The $399 Mavic Mini lives in a sweet spot of core features and a low price. It packs everything critical to be a quality drone. It has a good camera, good range and a good controller. It holds up well in the wind and is quick enough to be fun. And it's so small that you're more likely to throw it in your bag and take it on Instagram adventures.
The small size is the Mavic Mini's main selling point. It weighs 249 grams, and that odd number isn't an accident. Drones that weight 250 grams and above have to be registered to fly. And yet, even though the Mavic Mini is lightweight and foldable, it's packed with core features: 30-minute flight time, 4 km HD video transmission, three-axis gimbal holding a 2.7K camera and a physical controller that works with Android and iOS devices. At $399, it's a lot of drone for the money even though it's missing features found in DJI's other drones.
There are more expensive drones packed with a lot of features. I own most of those drones. They're fun, but several years ago, feature creep started sneaking into DJI's products. Now, with a convoluted product line, a spreadsheet is needed to decipher DJI's drones. Most come loaded with countless features owners will likely never use. The Mavic Mini is something different. It's basic, and I dig it.
Here's what's missing: collision detection, ultra-long-range connection, 4K camera, gesture control and advanced camera features like trackable follow, panoramic, time lapse and optical zoom.
The Mavic Mini is quick enough to be fun, but it won't win any races. It's responsive and fast enough. Light and easy. Compared to a Mavic 2, it feels smaller and less powerful — because it is — and yet it never feels too small or underpowered. The Mavic Mini is well-balanced, and owners should find it enjoyable to fly.
Despite its tiny size, the Mavic Mini holds up well in high wind. I took it up to 200m on a windy fall day in the Midwest. The wind was clearing leaves off the trees, and I was bundled up in hat and gloves. It was gusty. The Mavic Mini didn't care. It took off like a drone much larger and stood tall against the wind. What's more, the video didn't suffer. The gimbal held the camera steady as it recorded the autumn landscape.
The drone uses DJI's new app, and I'm using a beta version to test the drone. Called DJI Fly, it's a streamlined version of DJI Go and packs several enhancements. Safe fly zones are better integrated into the app and have an additional level of detail over the older app. DJI also offers better built-in support for its social community app, SkyPixel. However, as this version is streamlined, it lacks a lot of information standard on the Go version, most notably, a mini-map in the bottom corner of the screen. I'm hoping DJI adds more features to this app after it launches.
The camera is good for the price. The pictures here were taken from the drone and not altered or adjusted. They were taken on cloudy and sunny days. The range is surprisingly good, as the drone can capture blue skies and dark highlights. Occasionally in direct sunlight, the camera colors become washed out.
They say the best camera is the one you have with you. That's where the Mavic Mini comes in. The best drone is the one you have with you. For years, I lugged around a massive Pelican case containing Phantom 2 and later a Phantom 3. I thought I was the coolest. At a moment's notice, I could go to my car's trunk and retrieve a suitcase containing a flying camera. A few minutes later, after my phone synced to the drone, and the controller joined the drone's network, I had 15 minutes of flight time. Then came the foldable Mavic, which fit alongside my camera gear like a large telephoto lens. Other drones came and went. I liked the GoPro Karma for a time.
The tiny Mavic Mini is a game-changer. It's small enough that I'll bring it everywhere. It's small and light enough that it feels like a large point and shoot in my computer bag.
Want more features and a better camera but keep the portable size? Earlier this year DJI announced the $919 foldable Mavic Air that has a 4K camera and five-mile video transmission.
The Mavic Mini gets everything right. It's small, comes with a lovely case, and in a $499 bundle, two extra batteries with a clever charging pack. The camera is surprisingly good though admittedly less powerful than DJI's more expensive drones. The Mavic Mini is the perfect drone for a first-timer or experienced drone enthusiast. DJI stuffs enough features into the 249 gram body to make this a fantastic drone for anyone.