Gear Review: DJI Mini 2, the Best Entry-Level Video Drone
Video drones have blown up in the past 5 years. With the advent of *relatively* less expensive models, more and more people can enjoy this awesome hobby. Citizen drone pilots around the world can produce stunning photos and videos of cities, natural wonders, and events.
Any of you who have read either my Choosing the Best Travel Camera post or my Christmas Gifts Travelers Will Love post have probably come across the DJI Mavic Mini drone. It was the first drone I ever bought and the one I used up until pretty recently. I put that model through hell (including a nasty crash in Richmond) and it still functioned well. Unfortunately, earlier this year, I got careless as a pilot and crashed it for good in Salt Lake City (RIP Mini 1!).
Luckily, I was able to get the new model, the Mini 2, and I’ve been very pleased with it! I’m much happier with the connectivity on the new drone, allowing me to have good reception over a longer distance, even in heavily urbanized areas.
Below I’ve got some quick specs for the Mini 2, how they compare to the original Mini, and some example footage. I’ve also included my thoughts on certain aspects of the Mini 2.
Price: $450 ($600 with the Fly More Combo)
Video Quality: 4K
Camera Quality: 12 MP (also shoots in RAW)
Range: Up to 10 km (6.2 miles)
Max Speed: 16 m/s (about 40 mph)
Max Altitude: 500m (1,650 feet)
Weight: 249 grams
DJI Mini 2
I’ve been very pleased with the Mini 2! It’s an upgrade in every way from the original Mini, and probably the best budget drone you can get today. It can fly farther and faster than the Mini 1 ever could, it takes higher-quality video, and it stays connected across vast distances and in urban environments.
I’ve broken down the major similarities and differences in the chart below:
Mini 2 vs Mini
- 4K video camera
- 10km max range
- 16m/s top speed
- Level 5 wind resistance
- OcuSync 2.0 connectivity
- 12MP still camera (w/ RAW)
- 31-minute battery life
- 500m max altitude
- 249g weight
- 2.7K video camera
- 4km max range
- 13m/s top speed
- Level 4 wind resistance
- Wi-Fi Connectivity
- 12MP still camera (no RAW)
- 30-minute battery life
- 500m max altitude
- 249g weight
The Fly More Combo
If you just order the drone itself, you will get the Mini 2, the controller, and one battery.
If, however, you spring the extra money for the Fly More Combo, you’ll also receive two additional batteries, a smart charger for all three (that can also be used as a power bank in a pinch), four extra sets of propellers and screws, a mini screwdriver, and a cool little carrying pouch to hold it all.
Pro Tip: If you’re upgrading from the Mini 1, you’ll be happy to know that you can use the Mini 1 batteries in the Mini 2! They won’t last quite as long or let the Mini 2 reach its top speed, but they work great as a back up set. However, the Mini 1’s batteries can not be charged in the Mini 2’s charger, and vice-versa.
As a traveler, one of the most appealing factors of the Mini 2 to me is its compact size. The Mavic line were some of the first folding drones that packed impressive cameras, and the Mini 2 continues this legacy. You can fold it up and tuck it into the carrying pouch, along with the controller, extra batteries, and other accessories, and it’s still not going to take up much space. It weighs next to the nothing.
The 249-gram weight, by the way, is significant because it is below the FAA’s requirements for all aircraft 250g and up to be registered. Although, if you’re entering an enhanced warning zone area (like a historic district or a stadium), they will still ask you to register.
As I mentioned the Mini 2 does shoot in full 4K ultra high definition. You can get an idea for this kind of image quality in my latest YouTube video below:
As you can see, pretty sharp footage. But please keep in mind that this is still a budget drone. Just like with regular cameras, pixel count is not everything and not all 4K camera sensors are created equal. If you get something like a Mavic Pro or a Mavic Air or one of the Phantoms, the lens quality is going to be better and so your footage is going to look more vibrant. In fact, the Mavic Air2S that was recently released sports a crazy 5.4K sensor. In my opinion, 5.4K is overkill for anything that’s not going up on an actual movie screen. For a mobile device, latop, tablet, even a very large home TV screen, 4K is going to look sharp and beautiful. Honestly, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference, anyway.
Another thing to keep in mind is frame rate. The Mini 2 sports a standard 4K frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps) that is great for flying in a straight line over your subject or for slow, controlled turns. But if you’re doing any kind of high-speed maneuvering, you might notice some slight pixelation in your footage. Higher-end drones will have frame rates of 60 fps or higher, which keeps the footage looking nice and smooth even at high speeds. This is something the Mini 2 lacks, but even so, it’s great for the price. You just have to know the limitations of the drone and fly accordingly.
The still camera on the Mini 2 is nothing to scream about, a 12MP sensor, same as you’d find on the Mini 1. It’s less than ideal for shots that the drone would typically be used for: cityscapes and nature shots. You can see an example of its image quality below:
Having said that, one improvement it does have over the Mini is its ability to shoot in RAW format. RAW basically means that you have more control over editing the color and vibrancy of your photo once it’s taken. This is actually a big improvement, one a lot of pilots were hoping for, so I can’t complain.
DJI claims a 10km or 6.2-mile range for the Mini 2, and while I haven’t been able to max it out just yet, I don’t doubt those numbers. I have to drive pretty far to get to a place with no power lines or interference of any kind, so the best I’ve gotten the Mini 2 out to is just over 2 km, or about 1.2 miles. I’m sure this is well below its capability.
In the past, I was able to get the Mini 1 out to over 2 miles, so I have no doubt that the Mini 2 can easily fly farther than that. I’m planning on driving back out to the Blue Ridge Parkway next weekend to conduct a range test.
This extended range is thanks to the new OcuSync 2.0 technology. This keeps a tighter beam of connectivity between the controller and the drone that can cut through wireless interference from buildings and power lines. OcuSync 2.0 allows the drone to not only fly farther, but also stay better connected in high-interference areas like downtowns and college campuses.
Recently, on a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet up with Kristen, I was able to chill at Elizabeth Park and fly over three-quarters of a mile out to the Bank of America Corporate Tower and buzz around it at a height of about 900 feet without a single glitch. This would not have been the case with the original Mini; while filming my Richmond, Virginia video, I would routinely get sketchy reception out past about a quarter-mile over downtown Richmond.
Battery life is one thing on paper and another matter entirely in the air. The Mini 1 advertised 30 minutes of flight time, and the Mini 2 advertises 31 minutes.
According to my DJI pilot profile, I have logged almost 25 hours of flight time between the two models, and not once have I gotten a full half-hour of flight from a battery. The best I’ve gotten from the Mini 2 is 23 minutes of flight time, which I’ve hit on several occasions. The best I ever got out of the old Mini was 21 minutes, so still a slight improvement.
I imagine that the full 31-minute flight time could only be achieved if you were just having it hover in one spot. In practice, 23 minutes is going to be what you can expect under normal operating conditions. May not sound like much, but it’s plenty for getting good footage if you’re not too far away from your subject. Keep in mind that if you spring for the Fly More Combo, you’ll be getting three batteries plus a smart charger. I would recommend getting those extra batteries.
It should also be noted that in the field you’re almost never going to run a drone down to 0% battery. It’s just not wise with such an expensive piece of equipment. I had a situation on the Blue Ridge Parkway where I forgot to account for high wind speeds (causing the drone to have to work harder to battle them) and ended up landing it with just 4% battery. In other words, it was literally less than a minute from falling out of the sky. I almost had a heartattack.
In summation, the Mini 2 is a definite improvement over the Mini 1. It has superior video quality, range, and speed, and takes RAW images that make for better photo editing. It is more expensive, but I think the extra price is worth it, especially the $650 Fly More Combo. They literally took the Mini 1 chassis and swapped out the 2.7K camera for a full 4K camera, and included more powerful motors and a more advanced navigation system. It’s got the 9 to 5 Voyager Seal of Approval!
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