Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by Photography PX
Released in the fall of 2020, DJI Mini 2 marks the successor to the original Mavic Mini released one year prior. The Mini series was the first to break the threshold by providing a takeoff weight below the 250-gram standard that mandates drone registration. And with this refresh, DJI’s addressed some significant requests from its users while still keeping that strict target in portability.
Table of Contents
The original Mavic Mini was feature-packed, easy to operate, and offered many high-end capabilities from its higher-end brothers. But, it did have some notable limitations that ultimately frustrated users, most notably poor connectivity and JPEG only photos. But, this release aims to fix that with fewer compromises and secure their dominance in this niche category.
And it does so by bringing 4K video, RAW capabilities, better flight dynamics, a redesigned controller, and much more. So much so, DJI now targets both beginners and experienced pilots alike. Even so, is it a worthwhile upgrade? And how does it compete against the similarly capable Parrot Anafi? It appears to be their least dramatic update yet, but undoubtedly their quickest. Was it premature? Let’s find out.
“Full-frame, pocket-friendly, but quite RAW.”
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the DJI Mavic Mini 2?
Build Quality & Design
The build and design are largely unchanged from its predecessor. And at first glance, you’d find it difficult to distinguish both models immediately. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing—the contrary. Instead, it maintains the compact foldable design that made this particular lineup class-leading. And weighing just 8.8 oz (249g), it’s about as much as an apple with the size of a normal hand. So it remains small and light enough to take anywhere. And this ultra-compact form is what makes this line special and the ideal traveler, given its outstanding convenience. Even so, the aircraft is remarkably sturdy and feels solidly designed, despite only weighing 150g without the battery installed. Nothing feels loose, unsecured, or cheap.
But DJI has made two primary design changes. Firstly, there’s a new USB Type-C port for charging, rather than its predecessor MicroUSB. And they’ve redesigned the propellers motors. Now, they’re more efficient, more aerodynamic, and less noisy. Much of the design revolves around making the aircraft faster in the air and more responsive, especially in windy conditions. And the refinements have dramatically improved its flight dynamics and handling.
Otherwise, it still offers the sleek grey finish with a foldable quadcopter design. And it keeps the exposed microSD card slot and USB port on the rear. Plus, it maintains the bottom vision positioning sensors rather than obstacle avoidance sensors like its bigger brothers. Even so, those sensors work great at detecting the surface below to avoid obstructions when landing. And DJI includes a set of replacement propellers, a gimbal protector, a USB-C cable, and various cables to connect the intelligent flight controller to a device.
It obtains the same 1/2.3-inch 12MP CMOS sensor as its predecessor. However, DJI’s opted for several notable changes this go-round. Firstly, they’ve added RAW (DNG) support, in addition to standard JPEGs. This change substantially improves the flexibility pilots have to post-process images. Secondly, they’ve bumped the maximum video resolution from 2.7K 30 FPS to 4K 30 FPS. And the data rate has also jumped from 40 Mbps to 100 Mbps. But it still uses H.264 compression to the MP4 format. Together, the camera now produces higher quality footage, with fewer artifacts, more detail, better colors, and greater latitude for post-processing. And it’s well-suited for ambitious video editors wanting to process the footage for more creative effects. But, the straight-out-of-camera results will please most pilots.
Otherwise, the drone features a 24mm equivalent F/2.8 lens with an 83º field of view. And the camera is mounted to a 3-axis mechanical gimbal with a ±0.01° accuracy to counteract aerial vibrations and movement. The still images are also improved, thanks to the DNG support. Images are clean, vibrant, and punchy. But they offer plenty of latitude to recover shadows, add contrast, and adjust the colors in post. And you can capture sharp and detailed images up to ISO 1,600 in most cases.
Overall, taken as a whole, the image quality this camera produces is excellent. The footage is smooth and stable, even at high winds exceeding 15 MPH. And the photos are excellent for a sensor of this size.
Outside of that, it features a 4x digital zoom, which is handy when framing a shot for post-processing.
It now features Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), which lets you capture HDR images by taking three sequential photos. But, you’ll have to combine the images in post-processing.
It now obtains standard panorama, and the 180º and 360º options. Here, the drone captures wide-angle or spherical panorama images in-camera.
It features a brand new LiPo flight battery that now offers a capacity of 2,250 mAh. It’s a modest downgrade in the general capacity. However, combined with the upgraded motors, DJI’s pushed the rated battery life to 31 minutes on a single flight. And this longevity now puts this otherwise entry-level drone against the best in the industry, namely their higher-end Air 2 and 2 Pro series. And it becomes one of the best drones in the market in this regard.
Also of note, you can charge the battery in-drone by connecting it via the USB-C port. And this is very convenient to recharge on-the-go.
DJI overhauled and revamped the controller with this model. Gone is the older generation flight controller seen on earlier models. Instead, it obtains the flight controller’s first debut with the Air 2, with an elegant grey finish, streamlined design, and solid, weighty feel. It’s larger, more secure, and less game-like. And gone is the rather plasticky controller it replaces.
This new controller holds your phone at the top with a firm spring-release grip holder. And it keeps the connection lead, be it USB-C, Lightning, or MicroUSB, securely tucked away under the grip when not in use. There’s a cavity there that houses the connector cable. Having the phone above the control stick is generally easier to view. So it’s a welcomed change. And it undoubtedly helps when using larger phones or ones with cases too.
Even more crucial though is the notably refined connection technology and more robust antennas the RC offers. Gone is the Wi-Fi connection standard of the previous model. Instead, this new RC debuts with Ocusync 2.0, DJI’s proprietary transmission technology. Ocusync uses radio frequencies, either 2.4 or 5.8 GHz, rather than a traditional wireless connection. Doing so delivers a more consistent low latency 720p live video feed to the connected phone. And under ideal conditions, it can prove a whopping 10,000m (6.2 mi) transmission range. Comparatively, its predecessor only offered a 4,000m maximum range. This is single-handedly the most critical update from the original model.
And it dramatically improves the flying experience, as there rarely, if ever, losses in communication between the aircraft and RC. And now the drone is far more enjoyable to fly and lets you explore without limitations. And this change fundamentally removes a key flaw with the original model, which would often struggle to maintain a solid connection.
The controller also has a 5,200 mAh battery and weighs 390g, so it’s hefty. But the flight joysticks have an excellent grip, and they’re responsive. The controller also has a cubby on the button part of the unit, where you can store the joysticks when not in use. For buttons, it has a Fn button, a photo/video mode switch, the shutter, automatic return home, dynamic flight control, and your gimbal control. The physical slider to switch the flying dynamics is a particularly excellent addition. Switching from Cine to the Sport Mode gives you immediate access to changing the drone’s responsiveness mid-flight. And it saves doing so via the app. Outside of that, the controller also charges your phone during use.
In the air, the Mini 2 is nimble, agile, but easy to fly. The updated motors achieve speeds of up to 36 MPH (57 KPH) with a rated flight time of 31 minutes. Combined, you have plenty of time to explore distant locations without fear.
The updated motors this go-round genuinely make a difference in airborne noise, discretion, responsiveness, and acceleration. And in the Sport flight mode, it’s surprisingly quick yet quiet. But, the drone will need room to counter its momentum, so take precautions there. Thankfully, you can always turn things down and have more gradual control by flipping to the Cine Mode, though. Here the drone caps out with a 13 MPH top speed, perfect for beginners or filming videos. But outside of speed alone, it’s also more stable. It now offers a three-staged global positioning system combining GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo for altitude sensing and near-perfect positioning. So, when it hovers at a location, it’ll be stable and easily match its more expensive brothers in this regard.
Overall though, the flight performance is excellent. Piloting this drone is very much similar to other DJI products. It’s stable and responsive but easy to fly. It’s doubtful you’ll feel out of control in the air. And the RC controllers joysticks offer precise control, letting you dial in delicate nudges for smooth and gradual movements. And it all together feels more refined than its predecessor. So once you get the hang of it, flying this drone will be easy, even in the Sport Mode.
It obtains several pre-programmed intelligent flight modes, called QuickShots. These modes let the drone execute professional-level maneuvers in one click. The options range from Dronie to Rocket, Helix, Circle, and now Boomerang. Boomerang is new to this model. But selecting any of these modes executes a programmed aerial maneuver to simplify the process, and they’re an excellent option for beginners not yet comfortable with flying.
It features the Find My Drone feature, which displays the aircraft’s last known location and flashes lights, and makes sounds to help you recover it. It’s a feature you never hope to use, but it’s a nice bonus when needed.
The DJI Fly app offers built-in photo optimization, which intelligently optimizes downloaded photos to increase the color’s vividness and contrast. And doing so creates images that pop with more detail.
It features Quick Transfer, which automatically connects and syncs selected photos or videos wirelessly. And it does so with a transfer rate of 20 MB/s. You can also trim and cut out segments of the footage for downloading, making the process more streamlined and less storage-intensive.
It features Fly Spots, which helps plan flight itineraries using the DJI Fly app.
It features FlySafe, a geofence system that prevents you from taking off in restricted airspace such as sporting events, national parks, near airports, and more. You can also configure the geofence to keep the drone within a certain remote radius, which is perfect to maintain the line of sight.
Build & Design
The aircraft uses a low profile design, which means you’ll want to find level ground for takeoffs and landing. Otherwise, even well-trimmed lawns will cause difficulty taking off. And you may find many surfaces become problematic. Flat even tarmac, such as a parking lot, is the best.
Changing the battery is quite tricky, mostly due to the plastic clip. But it’s better than having it come loose mid-air. Even so, be prepared to have to struggle a bit when changing batteries.
Something of note, the aircraft doesn’t automatically stitch the RAW (DNG) panoramas in-camera. Instead, you can only get the resulting JPG from the app, which produces inferior quality. So it seems this feature is seemingly reserved for the Mavic 2 series drones. Strange, as this is a beginners-oriented product, and beginners likely don’t understand this post-processing workflow.
With such a small sensor, expect the footage and image quality to degrade in low light situations, above ISO 1,600. And the video quality will take a big hit in noise as the sun drops. The drone’s camera also tends to underexpose slightly, which doesn’t help in this regard. As such, consider flying outdoors during bright sunlit days. And skip filming at night. Otherwise, use the underexposing to your advantage, and make the shadows darker. As doing so will remove some of the visible noise.
While the drone has a 4x zoom, moving past 2x will result in a noticeable hit to image quality. And this feature decreases the sharpness and fine details. It also doesn’t provide any advantage over cropping the footage in post. As such, it’s mostly a bonus to see the result beforehand, rather than something to rely on consistently.
This drone lacks dedicated Cinelike profiles of its higher-end peers. This color profile provides more flexibility and control over color grading in post-processing. And it could be a potential deal-breaker for videographers who want maximum quality and control over the final result.
It lacks HDR video to capture high dynamic range footage in mixed lighting conditions, like sunsets or sunrises.
The included battery for this product is new. And it’s a change that will likely frustrate existing owners who were considering an upgrade, as you can’t use the original batteries here. But it’s a worthy trade-off for new users, as the aircraft lifespan has seen a dramatic improvement.
The drone lacks built-in internal storage, so you’ll need a memory card. Thankfully, if you forget one, you can record footage directly to the phone, albeit at a lower quality.
It lacks ActiveTrack, DJI’s subject tracking feature. And it makes sense as the drone lacks obstacle avoidance sensors, so it has no way of recognizing incoming objects.
It lacks Hyperlapse video, which mixes both traditional time-lapse with motion.
You cannot attach an ND filter to the camera. So you’ll want to take caution when filming in bright scenes to avoid using fast shutter speeds. In those situations, expect choppy footage. But, considering the target demographic for this drone, it’s unlikely they’ll want to battle the hassle of learning about ND filters and investing in a pair.
Is this a good beginner drone?
And it’s currently the best beginners drone around. With this release, DJI listens to the community feedback and refined an already hit release. Despite the minor flaws, the Mini 2 is the ideal option for beginners that’s easily mastered, convenient, and powerful. And for first-time buyers, the marginal price difference between this and the original model is well worth it.
Is this a good drone for you?
For beginners, this is arguably the top drone in the segment. And it offers a wealth of high-end features while fixing the initial shortcomings of the original model. DJI has taken targeted steps with this release to secure its dominance in the sub 250g segment. And the Mini 2 is merely another notch and accolade for the manufacturer that accomplishes a lot more than rivals.
For current Mavic Mini users, the upgrade is justified. This release adds RAW capabilities, 4K video, better battery life, stronger motors, a redesigned controller, and vastly superior communication technologies. And together, it’s a worthy upgrade if you already love the portability and form factor but want added functionality.
In the end, DJI’s Mini 2 is an excellent all-rounder that’s well suited for beginners, enthusiasts, and professionals alike. Sure, it’s a drone ultimately targeted towards beginners and one that’s analogous to a point-and-shoot camera rather than a DSLR. But one that boasts several high-end features from its pricier brothers. Yet, it remains affordable, portable, and, crucially, easy to use. No worrying about complicated settings, added accessories, and the fear of the FAA. As a package, it offers excellent value for money spent with only a modest $50 price bump over the original model. As such, it’s a powerful alternative to DJI’s mid-range Air series drones if you don’t need the higher-end camera and obstacle avoidance sensors. The updates here have delivered a worthy product indeed and one that earns the spot as leader of the class.
With the Mini 2, DJI’s taken the right approach. And they’ve refined an already class-leading product with the updates most needed. The Mini 2 is easily one of the best drones in this segment. And the updates made this go-round have truly secured their dominance in the sub 250g segment.