Drones: They’re amazing, they’re fun and they’re hella expensive. Here’s a tip though: You can get cheaper drones if your budget is stretched. The only problem though is going that route is rife with compromise. Sometimes the camera has fewer pixels per square inch, other times the battery operates as if it was designed by Eskom and you might even wind up with a device more fragile than a dictator’s ego.
And then there’s DJI, who have somehow managed to buck all those pitfalls and create a device which is the very definition of bang for your buck. Called the Mavic Mini, this drone comes in a palm-sized package that packs in all of the tech that makes DJI’s bigger Mavic offerings so great and barely has any compromise thrown into the mix.
It’s the perfect middle ground between DJI’s vaunted Mavic Pro and the black sheep of the family, the Mavic Spark. Out of the box, you’re getting a drone which weighs a mere 249 grams with a battery and SD card inside of it. There’s a fantastic controller included as well, that makes full use of your smartphone to grab footage, adjust settings and see where you’re going. On the fly of course.
As for the camera itself, DJI has skipped the 4K option from larger models and instead fitted an f/2.8 35mm lens which can capture 2.7K video, a resolution which is more than capable of transmitting sharp and vibrant video to your peepers that looks especially good thanks to some incredible stabilisation across multiple axes. You’re also able to take 12-megapixel still images, which if done in the right setting and on a bright day, look appropriately fantastic.
My footage got stuffed up because I use cheap SD cards, so here’s a look at Al flying the drone:
Anyway, you might wonder how difficult it is to pilot one of these drones. Answer: It’s not. Once you’re familiar with the controls, have one through DJI’s flight school on your phone and you’ve got a fair amount of empty land to practice in, flying the Mavic Mini isn’t just a doddle it’s an absolute thrill. You’re able to grab some terrific range and height with the Mavic Mini, with DJI claiming that you can get up to 4km of distance and close to 500 meters of height. Not too shabby, although my proximity to an airport did limit me somewhat in fully testing this due to software sensing this.
It’s the app that makes the Mavic Mini so much fun to fly though, as you’re able to switch between various modes and formats to capture your video content, whereas the actual joysticks are reassuringly sturdy and stiff in their construction so you don’t have to worry about accidentally flicking them and then watching your new toy fly into the nearest tree.
There is room for improvement though, as the USB cable connecting smartphone with controller is a touch too short, while the cradle itself can create a bit of an arm wrestling match when it comes to placing your phone inside of it. For reference’s sake, I was using a Huawei P30 Pro and regularly struggled to get inside of the controller.
Battery-wise, you’re looking at a flying time of around 25 minutes on a full charge, although a more luxurious Mavic Mini package does include up to three batteries for you to charge in one go and carry around with you. In the air, the Mavic Mini is astonishing quick and nimble, able to take a corner with a degree of precision that defies logic and can hit the breaks at the drop of a hat in case of an emergency. This control does come with a caveat though, as the Mavic Mini has no collision detection to help prevent it from smashing into a wall, not that that ever happened to me when I was testing it.
ActiveTrack is also missing, a feature which would allow you to highlight a target and follow it around with other DJI drones, something which the Quickshot modes are a pure substitute for. That being said, these cuts from the Mavic fat aren’t dealbreakers and instead highlight just how good everything else about the package is.
So who is this drone for? At a starting price of around R6800 for the basic drone, battery and controller kit, that’s an entry point that many people will balk at. For the Fly More combo, you’re looking at R8700 for that attractive package which throws in extra batteries, a lovely carrying case and protective cages for your rotors. Make no mistake, the DJI Mavic Mini is a luxury item that serves more of a want than a need, but it’s still a hell of a fun toy and hobby to experience.
If you were ever curious about the drone life, it’s easy to recommend the Mavic Mini as the perfect piece of kit with which to learn the ropes before you decide to start dropping tens of thousands of Rands on more experienced technology. But by Jove, it’s impossible to not crack a smile while playing with this Drone. It is both fun and awe-inspiring, a package of delight that is easy to pick up and play with. It is intuitively easy to master and its footage makes for some terrific digital tours of your favourite getaway spots.
If ever there was a reason to embrace the hobby of drone piloting, the DJI Mavic Mini has that culture locked down tight.
Last Updated: March 11, 2020