Almost exactly a year after DJI came out with the Mavic Mini, the updated and improved successor, the Mini 2 was released. The Mavic Mini was a strategic release in response to the FAA requirement that any drone over 250g (0.55lbs) must be registered. The Mavic Mini of last year weighs in at 250g, and to remove any doubt of whether the newer model falls under the weight limit, the Mini 2 weighs in at 249g. For those who are concerned about registering a drone, this one lets you off the hook.
With the updated release comes a little bit of updated branding as well, with the Mavic dropped out of the name – now it’s just the Mini. In many ways very similar to the older version, the Mini 2 has a number of upgraded features such as an upgraded 4K/30p camera, the ability to capture Raw+JPEG files, and OcuSync 2.0 controller transmission instead of Wi-Fi.
These features make it an obvious improvement over the Mavic Mini, and together with its ease of use and peppy, sturdy design, the Mini 2 is easily the best drone under $500.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Drone Features
3. Flight Features
5. Photo and Video Features
6. Who is it for?
7. What We Like
8. What We Don’t
Small, Foldable Design
The Mini 2 benefits from the folding arms design that DJI has made so popular, making it easy to store and transport. Arms must be opened up in a specific order, and folded down in reverse order, which takes a little getting used to, but easy to get the hang of without too much trouble.
When the arms and propellers are folded in, the Mini 2 is about the size of a tall coffee mug, making it easy to take along in a backpack, or even in a roomy jacket pocket. Especially helpful is the strap that you can get with the drone to secure arms and propellers in place when folded up, to make sure nothing gets out of place or broken when stowed. Even so, I recommend using a protective bag or case to prevent scratches or damage if you do decide to stuff it in your backpack.
One word of hesitation with the low profile, stowable arms design is the landing and takeoff situation. Since the landing gear is so short, the drone may have a bit of trouble getting enough lift, and avoiding grass blades, etc. when trying to take off from even a well-trimmed lawn. The low clearance also means that the camera is set down right into the grass, exposing it to moisture. If you plan to do most of your take offs and landings from a lawn, a landing pad will help with these problems, or plan to take off from a level sidewalk or driveway.
I already mentioned the advantage of the Mini 2 not needing to be registered with the FAA, due to its lightweight design. The FAA requires that any drones over 250g must be registered, which is a fairly simple process, and only costs $5, but for some this is daunting enough to keep you away from wanting to fly a drone. The Mini 2 is safely under that weight limit, putting it officially in the toy category, although it performs much better than any other toy drone you put it up against.
The battery life of the Mini 2 is also an improvement over the original Mavic Mini, up to 31 minutes of flight time, though by the time you get through all the calibration and preflight checks, it’s more like 27 minutes of actual time in the air. Still, it’s an impressive amount of flight time for a drone that’s classified as a toy, and if you pick up an extra battery or two, you can have a solid afternoon of practically uninterrupted flying.
One point of possible frustration, if you were looking to upgrade, is that the batteries for the Mini 2 are not the same as the Mavic Mini batteries, so are not really interchangeable. The Mini 2 batteries are actually lighter, but with higher power output than Mavic Mini batteries, so though they would theoretically fit, they result in poorer performance, and put you over the 250g weight limit if you try to use them with the Mini 2.
The battery is located on the bottom of the drone, and can be a bit fiddly to get in and out due to the sprung plastic clip, but at least you know it’s securely in place during flight.
The Mini 2 has no internal storage, but relies on an SD card. In some ways this is more convenient, as it’s easier to get your images off a removable SD card than off of a drone’s internal storage, but it also means one more thing to remember to take along with you when you head out to fly.
The Mini 2 controller is almost a complete redo, being more similar to the Mavic Air controller than the Mavic Mini one, and a huge improvement in terms of functionality. The biggest change is the positioning of the smartphone that gets slotted in. The Mavic Mini controller had the phone positioned below the controller and joysticks, which could be a bit awkward to maneuver, and made for less than convenient screen viewing. The Mini 2 controller places the phone screen above the controls, which is a much better configuration in my opinion.
Mini 2 controller places the phone screen above the controls
The remote controller does not include a screen, but relies on a smartphone being slotted into place to provide a screen and access to most of the flight and camera features of the drone. The redesigned controller is simple and well laid out, with a few buttons for direct access to some functions. One very useful button on the face of the controller is the return to home button, which can be a lifesaver for a new pilot lacking confidence in getting the drone back to the starting point, especially if battery power is running low. Just hit the button, and the drone will land itself practically at your feet. and switching between flight modes.
Another useful button directly on the controller is the “Fn” button at the top left corner which switches on an auxiliary light to help give a little more visibility if you’re landing in poor lighting conditions. On the top right corner is a “Photo/Video toggle” button to let you quickly and easily switch back and forth between the two modes. Also incredibly useful are the gimbal wheel on the left of the controller to let you manually tilt the camera up and down, and the shutter button on the right for taking stills or recording videos.
Also on the controller is a button to let you instantly switch between three different flight modes – more on those in a minute.
Joysticks can unscrew and be stored on the bottom of the controller for streamlined, easy storage or transport.
After you’ve finished oohing and aahing over the snappy design of the drone and the clever arrangement of the controller, it’s time to get in the air and see how this thing flies. The Mini 2 is stable and peppy, and easy to fly with a good steady hover and a straight flight path. With upgraded motors over the Mavic Mini, it is capable of handling wind speeds of up to 24 mph, over the 17 mph of the previous model – which is an impressive feat for such a small drone.
The Mini 2 has a GPS module that is capable of connecting to signals from both GPS and GLONASS satellites, making it that much more accurate in locating its position and speed. The GPS function is responsible for powering the return to home function, as well as allowing the drone to achieve a stable hover without getting pushed around by every breeze.
The Find My Drone feature on the DJI Fly app is also powered by GPS, and will show the location of your drone’s last known position if you should happen to lose contact with it. When activated, the drone will flash lights and beep to help you find it, if it is still powered up.
Return to Home
A lifesaver for beginning pilots (and more advanced as well), pushing the Return to Home button will send the drone back to land at the same location from which it took off. If you’ve gotten disoriented, or have trouble navigating the joysticks with the drone facing you rather than away from you, this will get the drone back to you in a hurry, which can prevent a crash if you’re getting low on battery power.
The Mini 2 has three different flight modes to choose from depending on your skill level and what you’re trying to achieve. “Cine” is a slow flying mode (good for beginning flyers, too) with a top speed of 13 mph to give you the best cinematic-type video shots. The “Normal” flight mode gets speeds up to 22 mph, and “Sport” mode can let you zip around at 36 mph. This top speed is not going to win you any races, but it’s plenty fast for someone just learning to fly, and is fast enough to let you cover quite a bit of ground for the battery life available. These flight modes are accessible with buttons directly on the controller, or can be selected onscreen in the DJI Fly app.
One of the major differences between the Mavic Mini and the Mini 2 is the method of connection between the drone and controller. The Mavic Mini relies on a wifi connection, which limits the range to about 4km or 2.4 miles. The Mini 2 has ditched the wifi controller connection, and makes use of the DJI OcuSync 2.0 controller, for a much more stable connection, and a boosted range of up to 10km or 6 miles. Just be sure if you’re sending your drone that far from you with the controller, that you are able to keep it in view at all times.
This safety feature of most DJI drones is powered by FlySafe, and means that you will not be able to take off in restricted airspace, namely near airports, in national parks, or other temporarily restricted areas such as active wildfire zones. You can also use the geofence feature to set a restricted radius from the controller, which is a great idea if you’re just getting started. This will help you keep the drone in view, and help prevent crashes and flyaways.
DJI Fly App
Many of DJI’s higher level consumer drones (Mavic 2 series, Phantom 4, and others) use the DJI GO 4 app, but the Mini 2 uses the DJI Fly app, as do the Mavic Mini and the Mavic Air 2. The Fly app is simpler, cleaner and more streamlined, a definite plus for beginners who want to have easy control of the drone without being overwhelmed or distracted by too many extras.
The app screen shows a progress line along the top with remaining battery life (and flight time), and shows a clear image on the rest of the screen of what is in the drone camera’s view. A side panel gives access to menus to choose flight or camera/video features, and these are easy to access and select without obscuring your view of the image on screen.
What’s Not Included
The Mini 2 does not have obstacle avoidance sensors, which means that it’s up to you to keep it from crashing into anything. I personally like this in a beginner drone, as it will promote caution and motivate the pilot to work on developing skills at the controls.
No obstacle avoidance sensors also means that the Mini 2 does not have many intelligent flight modes, including ActiveTrack, which is the DJI follow me mode. This drone will not be the one you need if you want a drone that will automatically follow you while mountain biking or skateboarding.
The Mini 2 has a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor with a 12MP camera. This is the same camera for the original Mavic Mini, as well as the original Mavic Pro. It has a 24mm (equiv.) fixed-aperture F2.8 lens with 83º FOV, and ISO range of 100-3200. The 3-axis gimbal and stabilized flight ability make for smooth and stable shots, both stills and video.
What’s different with the Mini 2 is the newly added ability to capture images in Raw format for post-processing in the image processing software of your choice. JPEG is of course still an option for those of us who would rather just get the pictures straight online.
Make sure to have a big enough SD card
Another big step up for the Mini 2 is the upgrade to 4K video, which is almost a minimum these days. With the bigger video processing, capturing at 1000Mbps, make sure to have a big enough SD card, especially between the 4K and Raw photo files.
Video files are saved in .MP4, which doesn’t allow for a lot of grading after the fact. And digital zoom is a handy feature, especially in 1080P giving good results, though in 4K, 2x zoom is as much as you can expect.
Photo and Video Features
The Mini 2 has a more limited selection of intelligent flight features, including photo and video features, than any of the other Mavic drones (Air, Pro, Zoom). This is probably limited mostly by the reduced number of object detection sensors that keep the drone from being able to track objects. I’m sure this was done to be able to keep the drone under the 250g mark, so if you’re looking for tons of preset camera modes, the Mini 2 might not be the drone for you.
The Mini 2 has five different video modes to capture a 10 second video following a preset path. The camera detects the subject (person, tree, building, etc.), and records video while following the path of the mode you have selected. Here’s what the QuickShot menu offers:
- Dronie – the drone flies up to 120 feet away at an angle to the target
- Rocket – the drone flies straight up for a direct downward view of the target
- Circle – the drone flies in a complete 360 circle around the target
- Helix – the drone flies up to 120 above the target while spiraling around it
- Boomerang – the drone flies away from and back to the target following an oval path
There are also three preset panorama options, which make for fun novelty shots. These settings include:
- Sphere – creates a tiny planet shaped panorama by capturing twenty six images.
- 180 – captures seven images for a landscape perspective
- Wide – captures nine images to create a 3×3 tile
Who is it for?
The Mini 2 is a great drone for beginners and hobbyists who want to play with a drone that will give them a smooth, easy flight experience and a reasonably good quality photo and video option. The 12MP camera with the option to save in Raw can produce images that are good enough for most everyday purposes. And the upgraded 4K video with a few fun flight features can get you some cool video shots.
Great drone for beginners and hobbyists
For those looking for a serious camera and intelligent flight modes that can achieve more sophisticated autonomous flight and camera shots, you won’t find them here. For object avoidance, .MOV video files and a bigger, better sensor, you will need to upgrade to something like the Mavic 2 Air or Mavic 2 Pro.
What we like
- Raw photo capture
- 4K camera with zoom capabilities
- Better flight performance (wind resistance, flight time)
- Extended range with OcuSync 2.0
- Less than 250g, no need to register
What we don’t
- Lack of object tracking
- Limited intelligent flight modes
- No internal storage