Is This $5,000 Drone Really Worth It?

Drones have become something of a staple in modern photography for a number of genres, with the financial barrier to entry now lower than ever. But, there are also high-end drones that cost a fair whack, so are they worth it?

I have written a few times about drones. When they first started to be a consumer piece of gear, I missed the boat. I knew I didn't have many applications for one and so it seemed like a poor investment for my business. Eventually, however, I had a few jobs that I could use one for and I was feeling a bit jaded, so I took a leap. It was a brilliant decision for me and it's still one of the most enjoyable brands of photography I can do.

Nevertheless, I could reasonably ask whether I made the right purchase. I bought the DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo and while I love it, it has a few limitations that I would have liked to have avoided. When it comes to video, there are occasions I wish it had a little more to it, but that wasn't much of a consideration when I bought my first drone. Now, there's the DJI Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo, which as its name suggests, is video-centric.

The catch is it's just shy of $5,000. However, you can shoot 4K video at 120 fps onto a 1TB SSD in Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec. Peter Lindgren has been using the Mavic 3 Cine since October and in this video, he discusses whether it is worth the investment.

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Biggest downside of this drone IMO is that it didn't come with the necessary classification applicable to European drone regulations, in all fairness no drone on the market has it as of yet (which is kind of weird considering that as from next year there will be no drones that will be able to fly outside of the A1/3 category) and maybe DJI will get classified retrospectively, but if I cannot be sure I will not sink 5k into something I may only be able to use for fun or as a paperweight as of January 1st 2023.
That aside, I am sure the footage is great and prores is awesome, but the raw pictures are horrendous if the digital compensation for vignetting is not applied - I feel they are actually cheating on customers on that end as when in stills mode the sensor is clearly too big for the lens and Lightroom will just apply an automatic crop. For now my Mavic 2 will work just fine, I also haver the zoom camera and can interchange them easily with a screwdriver and by attaching 2 ribbon cables,10 bit is also still better than all of my mirrorless and DSLR cameras, and quite frankly the footage in the video still has blown out highlights and was just not looking that good...

I believe DJI aims at a C1 certification (as they built it precisely to be shy of 900g). But nothing is certain, indeed. And for sure everyone will continue to fly their "old" drones next year onwards. Why would I stop using my perfectly working Mavic 2 Pro if it still work fine (accepting that it won't be legal) and still producing great images.

What kills me is all the regulations governments put on us when they themselves have so many issues that we as citizens know are more detrimental to our every day life.
Like using a drone in a national park, which we pay for the privilege on entering and using…don’t get me wrong using a drone in restricted areas like around an airport is understandable.

I am with you on that, it is mind boggling - I've got all the certificates I could here in Europe (A1/3, A2, STS01, STS02) still, 80% of the island I live on is under some sort of natural protection... now don't get me wrong, I am all for protecting nature, the thing is the only thing they seem to be interested in protecting nature of are Drones! Anyone with a Quad or Motorbike, a Ghetto Blaster or whatever can go and enjoy trashing the place with little consequences... but drones? No!!! Most places are even deserted with little fauna or flora but still, no flying allowed. As ignorant as I was I thought that ones I'd be fully licensed I could just apply and I'd be granted a permit, but once I did the answer was no, they even sent me a pdf explaining that 'big productions' could indeed use those spaces (because you know, if you show up with a couple of hundred people, trucks, cranes, lights and other stuff you don't harm the en environment as much as if I fly my Mavic 2 out of my backpack... or maybe protecting the environment was never the point at all?) and all I got in return for getting all the licenses is that now I am registered and thanks to auroscope they can detect me from 5 km away and conveniently sends me a fine per email, without ever even seeing me, meanwhile any tourist from anywhere outside the country brings his or her drone and flies it where the f. he pleases, so frustrating....

Totally agree. The way how drones are treated vs. vehicles is just mind boggling. Us drone operators must ensure 100% safety and keep distances or not fly at all. While at the same time we allow noisy and polluting 3.5t or 40t vehicles driving around, actually killing and injuring people daily. Yeah, sure the truck might be actually supplying your local supermarket and that is more important than you getting the footage. But still we do not apply the same level of scrutiny here.