Four years ago, in September 2016, DJI released the Mavic Pro (now discontinued and outshined by the Mavic Air 2 and Mavic 2 Pro). I thought this was one of the coolest, most innovative travel accessories to have as a photographer that wanted to document memories and experiences. I saved up for a few months and knew that I needed to have this tool in my arsenal and that it would forever change the way I captured people and places. Fast-forward to 2020 and my trusty Mavic Pro (I call her Mavic Maven) is one of my most prized possessions and has been to several countries with me and has broadened my horizon of how to envision portraiture and landscape photography. In these last couple of years, DJI has been hard at work, solidifying their brand as a household name for drone products with releases that benefit a wide spectrum of artists and creators. The DJI Mini 2, their newest beginner drone model, has got to be one of the most powerful and purposeful products in their line of aerial photography and cinematography.
- 31 minute flight time
- 16 m/s (S Mode) Max Speed
- 3-axis Stabilization Gimbal
- 1/2.3” CMOS, Effective Pixels: 12 MP
- 4K: 3840×2160 @ 24/25/30fps Video
- JPEG/DNG (RAW)
- < 249 g Weight (~.5 lbs)
- Price – $449 – (Adorama | B&H | Amazon | DJI)
Ergonomics & Aesthetics
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Coming from the original Mavic Pro, there are definite user interface and usability changes that were made over the years and that means that DJI as a company is excellent at listening to feedback and implementing actual change. Although this controller is significantly bigger than the Mavic Pro remote, it feels lighter and has one of the best ergonomic designs. The two joysticks are detachable and have a storage option at the bottom of the controller and are extremely easy to twist off while still maintaining a secure position when tightened. The kit also comes with a mini USB-C and Mirco USB cable to attach your phone to the top of the controller but the best part is that it has a hidden compartment so you can never really lose it. Since these cables are so tiny I found this to be one of the smartest design elements because for the Mavic Pro I have to carry around an additional USB-C cable for my iPhone.
It has a sleek and comfortable grip which makes flying easy to operate and it feels the most similar to a game controller. While that may not be a huge plus to others, drone operation that mimics a vehicle-simulation video game and having a controller that feels similar to that makes it easier to get the hang of flying and use the joysticks, at least that’s how I felt when I first started flying.
Battery Life & Charging
What’s absolutely astonishing to me is that DJI managed to match the 31-minute battery life flight time to that of the Mavic 2 Pro. Just for comparison’s sake, my Mavic Pro has a 27-minute battery life and I noticed it immediately once I flew both drones back to back that even a couple of minutes makes a difference in terms of convenience. If you do intend to purchase the Mini 2 I highly recommend the Fly-More combo package which gives you 3 batteries and a portable and compact charger. DJI nailed this combo in terms of size and travel-ability because it fits into a tiny black carrying case that is likely smaller than your toiletries bag. They also made charging super convenient with USB-C cables for every chargeable product, which means fewer wires and misplacement.
Can’t Be Seen, Can’t Be Heard
I am used to spotting my clunky Mavic Pro in the skies and looking for the red and green lights to alert me of its location so flying the Mini 2 felt like an entirely different experience. I am the type of flier that needs to have all eyes on my drone because I have anxiety if it’s out of sight. It weighs a whopping 0.549 lbs… just wrap your mind around that number for a second. For context, the new iPhone 12 Pro Max weighs 0.5025. It’s lightweight does present some challenges when it comes to ‘serious’ footage capture:
- High Wind: I definitely experienced some drifting because there wasn’t much weight to hold it in place. This poses an issue for those that use the self-timer option, timelapse capture, or if you really just want still footage.
- Obstacle Endurance: I am not going to sit here and lie and tell you I’ve never crashed my drone into a tree branch, it happens to the best of us, but I did feel extra cautious flying the Mini 2 close to objects for 2 reasons: it lacks obstacle avoidance and its weight doesn’t have the level of strength to endure a heavy hit.
About a year or so after release, the Mavic Pro came out with ‘noise reduction’ propellers that made a significant difference in the noise pollution of the drone. I feel as though DJI learned from that experience and implemented that characteristic into this design to ensure that the Mini 2 lived up to its name of quite literally flying under the radar without being seen or heard. I didn’t run into any issues of losing it since DJI has a return-to-home function set up when the battery runs low, but I definitely had trouble hearing and spotting it once it reached a certain altitude.
Footage Quality & Camera Capabilities
Reminding ourselves who this product was intended for is key prior to discussing the image quality of the Mini 2. For starters, the only two options available for shooting photos are JPEG or JPEG + RAW. While it is great to have the RAW capture functionality (since the Spark didn’t have that) it’s a bit annoying to go through your camera roll, find the RAW version of the file, and quickly edit it in Lightroom Mobile. With a 12MP camera and 1/2.3” CMOS, this is the equivalent of the Mavic Pro (the first release of the Mavic Series). You can see in the image comparison above, there isn’t too much of a quality difference. Now, if you want to compare that to the 20MP Hasselblad Mavic 2 Pro, it’s a whole different story.
In my eyes, this is DJI’s replacement for the Spark. It has the same innovative QuickShot modes, similar in size, perfect for the beginner market, and user intuitive. Having 4K 30fps is great for beginners that use their phone to edit quick videos for social media without having to transfer the Micro SD to a computer and edit a full-blown feature film. The specs were made with the end-user in mind to balance their level of skill with decent quality footage output. If DJI is working towards becoming a one-stop-shop for content creators they already have the DJI Pocket 2 and now the Mini 2 that work seamlessly together to create bite-size (and byte-size) content for social media and YouTube content. I found it interesting that it lacked the ability to shoot in Portrait orientation considering that this drone would be great for the new emergence of vertical video on all social media platforms.
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Here is the only major flaw I see with the drone: it doesn’t grow with the user. If you see yourself eventually using a drone to create content, use it as a secondary camera for production or behind the scenes, etc., then invest in something that is going to grow as your skills grow. This drone isn’t for the professionals looking to make cinematic masterpieces, but it is for the amateurs that want to dip their toes in the drone photo/video world and see if it’s for them. The reason I bring up size is purely for the sake of considering the selection of drones that DJI has to offer and understand what fits your needs. Getting interesting compositions because of having the crutch of obstacle avoidance, being able to fly through mild weather conditions, getting higher quality footage with a Hasselblad L1D-20c Camera, having a 24-48 mm Optical Zoom Camera up in the sky… you don’t get any of that with a Mini 2. Instead, you get one of the most compact and undetectable drones to hit the market making it the most consumer-friendly and inexpensive product to capture quality aerial footage for beginner-level fliers.
[Related Reading: A Skeptics DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Review]
DJI Mini 2 Review: Conclusion
What originally was the Spark audience, has now turned into the Mini 2 audience. While the Spark provided tons of benefits to the end-user as an introductory drone with easy flight operation and compact travel capabilities, the Mini series just took it up a notch. I get asked a lot what kind of drone should a beginner buy because of the popularity of drone photos and videos from travel influencers and I think the answer has never been more clear. With such ease of maneuverability, low noise pollution, JPEG & RAW immediate phone upload, there isn’t much left to discuss as to why this drone is the new answer for travel photography enthusiasts. There are two types of consumers I see this working for specifically:
- The Content Creator: if you’re on the go creating photo and video tutorials, this is almost a no-brainer purchase. It would instantly level up your quality of content and make pretty much any video 10x more interesting. There is a reason why most movies and shows start off with cinematic establishing shots taken by drones or in helicopters.
- The Traveller That Likes to Make Memories: now that pretty much everyone has a smartphone camera available to them at all times, the ability to capture memories has never been so instant and effortless. Pairing your video footage from your iPhone with an instant drone video that downloads to your phone as soon as you capture it would be a great way for a family or group of friends to document a trip.
You can purchase the DJI Mini 2 for $449 or the Fly More Combo for $599.
DJI Mini 2 Sample Images