At the end of 2019, DJI introduced the Mavic Mini, the first full-fledged camera drone weighing less than 250 grams. With the successor the DJI Mini 2, the Chinese dronemaker has retained all the right things from the first generation Mavic Mini and has made significant improvements on a number of fronts. As a result, the DJI Mini 2 is not only intended for novice drone pilots: especially after the introduction of European drone regulations, the Mini 2 is also interesting for professionals.
DJI Mini 2 review: less is more
In 2014 I bought my first drone, a DJI Phantom 2 Vision +. At that time, I was overwhelmed: I could make drone shots in HD quality, I achieved about 20 minutes of flight time per battery, and the transmitter had quite a good range thanks to the built-in WiFi booster: a few hundred meters was perfectly achievable. The set was also quite easy to take with you on trips and holidays, although at that time, I needed a large backpack to take everything with me.
If someone predicted then that six years later, a drone the size of a toy drone would come onto the market, about one fifth the weight of the Phantom, but with a 4K camera and more than half an hour of flight time, I wouldn’t. have believed. Yet this is the reality with the Mini 2. You could say that Moore’s Law also applies to drones.
The DJI Mini 2: still
DJI Mini 2 – Sub-250 grams
The DJI Mini 2 (not a Mavic Mini 2) almost entirely resembles its predecessor, the Mavic Mini. Apart from a different color on the propellers and a status LED on the front of the drone, you see no difference. There is hardly any difference in weight either: the Mini 2 weighs less than 250 grams. When folded, you can store the drone almost anywhere.
Those 250 grams, that’s quite important. According to the upcoming European regulations, the Mini 2 falls into Open subcategory A1. Because the drone is below the limit of 250 grams, you do not need to do any training before you can fly with this drone. You do have to register in Europe. This is possible from 31 December 2020. From that date, it no longer matters whether you fly the drone for recreational or business purposes.
In the United States, you do not need to register this DJI Mini 2 if you fly the drone recreationally. If you use the drone commercially you will need to register with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). and in either case, you will need to follow the FAA drone regulations and fly safely and responsibly.
This charging hub is part of the Fly More Combo. The hub charges up to three batteries sequentially and is equipped with a USB-C port for the power supply.
DJI Mini 2 remote controller
The most significant difference in appearance is in the remote controller. The Mini 2 comes with the same controller as the one with the Mavic Air 2. It is a lot heavier and larger than the controller that came with the original Mavic Mini, but there are two critical improvements: firstly, you now place the phone on the top of the controller, and secondly, the controller now uses OcuSync 2.0 for communication with the drone.
To operate the Mini 2, you must first install the DJI Fly App on your phone. If you don’t have an account with DJI yet, you need to create one first. After the necessary firmware updates (drone, controller, and batteries), you can start using the drone. The range of the transmitter is six miles, according to DJI. However, you must always keep the drone in line of sight.
The controller uses OcuSync 2.0 for radio communication.
DJI Mini 2 Flight performance
Time for a test flight. I choose one of my favorite flying spots: the southern pier near Scheveningen, in The Netherlands. As is often the case, there is quite a lot of wind, but that is only beneficial for the review. Just wait for a GPS lock and take off. It doesn’t even ask for a compass calibration.
You immediately notice how quietly the Mini 2 flies. From a few meters away, I can hardly hear the drone anymore, certainly not compared to the surf of the sea. A few people pass by, but they don’t notice anything. What a relief compared to the much larger and noisier drones I often fly with that always attract attention.
With wind force 4, the DJI Mini 2 has no problem at all.
DJI has equipped the Mini 2 with more robust motors than its predecessor. This is noticeable: the test flight by the sea with wind force 4 runs smoothly. During gusts of wind, the drone does have difficulty flying into the wind. You can overcome that by temporarily switching on the Sport mode, but that is at the battery’s expense. Besides, the drone will be so skewed that the gimbal will have a hard time.
Just like with the first Mavic Mini, it seems like I’m flying a much bigger and heavier drone. The Mini 2 can be controlled tightly. I make the most beautiful cinematic camera movements in no time. That is already fine in normal flight mode. For even more flexibility, you switch on the cinematic mode. Then the drone reacts less abruptly to the sticks.
The flying time is impressive. DJI states 31 minutes as the maximum flight time on one battery, but in practice, count on about 25 minutes. You will see the remaining flight time continuously on the screen. In a strong headwind, you can see that the battery drains much faster. So make sure you never have to fly back against the wind over greater distances, then you could run into problems.
DJI Mini 2 camera
The Mini 2’s camera contains a 1 / 2.3″ CMOS sensor. It now records video in up to 4K resolution, at 25 or 30 fps. In 1080p HD, that is a maximum of 50 or 60 fps. More important is the bitrate: it is now 100 Mbps, compared to the meager 40 Mbps of the Mavic Mini. As a result, more details are stored, and subtle color transitions come into their own better. The images are stored on a microSD card. The Mini 2 does not have internal memory.
The camera contains a 1 / 2.3 ″ sensor that records video in 4K and takes still photographs at 12 megapixels.
The images that come out of the drone unedited amaze me: There is a lot of detail in the photo, the color reproduction is convincing, the stabilization is impressive. The shots in the video below are not color corrected and come straight out of the camera. I have to make a side note here: I always set the exposure manually during filming (you can only vary ISO and shutter speed, the aperture is not adjustable), and I also set the white balance to a fixed value. Only then can you get the most out of the camera.
The drone takes pictures in a resolution of 12 megapixels. By default, the photos are saved in JPG format. It is possible to use bracketing for extra dynamic range. Three photos are taken in quick succession, with different shutter speeds. The images are subsequently combined into one photo in which both shadows and highlights come out well.
This recording was made in JPG format (single exposure).
This recording was made in JPG format (single exposure).
Shooting in RAW with the Mini 2
Also new is the option to take photos in the DNG/RAW format. That way, you can squeeze the most out of the small sensor. More color information is simply written for each of the twelve million pixels in total. Keep in mind that RAW photos require some post-processing.
When it comes to photography, do not expect miracles from the small camera, even if you shoot in RAW. The sensor and optics quickly find it difficult against the sun. And you will see some image noise in shadows, especially when the ISO goes up. The quality of the photos can be compared with those of a high-end smartphone.
Recording in DNG RAW, “developed” in Photoshop.
The DJI Mini 2 can also capture panoramas (180º / Wide) and even 360º photos (Sphere). The panoramas are not stitched by the drone itself immediately after taking the photos, as is the case with the other drones from DJI. You must first download the source photos into the DJI Fly app. Then they will be stitched. It is, of course, also possible to stitch the source photos with specialized software (such as PTGui), but that requires some knowledge and experience. The 360º photo below was created with the help of that software. NB. the source photos are saved in JPG format, it is not possible to save photos in RAW format if you use the panorama function.
No ActiveTrack or obstacle detection
To keep the Mini 2 so small and light, DJI has had to make several concessions. For example, the drone does not have sensors for obstacle detection. As a pilot, you will have to avoid people, trees, and buildings yourself. Even if the drone automatically flies back to the take-off location (return to home), obstacles are not considered. The only sensors that the Mini 2 has, are located at the bottom of the drone for positioning in indoor use (VPS).
The drone also does not offer ActiveTrack, although there is a hack. There is no way to fly behind a subject automatically. The Mini 2 does provide so-called QuickShots, automatic programs with which you can quickly make a funny video such as Rocket, Boomerang, or Dronie.
Sensors for the Vision Positioning System (VPS). The rear status LED is also visible.
Conclusion of the DJI Mini 2 review
As small and light as the DJI Mini 2 is, it is certainly not a toy drone. Because of the long flight time and impressive image quality, you can see the DJI Mini 2 as a great camera drone, but in pocket format. A significant advantage is that the drone hardly makes any noise and attracts little attention from people or disturbs animals. Partly for that reason, I can easily imagine that serious video makers will also use the Mini 2 to make “that one drone shot” just as quickly.
From December 31, 2020, the new European drone rules will come into effect. From that moment on, the Mini 2 falls into Open subcategory A1 due to its low weight. You can even fly it above buildings. Flying over uninvolved people for a short time is also allowed, as long as there is no crowd and privacy is respected. Flying in no-fly zones is not allowed with the Mini 2. You have to keep the drone in line-of-sight, and the maximum allowed flight height is 120 meters (400 feet).
If you own the first generation Mavic Mini, then an upgrade to the Mini 2 is worth considering. The camera performs better, the drone can handle strong wind better, and the wireless connection is often more stable. And for people who already have a regular Mavic 2 or Phantom, the Mini 2 is a nice addition. I will certainly not get rid of it myself!
Only if you are looking for more features, such as ActiveTrack and obstacle detection, or if you want to raise the bar in terms of image quality, then the Mini 2 is less suitable. Then you should soon think of the Mavic Air 2, or even the Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom. But from December 31, 2020, stricter rules will apply due to the higher weight. See also this article on how the Mini 2 compares to the other DJI drones.
The basic version of the DJI Mini 2 (with one battery) costs €459/$449 in the DJI Store. The Fly More Combo costs €599/$599. You get two extra batteries, a charging hub, an extra set of propellers, a carrying case, and an adapter with a USB-C cable. You can also order the DJI Mini 2 through the retailers below.
- many possibilities after the introduction of EU regulations
- training after 31-12-2020 not compulsory
- may also be used after 1-1-2023 in Open subcategory A1
- many possibilities in Canada already
- stabilized 4K camera
- much higher bitrate than the first Mavic Mini
- option to photograph in RAW
- long flight time
- reasonably wind resistant (up to approx. 4-5 Bft)
- minimal noise production
- ability to create panos and 360’s
- long-range and stable video connection
- may also be used after 1-1-2023 in Open subcategory A1
- no obstacle detection
- no ActiveTrack or Hyperlapse
- controller relatively large and heavy
- no internal memory
Flying drones as a career?
If you want to turn your hobby into your career, practice how to fly your drone safely, and learn what it takes to get your Part 107, be sure to check out the excellent training modules from The Drone U.
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Photos courtesy of Wiebe de Jager and DroneWatch. All rights reserved.