A sub-250 quad that can be used by professionals. DJI Mini 4 Pro
This morning DJI released its latest sub-250 drone that we’ve seen leak over the last few weeks. Has the hype lived up after flying it for the past week? Are the changes worth upgrading from the Mini 3 Pro that came out less than a year and a half ago? Here’s our full review of the DJI Mini 4 Pro.
A drone as a big boy
When DJI released the Mini 3 Pro, DroneDJ‘s publisher, Seth Weintraub, wrote his review for 9to5Mac with the headline: 249g pocket drone plays with the big boys. While the Mini 3 Pro attempted to bridge the gap between the beginner and professional drones DJI offers, it didn’t quite reach. I’m happy to say that the Mini 4 Pro has officially closed whatever gap was left.
The Mini 3 Pro’s release was packed full of amazing design changes and innovative additions. DJI has opted to stick with that popular design but build upon where the 3 fell short. Most importantly with obstacle avoidance and recording codecs. However, DJI also snuck in another first for one of its drones we’ll talk about later.
360 Obstacle Avoidance: The blinders are now removed
By the far the biggest downfall of the Mini 3 Pro was its “Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing” that I would describe as “better than nothing.” While it provided great peace of mind that you won’t smack into a tree when flying backwards, anything to the right or left of the drone was poised to ruin your day if you weren’t careful.
One of the first things I did with my Mini 4 Pro when it arrived was flying it right into a tree. No seriously, how else can you test it other than running around a bunch of trees? Turns out it performed perfectly, missing the branches, leaves, and picnic table.
DJI’s only redesign of the Mini 4 Pro’s outside allowed for an upgraded 360 degree obstacle avoidance system and might I say it works pretty well. Not just handling avoiding any collisions but also giving us a more robust ActiveTrack feature.
Called ActiveTrack 360 versus full on ActiveTrack 4 or 5, it’s leaps and bounds better than what the Mini 3 Pro had and works like a charm. I’ll say it right here, if you’re someone that travels and uses ActiveTrack a lot, the Mini 4 Pro is the drone for you.
O4: A truly mini Air 3
The second upgrade the Mini series is getting is the new O4 transmission system announced with the Air 3. Because of this, the Mini 4 Pro will ship with the RC 2 or RC-N2 that supports the new system and provides a rock solid, clear transmission feed. I only had hiccups in the feed once while flying and I’m pretty sure I was near some power lines and keep in mind I’ve been using pre-release software.
Overall however, this drone has felt like flying a much smaller version of the Air 3. From a lot of the same specs to O4, all it’s missing is the 3x camera and extra speed. It’s a little less stable in higher winds due to weight but it is really similar to it.
D-Log M: All DJI drones in line on consistence color grading
One of the biggest changes in my opinion has been the addition of D-Log M to the list of available codecs for video recording. While before we had 8-bit D-Cinelike, a full 10-bit color option brings the Mini line on par with the other drones.
This is one of those features that is truly for the professionals and not your average pilot. But if you’re someone that might have more than one drone working on a project, you’ll be happy to know all of DJI’s series will now record in the same codec.
A pain in my opinion to color grade but I know a lot of you out there want this added and I’ve been recording in it for anything that might be shared to you in future videos. However, the new HLG format that came to the Mini 4 Pro would be a great option for anyone wanting more out of their video while still preserving the colors.
Accessories: Frustrating ND and wide angle change
Now we’ll get into some of the negative sides of the review I have to talk about.
Like previous drones before it, the Mini 4 Pro comes with ND and wide angle lens attachment. The ND filter set comes in rather useful ND16, ND64, and ND256. While not exactly tailored to my use cases, that 256 will come in handy for anyone shooting timelapses.
So what’s wrong with this? Well while almost the entire drone is the same as the Mini 3 design, DJI changed the mounting system on the Mini 4 Pro for these lens attachments. Meaning you will need all new NDs even though they are most likely the same.
This is most likely due to DJI’s push to reduce as much weight as possible. The new hooks for mounting were moved to take advantage of the Mini 4’s camera bump. Maybe saving a gram or two of material at best?
One piece of good news, however, is that Mini 3 batteries are interchangeable between the two drones. Sharing the amazing 30-40 minutes flight time, which I got pretty close to with my flights.
Same old camera now very widely in use
Okay, let’s talk about this camera and the camera specs that are new with the Mini 4 Pro. While the overall camera is the same that was released with the Mini 3, 1/1.3, 24 mm, 2.4μm pixels, and 4K 60, it does have some changes, like the addition of 4K 100 slow motion.
The most important one is the addition of dual native ISO. A first for DJI to have on one of its drones and in practice it should help you take better photos. Now I’m not gonna explain how this technology works, this review is long enough, but the jist is less noise at certain ISO ranges.
In practice, it will be really hard to see those improvements unless you know what you’re looking for and to be honest, I don’t think I know what I’m looking for. So overall the camera is the exact same but added support for some new video formats. The DNGs that come out of this drone are also great and editing them into some great photos has been a treat.
Final verdict: Is the Mini 4 Pro worth it?
I think if you’re using the Mini 3 Pro right now for any sort of professional video work, then yes this is worth the upgrade. If you’re big into traveling and using ActiveTrack to capture your adventures, then also yes you should upgrade to the Mini 4 Pro.
However, if you’re just a hobbyiest that doesn’t take advantage of the new video formats, ActiveTrack, or the obstacle avoidance, then the Mini 3 Pro will continue to serve you just fine.
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