DJI Mini 2, the drone you're actually allowed to fly

review

The DJI Mini 2 may not have some of the bells and whistles of its bigger counterparts like obstacle avoidance or 4K/60, it does have one major benefit over all other DJI drones: you’re actually allowed to fly it! New drone regulations require a license for any drone over 250 grams, and even with a license, you’re not allowed to fly near buildings or people. But because weight of the Mini 2 comes in at a meager 249 grams, those restrictions do not apply, and you do not need a license. This begs the question: should you invest the time and money in obtaining a license, or is the Mini 2 actually more than good enough for most productions?

The DJI Mini 2 is classified as a toy, but its feature-set is far from toy-like. The Mini 2 can now shoot 4K/30 and 2.7K/60 and thanks to the inclusion of Ocusync 2, it can retain the signal up to a distance of 10km! The Mini 2 now also comes with the same full-size controller as the Air 2, which includes a massive 5200 mAh battery, removable joysticks and it can even charge your phone while flying.

What's more, in using the drone I found that it is exceptionally stable and silent, hardly attracting any attention. The drone really helps minimize that feeling of stage-freight every drone-pilot experiences just before take-of. Its small size and relatively low price only add to the worry-free experience. In many ways it's the perfect throw-in-the-bag drone: with USB-C charging, small spare-batteries and a built-in phone connector, the only thing that can go wrong is forgetting your micro-SD card (note to self!).

Utrecht (NL) with the DJI Mini 2

Downsides

The image of the Mini 2 is comparable to other DJI drones: slightly oversharpened, with vibrant colors and decent low light performance, but it doesn't hold a candle to the 1 inch 5.4K 10 bit sensor in the Air 2s. It also lacks the D-Cinelike or any kind of flat profile, so there's not a lot you can tweak in post.

Another downside of the Mini 2 compared to drones like the Air 2s is that it lacks obstacle avoidance. Especially in an entry-level drone obstacle avoidance could really help speed up the learning process. The omission of obstacle avoidance also is a limiting factor in the automated Quickshot modes: although the Mini 2 can do Dronie, Rocket, Helix, Circle and Boomerang, you have to be very mindful of the drone's environment to execute these with confidence.

This is speculation on my part, but judging by the fact that the weight of the Mini 2 is actually lower than advertised (232 grams instead of 249 grams) and the fact that the front-facing holes now contain actual grills instead of stickers, I get the feeling that DJI tried to include front-facing obstacle avoidance sensors, but decided against it at the last moment. I'm sure the next version of the Mini will have some sort of obstacle-avoidance.

In the absense of obstacle avoidance, I did find another feature quite helpful: the Mini 2 has a 2x/4x digital zoom function, which allows you to get in really close, while flying at a safe distance. Although there is a slight drop in image-quality, I found it more than worth it for the more immersive footage you get.

Drones have evolved so much that even today's entry level models are way more advanced than high-end models from a few years ago. Drones like the Phantom didn't have obstacle avoidance or a flat profile either, yet they were used in many professional productions. The Mini 2 has double the flight time of a Phantom, QuickShots, better dynamic range and low-light performance, quieter and more reliable operation.

Conclusion

Although it's easy to think of the Mini as a beginner's drone, the performance and feature set is very close to that of more expensive drones. If you can live with the lack of obstacle avoidance, the Mini 2 might prove more than good enough for most shooting scenarios. Especially those situations where bigger drones are not allowed.

DISCLAIMER: the information in this article is based on the current European drone laws and may not apply to your locale. Always check your local regulations before making purchase decisions or flying.

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