Just when you thought your wallet was safe from a dangerously tempting new tech purchase, DJI casually releases a new teaser (opens in new tab) for what appears to be its next drone – and rumors suggest its ‘Explore Vivid’ event will see the arrival of a cheaper version of its flagship DJI Mavic 3.
The release of the so-called DJI Mavic 3 Classic is scheduled for November 2 at 9 am EDT / 1 pm GMT (which works as 12 pm AEDT on November 3). And the big clue that it could be a new Mavic is the camera lens in the teaser.
It looks identical to the Hasselblad camera on the DJI Mavic 3, just without its telephoto lens and branding. And that matches some recent photo leaks from WinFuture (opens in new tab)plus an earlier FCC filing that suggests a DJI Mavic 3 Classic is on the way to offer drone fans a more affordable way to own a flying Micro Four Thirds camera.
As a DJI Mini 3 Pro owner, this worries me. Not because my compact drone and a DJI Mavic 3 Classic would be direct rivals – the Mavic series is now DJI’s premium lineup, while the Mini series offers a taste of its power in a sub-250g package that fits neatly inside a small Camera Bag.
But if the Mavic 3 Classic comes in at a competitive price, it could rise to the top of our guide to the best drones. After arriving in somewhat rough and ready form when it launched almost exactly a year ago, a series of firmware updates saw the DJI Mavic 3 deliver on its initial promise as an air power with few peers.
Its 20MP Four Thirds camera is excellent and much larger than the 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor on my Mini 3 Pro. This means it handles noise very well at higher ISO settings, making it suitable for shooting in shady conditions (here in the UK, that’s our default climate). The Mavic 3’s camera also has an adjustable aperture, which lets you make exposure changes in the air.
Despite all this, I never considered the DJI Mavic 3 when it first landed, due to its high price tag. Its standard version costs $2,199 / £1,879 / AU$3,099, while at the time the Fly More Combo was $2,999 / £2,549 / AU$4,199 – more than the price of the full-frame Sony A7 IV. Not prohibitive for a professional aerial cameraman, but a little excessive for an amateur in a cost-of-living crisis.
It’s still unclear how much the DJI Mavic 3 Classic will cost, but rumors of names like drone XL (opens in new tab) suggested it could go for $1,400 (about £1,200 / AU$2,150) or even less. Considering the DJI Mini 3 Pro’s RC Smart Controller package – meaning you don’t need to use your phone to fly the drone – costs $909 / £859 / €829, which might give some drone buyers a break.
On the other hand, the reason the DJI Mavic 3 Classic is expected to hit that lower price point is because it probably won’t have one of its sibling’s more interesting features…
zoom and darkness
According to leaks from WinFuture (opens in new tab) , @DealsDrone (opens in new tab) and @JasperEllens (opens in new tab), the Mavic 3 Classic is likely to lack the telephoto camera seen on DJI’s current flagship. That means, as DJI’s invite suggests, it will only offer a single 20MP four-thirds CMOS sensor for both video and stills.
That’s not a disaster considering our DJI Mavic 3 review found the camera’s performance to be “nothing short of excellent”. But the Mavic 3’s 162mm telephoto zoom lens, while significantly inferior to the main camera, now lets you take raw photos. And this lens’ ability to compress its image, introducing a dramatic ‘parallax effect’ in the background, has created some of the most interesting drone videos I’ve seen this year.
Hello #Mavic3classic. Removing the Telelens made it 4 grams lighter. And thanks to my friend @rquandt for digging up these photos. pic.twitter.com/dMaTiB6yg2October 27, 2022
So while a DJI Mavic 3 Classic, if that’s really what DJI is announcing next week, would no doubt be an upgrade to my Mini 3 Pro, it might not be a game changer in terms of the types of aerial shots and videos it takes. I could record. But if you’re still deciding between a Mavic 3 and an Air 2S, it will certainly be worth waiting until next week to see what new vessels will be added to the DJI fleet.
Of course, there’s a chance that DJI’s release is for another product entirely, like a DJI Pocket 3 with a Four Thirds camera. This is another product I would love to see on the DJI lineup. But so far, we haven’t seen any leaks of a new Pocket, and all signs are pointing to a new drone.
What remains unclear is why DJI’s launch teaser carries the ‘Explore Vivid’ tagline. Could this be a reference to the Mavic 3’s versatile Hybrid Log Gamma update, which gave the drone an HDR format that is also compatible with most displays? Potentially, but thankfully, we have less than a week to find out what (certainly) DJI’s final release of the year is.