Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom review

Earlier this month, DJI pulled the curtain back on two new drones: the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom — arguably two of the most advanced drones the company (or any company for that matter) has ever released. Despite being more powerful than ever before, they’re also quite similar to DJI’s original Mavic line in many regards. So to find out what sets them apart from their predecessors (and also what sets them apart from each other), we ran both drones through a week of rigorous flight testing. Here’s how it went:

Standout features and specs

Before we get any deeper into this review, it’s important to note that, aside from the cameras they carry, both Mavic 2 drones are identical to each other in terms of specs. As such, whenever we refer to a feature that isn’t camera-related, you can safely assume that said feature is present on both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom.

To be perfectly honest, the Mavic 2 series isn’t a massive improvement on the original Mavic Pro when it comes to raw flight specs. The drones can stay airborne for a couple minutes longer (31 instead of 29), and can fly a few miles per hour faster (44 instead of 40) than their forebears — but that’s about it. The most significant improvements are the Mavic 2’s software, sensing abilities, and cameras.

Really, the Mavic 2’s only card-carrying competitors are other DJI drones.

On the software side, the Mavic 2 ships with DJI’s new ActiveTrack 2.0, which allows the drone to follow moving subjects autonomously, and with more precision than ever before. Additionally, both the Pro and Zoom are equipped with OcuSync 2.0: the latest version of DJI’s video transmission technology, which allows you to see what the drone sees in real time — now in full 1080p.

DJI has also outfitted the Mavic 2 series with a drastically improved environmental sensing system. Whereas the original Mavic Pro only sensed obstacles in front of it (and the Mavic Air added behind and down), the second generation boasts omnidirectional sense-and-avoid, thanks to 10 sensors positioned on its front, back, left, right, top, and bottom.

Last but not least, the Mavic 2 boasts one of two new cameras. The Mavic 2 Pro carries an integrated Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor and adjustable aperture, while the Mavic 2 Zoom boasts a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor, as well as the ability to zoom from 24mm to 48mm. We’ll delve deeper into the camera specs later.

All things considered, the Mavic 2 line is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary — but in this case that’s a good thing. It appears that DJI kept all the things that worked well in the first-generation Mavic drones, and only worked on areas with significant room for improvement. We appreciate that. There were a lot of good things going on in the original Mavic, and we’re glad DJI didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.

Build quality and durability

When it comes to design and build quality, the Mavic 2 line is an apple that hasn’t fallen far from the proverbial tree. In other words, it’s built like a brick outhouse. The original Mavic Pro is one of the sturdiest, most well-built drones we’ve ever flown, and the Mavic 2 series is no different.

The original Mavic Pro is one of the sturdiest, most well-built drones we’ve ever flown, and the Mavic 2 series is no different

In terms of form, not much has changed. The Mavic 2 series looks and feels nearly identical to its older siblings, save for a few minor changes. This generation is slightly larger and heavier, and also has a few more sensors built into its hull — but that’s where the differences end. Thankfully, the new fleet still has the same awesome folding-arm design and rock-solid construction.

We didn’t crash our test units this time, but due to our extensive experience with the first-generation Mavic (which is substantially similar in terms of build quality) we’re confident that both the Pro and Zoom could barrel into bushes, bump into branches, and bounce around in your backpack — and live to fly another day.

dji mavic 2 pro zoom review xxl
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Battery life and recharge time

DJI says that the Mavic 2 can hover for 29 minutes in optimal conditions, and thanks to its aerodynamic design, can stay airborne for a maximum of 31 minutes if flown at a constant 7 miles per hour (25 kph). As usual, these stats were achieved in conditions that you’re highly unlikely to encounter in the real world — so we ran both drones through our own series of endurance tests to get a better read on the Mavic 2’s true flight times.

The first of these was a static hover test, where we let both drones hover in place until they drained their batteries and automatically landed themselves. Our two hover tests lasted an average of 28 minutes and 14 seconds — which isn’t very far off from DJI’s claimed 29 minutes..

Next, to get a sense of how long the Mavic 2 lasts during normal flight, we recorded the flight times from every other flight test we conducted and averaged them out. Over the course of 16 different flights that went from 100 percent battery to emergency low-battery automatic landing, the Mavic Pro and Zoom (which are functionally identical) averaged a flight time of 28 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s not quite as long as DJI’s claimed maximum of 31 minutes — but we did log a couple flights that broke the 30 minute barrier, so the Mavic 2 is certainly no slouch in the battery department

When it comes time to recharge, you can expect about 45 to 50 minutes to juice up each battery from empty to full — which is slightly quicker than previous generations.

Piloting, control, and autonomy

In the air, the Mavic 2 feels almost exactly the same as its predecessors — and by that we mean it’s tight, athletic, and supremely responsive. If you’ve ever flown a DJI drone before, you’ll feel right at home with the Mavic 2. Hell, even if you haven’t flown a DJI drone before, you’ll still be able to fly this one like a pro. DJI’s flight software is top-notch and extremely reliable, so the Mavic 2 only goes where you tell it to go — no drifting, wandering, or slippery controls. To borrow a phrase we’ve used in the past: These drones are practically bolted to the sky.

DJI Mavic 2
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

These stellar manual controls are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Thanks to the Mavic 2’s beefy omni-directional obstacle avoidance system, you can fly these drones with more vigor and confidence than ever before. If you’re about to crash into an obstacle, DJI’s software will beep and alert you as you approach. If you ignore these warnings and keep flying, the drone will even auto-brake to avoid a crash. It’s worth noting, however, that this only works from the front, back, top, and bottom of the drone. Unfortunately, the left and right sensors are only switched on when you’re in ActiveTrack mode and the drone is flying itself.

Still, even with sideways sensing disabled during manual flight, both Mavic 2 drones feel extremely safe and reliable. You really have to go out of your way to crash them — and that kind of in-air confidence is ultimately what helps you get better footage.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Compared To

Camera and accessories

As we’ve said before, the camera is the only feature that separates the Mavic 2 Pro from the Mavic 2 Zoom. The Mavic 2 Pro is outfitted with a Hasselblad camera and a 1-inch CMOS sensor, whereas the Mavic 2 Zoom is equipped with a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor and a 24-48mm optical zoom lens.

The Mavic 2 Pro’s shooter is arguably the better of the two. In addition to the larger sensor (which gives it better resolution, better dynamic range, and better low-light performance), the Pro’s Hasselblad camera comes with an adjustable aperture — which is a huge new addition. Aperture control allows you to fine-tune how much light enters the camera, and also change the depth of field. Casual users will probably just stick to automatic mode, but for photographers and videographers, this is a massive feature that greatly expands the level of creative control you have over the images you capture.

The other big feature is Dlog M 10-bit color recording. We won’t bore you with the technical details here. All you need to know is that Mavic 2 Pro can record well over a billion discrete colors, which makes the Mavic 2 Zoom’s 16 million pale in comparison. That said, this feature is only really a necessity if you’re a professional filmmaker or photographer — but you don’t need to be a pro to see what a difference it makes.

This zooming ability is an outrageously fun feature to have on a drone.

Unfortunately, one thing that the Mavic 2 Pro can’t do is zoom, and that’s where the Mavic 2 Zoom comes in. This beast has 2x optical zoom (24-48mm) and 2x digital zoom, which effectively means it can simulate a 96mm telephoto lens that captures lossless video in 1080p.

As we discovered during our testing, this zooming ability is an outrageously fun feature to have on a drone. Not only does it allow you to get closer to your subject without actually flying closer; it also gives you access to a bunch of fun creative effects. For example, if you shoot at 48mm and orbit yourself while you stand triumphantly on a hilltop, the camera will compress the perspective a bit and make the background appear to move at super speed. You can also zoom in or out while flying to create the infamous Dolly Zoom effect popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, which gives your videos a really cool look. Ultimately, the Mavic 2 Zoom just gives you a greater degree of creative freedom — and it’s enough to make you forget about the smaller image sensor.

At the end of the day, both Mavic 2 drones boast excellent cameras, which makes choosing just one an agonizingly difficult task. Honestly, our biggest gripe is that DJI didn’t give the Mavic 2 a modular camera system, and instead forces users to choose between the Zoom and Pro. The Inspire 2 has interchangeable cameras, so DJI certainly has the capacity to build swappable camera systems into its drones. It’s puzzling why it didn’t do so with the Mavic 2 line.

Our Take

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re looking for a portable drone with a great camera, then the Mavic 2 series is pretty tough to beat. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another compact UAV with comparable features — especially if you look outside of DJI’s fleet. Really, the Mavic 2’s only card-carrying competitors are other DJI drones.

If your main goal is capturing great footage, then you might want to consider DJI’s Inspire 2. It’s bigger, more expensive, and far less portable, but it can carry a more powerful camera. It also comes with the aforementioned camera swapping system, which allows you to upgrade your shooter without buying a whole new drone.

If you’re on a tighter budget and you don’t necessarily need the top-tier video performance or obstacle avoidance that the Mavic 2 line provides, then DJI’s original Mavic Pro and Mavic Air are still solid choices. Both are significantly cheaper, yet are still capable of shooting 4K video and auto-dodging obstacles. They’re just not quite as robust as the new Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom in those regards.

Finally, if you’re intrigued by the creative potential that the Mavic 2 Zoom provides with its zooming abilities, but you aren’t prepared to spend $ 1,249 to get them, you might want to check out Parrot’s Anafi drone. It’s not nearly as reliable or autonomous in the air, but it’s only $ 700 and boasts a very similar zoom function. It also has a unique 180-degree gimbal, which opens up even more doors for creativity.

How long will it last?

Years. DJI still provides software support for drones that it released five years ago — so we have no doubt that the company will release firmware updates and bug fixes for the Mavic 2 series for years to come. So long as you don’t crash into a lake, the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom will likely last you a long, long time.

Should you buy it?

If you can afford it, then hell yes you should buy it. The Mavic 2 is arguably the best all-around drone you can get right now. The only question is which one to get.

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Emerging Tech – Digital Trends