The new “DJI Mini 2” drone is arriving just 53 weeks after the original DJI Mavic Mini, but bringing with it a new 4K camera, DJI’s much-loved OcuSync 2.0 long-range radio control system, beefed-up motors, and adding some extra features, this drone addresses address any issues with its predecessor (for a slight bump in price).
The original $399 / £369 / AU$599 Mavic Mini was immensely popular, and the de facto best drone for beginners, thanks to its compact size and, crucially, falling beneath the 250g threshold for registration, but some objected to the 2.7K at 40Mbps maximum video quality.
The Mini 2 (seemingly the word ‘Mavic’ is no longer necessary) is $449 / £419 / AU$749 but the camera can capture 4K@30fps at 100Mbps. Drop down to 1080P and zoom (2x optical plus 2x digital) becomes an option too, as does 60fps.
• See the differences: DJI Mini 2 vs Mavic Mini
Still images remain at 4000x3000 pixels (12 megapixels), but RAW and Auto Exposure Bracketing are now on offer, as well as Spheres, 180˚ and Wide-Angle shots as seen on the Mavic Air 2.
OcuSync 2.0 marks a significant step up over the previous Mini. On paper, the increase from 4km / 2.5 miles to 10 km / 6.2 miles (limited to 6 km / 3.73 miles in the UK) is a boost, but the technology makes use of automatic dual-frequency channel hopping meaning that in practice it is far easier to fly near the limits of that range without worrying about losing control or video feedback. Given the high quality of the original drone could easily tempt a pilot into testing the limits of the radio range, the arrival of OcuSync 2.0 will be a boon to the safety-conscious as well as those considering longer flights.
The original Mavic Mini quoted an impressive 30 minutes flight time and didn’t do too far beneath that in real flight. Where problems did arise, however, were in windy conditions – the airframe has to be light to stay under the weight limit, but we’ve all seen what happens to light things on windy days. While physics won’t simply remove all limitations, the DJI Mini 2 is sporting some upgraded motors which reportedly add a minute to the flight time and give the boost needed to withstand wind up to Force 5 (a “Fresh Breeze” or 38kph / 24 mph).
“Mavic Mini was a monumental breakthrough for DJI and for drone pilots across the world, as its unprecedented combination of weight, safety, performance, and overall value became the entry point for countless new drone pilots and fans,” says DJI President, Roger Luo.
“DJI Mini 2 enhances those key aspects, packing larger drone performance in an approachable, small design in the safest drone category that is perfect for beginners and will also impress more experienced pilots.”
Like its predecessor, the Mini 2 makes use of safety features which don’t require too much processing power (which brings with it weight). That means a familiar and friendly control system with video feedback, plus the comfort of knowing that barometers and GPS tracking height and position mean you can let go of the controls at any time without disaster. Without control input, the drone will simply hover in place. Until, that is, it feels the need to return to the take-off site before the battery expires (return-to-home can also be commanded via the remote). This tech is also used to provide geofencing, which prevents unauthorized flights near airports, and a user-adjustable altitude lock.
Before every drone launch for the last few years, rumor-merchants have made ever-grander promises about collision-avoidance technologies, but despite the vents on either side of the drone’s front, the only distance sensors on the Mini 2 – or its predecessor – are on the bottom to assist in automated landing. The system can use its 3-axis stabilized camera to track some subjects, but the system does not build up a 3D map of its surroundings in the same way as higher-end models.
The camera is mounted on a familiar 3-axis gimbal which compensates for drone movement and the effect of the wind, and the addition of zoom modes will offer pilots some new possibilities where they don’t want the full resolution. Even 4K video can move up to 2X closer to the subject, though all of that is lossy digital zoom.
The popularity of DJI’s pre-programmed QuickShots seems not to have escaped their attention, with the addition of Boomerang and a good mix of altitude settings on offer to make the five modes seem like many more. The Panoramas can stitch up to 26 images for what DJI call a ‘Sphere’ (though the hood over the gimbal in the drone design implies otherwise).
Accessories & pricing
Although DJI have continued to supply the remote controller with both editions of the drone, the aircraft does now possess the hardware to communicate directly with your phone. This is handy if you don’t want to carry cables (or perhaps implies there had been anticipation of a phone with no socket being launched)? It also means you need only the drone and your phone to copy files over as you make the return journey from a flight. Other software additions include ‘Enhanced Photo’ and ‘Trimmed Download’ modes which take the effort out of editing images, or selectively downloads video to save on storage space.
Thanks to adopting essentially the same casing, the DJI Mini 2 is compatible with a range of accessories from last year’s Mavic Mini. These include the bell jar Charging Display Case, the Creative Kit stickers for customizing your design and the Snap Adaptor screen-on-a-stick.
The remote control, however, is not an extra – as on the old Spark – but included with both the $449 / £419 / AU$749 standard package and the $599 / £549 / AU$949 Fly More Combo kit. The extra moolah for the Combo gets you two more batteries, a charging hub and a carrying case, but you can charge the standard drone with any old USB.
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