The Game Changer? A Review of the DJI Mavic 2
Only a few months after the release of the Mavic Air, DJI has shaken the drone world by releasing the Mavic 2. With the Mavic line of drones being one of the most popular and premium drones in the market even years after their initial release, the expectations for the Mavic 2 were through the roof. Did the Mavic 2 deliver on all of its advertised potential? This is exactly the question we sought to answer when we took the Mavic 2 drones for a spin. Read all about our experience below.
Probably the most surprising aspect of the Mavic 2 announcement and release is that there are 2 versions of the Mavic 2: the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom. The fundamental difference between the 2 models is the type of camera that they carry. They are essentially similar in all other aspects. How the cameras differ, you may ask? We will get into that shortly.
Appearance and Build
In terms of look and build quality, the Mavic 2 drones do not disappoint. Anybody who has ever had the pleasure of owning and piloting a Mavic drone can give a testament to its sleek and modern design. The Mavic drones are not all looks, too. Our old Mavic drones have fallen, scraped, and gotten banged up numerous times but still fly beautifully.
We fully expect the new Mavic 2 drones to carry on this tradition of great aesthetics backed by superior durability. In terms of form and aesthetics, the Mavic 2 drones are not much different from the Mavic Pro Platinum.
In any case, this is a department where DJI has not disappointed us in before, whether we are talking about the entry-level Spark or the high-end Inspire models. When you buy a DJI drone, you are buying a drone that is built to last.
The ability of the original Mavic to fold up into a size that fits on top of your palm was one of its distinguishing features, and something that has changed the drone game since. All other iterations of the Mavic drones have pretty much stuck to the original design, allowing them to be carried around in your backpack wherever you go.
As expected the Mavic 2 also comes with the foldable arms that have made the Mavic line of drones so popular. However, there are a few key differences. First, the Mavic 2 drones are slightly larger than all the other Mavic drones. The increase in size is not much (around 20mm diagonally) and is hardly noticeable unless you take a really close look.
What you are more likely to notice is the added weight of the Mavic 2 drones. While the original Mavic Pro drone weighs only around 740 grams, the Mavic 2 drones clock in at a surprising 905 grams. It is still an incredibly lightweight and portable drone, but the added weight is something you might be concerned about while you carry it around.
Thankfully, the added weight of the Mavic 2 does not result to poor flight performance or a shorter battery life. As we shall discuss later, the added weight is mostly due to additional sensors and a substantially larger battery – features that are more than welcome in this new and improved version.
One of the first things you might notice that comes with the Mavic 2 drones are the flared propellers. These are updated versions of the optimized propellers that came with the Mavic Pro Platinum. Similar to its predecessors, these propellers have been designed to be more aerodynamic. This means that the Mavic 2 drones fly with less wind resistance and considerably less noise, which is always a welcome change.
As with the Mavic Pro Platinum, the decrease in drag due to the improved propellers provides a small boost to the battery life of the Mavic 2 drones. However, this is not the only improvement that the Mavic 2 has made in terms of battery life, as we shall see in better detail later.
Now we come to the highlight of the Mavic 2 drones. In this section, the evaluation of the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom will be done separately, as they have very distinct camera set ups.
To recap, all the previous Mavic drones were capable of 12 MP photos and had adjustable aperture settings up to 3200. Compared to the original Mavic Pro, the following releases did not really make much improvements in terms of camera specifications. With the release of the Mavic 2 drones, DJI bucked that trend in a big way.
In case you have not heard of the news, DJI had acquired a majority stake in Hasselblad, a Swedish camera manufacturer. This gave DJI access to Hasselblad technology which they have previously integrated into some of their higher end drones. This time, however, they have included a powerful Hasselblad camera into the Mavic 2 Pro.
The camera of the Mavic 2 Pro can take impressive 20 MP stills using a 1-inch CMOS sensor with ISO settings that can be adjusted up to 12,800. With the sensor giving the camera a better resolution and low-light performance, the Mavic 2 Pro can provide greater creative control for drone photographers and videographers.
One thing that the Mavic 2 Pro cannot do is to zoom, and this is where the Mavic 2 Zoom comes in. True to its namesake, the Mavic 2 Zoom comes with a camera that provides both 2x optical zoom and 2x digital zoom. Even if you don’t get the image quality that the Hasselblad camera gives, the ability to zoom into specific subjects also provides a lot of room for creativity in terms of video capturing and editing. Being able to zoom also means capturing footage that you probably could not otherwise, such as that of wild animals. In any case, the 12MP resolution images that the Mavic 2 Zoom can capture is nothing to be disappointed with.
An extremely fun feature of the Mavic 2 Zoom is the Dolly Zoom. You will probably recognize this effect from the old Alfred Hitchcock films, where the camera zooms in on a subject while it moves away, giving a really cool (or creepy) distortion. All of the fun things you can do with the Mavic 2 Zoom might just be enough for you to overlook the fact that it does come with the superior sensor that the Mavic 2 Pro does.
In terms of video capture, all the Mavic drones have already been equipped with the ability to shoot 4K videos, with the Mavic 2 merely following suit. The previously released Mavic Air has also gained the ability to shoot slow motion video at 120 fps in full HD, an improvement to the 720p resolution achievable by the Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum. Naturally, the slow motion video capabilities of the Mavic Air have been inherited by the Mavic 2 drones.
All those automated camera shooting modes that come with the previous Mavic drones have remained highly popular for hobbyists and pros alike, and we are glad to let you know that these features have been retained in the Mavic 2 drones. Both the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom come with a wide selection of automatic camera modes, including Tripod, Active Track, Circle, Hyper Lapse, Panorama, Point of interest, and Boomerang.
The Mavic 2 Zoom does come with a few unique tricks. One of these is the aforementioned Dolly Zoom mode. The other feature of the Mavic 2 Zoom is the ability to take Super Resolution photos, which are stitched-up photos made from 9 zoomed-in shots. The result is an impressive high-definition panorama.
Most of the complaints regarding the previous Mavic drones have probably centered on their gimbals. Despite their sophisticated design, they can be very flimsy and fragile and have been commonly broken by small crashes or even strong winds.
The gimbals of the Mavic 2 drones appear a little more rugged, with two arms mounting the gimbal into the body of the drone. We are not quite sure yet how much strength this new setup has, but only time will tell as our Mavic 2 drones go through difficult situations.
Another feature of the improved gimbal in the Mavic 2 that we are really excited about is that can now rotate along 2 axes. In addition to being able to pitch up and down, the gimbal can now pan left to right. Panning the gimbal is as simple as holding down on the controller screen and dragging left to right. This is not an often mentioned feature of the Mavic 2 drones, but it is one we are certainly going to be using heavily in the coming weeks.
Part of the charm of the original Mavic drone which made it very popular was its extremely tight and responsive controls which resulting in butter smooth flight. We observed the same level of responsiveness with the new Mavic 2 drones. The communication between controller and drone is just as reliable as before, which means that the drone goes exactly where you want it to go, with minimal wandering or drifting.
One thing that has probably helped the Mavic 2 drones attain smooth flight is the upgraded propellers and Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). Previously released with the Mavic Pro Platinum, these upgrades made drone flight less noisy, more efficient, and less affected by drag. This is a technology we applauded back when it was first released, and we expect it to be continuously implemented (or possibly even improved) as DJI releases better drones in the future.
The most common and most widely used automated flight modes were retained in the Mavic 2 drones. Waypoints allows you to set a path for your drone to fly along, while TapFly allows you to set a destination with just a tap on your screen. The Sport mode allows you test the top speeds of your drone, while Course Lock and Home Lock keep you from getting disoriented while flying. Unfortunately, it seems that Gesture Controls failed to make the cut, perhaps due to the feature not being as popular as the others.
The original Mavic Pro came with a set of sensors that gave it an ability to avoid obstacles in the forward and downward directions. It was highly celebrated feature at the time, as it afforded drone pilots the confidence to take on more challenging spots. The Mavic Air further improved this ability by adding a sensor in the backwards direction, making it an even safer drone for risky flight.
The Mavic 2 drones blow all of its predecessors out of the water with omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors. The new drones are now equipped with sensors in the backwards, forward, upward, downward, left, and right directions. This is basically your drone with a Spider Sense, able to detect dangers from all directions and react promptly and accordingly.
The sensors work by giving you an alarm when you are approaching an obstacle. Should you still come too close, the Mavic 2 will automatically brake to avoid a crash. The reliability of this obstacle avoidance system is unprecedented, and you practically have to crash on purpose for the system to fail. Experience drone pilots may say that this is all unnecessary for someone who is very skilled, but there are times when you have to throw caution to the wind to get that elusive shot.
The Mavic series has seen steady improvement in the speed department, with the Mavic Air exhibiting an improved top speed of 42.5 mph compared to the 40 mph of the original Mavic Pro. We are happy to report the Mavic 2 drones follow suit with an improved top speed of 44.7 mph. This is just one of the areas where the improved aerodynamics of the drone manifest in a more pronounced manner.
Battery Life and Flight Time
The Mavic series has not really had much improvement in terms of battery capacity from the 3,830 mAh of the original Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum. Most people who follow DJI probably know that the recently released Mavic Air compromised on battery life to provide a smaller and cheaper version of the Mavic drones. The Mavic 2 drones do present an improvement in battery capacity, albeit a very small one. Both Mavic 2 drones have a battery capacity of 3,850 mAh, a measly 20mAh higher than the original Mavic Pro.
For all practical reasons, a 20mAh increase in battery capacity is barely noticeable. However, DJI has already succeeded in extending flight time without increasing the battery capacity with the Mavic Pro Platinum, which boasts a flight time 3 minutes longer than the Mavic Pro despite similar batteries. The aerodynamic design of the Mavic 2 further improves this battery life by another minute, coming out to a grand total flight time of 31 minutes.
We know that the one minute increase sounds inconsequential, but as we have said time and time again, every minute counts when you have a very limited time in flight. One minute could spell the difference between catching that crucial moment on video or missing it altogether. And besides, who’s complaining?
The Mavic 2 drones come with the improved OcuSync 2.0, which allows for transmission of full HD video from a farther distance of 8 km. This is a 1 km improvement to the maximum range of the Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum. Every drone pilot will probably agree with us that the 1 km improvement is a massive plus point to the new Mavic 2 drones.
Having discussed all the upgrades in the Mavic 2 drones, we intentionally left for last one crucial aspect – the price. The Mavic 2 Pro is now the most expensive member of the Mavic family, with a price of $1,449. The Mavic 2 Zoom with its less sophisticated camera is a little more affordable at $1,249.
For reference, the original Mavic Pro was sold at a retail price of $999, with the slightly improved Mavic Pro Platinum priced at $1,099. The low-cost member of the Mavic line, the Mavic Air, is available for only $799.
As you can see, getting the Mavic 2 drones will set you back a good amount of money. This is hardly surprising, considering all of the improvements in the Mavic 2 especially in its cameras.
The ultimate questions: Is it worth it?
Answering this question is rarely straightforward. It always comes down to knowing what your priorities are and how much you are comfortable spending. For the casual drone pilot or for someone who is just starting in the hobby, the budget-friendly Mavic Air is a great choice for a starter drone. It comes with the usual features present in the Mavic drones and an excellent camera, but at a much lower price.
If you are a professional drone photographer or someone who has had more experience in the hobby, then we guess you are mulling over whether it is worth it upgrade to a Mavic 2 or to make the Mavic 2 your introduction to the Mavic drone line. Our advice is this: if you have the budget, then we highly recommend getting either one of the Mavic 2 drones. Both of these drones performed exceptionally well for us, and we are confident recommending them as we are sure that they will give you an amazing drone flight experience.
Obviously, if you are after image quality, then we recommend that you get the Mavic 2 Pro. The quality of the images you are going to get with the Hasselblad camera is top notch, and probably will rival those you can capture with higher end DJI cameras from the Phantom or Inspire lines.
If you want to be a little more creative, then the Mavic 2 Zoom is much suited to your style. On top of being able to capture unique shots, the Mavic 2 Zoom comes with interesting camera modes that probably form the foundation of future drone videos. If you would rather stay ahead of the pack in terms of creative shots, then hesitate no long and get the Mavic 2 Zoom.
If you have a somewhat limited budget, then we can still confidently say that the original Mavic Pro gives great bang for the buck. There is a good reason that it has stayed near the top of the list of the best drones, even 3 years after its initial release. It was the innovative and never-before-seen drone of its time, and although it has lost this charm, it is still remains a reliable workhorse for many drone pilots.