DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Review
Pros: Good video quality, optical zoom, portable
Cons: Expensive, video quality isn't as impressive as newer or more expensive models
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mavic 2 Zoom provides good video quality in a portable package while effectively employing a unique optical zoom. That said, if you're going to spend a lot of time editing and color grading your footage to get the absolute best quality possible, then you may want to invest in a superior camera. If you're not planning on doing any post-processing to your video, the differences in video quality are less substantial. Bottom line, if you're not going to take the time to edit colors in your video and you're intrigued by having an optical zoom, this is a worthy contender.
The video quality from the Mavic 2 Zoom is impressive but not quite good enough to earn a top spot. We think most people will be pleased with its footage, though it isn't quite as rich as that of DJI's top offerings. When viewed in isolation, the video looks great. The 4K resolution provides great clarity, the colors have good contrast and generally pop, and the overall image feels well-rounded and immersive. We only noticed shortcomings in the video when we compared it to that of our higher-scoring models. For example, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro can pull out much more contrast and detail in very dark and light areas, where the same dark areas come out looking comparatively muddled and the light areas relatively washed out when filmed with the Zoom. This extra detail does make the Pro's footage pop a bit more, especially for landscape shots. The Pro also allows for a lot more color correction in post-processing than the Zoom does, if you're into that sort of thing. We think the vast majority of amateur filmmakers will be more than pleased with the video quality of the Zoom, but if you're looking for truly cinema-worthy footage, you'll likely want to upgrade.
What really sets the Mavic 2 Zoom apart is its titular 2X optical zoom lens. It is one of the first consumer drones to offer an optical zoom, which opens up possibilities for a lot of creative shots. Our favorite, and probably the most obvious, is a dolly zoom. This shot was pioneered in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock classic "Vertigo" (in fact, many still call it a Hitchcock zoom). The effect is achieved by zooming in with the lens while flying backward with the drone (or vice versa). This results in a disorienting effect where the subject of the image remains relatively stable and of a consistent size while the background warps around it. We found it incredibly easy to mimic this effect with the Zoom, though we generally preferred creating this effect manually by zooming with one hand while pulling back on the joystick with the other.
Outside of a dolly zoom, the lens allows you to mix up the focal length of your shots. We'll abstain from getting into a long, technical discussion about focal length, but the bottom line is that taking similar shots with different focal lengths results in shots that look and feel quite different. For example, taking a shot with your subject 25 feet away without any zoom, and taking a shot 50 feet away from your subject with the 2X zoom fully engaged will result in two shots that look much differently framed and that your viewer's brain will process differently. As one of the professional drone pilots that we consulted with said, "Even if you don't realize it, subtle changes in focal length between shots is what makes many movies feel cinematic."
A final note on the zoom lens: DJI claims that you can get a 4X magnification with a combo of 2X optical zoom and some digital zoom. While the 4X zoom did look great thanks to the already high 4K resolution, it still wasn't as sharp as when the digital zoom was not engaged.
The Mavic 2 Zoom offers the very best in-flight performance that DJI can offer. Both the maximum flight time of 31 minutes and the maximum speed of 45mph lead the field. It is rock solid during takeoff and landing, is incredibly responsive in flight, and can even shrug off some pretty decent breezes. You're not going to be disappointed with how this drone flies.
The Mavic 2 Zoom packs in all the basic autonomous flight features you could want, including cable cam, waypoints, and return to home. It has also vastly improved on its autonomous follow feature. This feature lets you identify a subject on the video downlink screen and then have the drone automatically follow that subject. Previous DJI iterations of this technology often saw the subject drifting towards and even over the edge of the frame when they moved too quickly (i.e., got on a bike and took a turn). While this new version still isn't perfect and can be a bit jerky, it does a better job of keeping the subject closer to the center of the frame, even when the speed picks up a bit.
On the spectrum of portability, the Mavic 2 Zoom is quite decent, though not the most impressive in our lineup. Weighing in at 2 pounds, the Zoom folds up to the size of a large water bottle. The controller folds up into a package that is barely larger than a smartphone, thanks to removable joysticks that can be stored on the inside. We found the overall size and weight of this device noticeable but still completely reasonable to be tossed into a backpack and toted along on a hike. If you're looking for the most portable drone out there, there are certainly smaller and more compact options, but this one won't weigh you down either.
Ease of Use
The Zoom offers the classic DJI user experience, with easy setup, intuitive controls and menus, and very stable flight. We think even beginners will have no issues getting this drone off the ground and recording footage. One unique feature of the controller is the zoom knob on the upper left side. This knob is just like the one on the other side that controls the camera tilt. We found it to be quite supple and easy to adjust, resulting in very smooth zooming shots.
If you're looking for a drone with optical zoom, the Mavic 2 Zoom is a well-rounded machine at a relatively reasonable price. If you don't need that zoom, however, you can get better video quality for significantly less. The value of this product depends on what you want to accomplish.
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is a good all-around drone that adds some versatility with its unique zoom lens. If you're looking for the best value or the best possible video quality, there are certainly better options, but if you want an optical zoom, this is by far the best consumer option available.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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