DJI's Mini 2
DJI’s Mini 2. So as someone who spends a lot of his free time walking around the city with a camera, taking photos, usually carrying more gear than I really need, I always have to ask myself if it’s worth bringing the drone out with me, too. If that’s the case, that means I’ve grabbed one of these, the Mavic 2 Pro. It is not a big drone. It’s actually really portable, but when paired with two batteries and the controller, it does become a kind of a heavier package, and real talk, I’m getting to the point in my life where I need to take better care of my back. So this is where DJI’s Mini 2 comes in. It is light. It is tiny. And yeah, it obviously has a worse camera, but it’s still a very good camera. I underestimated it at first, but there are also a bunch of little improvements that make this new $449 Mini 2, a perfect package for a content creator on the go like myself. The original Mavic Mini, it was clearly made with one purpose, made a drone that has an adequate camera and it weighs under 250 grams so you don’t have to register with the FAA. It was mostly targeting people who were just thinking about that making initial step into the drone world. And the same idea applies to the Mini 2. It looks nearly identical except the upgrades this year will satisfy not only beginners, but also experienced drone pilots, photographers, and videographers.
The most notable new addition is the Ocusync 2, which provides a solid, reliable connection compared to the old extended wifi connection that it was using. Ocusync operates on radio frequencies, and it’s already proved its worth with all the other DJI drones. I think maybe Spark doesn’t have it? It’s low latency. It can transmit 1080p or 720p video previews to your phone. And in ideal conditions, it can provide ridiculous range of these drones, which you shouldn’t test. The camera still has that small 1 through 2.3 inch 12 megapixel sensor, but it produces way better photos than before. And maximum video resolution is 4k at a hundred megabits per second, up to 30 frames per second. Aside from the camera improvements, this drone also just flies better. The motors are stronger and it can now sustain high winds. at no point during my testing was I ever worried about losing control, but also at no point during my testing I had a crazy windy today. Also, smaller drones are just way more fun to fly. And it doesn’t actually sound that loud. However, the Mini does not have any obstacle avoiding sensors, so you do need to be very careful about how you fly it and where, but even without those actually felt more adventurous with the Mini. It is so small that you could easily squeeze it through tighter spaces. And I just kept trying things that I normally wouldn’t try with a heavier and more expensive drone. The lack of sensors also means you won’t find a lot of the automated pre-programmed flight modes, stuff like Active Track. And I can’t say I miss them. They are fun at first, but I rarely ever use them. One thing I do miss is Hyperlapse.
Okay, so let’s see about the photos and the video that you can get out of this camera. Again, it is the tiny sensor, a quarter of the size what you get on the one-inch Mavic 2 Pro and half of what you get on this year’s Mavic Air 2. So it is fair to be a bit skeptical, but in reality the camera produces some very nice results. They’re nothing revolutionary, but for this camera I was genuinely surprised. So when it comes to image noise, photos up to around 800 ISO, they look really good. They look sharp, they hold a good level of detail, and the contrast is right, up until 1600 ISO. That’s where it starts breaking down a bit. And you see some degradation. The image starts looking muddy. It loses a little bit of definition and color. You’ll rarely shoot past that number anyways. And I think that everything up to 800 actually looks really good. If you’re a drone pilot, chances are you want pretty landscape or cityscape.
So you want that clean, punchy, vibrant look. And noise can ruin that mystique. One thing you’ll need to consider, where do you want to show your photos? And in which format and size? Personally I probably wouldn’t print the majority of these photos, but I’d post almost all of them on Instagram or social media. Still, you can grab the RAW files. You can try to bring down the highlights, lift up the shadows, but you will reveal a lot of the noise in there. There’s enough information for a cleaner edit, but don’t expect anything drastic. So the next thing you need to look at is the dynamic range. And for the most part it’s holding up well. Some lighting situations were obviously more challenging, and you will start to see some of the limitations of the camera. This is a tough situation for any camera without a dedicated HDR mode, which you will not find here as well. But there is this enhanced photo mode. It is different from Mavic Air 2’s Smart Photo mode, which is based on AI and scene detection. What enhanced photo modes does is just applies minor edits to the photos in the app after the fact. And it actually looks great. There’s a little bit of added contrast, sharpness, vibrance. It pulls the highlights. It enhances the blacks without clipping them. It’s all super subtle and not too different from what I normally do when I start editing my photos. It’s also part of the reason why this is a perfect drone for almost everyone. Usually when I take out the Mavic 2 Pro I worry about ND filters, polarizers. I try to keep the aperture that sharp is 5.6, 8 range. But with the Mini 2 my approach changes entirely. I basically just leave everything on auto without being too precious about the technical side of things, knowing that everything I get will actually be quite good. It’s a nice change of pace, and to my overall approach, which I wasn’t expecting when I started my review. And since I already mentioned the app, it’s basically the simplified version of DJI Fly for app. DJI has way too many apps, but whatever. It has all the essential features, including the gimbal calibration, which I felt like I needed to use more than a few times. It seems like my horizon would just good skewed more than once. Also this is minor, but it’s something I really appreciated. It doesn’t auto pause your music or podcasts. So you can keep listening to your jams while flying. I don’t know why this isn’t the case with the other apps, but it’s been bothering me for so long. And I’m so glad DJI thought of it here.
At this point of the review, you’ve seen a bunch of examples of what the video capabilities of this drone are, and you probably formed your opinion. I think the footage looks great. I did add a little bit of a saturation in certain colors, overall some contrast, but for the most part, I didn’t touch it too much. Daylight footage looks amazing. Low light is a little bit of a different story, but if you kinda lean into the shadows and drop those down, you will hide some of the noise. Oh, one more thing. The Mini 2 also has a 2x zoom. DJI calls it lossless, but it’s just not that good. It’s a nice little bonus feature, which could work in a pinch, but I wouldn’t rely on it too much. Oh, and there’s no CineLight color profile, which usually gives you a little bit of more control over the coloring process and extends the dynamic range. DJI has an okay track record of bringing useful software updates to its products. Even the OG Mini received a massive upgrade last year, which enabled things like the CineLight profile and the ability to shoot RAW in addition to JPEGs. I do sure hope that DJI keeps adding more features to this one as well.
Okay, now that we’re past the technical part of the review, I wanna go back to my original point. Why this drone is the perfect choice for many users. And a lot of it has to do with this thing, the charging hub. Usually when I bring my drone hiking or traveling I rely on about three batteries per day of shooting. The only way to charge the Mavic 2 Pro batteries is either by finding a wall outlet or charging it in a car if you have a car charger. This hub, which isn’t anything new, by the way, it also has a USBC port, meaning you can easily charge it with an external battery pack, throw it in your backpack and have it charge as you move from one location to another. It is one of many small changes that make this drone a perfect package. Ocusync, weight, size, stronger motors. It strikes a near perfect balance between price, mobility, and image quality. But that last thing is really important to me. And as much as I praised the improvements in image quality, you still have to be aware of the limitations of smaller sensors when it comes to noise-to-pixel density ratio and stuff like that. 90% of the time, this drone was great for what I needed it to do, but their were times, like during the sunset, where I wish I had a better camera on me. Again, this drone still gets so many things, right, and is now finally capable of satisfying a large variety of drone pilots. As someone who initially ignored the Mini line, I’m actually really excited to see what’s next.
As you might’ve heard last December the former administration has placed DJI to its entity list, which potentially restricts trade with the U.S. DJI has been accused of providing drones for surveilling prison camps, and there are other security concerns. We originally held this video to see if there would be any new developments, but even with the new administration, we’re still in a waiting game. Unlike, Huawei, though, right now, you’re still able to buy DJI drones in the U.S.
Where To Buy
DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo – Ultralight Foldable Drone, 3-Axis Gimbal with 4K Camera, 12MP Photos, 31 Mins Flight Time, OcuSync 2.0 10km HD Video Transmission, QuickShots, Gray
March 24 2021