have a Canadian drone pilot’s license, and I can’t register my larger drones in the country, I was unable to fly in the country. With the Mavic Mini, I can now head up there and abide by a much simpler set of rules, I can fly this drone and continue to capture amazing footage of the Canadian Rockies and some shots across the prairies.
I say again, registration with the FAA is not really a hassle, for residents. We’re pleased to say, travelers to the country can now also take to the sky.
In the end, the initial sale price of $399 is not chump change, this is a commitment into a hobby, to be sure. However, the $1,299 price tag of the Mavic Pro Fly More combo in 2016 was a much larger hill to climb. The Mavic Air brought things down to a $799 starting price, and even the Spark was $499.
Sure, there are many toy-class machines that cost far less, and we do think you should start with a $30 machine to get the hang of flying, but the DJI Mavic Mini is currently the very best camera drone under $500 that we know of.
Should you buy the DJI Mavic Mini?
While this mini drone offers far fewer features than we are accustomed from our drones that cost more than a thousand dollars, the price tag really puts everything into perspective. At $400, the DJI Mavic Mini is a great value.
As far as we’re concerned, if you have a budget under $500 and you want the best camera experience you can get your hands on, yes, the DJI Mavic Mini is the drone for you.
As mentioned above, the Mavic Mini really is the starter drone for aerial photography enthusiasts. It’s also a very portable drone for experienced pilots that need something smaller. The Mavic Mini will be great for inexperienced pilots, but it is not the disposable toy that you want for absolute first-time pilots.
A very first time pilot should start with something like one of these nano drones. When you are ready to graduate to the next level, the DJI Mavic Mini is the one you’ll want. From there, you move to a Mavic 2 series drone, then to an Inspire 2, then on to $35,000+ camera drones… I’m getting ahead of myself. Just go ahead and grab a nano drone and the Mavic Mini now, then you’ll be able to fly indoors and outside through the winter months.
The DJI Mavic Mini launched for $399 as the base kit, upgrade to the Fly More combo for $499 to get the extra accessories.
DJI Mavic Mini parts and accessories
DJI drones have a long list of accessories available to them. Not only does the market catch on and help these popular drones excel, but DJI themselves also put out a great selection of add-ons and replacement parts.
The base DJI Mavic Mini for $399 includes:
- Remote control
- One pair of spare propellers
- Micro USB cable
- Gimbal cover
- Micro USB, USB Type-C and Lightning remote control cables
- Spare joysticks
- Six spare screws
The DJI Mavic Mini Fly More combo for $499 includes all of the above, plus:
- Two more batteries
- Battery charging hub that doubles as USB power pack
- Two more pairs of spare propellers
- Extra micro USB cable
- 360 degree propeller guard
- 18 watt USB charger
- Carrying bag
- Twelve more screws
We have more DJI Mavic Mini coverage inbound. We need to put the camera to the test, see how the drone stacks up against the Mavic Air and others, and more. Stay tuned for more coverage, but please share your thoughts on this new drone, will you be buying the Mavic Mini?
Before you leave, here’s are some more shots we took of the Mavic Mini, enjoy.