DJI’s popular Mavic Pro is getting a big update—so big that the company has decided to split it into two models, the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro. The Zoom version features a camera similar to the original, but with the added benefit of a 2x optical zoom. The Pro edition uses a higher-quality camera with a 1-inch sensor and greater video capabilities. Aside from that, the two drones are identical. I got a chance to see them up close ahead of their announcement.
Bigger, but Foldable
The first thing you notice when picking up the Mavic 2 is its size. It’s bigger than the Mavic. Not by a lot—it’ll still fold up to find a place in your camera bag. But in a world where technology continues to get smaller and slimmer, it’s news when any follow-up product is chunkier than its predecessor.
DJI wasn’t able to provide exact folded dimensions and weight, but the Mavic 2 isn’t that much bigger than the original Mavic Pro—both new drones are still eminently portable. They can also fly longer than any other DJI drone
One thing that’s slightly smaller is the remote control. It now has removable joysticks, just like you get with the Mavic Air. There’s also a cutout for your phone’s home button, which was a bit hard to reach with previous remotes. It uses an improved connection, OcuSync 2.0, for 1080p streaming to your phone’s screen at distances of up to 5 miles. In addition to ensuring the connection is rock solid when working within the FAA-mandated visual line of sight, you can edit cached 1080p video using your smartphone and also access full-resolution JPG copies of images.
Both the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro include 8GB of internal memory, accessible via USB-C, as well as a microSD card slot. Having some internal storage can save your bacon if you forget to bring a memory card to a shoot, but you’ll want to invest in a big card if you plan on taking advantage of the high bit-rate 4K video capabilities.
Two Cameras, Two Models
DJI has decided to offer two tiers of Mavic 2, similar to what it did with the Phantom 4 family. The Mavic 2 Zoom features a camera with a 1/2.3-inch image sensor—similar in size to a flagship smartphone or most long zooming point-and-shoot digital cameras. The Mavic 2 Pro’s lens is backed by a 1-inch sensor, about four times as big as the 1/2.3-inch class.
But the small-sensor Zoom has a trick up its sleeve—optical zoom. We’ve seen a bit of a zoom before, notably in the Parrot Anafi, a $700 drone that launched earlier this summer. (I have an Anafi on hand and am in the process of finishing a review.) But the Anafi uses digital zoom to get in closer to subjects—the Mavic 2 offers 2x optical zoom for lossless 4K
The Mavic 2 Zoom, priced at $1,249, supports high bit-rate capture, at 100Mbps in H.265 format. When shot with a log profile video offers up to 13 stops of dynamic range. It also has a couple of tricks that utilize the zoom lens. The first, which we also saw in the Anafi, is an automated dolly zoom, also known as the Vertigo shot, after the 1956 Hitchcock classic that introduced it. Zooming in with the lens while pulling backward with the camera—or vice versa—has long been a favorite of filmmakers. Spielberg famously copied the shot in Jaws, and Scorsese used a very slow dolly zoom in Goodfellas.
The zoom also comes in handy for stills. The Mavic’s sensor resolution is just 12MP, but it can zoom all the way in, capture a series of nine images, and stitch them together into a 48MP image which just about matches the angle of view at its widest angle setting. We’ll have to see how this works in real life—we found the in-drone stitching offered by the Mavic Air delivered inconsistent results. DJI says stitching is better with the Mavic 2.
DJI provided the sample image above (click to see it at full 48MP resolution), which looks quite good, but was shot on a very evenly lit day. The issues we’ve noticed with the Mavic Air’s stitching are in scenes with mixed lighting, especially when the sun is visible in the frame.
In addition to 12MP Raw and JPG stills, and 48MP stitched JPGs, the Mavic 2 supports video at up to 4K UHD quality and 30fps—the more cinematic 24fps look is also available. You can also work at 2.7K at up to 60fps, or 1080p at up to 120fps.
Both models now support Hyperlapse—basically a time-lapse with motion. You can combine the effect with automated shots, including a circular orbit, or fly manually, either with standard controls or
The Mavic 2 Pro, which carries a $1,449 asking price, has a very different camera. Co-developed with Hasselblad—which DJI refers to as a strategic partner—the Pro edition sports a 1-inch sensor camera with a prime 28mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2.8 lens. In addition to capturing higher-quality stills—20MP in Raw or JPG format—the camera benefits from a larger sensor, a big plus for images and videos captured in the fleeting light of dusk and dawn. You can capture stills or video at up to ISO 6400.
Its video capabilities are also a bit more robust. You get the same H.265 compression at 100Mbps, but the sensor extends dynamic range to 14 stops thanks to its 10-bit D-log profile, and can also shoot HDR footage in Hybrid Log Gamma.
Missing in action is support for the wider 4K DCI format. That’s something you get with the Phantom 4 Pro. It’s one of the few technical advantages that the P4 Pro holds over the Mavic 2 Pro—the other is 60fps capture at 4K; the Mavic Pro tops out at 30fps.
Sensors All Around
The Mavic 2 family has a faster processor than previous models, which allows it to perform more advanced obstacle detection and avoidance. To take advantage of the extra processing power, DJI has put obstacle sensors on every side of the Mavic 2. A total of ten sensors provide forward, rear, left, right, upward, and downward obstacle detection.
Not all of the sensors are active at all times—for normal, manual flight, the left and right sensors are disabled. They are only active when the Mavic is set to its automated ActiveTrack mode or Tripod mode, a low-speed option that gives you precise control to frame up the perfect aerial image. I would have like to have seen them used for automated Circle—what DJI is calling Orbit now—shots too.
The Mavic 2 supports the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS), first seen in the Mavic Air. It’s a low-speed mode in which the drone reads the terrain in front of it and automatically maneuvers around obstacles. I found it quite useful for shots captured low to the ground.
There’s also a high-speed
The drone is also capable of tracking fast-moving targets on the ground, including those moving at 44mph. ActiveTrack 2.0 leverages the improved processing power to keep up with fast-moving
In addition to all of the new sensors, the Mavic 2 also includes a pair of downward-facing lights. These turn on when landing in low light, allowing the drone to better see the ground below in order to come in for a safe, secure landing.
The Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro ship with everything you need to get started, minus an Android or iOS device, which is required if you want to take full advantage of the aircrafts’ features. You get the quadcopter, one battery, the remote control, the battery charger, and four pairs of propellers. There’s also a Fly More Kit, available separately for $319. It includes two batteries, a multi-battery charger, two pairs of propellers, and a carrying case.
The Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are on sale now. If you’re having a hard time deciding which one to get, be aware that DJI plans to offer a service to swap out the cameras and gimbals, so it will be possible to upgrade your Mavic 2 Zoom to a Mavic 2 Pro. Pricing for the service isn’t available yet, but you will have to send your drone into a service center to have the work done.