Photography is an ever evolving medium. New gear, new technology and new ways of seeing the world make it an extremely exciting time to be a photographer right now.
Over the last year or so I’ve become more and more interested in aerial photography and getting new perspectives for my work. And wouldn’t you know it, DJI just released another brand new tool for aerial photography in August of 2018. So when I had the opportunity to test it out, I didn’t hesitate. I give you…
…wait for it…
…the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.
Out of the box
Sleek, compact and understated; that’s how I would describe the appearance of the Mavic 2 Zoom. DJI has chosen a color scheme that should be familiar to those who have experienced the previous model upon which they have based the Mavic 2 Zoom upon – the Mavic Pro. The drone itself is dark gray with a silver belly and matching silver accents. You’ll notice that while the overall lines have been maintained, the Mavic 2 Zoom is a completely different animal when compared to its predecessor.
The gimbal cover of the Mavic 2 has also been updated to protect the camera during transport. While easy to remove, I have to admit reattaching the gimbal cover was slightly confusing the first time I attempted it. Luckily, DJI has included a quick diagram to help with this.
Who knows, maybe it was just me being clumsy? In any case, once you get the hang of the new gimbal cover, reattaching it becomes essentially like riding a bike.
The Mavic 2 Zoom has incorporated a set of legitimate landing and take-off lights to aid in low-light situations when the bottom-facing obstacle sensors may have difficulty discerning where the ground may be. Speaking of sensors, DJI has enhanced the Mavic 2 Zoom with Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing technology (more on that later) for side, front and rear obstacle avoidance. These sensors are readily visible throughout the breadth of the aircraft yet somehow the body of the drone doesn’t appear overly cluttered.
The controller for the Mavic 2 Zoom has received a light makeover as well. I was happy to see the addition of the fantastic “stow and go” joysticks present on the Mavic AIR controller to this new iteration of Mavic controllers. When not in use, the joysticks can be packed away beneath the folding wings of the controller.
This makes stashing your controller in your bag much easier and less likely to snag or less ideally, break.
Most of the contact surfaces are rubberized, and the controller feels great even when using a larger smartphone like my Samsung S8 Active.
Speaking of phones, an incredibly cool feature of the Mavic 2 Zoom controller is that it charges your phone should your phone’s battery level drop to below 40% during flight. How cool is that?
Thanks for having our backs, DJI.
With that said, you will almost certainly need to remove your phone case (should you have one) to make everything fit within the controller. Of course, you might not have to, but keep that in mind before you fly.
Another feature, albeit possibly not as overtly impressive for some as it was to me, is the addition of an integrated charging cable built right into the included battery charger.
This enables the user to always have a way to charge their controllers should they misplace or not have another cable to charge the controller.
With the introductions complete, let’s get down to business and see how well the Mavic 2 Zoom performs in the air.
In comparison to the Mavic Pro, it’s safe to say that DJI has improved virtually every area of flight performance in the Mavic 2 Zoom. They have increased the maximum speed and the overall flight time and distance capability. Even though descent/ascent speeds have remained the same as the Mavic Pro (impressive in its own right), it’s easy to see that the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much an upgrade in terms of its ability to fly further faster and with more confidence.
- Dimensions Folded: 214×91×84 mm (length×width×height)
- Dimensions Unfolded: 322×242×84 mm (length×width×height) with 354mm at diagonal
- Weight: 1.99 lbs(905g) with battery and propellers attached
- Maximum flight time: 31 minutes at constant 15.5 mph(25 kph)
- Maximum hover time: 29 minutes(no wind)
- Operating temperatures: 14° F to 104° F(-10°C to 40°C)
- Maximum speed: 44.7 mph(72 kph) (S-mode)
- Maximum ascent speed: 5 m/s (S-mode), 4 m/s (P-mode)
- Maximum descent speed: 3 m/s (S-mode), 3 m/s (P-mode)
- Maximum altitude: 19,685ft above sea level (6000m)
The Mavic 2 Zoom is about 2g lighter in total weight but all other performance statistics regarding speed, dimensions and flight are precisely the same as the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro use the same drone body. The only difference being their respective camera systems.
Don’t believe me?
Here is the Mavic 2 and Mavic 2 Zoom side by side. If you can’t tell, why should I?
In flight, the Mavic 2 Zoom is nimble with great response time. The propellers have been redesigned to make them quieter when compared to the Mavic Pro. Unfortunately, this also means that the propellers are not interchangeable between the two aircraft. So, you won’t be able to buy a set of Mavic 2 props to quiet down your older Mavic. Sorry folks.
Acceleration is quite impressive, with stops being not overly abrupt. Of course, many of these observations depend on how you have the responsiveness of your controller configured. Speaking of that, DJI has placed the three main flight modes for the Mavic 2 Zoom on the right side of the controller. These modes are Tripod (T), Positioning (P) and Sport (S).
When in T-mode, the speed of the drone becomes greatly reduced as well as the acceleration and deceleration making it great for slow and controlled pans. Also, all of the Mavic 2 Zoom’s Omnidirectional Obstacle sensors are enabled.
P-mode could be called the “standard” flight mode. In P-mode, all of the Intelligent Flight modes are available.
Lastly, we have blazing-fast S-mode. In sport mode, all obstacle avoidance is disabled which means you’re entirely on your own. The fun part? The Mavic 2 Zoom can then hit a top speed of nearly 45mph (72.4kph). The Mavic 2 Zoom can also allow the pilot to select from pre-programmed intelligent flight modes which are great for obtaining footage that would otherwise be difficult for the average user.
Intelligent Flight Modes
- ActiveTrack 2.0(with improved 3D subject tracking) Capable of identifying up to 16 subjects and track 1
- Cinematic Mode (dampens the drone’s movements for increased stability) Softens the breaking period for increased video smoothness
- Hyperlapse Moves the drone through out the acquisition of time lapses
- QuickShots (outlined below)
- Points Of Interest (POI 2.0) Allows the user to choose a subject and instruct the drone to keep it in frame based on a predetermined altitude and speed while circling
- Waypoint Navigation The Mavic 2 Zoom will fly to a series of locations chosen on the map
- Tap-to-Fly Select a map area and the drone will automatically fly to that spot
QuickShot Intelligent Flight Modes
- Dolly Zoom An interesting cinematic zoom effect…Hitchcock style
- Asteroid Essentially contorts your scene into spherical illusion
- Boomerang The drone will fly in an ellipse around the subject and automatically start and stop filming in the same place
- Rocket The Mavic 2 Zoom will take off vertically with the camera flowing your subject
- Circle Enables the drone to fly in a circle around the subject at a predetermined altitude and distance
- Dronie Pre-programmed upward flight with the drone moving backward all the while tracking the subject
- Helix The drone will upward and away while maintaining view of your subject
If you’re like me, then I figure you’re extremely interested in the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom. After all, unless you just like flying a drone around the sky (which is fun too), the real reason you’re doing it all is to get awesome aerial photos and videos.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the zoom feature which is the Mavic 2 Zoom’s namesake. It has a 2x optical zoom plus an additional digital zoom capability (which DJI reports being lossless) when shooting video in FHD 1080p. DJI also reports the Mavic 2 Zoom to be capable of producing images with 13-stops of dynamic range. That’s impressive.
Here’s a rundown of the major camera features from the DJI website:
- Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″ CMOS
- Focal Length: 35 mm equivalent of 24-48 mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 (24 mm) – f/3.8 (48 mm)
- Shutter Speed Range: 8–1/8000s
- ISO Range: 100-3200 for video, 100-1600 (auto) 100-3200 (manual) for photo
- Internal Memory Storage: 8GB
- Image Formats: JPEG / DNG (RAW)
- Video Formats: MP4 / MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, HEVC/H.265)
- Video Resolution: 4K: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
2.7K: 2688×1512 24/25/30/48/50/60p
FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
The camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom also incorporates some flashy new in-camera functionalities. It’s “Super Resolution” feature is incredibly interesting. It is essentially an onboard image stitching tool which can create images with a total resolution of approximately 48MP.
Not only that, but the Mavic 2 Zoom also sports DJI’s new “Hyperlight” mode for increasing image quality during extremely lowlight flights.
Here are a few test images made with the Mavic 2 Zoom.
To give a better understanding of what that 24-48mm focal length actually brings you in terms of zoom capability, here are two frames for comparison. The first shot at 24mm….
…and the second at 48mm
Why not two more? Each one is a 1-second exposure which speaks to the stabilization of that 3-axis gimbal.
Then zooming in to 48mm on that tower the distance.
I feel it’s worth mentioning that those last two nighttime images were made in a well-known and open area with the drone constantly in site. Be extremely cautious should you operate any aircraft in dark conditions.
Lastly, here is a quick bit of video footage shot using the Mavic 2 Zoom and a few of its features.
Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
The ability to zoom with the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom adds in a new flavor of excitement to an already exciting drone. The aerobatics of the DJI’s latest entry to the Mavic lineup is impressive for any drone. Especially one marketed as a “consumer grade” aircraft.
With a camera capable of all sorts of high-end feats of imagery, it’s hard to draw the line between consumer and professional performance. From the Intelligent Flight features to the increased flight time and speed, refined obstacle avoidance system and compact form factor, the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much a welcome breath of fresh air to the aerial photography and videography community. Not only does it produce excellent still images and video, but the overall experience of operating this little aircraft is an absolutely enjoyable experience.
Have you used the Mavic 2 Zoom yet? Let us know in the comments how you like it and how it compares to any other drones you might have piloted.