DJI Mini SE: The Gateway Drone

Dunwich Sea and Sand Abstract from Air

I had been toying with the idea of getting a drone for the last 18 months or so. Having flown a DJI Phantom 3 in the past, I never felt a particuarly confident flyer, though I think this drone had a few underlying issues as it never felt reliable in terms of software.
Needles to say, because of this experience, I wasn’t looking to spend huge amounts on something that I wouldn’t end up using much, or even find myself getting into.

Enter the DJI Mini SE. The Mini SE is an entry level option from DJI, offering something lightweight and affordable which slots someplace between the Mavic Mini and the Mini2. It is, in my opinion, being DJI, one of best drones that you can get for beginners. It has the usual safety features such as a return to home function, distance limiters etc. and there is also a useful tutorial mode to assist you in your first flight. I decided to hop onto Wex and hit the order button! I was pretty excited for it to arrive, and upon getting it out of the box, couldn’t believe how small it was, especially compared to the Phantom 3 that I’d flown before.
After obtaining my flyer ID and pilot ID from the CAA, I was ready to fly!

Aerial Image across Aldeburgh Beach

The drone was straightforward to set up. Downloading the DJI Fly App to my iPhone and plugging this in to the controller, I turned everything on, connected to the drone, did the updates, and I was ready to fly.

I was naturally cautious on my first flight, so took the drone to a wide open area. Doing this allowed me to get used to the handling and flying. Legally, in the UK, you can only fly at a maximum of 120m. I took things very slowly, going nowhere near this height, and progressed as I went along. A fully charged battery allows for roughly 25-30 minutes of flight time, so it’s definitely worth considering a spare battery or two if you want some good time out with the drone.

Shingle Street Abstract from Air
Aerial Image Across the River Deben
Remains of Iona Boat Wreck at Slaughden from Air

Truthfully, I found the drone very comfortable to fly, and confidence soon came the more that I used it. Even those experienced with drones can find themselves in tricky situations. This was another advantage with the lower cost. As a first time flyer, you wouldn’t have lost out on hundreds of pounds in the event of the worst happening.

Despite all the caution and uncertainty I had in considering a drone, I have to say that I love it! It’s been so enjoyable getting out with the DJI Mini SE. It’s held up surprisingly well on windier days too. The wind resistance for this drone, along with the Mini2, comes in at level 5 which is around 19 to 24 mph.

Aerial Image of Felixstowe Ferry

The downsides come in that the SE uses enhanced wi-fi as a connection instead of DJI’s OcuSync technology. I didn’t find this a huge issue as I have been out in open spaces and wasn’t flying out far, and legally, the drone should be in your line of sight at all times anyway. However, I did find on several occasions that I recieved signal interference, along with some patchy connection issues. The app notifies you of all this, so I played safe rather than push things, however, it can bring that nervy feeling back to the table. Whereas OcuSync delivers a more refined and pleasurable experience in comparison, being more reliable, and providing a significantly increased range.

The DJI Mini SE also falls short when it comes to video and photo capabilities. Don’t get me wrong, I think the output from this drone for the price is fantastic, but being JPEG only, the amount that you can push your images is quite limited. I found using exposure compensation in the DJI Fly App really useful to pull back on blowing out highlights. By turning on an exposure highlight warning in the app, you can see the effect of this as you go.
Video wise, the SE shoots at 1080P and 2.7k. Both are more than good enough for social media and YouTube, but again, it doesn’t give you the flexibility of 4k as seen on the Mini2. I’ve not shot a huge amount of video at present, but what I have shot, using the Cine option in particular, has looked really clean and smooth on the big screen.

Aerial Image of Covehithe Coastline

Either way, if this is your first step into capturing imagery or video with drones, then you won’t be disappointed. The DJI Mini SE offers you more than enough to begin with, and I’ve been really pleased with it so far.

I’m definitely looking to shoot more video down the line, and having bought a couple of spare batteries, I’m ready to have some good fly time.

Felixstowe Ferry Aerial Image from Boat Yard
Aerial Image from Slaughden Martello Tower

All images shot with a DJI Mini SE.

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