DJI Mini 3 unlikely to get same sensor as DJI’s best drone

DJI Mini 2
(Image credit: DJI)

A recent DJI Mini 3 leak spectacularly spilled the beans on the upcoming travel drone, and now fresh rumors have suggested that a second model could have a large, 1-inch sensor. But while the Mini 3 will bring a host of upgrades, a camera boost of that magnitude looks highly unlikely.

Speculation about an additional DJI Mini 3 model that would sit alongside the DJI Mini 3 Pro came from @Dealsdrone (opens in new tab) on Twitter. The post claimed that "rumors said there is another version of the Mini 3, its camera is a 1-inch CMOS", which would be the same size as the one in the DJI Air 2S.

It would be strange if the leaked DJI Mini 3 Pro was the only successor to the DJI Mini 2 – in that case, we'd expect it to simply be called the DJI Mini 3. But while it looks likely that we'll see two versions of the new compact drone, a 1-inch sensor would almost certainly be a step too far.

In a follow-up tweet (opens in new tab), @dealsdrone stated that the rumors of a 1-inch sensor had come from its source, rather than analysis of the unusual (and possibly broken) gimbal design in the recently leaked Mini 3 videos. However, the account, which has proven to be a reliable source of DJI leaks, did also say it "can't believe" the 1-inch sensor rumors, and there are good reasons to doubt it.

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Firstly, the DJI Mini 3 is probably too small to be compatible with a 1-inch sensor. A recent video leak revealed that the drone will weigh only 249g; and as noted by regular DJI leaker Jasper Ellens (opens in new tab), adding a camera module of that size to the front of the Mini 3 would make it too heavy and unbalanced.

Aside from the physics, there's also the question of model differentiation. The much larger DJI Air 2S arrived less than a year ago, and a DJI Mini 3 with a 1-inch sensor would make that drone virtually redundant. Lastly, the leaked video of the DJI Mini 3 Pro that we have seen shows a smaller camera module than would be required for a camera with a 1-inch sensor' – and if any model was going to get the larger sensor, it would surely be the 'Pro' version.

Still, despite the likely inclusion of a smaller sensor (recent rumors suggest a 1/1.3-inch CMOS chip), the DJI Mini 3 is expected to bring a host of upgrades that include obstacle avoidance sensors, a lens with a bright f/1.7 aperture, and a larger battery. Given the recent leaks, we're expecting it to land in the next few weeks.


Analysis: a mini Mavic Air 2, rather than an Air 2S

A hand holding a prototype of the DJI Mini 3 Pro

The leaked Mini 3 Pro video shows what appear to be front-facing obstacle avoidance sensors and a new gimbal design that supports vertical video. (Image credit: @DealsDrone)

It's difficult to make definitive statements about the DJI Mini 3's sensor, given that it's only appeared in one major leak so far – and the DJI Mavic 3 did surprise us last year by packing a Four Thirds sensor into a relatively compact, folding drone. But the chances of a Mini 3 with a 1-inch sensor do look very slim.

The sensor size confusion appears to have stemmed from the leaks of a 'Pro' version of DJI's incoming drone. This could mean one of two things: either DJI is planning to sell the Mini 3 Pro as a premium alternative to the current Mini 2, or it's also planning launch a standard Mini 3 model.

The latter looks the most likely, given that earlier leaks revealed that the Mini 3 Pro would come with a new RC controller with a built-in screen. We think this means the Mini 3 Pro might simply be a more premium bundle of a standard Mini 3, with both models sharing similar feature sets (including the same sensor).

This would effectively make the DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro the natural successors to the DJI Mavic Air 2, which has a half-inch sensor, and is currently either discounted or out of stock, depending on which region you're in.

The top model in our guide to the best drones, the DJI Air 2S, will likely remain DJI's top mid-range choice for anyone who wants a relatively compact drone with a 1-inch sensor. But with its new obstacle avoidance tech, battery and camera, the DJI Mini 3 series is certainly shaping up to be an exciting option for anyone who's in the market for a tiny flying camera.

Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.