The DJI Mavic 2 is probably one of the best portable drones to ever hit the market. Compared to the previous Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro, this drone is nothing shy of a complicated decision.
Overall build quality of the Mavic 2 is definitely stronger and sturdier than its previous version. This drone is better in the sense of part placement and gimbal strength. By part placement, things that were immediately noticeable to me about Mavic 2 were the detachable knobs on the controller, the SD card slot being accessible without unfolding the drone, and the micro USB built into the charger rather than being a separate USB plug to connect (also an additional USB port on charger). As small as these things are, I use this drone literally almost every single day, and all these things have helped me out more than I ever imagined they could.
Aside from that, there are a few flaws when it comes to the design of the product — small things like the gimbal cover scratching the outside of the camera and the legs scraping against the body when folding them up. The Mavic 2 also has a half press for focus on the shutter, which for me is really annoying; it's helpful rarely. Are these dealbreakers when it comes to considering Mavic 2? Absolutely not.
Flight and Performance
Honestly, aside from the build of this drone, the first thing I noticed when I first flew it was how quiet it was compared to the Mavic Pro. DJI has done a very good job reducing the noise of the drone while improving its efficiency. The battery lasts a long time and can be pushed pretty hard if need be. This drone also has a bit more power than its previous version.
Flying the Mavic 2 compared to the Mavic Pro is a big improvement. Connection and video transmission are certainly better, the GPS is a lot quicker ,and compass calibrations are now easier than ever before (at least in my own personal experience). Compared to a previous 18 minutes average of battery on my Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 seems to easily be getting around 24+ minutes, making it feel like I can focus on a lot more of the shots I want to get.
For me, top speed and sport mode are silly things to talk about it because I don’t think that's what the Mavic 2 is for, but I have to talk about these motors, because of their ability to perform. Mavic 2 is not too much faster than Mavic Pro. It can fly about 40 mph straight forward, but you lose a lot of control with the gimbal. If you are flying sideways, you can achieve speeds around 20-30 mph, but overall, I feel like gimbal control is limited when flying in sport mode.
The reason I want to bring up speed is because of wind. How many of you have had trouble flying drones in strong wind? I remember my Mavic Pro would struggle a bit when it came to wind, and I had to be really careful flying it too far away. Doing all the work I do with these smaller drones, being able to trust my drone flying in riskier conditions is a big thing for me. It is very important to know what your drone can and can’t handle, especially when it comes to safety. In my experience, the Mavic 2 flies better than any other Mavic I’ve had before, and I have to say that the motors on this drone have proven to be very trustworthy in a lot of the conditions I have flown it in.
Here we are, one of the most important reasons for an upgrade to this drone, simply because of its improved camera. With two new versions, boy, are we stuck with a choice to make. I will break things down as best as I can for you both the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom when it comes to the camera.
Mavic 2 Pro
First impression, wow. The quality of the Hasselblad camera on this drone compared to the camera on the Mavic Pro, well, words cannot describe how awesome this upgrade is. Not only did I see a huge difference in quality, but in colors as well. The Mavic 2 Pro uses Hasselblad color technology, which seemed to remove some of that purple/blue cast I got on my Mavic Pro. The raw files also have a lot more push when it comes to editing, which can be really useful depending on what you are shooting.
So, let's dive into the specs. The drone has a 20-megapixel Hasselblad camera with a 1” CMOS sensor and variable mechanical aperture. For video, this drone offers H.265, 10-bit recording and D-Log. The main reason I enjoyed the Mavic 2 Pro is because this sensor seemed to preform better than the Mavic 2 Zoom’s in lower light. Both new drones seem to have cleaner noise patterns in both photo and video.
Mavic 2 Zoom
This drone initially was “ehh” to me. I kind of thought of the Zoom to be more of a goofy concept to help sell this version. At a slightly lower price point, this version is a newer build of the Mavic Pro that can zoom in and out. Honestly, after using this drone on my recent trip to Dubai and Tanzania, I really fell in love with the fact that I had the ability to zoom whenever I wanted.
As far as quality goes on this drone, it’s very comparable to the Mavic Pro, but still slightly better quality than its previous camera. One of my favorite features on this version is the super res. This was another thing I was skeptical about, but after using it several times, it seems to be plenty capable of putting out a solid image. Aside from being able to take a 48-megapixel still (which saves in JPEG, sadly), the ability to zoom comes in a lot of handy when you need to be farther away from the subject you are shooting. The zoom is also something that provides a look of its own. Unfortunately, the zoom appears to have a variable aperture, so the more you zoom in, the darker your image will get, which is something you need to pay attention to when shooting with this drone.
Specs on this drone are a 12-megapixel camera with a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor and 2x optical zoom. As far as photography goes, with a drone like Mavic 2 Zoom, you do have a little bit more room to play with composition and frame. It is neat to be able to zoom in without losing any resolution; I find myself spending a lot of time up in the air searching for things in that “telephoto” perspective.
Mavic 2 Zoom is unique. If you are not used to flying a longer lens, it can be confusing to keep track of where your drone is at first if you are just looking at your screen. It’s best to get used to knowing the focal length and distance from your subject so that you can keep track of your drone when you are flying and shooting.
Aside from shooting my own personal photos, a lot of the actual work I do is video. The size of the Mavic has become nothing but super convenient for a lot of jobs, while the quality it puts out is actually very usable for what I am doing right now. I will be sharing some footage I recently took from Tanzania.
Mavic 2 Zoom
Some of the good things I noticed when it comes to video on the Zoom is that it has the ability to shoot at different focal lengths. In a way, this makes the drone a mini Inspire 2 for me, giving me the freedom to pull that background in a little bit if I need to. On top of being able to zoom in with the optical zoom, the 4K allows you to get even tighter if you are looking to export at a lower resolution. Tracking shots are also made a lot easier because I can stay further back while shooting at a longer focal length. In the end, this drone became very fun for video.
Downsides to shooting video on the Mavic 2 Zoom include the lack of a mechanical shutter, which means it is almost necessary to have ND filters when you shoot video. The aperture when you zoom in and out seems to be variable, like I said above. If you are shooting and begin to zoom in, you will notice it slowly get darker. I would typically stay at one focal length and have my settings set up for that specific shot. This isn’t a make it or break it type of thing either, but it is good to know for certain types of situations where specific lighting comes into play. One thing I really like about the Zoom is that it can shoot H.264 in cinelike. This is great color profile for me to edit in Premiere, and I really like what I am able to do with the colors from this camera.
Mavic 2 Pro
What I like about the Mavic 2 Pro is that it has a bigger sensor that is essentially capable of putting out better quality overall. The lens is fixed at 28mm, but an upside to this version is its variable aperture, giving more options when it comes to how we choose to expose our video. On top of that, the larger sensor plays a big role when it comes to shooting in lower light. I personally have been able to get usable footage shooting at ISO 800 during twilight with this drone.
One of the biggest downsides to the Pro is that it cannot shoot in cinelike. To me, this is one of the bigger issues I’ve had, and I would hope this is something they can fix in a firmware update. Another thing that really bugs me when it comes to video on the Pro is the orange Hasselblad shutter square. The orange shutter is a great feature and all, but when you start recording, it turns into a rounded square that doesn't look much different from the record button. If you don’t have the sound on or are not paying attention, it is super easy to mistake these two things. Maybe turning red when recording could help? Ultimately, this is the pilot's responsibility, and though it can be an issue, you need to make sure you are recording. A small fix there could be nice though.
Mavic 2 for Videography
After my trip to Tanzania shooting for work, I realized a lot about these two drones that I hadn’t before. Shooting on two Mavics, I would like for the color settings to be as close to each other as possible. This would make things a lot easier to match up in post. In this case, these drones have such slightly different color profiles, it's almost silly they aren't just the same as one another.
My main issue is the lack of color profile options on the drones. The Mavic 2 Zoom can shoot H.264 cinelike, whereas the Mavic 2 Pro can only shoot H.264 normal. The Mavic 2 Pro can do H.265 D-Log, whereas the Mavic 2 Zoom cannot. This can become quite a hassle when it comes to matching color for a look from both drones. So, while it looks like the Mavic 2 Pro has more options, why does it lack the more standard options that the Zoom has?
Another big issue I’ve been having is the adjustment of the settings when switching between photo and video mode. I can see how it is useful, but have found it to be more harmful overall. This new setting has actually made me lose a lot of shots I wanted to get on the fly.
For those of you who don’t have a Mavic Air or Mavic 2, you can no longer hit the record button from shooting a photo and keep the same photo settings you were just in. Instead, it will switch over to video mode and preserve whatever video settings you used last. This is nothing but a time-consuming thing for me, and it hinders my efficiency. There are times I need to grab a shot immediately, and when I have to take the time to switch back into the other mode and then adjust my settings to get them how they just looked in the other mode, I’ve already missed the shot I wanted to get. Again, this can probably be fixed in a firmware update, but it's something that continues to bug me.
When I buy drones, I don’t typically buy them to use any of their automatic features. I like to fly completely manually with obstacle avoidance off, because that way, I know I am always in control of the drone and movements. If I am using a flight mode, I would need to really trust that it is able to do what I want it to do; otherwise, I won’t use it.
I think one of the main reasons for the flight modes are for consumers to achieve more cinematic shots without actually having to learn how to master the flying of their drone. Flying to achieve certain shots can be challenging, but these modes do help where they can. The Mavic 2 also offers obstacle avoidance from all angles, making these quick mode shots safer than they have ever been before.
Talking about some of the new features these drones have, I am slightly impressed with the hyperlapse feature on both drones. This feature does a very good job on its own, but I really wish you could edit the flight pattern and settings even after the shot is set up and going. The fact that it goes completely out of the pilot's control makes it a little bit harder for me to trust the drones.
One feature I was impressed with was the super res mode on the Zoom version. I almost see some of these features balancing out these two drones, because in a way you can say the Mavic 2 Zoom shoots 48 megapixels. Though it’s JPEG, I feel like the image quality is very comparable if not better than the Mavic 2 Pro. A few downsides to this mode are that it takes a while to capture a single image and the fact that it is buried in the panoramic menu, which makes it a pain to switch into. Other than that, I am impressed with the quality and consistency in this mode.
What I Liked
- Quieter flight
- Longer battery
- Better build quality
- Location of SD card
- One piece gimbal cover
- Stronger gimbal and motors
What I Didn’t Like
- Half-press to focus
- No portrait mode
- Color profiles
- Record buttons on Hasselblad interface
- Switching of the settings between photo and video mode
I really found myself liking this improved Mavic. During the time I’ve had these, I discovered a lot of positives and negatives about them. The things I saw improved most were the quieter flights, longer battery life, more powerful motors, that much stronger gimbal, and the fact it was so much easier to get GPS. Because I rarely had problems using the Mavic 2 going out to fly, I found this drone to be the most convenient one yet.
The biggest downside of Mavic 2 for me would be the lack of portrait mode. I’m not really sure what DJI was thinking taking this away and I think it will affect previous Mavic Pro owners the most. This was a feature that myself and so many other aerial photographers used and it was one of the best parts about the Mavic Pro. I would love to see this fixed or updated in the future because it only adds to our ability to create when we are out shooting.
Mavic 2 turned out to be far from an immediate upgrade. As impressed as I am with all of the new features and build, it did not top the Mavic Pro the way I had expected it to. If you are looking for a better drone, this is certainly an option, but your upgrade should always come down to what it is that will benefit your work. The Mavic 2 Pro is currently $1,499, while the Mavic 2 Zoom is $1,249.
Great review! Thanks for the info as this will help my decision to upgrade or not from Mavic Pro
Good review, I've been flying the drone for about a month and have similar thoughts. Apparently the Android app is really buggy, best use IOS for safest flying.
Great review Ty! I've been absolutely loving my M2P over the last couple of months, but I've found in post that if I apply any sort of preset to the images that the greens come through really strong.
I'm shooting RAW and despite trying different presets as a starting point, I keep noticing that the greens appear pretty heavy right out of the gate.
Has anyone else experienced this?
Thank you Chip! I actually have noticed a bit of that and I've been trying to make a simple preset I can apply to fix those small things.
Try jumping into the camera calibration in Lightroom to actually tone down a few of those colors :) That seems to help me out a little bit.
Good article. What I wanted to see is how it performs in low light. I know that shooting at high noon always shows good camera quality but it seems like the manufacturer forbids drone testers to show low light results. I know it’s not like that, just seems strange that test shots for photographers are taken at high noon.
Well then I have you fooled on a few of these . The last two shots were shot at sunrise and you can see some low light video here :)
More than usable footage I’d say. Which Mavic was used there? Or both?
Both used in this video. Zoom during the day and Pro at twilight
Very Nice. Same question. Which one?
If you wanted to compare the ground cameras to the drone stuff, we were shooting on a Sony a7S II and a7R III. The boat shot in the beginning is Zoom at 48mm late afternoon. The Pro is towards the end during twilight either 400 or 800 ISO and everything is shot 4k, downressed to 1080p :)
Choosing between a larger, higher res sensor (pro) vs variable focal length and super res (zoom) strikes me as a really annoying choice to have to make. I wish they could have made at least a dual focal length (wide + normal) lens matched to the 1" sensor. While I don't need to be able to zoom, having the ability to shoot using a "natural" perspective is probably the #1 thing I wish my drone could do. A 40 or 50mm perspective combined with a 20mp 1" would be a real step up for aerial photography. We're so close!
Well, now I love my M2 even more. The Stealth props by Master Airscrew are awesome.