DJI Mini 2 review: the best drone under $500

When the first Mavic Mini was released, it was clearly made for one purpose. It’s about making a drone with a suitable camera that weighs less than 250g. That number is still a key specification because FAA registration is not required.

The new DJI Mini 2 achieves the same target under 250g, but with less compromise than the first Mini. The original DJI Mini 2, primarily aimed at those who are thinking of taking their first steps into the world of drones, aims to satisfy not only beginners, but also experienced drone pilots, photographers, and videographers.

As someone who spends a lot of my spare time taking pictures with my camera across the city, I usually carry more gear than I need. Determining if it’s worth taking a drone can be a daunting task. In that case, I usually hold the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It’s still a highly portable drone, but with 2 extra batteries and 1 controller together it makes it a bit difficult to carry for hours.

This is where the $450 DJI Mini 2 comes in. It is light. It’s actually very small. And obviously it has a worse camera than DJI’s bigger drone, but it’s still a very good camera. Initially, I underestimated the Mini 2, but soon noticed a number of small improvements that could make this new $449 drone the perfect package for content creators on the go.

Ryan Loughlin’s photo

DJI Mini 2 flight

The DJI Mini 2 is the same size and weight as its predecessor, so there is no need to register with the FAA. And under the newly updated drone law, drones under 250g will not broadcast the pilot and the location of the drone.

The Mini 2 comes with a new, larger controller. It’s the same controller that was introduced with the Mavic Air 2. The phone is now on top of the controller and it is much easier to use. Unlike before, you don’t have to worry if your phone has a case.

In addition to the improved camera, the most notable new addition to the DJI Mini 2 is Ocusync. Compared to the original Mini’s traditional Wi-Fi connection, it provides a solid and reliable link. Ocusync works on radio frequencies and has already proven its worth in other DJI drones. It has low latency, can send 1080p or 720p video previews to your phone, and can provide nonsense coverage under ideal conditions. It is the biggest upgrade between the original Mavic Mini and Mini 2 and makes flying this drone much easier and more enjoyable.

Another factor that makes flying more enjoyable is a stronger motor. This allows drones to withstand strong winds on par with more powerful DJI drones like the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. During testing, I never worried about losing control. Also, small drones are a lot more fun to fly and aren’t really too loud. Smaller drones tend to make very high-pitched noises, but on the Mini 2 they don’t make any noise until they fly in fast sport mode.

What you can’t find on this drone is an obstacle avoidance sensor, so you need to be very careful about how you fly. But despite the lack of sensors, the Mini was actually more adventurous. The size is so small that it can be easily crimped even in tight spaces. I tried something I wouldn’t normally try with a heavier and more expensive drone. The downside of not having a sensor is that you can’t find many pre-programmed automated flight modes. The autonomous active track mode isn’t here, nor can you create hyperlabs.

To fly the Mini 2, you need to use DJI’s Fly app. It’s basically a stripped version of the DJI Fly 4 app for advanced drones. It contains all the essential features you need, including gimbal calibration, which I pointed out because I had to use it more than once. If you don’t calibrate every few flights, the horizon will look slanted.

Also, this is trivial, but thank you very much. The app doesn’t automatically pause music or podcasts, so you can keep listening to the jam while flying. I don’t know why not in other apps, but it’s been so annoying right now and I’m glad DJI has solved this problem.

I’m also an avid fan of charging hubs, which can be purchased separately for an extra $39. You can install up to 3 batteries, and charge them one by one, starting with the one with the least battery consumption.

I usually shoot using about 3 batteries per day when hiking or traveling on the Mavic 2 Pro. And since I can’t find a wall outlet to charge my battery and there is a possibility that I don’t even have an optional car charger for $80, I plan my flight carefully to try to make the most of all my batteries. The charging hub that was originally available on the Mavic Mini also has a USB-C port. This means you can easily power it with an external battery pack in your backpack and charge your drone’s battery when moving from one location to another.

Pictures of DJI Mini 2

The camera still has the same 1/2.3-inch 12MP sensor as the original Mini, but it produces much nicer photos than before. The JPGs you get right from your drone are fantastic and can be “enhanced” within the DJI app. It applies some subtle adjustments to the overall contrast of the image, removes shadows, and adds a bit of aliveness to the overall color. Thank you for how subtle and effective these adjustments are.

The photo on the left is a “normal” photo with no adjustments and the photo on the right shows “enhanced” editing in the DJI Fly app.

Photos look sharp and retain a good level of detail and contrast up to 1600 ISO. Above that, things start to crumble a little. The image looks blurry and the clarity and color disappear. Anyway, I rarely shoot beyond that number and I think everything up to ISO 800 actually looks very good. Noise handling has been improved on all DJI drones, and the Mini 2 is no exception.

Most drone pilots try to capture stunning scenery or cityscapes with a clean, powerful and vivid look. And the downside of the smaller sensor is that it makes the noise more pronounced. Another advantage of a more powerful motor is that the drone is more stable in the air, so you can get better results by slowing down the shutter speed and lowering the ISO.

One thing to keep in mind is where you want your photos to appear, and the format and size. Personally, I probably wouldn’t make a big print with most of my photos, but I would post almost all of them on the Instagram grid. If you still don’t like the JPG, you can edit the RAW files individually to see how far you can post them.

But over the past few weeks, I’ve been using the Mini 2 and haven’t bothered a lot about post-processing RAWs a lot. I’m generally very happy with what I get directly from the drone, and I can apply minor edits myself if needed.

It’s also part of the reason why this is the perfect drone for almost everyone. In general, when I pull out the Mavic 2 Pro, I worry about the ND filter, polarizer and try to keep the aperture in the sharpest f / 5,6-f / 8 range. But with the Mini 2, my approach completely changes. It’s almost like switching from a fully manual SLR to a point-and-shoot camera. I basically don’t value too much about the technical side of things, leave everything automatically and believe that everything I get will actually be pretty good. It’s a great change to the overall approach you didn’t expect when you started the review.

Videos about DJI Mini 2

The sensor hasn’t changed, but you can now shoot 4K video at a 100 Mbps bit rate of up to 30 fps compared to the 2.7K at 60 Mbps that was on the original Mavic Mini.

The image looks amazingly great on a sensor of this size. Daylight footage looks sharp across the board and doesn’t appear to be overly colored. We have enough information to do some minor color edits in post production if you wish, but most people will be happy with the video straight from the camera. Unfortunately, I can’t find a color profile like a dedicated movie. This allows you to have a little more control over the color process and expand the dynamic range. For someone like me who likes to manipulate colors in editing, this is a big downside.

DJI has a decent record of providing useful software updates to its products. The first Mavic Mini received a massive upgrade last year that enabled features like cinelike profiles and added the ability to take RAW photos in addition to JPG. We hope that DJI will continue to add more features to this drone, but as always, you shouldn’t buy hardware today based on the hope of future software updates.

Similar to what I said about the photo, smaller sensors show their limits at higher ISO numbers, but this won’t discourage you. Even in low light, the picture still looks good. The blacks and shadows are well maintained, and the whole image still looks rich. There is noticeable noise in the shadows, but my advice is to lean on those shadows and make it darker, which removes a lot of noise.

Another drawback to this camera is the lack of support for ND filters. I’ve seen some third-party options online, but the camera isn’t designed for this. Rarely, the very fast shutter speeds made some video clips look choppy, but in most cases it was surprisingly tolerable. The lack of an ND filter tells more to the person DJI has in mind as a potential consumer. Most people don’t suffer from the hassle of learning and using ND filters, but I hope it’s an option for a few who spend more time in the filming process.

Finally, this drone has a 2x zoom. DJI calls it lossless, but it’s a bit generous. It looks fine on a small screen, but once you start editing your footage, you’ll immediately notice the shortcomings. The pixels become larger and the footage becomes less sharp. It’s no different from cropping the original footage. It’s a nice little bonus feature that can work with a pinch, but you won’t rely too much on it.

The Mini 2 isn’t DJI’s most flashy drone. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. Prove how many flagship drone features I don’t really miss when I’m gone. The Mini 2 always starts with a stable and reliable connection, more than a decent camera, and a great software experience, some of the best features in a small package that DJI can offer. These drones have an almost perfect balance between price, mobility and image quality.

But as a creator, image quality really matters to me. As much as we praise the improvements here, we need to be aware of the limitations of the smaller sensor with respect to noise-to-pixel density ratio, low-light performance, and dynamic range. For 90% of the time, this drone was good for the job I needed, but there were times when I wanted to have a slightly better camera with a higher megapixel count, a larger sensor, or a wider dynamic range.

All of these image quality specifications are important, but the size of the DJI Mini 2 is also important. It is a drone that does not hesitate to throw it into a camera bag. The old saying that the best cameras are the ones you have is just as true when you attach that camera to a drone.

6:32 PM Eastern Standard Time: Updated to include tweets from DJI that dispute the characteristics of the Trump administration.

Photo from Vjeran Pavic / The Verge


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