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In early May of this year, when DJI released the newest of the Mavic Mini Series, the Mavic Mini 3 Pro, I knew it was different. Not only does the design look completely different, but the camera and flight specs seemed almost too good to be true.
The first thing I noticed was the two all-seeing sensors mounted firmly on the front. This was just the beginning.
The new features and improvements you can see are almost overshadowed by the features you can’t. To list a few, new tri-obstacle sensing, longer flight times, and true vertical mode.
Most importantly, the low-light applications have made leaps and bounds ahead of the Mini 2.
The newer and larger camera sensor allows for more light, resulting in higher quality images and video.
The lower f/1.7 aperture lens, the ISO range, and the high wind resistance rating are all upgrades that make the Mini 3 Pro the best-performing low-light drone on the market.
You will not find a better drone for the size and price.
Keep reading to learn how to shoot best in low-light situations and why the Mini 3 Pro is the drone to do it.
Low Light Specific Upgrades #
All these upgrades are great, but how will they help me shoot better in low-light situations? Some specific upgrades help all aspects of flying shine from dusk to dawn.
The best low light specific upgrades:
- Sensor Size
- f/1.7 Aperture
- ISO Range
- Level 5 Wind Resistance** **
Sensor Size #
The Mini 3 Pro has a larger sensor size than its predecessors. This allows for higher quality photo and video as well as more total light captured.
Generally, the bigger the sensor size, the more expensive and better performing the camera.
This new and improved sensor is just one of the physical hardware upgrades that will help you in low light conditions.
The f/1.7 aperture of the Mini 3 Pro is an improvement over the Mini 2 and even better than some in the Mavic series.
Interestingly, the f/1.7 lens has the widest aperture of any lens in a DJI drone to date. This impressive f/1.7 means that the shutter is wide enough to allow more light for better lowlight applications.
This is a pretty incredible lens on a DSLR camera and even more surprising to find it in a drone. This makes for incredible flexibility, quality, and dynamic range when shooting in varying lighting conditions.
What is ISO? It is a standard for measuring light, or more specifically, your camera’s sensitivity to light.
A lower ISO value means less sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO means more sensitivity.
All cameras have an adjustable ISO, and drones are no exception. Adding too much ISO in a situation where it’s not needed can cause noise in both chroma (color) and luminance (brightness).
ISO needs to be used in moderation, the right amount at the right time, based on how much natural light is available, camera tolerance, sensor size, and length of exposure/frames when shooting video.
It is also important to consider what intended look you are going for in the end product. On the Mini 3 Pro, ISO can be set manually, or the camera can automatically select it based on light conditions and other factors.
The 100-6400 ISO range is very impressive from such a small, durable, and articulating flying camera. The Mini 3 Pro’s results when flying at night are pretty incredible. It doesn’t have much noise, even at a high ISO.
However, it is wise to keep in mind that raising the ISO will always introduce some noise and should be used in moderation, even when shooting in low light.
Wind Resistance #
The Mini 3 Pro has a level five wind resistance that can handle up to 19 to 24 mph. This is extremely high considering its size and weight.
This high wind tolerance will also make it handle smoother in lower winds.
This is a major advantage not only in everyday flight but really shines for low-light shooting when you may want to take long exposure shots to capture as much light as possible.
Although it is best to fly on calmer days, this also increases the days you can fly, and getting out there more often means better odds of getting the shots you are looking for.
Rules for shooting in low-light #
Let’s go over some important rules to help you shoot in low light.
Consider weather conditions & location #
Weather conditions are always important but all the more important at night. A windless night or at least low wind conditions is always going to be ideal for beautiful, clear, and low noise shots.
Many of the low-light techniques take longer shutter times. This requires staying extremely still while taking the shot.
On a moonless night, you will need to rely on your ISO settings and external light sources. It’s surprising how much light a full moon can provide during nighttime shooting.
Just as important is the location. Low light shooting can be difficult if there are trees, rocks, or other obstacles. Keep in mind the obstacle avoidance sensors may not always work perfectly if there is not enough ambient light.
If you are flying in or near a large city, there will be more than enough light to capture the streets, buildings, and other sights you want to shoot.
However, the moon phases will impact your shots if you are trying a night flight in a small town or away from a city.
Know your settings #
The Mini 3 Pro’s software is getting better all the time, thanks to firmware updates. The auto modes work great for beginners, for getting quick shots, or even when focusing on your flying in technical locations.
When shooting in low light and at night, it is crucial to know your settings, even if not shooting in manual mode. This is so you can know when you’re not getting the results you were aiming for and what went wrong.
Taking time to learn the ins and outs of IS0, aperture, and shutter speed for any camera will help your understanding and the overall quality of everything you do with your drone.
For a more detailed look at photography’s basics, see our article below.
» MORE: Drone Photography – Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started
Shoot in HDR #
HDR means high dynamic range photos, which can be achieved by capturing multiple photos of the same thing before the software blends them together to create the best possible result.
Luckily this can be achieved by using the Mini 3 Pro’s HDR settings, which are automatically applied when the situation calls for it.
Photo mode: In single shot mode, the Mini 3 Pro can recognize the scene and automatically enables HDR for better low light performance and a better dynamic range.
Video mode: When recording video at 30fps or lower, the Mini 3 Pro will automatically enable HDR.
Other epic features of the Mini 3 Pro #
The 249-gram drone is so packed with features and upgrades that it’s hard to believe it weighs in under 300g.
It is under the weight required to be registered in most countries. This means it can be flown without a license and registration.
» MORE: How to Get a Drone License
However, I do recommend getting a license or taking an accredited training course for anyone who flies a drone of any size to learn safe operation for both the pilot and everyone around them.
The tri-directional obstacle sensing (equipped with forward, backward, and downward dual-vision sensors) will steer you clear of trees, rocks, buildings, and just about anything else that may be in your flight path.
This, paired with a sure V.L.O.S. (visual line of sight) of the drone at all times, will keep you flying and avoid a crash.
The 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor features dual native ISO and supports the direct output of HDR footage. This has been upgraded and is larger than the Mini 2 sensor to allow more light and higher quality photo and video.
DJI has also added low-angle shots with more gimble movement for a new perspective.
True vertical shooting is maybe one of the biggest additions to allow portrait photos and video for easy uploading, editing, and shooting of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok optimized content.
This seems not only to be on trend with our mobile-facing future but ahead of the competition, with this being the first DJI drone to have it.
Lastly, the Mini 3 Pro has an extended flight time of up to 34 minutes and a new battery that offers up to 47 min. That’s a lot of air time.
» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Battery
Get out there and Fly! #
Most importantly, fly and fly again.
Practice makes perfect, and so if you don’t get the shots you were looking for, go again and try something different.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is an excellent drone with incredible low-light performance.
It has been tried and tested and improved upon with every new addition. It has a long list of hardware upgrades and an ever-growing amount of software updates.
This is a drone for beginners and seasoned pilots alike.
It has all the obstacle avoidance, wind resistance, and automatic shooting modes that a newbie could dream of while being versatile, fly anywhere, low-light beast that any professional should add to their roster.
I am on my way to buy one.