Just when you thought your wallet was safe from a dangerously tempting new tech purchase, DJI casually drops a new teaser for what appears to be its next drone –and the rumors suggest its ‘Explore Vivid’ event will see the arrival of a cheaper version of its flagship DJI Mavic 3.
The launch of the so-called DJI Mavic 3 Classic is scheduled for November 2 at 9am EDT / 1pm GMT (which works out as 12am AEDT on November 3). And the big clue that it could be a new Mavic is that camera lens in the teaser.
It looks identical to the Hasselblad camera on the DJI Mavic 3, only without its telephoto lens and branding. And this tallies with some recent leaks, plus an FCC filing, that suggest a DJI Mavic 3 Classic is en route to give drone fans a more affordable way to own a flying Micro Four Thirds camera.
As a DJI Mini 3 Pro owner, this concerns me. Not because my compact drone and a DJI Mavic 3 Classic would in any way be direct rivals – the Mavic series is now DJI’s premium range, while the Mini series offers a taste of its power in a sub-250g bundle that slots neatly inside a small camera bag.
But if the Mavic 3 Classic arrives for a competitive price, it could soar its way to the top of our guide to the best drones. After arriving in slightly rough-and-ready form when it launched almost exactly a year ago, a series of firmware updates have seen the DJI Mavic 3 live up to its early promise as an aerial powerhouse with few peers.
Its 20MP Four Thirds camera is excellent and way bigger than the 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor in my Mini 3 Pro. That means it handles noise at higher ISO settings really well, making it deal for shooting in gloomy conditions (here in the UK, that’s our default weather). The Mavic 3’s camera also has an adjustable aperture, which handily lets you make exposure changes in mid-air.
Despite all of this, I never really considered the DJI Mavic 3 when it first landed, due to its hefty price tag. Its standard version costs US$2,199 / £1,879 / AU$3,099, while, at the time, the Fly More Combo went for US$2,999 / £2,549 / AU$4199 – more than the cost of the full-frame Sony A7 IV. Not prohibitive for a professional aerial videographer but a bit excessive for an amateur in a cost-of-living crisis.
It isn’t yet clear how much the DJI Mavic 3 Classic will cost, but rumors from the likes of DroneXL have suggested that it could land for $1,400 (around £1,200 / AU$2,150) or even less. Considering the DJI Mini 3 Pro’s RC Smart Controller bundle – which means you don’t need to use your phone to fly the drone – costs $909 / £859 / €829, that could give some drone buyers pause.
Then again, the reason why the DJI Mavic 3 Classic is expected to achieve that lower price tag is because it’s likely to lack one of its sibling’s most interesting features…
Zoom and gloom
According to leaks from the reliable @DealsDrone account on Twitter (below), the Mavic 3 Classic is likely to lack the telephoto camera seen on DJI’s current consumer flagship. That means that, as DJI’s invite suggests, it’ll only offer a single 20MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor for video and photos.
That’s no disaster considering our DJI Mavic 3 review found that camera’s performance to be “nothing short of excellent”. But the Mavic 3’s 162mm telephoto zoom lens, while being significantly inferior to the main camera, does now let you shoot raw photos. And this lens’ ability to compress your image, introducing a dramatic background ‘parallax effect’, has created some of the more interesting drone videos I’ve seen this year.
DJI Mavic 3 Classic pic.twitter.com/kEa5Xrgkc3September 3, 2022
So while a DJI Mavic 3 Classic, if that’s indeed what DJI’s announcing next week, would undoubtedly be an upgrade on my Mini 3 Pro, it might not be a game-changing one in terms of types of aerial photos and videos I could shoot. But if you’re still deciding between a Mavic 3 and an Air 2S, it’ll certainly be worth waiting until next week to see what new craft is added to DJI’s fleet.
Of course, there’s a chance that DJI’s launch is for another product entirely, like a DJI Pocket 3 with a Four Thirds camera. That’s another product I’d love to see in DJI’s lineup. But so far, we haven’t seen any leaks for a new Pocket, and all the signs are pointing towards a new drone.
What isn’t yet clear is why DJI’s launch teaser carries the tagline ‘Explore Vivid’. Could it be a reference to the Mavic 3’s versatile Hybrid Log Gamma update, which gave the drone an HDR format that’s also compatible with most displays? Potentially, but fortunately we have less than a week to find out in what is (surely) DJI’s final launch of the year.