The DJI Mavic Mini last year might have been the smallest and lightest full-featured drone on the market, but it was a bit compromised outside the gate as well. Today, some of its shortcomings are solved by the DJI Mini 2 palm-sized drone, so don’t call it a Mavic anymore.
DJI, in the second half of 2020, did not ease up on the new product launches. The OM 4 phone stabilizer, followed by two additional camera stabilizers, the RS 2 and RSC 2, and the Pocket 2 palm-size 4 K vlogging cam in October, was launched at the end of August. Now, they are adding a drone, the DJI Mini 2, to the list.
Although the new $449 DJI Mini 2 palm-sized drone can look similar to the original, even weighing the same 249 grams (meaning you don’t need to register it with the FAA), it now comes with up to 2.5 times the wireless range and more reliable communication with DJI’s OcuSync 2 wireless connectivity. The original was unique for relying on relatively shaky Wi-Fi among DJI drones, which was undoubtedly a dealbreaker for me.
It uses the same controller as the latest Mavic Air 2, but you will not get the advanced obstacle avoidance and tracking of that drone, of course, because it has far fewer sensors.
Flying for an additional minute, however, is not a significant reason to upgrade. The upgraded camera, which now records video in 4K at 30 frames per second at a bit rate of 100 megabits per second, is the essential new feature that will matter most. From the 2.7K-resolution video at 40Mbps captured by the Mavic Mini, this is a substantial improvement in image quality. 4 K recording also gives access to a 2x digital zoom that looks decent. When shooting in full HD, there’s also a 4x optical zoom, but the results are not great.
DJI also reports the Mini’s flight engines have been modified for quicker acceleration and a top speed of 35.8 mph (up from 29 mph) and quotes an additional minute (31 minutes, vs. 30 minutes) of battery life. Compared to 18 mph previously, it can also handle 24 mph gusts of wind.
It is important to note that the current Mavic Mini had a helpful mid-cycle software update that introduced manual exposure, manual white balance, and a 24 fps mode that was more cinematic. It could be worth checking out if you can find it at a deep discount now that its successor is here.
The DJI Mini 2 palm-sized drone captures 12-megapixel shots for portraits, and you can now even grab JPEGs and Adobe DNG raw files. The tiny 1/2.3-inch sensor didn’t offer you much space for improvements, but if you want to save shadows or highlight information, it gives you some room, which is good. You also get a bracketing mode for three-photo exposure and three panorama options.
The DJI Mini 2 is also fitted with the same Air 2 type controller. (Another good update for future-proofing: all the connectors are now USB-C — on the drone, controller, and battery charger.) The Mavic Min’s controller was smaller, but it also kept the camera below the controls awkwardly, so you still looked down and moved your hands down to adjust the settings on your monitor. The newer controller places your phone at the top, and even with a case on your computer, the mount is easier to use, and it’s still small. The holder slides down to the top, and sticks can be removed and stashed for travel at the controller’s bottom.
The main new features are the upgraded camera and expanded video transmission range. With better engines, this and the extra minute of flight time were made possible, which also helped it travel in winds up to 24 miles per hour.
For users who want to capture and share, there is one other great option. You can now attach your smartphone to the drone directly and transfer at a rapid 20 megabytes per second directly to your computer. That means you can land and move it on the spot if you take full advantage of one of the automated QuickShot solutions for a drone.
For the retail price of $449, the essential bundle for the DJI Mini 2 contains the drone, a battery, and the controller. There is also a $599 Travel More Combo that consists of three batteries, a charging base, a carrying case, a drone, and a joystick. So, if you decided to pick up the $399 Mavic Mini Fly More pack recently during Amazon’s Prime Day sale.
One thing worth noting is that there are no sensors on here for obstacle avoidance, unlike DJI’s higher-end drones. Although the size, price, and smooth performance of the Mini 2 make it suitable for those who start, to keep you out of trouble, you won’t have that extra safety net. However, it’s not always a bad thing because it means that you’re going to have to practice to get a sense of how it flies. Overall, for those getting started with aerial pictures and video, it’s an excellent experience.