Review: DJI’s New Mini 2 May Be the Perfect Travel Drone
When the first foldable drones were introduced, such as the Parrot’s Anafi and DJI’s original Mavic Pro, they marked a major breakthrough in portability. Those who didn’t need all the pro features could work with a drone that fit in a daypack, instead of carrying around a massive hard case such as with the Phantom. While DJI has shipped several drones that are even small, one of the most intriguing has been the DJI Mini ($449). At just over half a pound (249 grams), it’s so light that it falls below the FAA registration requirement. Now, registering a drone isn’t exactly hard or expensive, but that’s still pretty cool. However, the original Mini didn’t capture 4K video and had limited range and flight time. With the Mini 2, DJI has addressed all those shortcomings at a fairly affordable price point.
DJI Mini 2 By the Numbers
The most significant upgrade is the camera. The updated 12MP 1/2.3-inch format sensor is now capable of recording 4K/30 fps video with 100Mbps output. That’s incredibly beefy for a drone that fits in the palm of your hand. Drone communications have been upgraded to OcuSync 2.0, with a stated range of up to 10km. Of course, in the US, regulations require that you keep your drone in your sight, so 10km may just be aspirational. However, I think the upgraded connectivity is important for the Mini 2 to stay in good contact, as the relatively large remote seems to contain some of the processing power that larger drones might have on board. Raw image capture is supported, and DJI claims that it can provide a 2x lossless zoom using computational imaging.
The Mini 2 also touts an impressive 31-minute flight time. I’m hoping that my favorite flight planning app, Litchi, will add support for it, as half-an-hour is time to fly some fairly interesting routes. Support for the original mini is still in “beta” so unfortunately, it could be a while. (As an aside, since Litchi development seems to have slowed, if anyone knows of a good alternative for pre-planned waypoint routes that can be built using Google Earth, please let me know in the comments!) Of course, you do get DJI’s usual selection of pre-programmed maneuvers to play with. They include Dronie, Helix, Rocket, Circle, Boomerang under QuickShots, plus various panorama modes. For improved still image capture, Auto-Exposure Bracketing and Timed Shots are supported.
For those who don’t want to use a third-party app to process their images and video, DJI’s Fly app has some photo enhancement tools built-in, as well as a video clipping function. If you connect your drone over USB-C to your computer, video can be transferred at up to 20MB/second. For flying indoors, DJI recommends its optional 360-degree propeller guard.
Flying the DJI Mini 2
If you’ve flown any other DJI drone (or for that matter a similar drone such as Parrot’s Anafi) then flying the Mini 2 will be very familiar. It has all the essential controls, and they are clearly labeled. Some, like Return To Home, also appear on the app’s screen. The one thing missing compared with the Mavic and DJI’s larger drones is a screen on the remote. Over the years as DJI’s apps have improved and the video link to the drones has become more reliable, the screen has become less important. But as recently as last year, I had the app lock up on me and had to navigate my Mavic Pro back using only the remote. So, depending on the type of flying you do, that might become an issue.
The Mini 2 is a competent flier, reaching 22+ MPH even in standard mode, which fits with DJI’s claim that it can deal with winds up to 24 MPH. The Mini 2 is also small enough to fly indoors. DJI says the Mini 2 can hover in place indoors using visual positioning. I found that it did a good job of that in large areas, but in narrow areas like hallways it had a tendency to drift (maybe due to the way it was pushing air around), so I would have felt more comfortable if I’d had the propeller guards as a backup to my flying.
DJI Mini 2 Sample Videos
First up is a simple Orbit Quick Shot. I was pleased with how smooth the result was for such a small drone, but I also noticed later that even though I had the drone in 4K video mode, the Orbit was recorded in 1080p. So I’ve also added a 4K video clip (30fps) so that you can see the raw quality the drone is capable of. Unlike its bigger siblings, your post-processing options are somewhat constrained as it doesn’t support Log colorspaces.
Orbit Quickshot recorded in 1080p.
4K Sample Video.
DJI Pocket 2 If You Don’t Need to Fly
I’ve often referred to photo drones as tripods with wings. Of course, that ignores the most expensive part of the drones — their gimbal. Since DJI is known for a line of consumer and professional gimbals, it makes sense that it would split the difference between a gimbal and a drone with a stabilized action camera. We reviewed the company’s original Pocket when it came out, but if you’ve been holding off, the new Pocket 2 may be worth a look.
Like the original Pocket, it can operate with or without an attached smartphone. If you’re planning to always use it with a phone attached, you might be just as well off saving some money and purchasing DJI’s OM 4 foldable gimbal for your phone. But it’s fun to use by itself, as it becomes just about the smallest decent video camera available, as it basically disappears completely into your hand as you hold it. The Pocket 2 adds audio zoom and directional audio, as well as a replaceable cover on the bottom that allows it to be adapted to a tripod or selfie stick.
It Doesn’t Fly, So Why Do I Need to Activate It?
I have the same gripe about the Pocket that I do about DJI’s Osmo gimbals. They require you to link with an app and a DJI account to use them. I get why that is important for drones, but I’ve bought around 40 cameras and reviewed at least another hundred, along with a large number of accessories, and until recently they never required me to surrender personal information and link to an account simply to take photos. DJI doesn’t seem to have any plans to change, so if this bugs you, probably best to look for alternative products.
Price and Availability
The DJI Mini 2 can be ordered now for $449 including remote control and one battery, or in a Fly More Combo that includes three batteries, a charging hub, and a carrying case for $599. The Pocket 2 is available now for $349 or in a Creator Combo kit for $499.