DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Review
Pros: Good video quality, optical zoom, portable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mavic 2 Zoom provides good video quality in a portable package while effectively employing a unique optical zoom.
Should I get the Mavic 2 Zoom or the 2 Pro?
This question largely comes down to how much you care to invest in video quality. If you're going to spend a lot of time editing and color grading your footage to get the absolute best quality possible, then the superior camera of the Mavic 2 Pro is going to make a world of difference. If you're not planning on doing any post-processing to your video, the Mavic 2 Pro's out-of-the-box video quality is still better than that of the Mavic 2 Zoom, but to a much less substantial degree. So if you're not going to take the time to edit colors in your video, it's likely better to save a bit of money and gain the advantages of an optical zoom with the Mavic 2 Zoom.
The Mavic 2 Zoom was one of the leaders in our testing, netting a fairly high overall score. We dive into more details about its performance in the sections below.
The Mavic 2 Zoom's video quality is impressive, but not quite good enough to earn a top spot. We think the vast majority of 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 Mavic 2 Zoom's 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. The footage is incredibly similar in tone and quality to what we filmed with the DJI Mavic Air. The only time you notice shortcomings in the Mavic 2 Zoom's video is when you compare it to that of the Mavic 2 Pro. The Pro is able to 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 looking 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 are going to be more than pleased with the video quality of the Zoom, but if you're looking for truly cinema-worthy footage you'll have to upgrade to the Pro.
The Zoom Lens
What really sets the 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.
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 2 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 the Zoom flies.
Autonomous Flight Features
The Zoom packs in all the basic autonomous flight features you could want, including cable cam, waypoints, and return to home. Like the Mavic 2 Pro, the Zoom has 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 the subject moved too quickly (ie. got on a bike and took a turn). While this new version still isn't perfect and can be a bit jerky, it did a better job of keeping the subject closer to the center of the frame, even when the speed picked up a bit.
One unique autonomous flight feature of the Zoom is the dolly zoom, which can automatically zoom the lens in while flying backward to create a slightly disorienting effect. While we found that this feature works pretty well, we generally preferred creating this effect manually by zooming with one hand while pulling back on the joystick with the other.
On the spectrum of portability, the Zoom isn't quite as portable as the Mavic Air, equally as portable as the Mavic 2 Pro, and vastly more portable than the older Phantom models.
Weighing in at 2 pounds, The Zoom is the same weight as the Mavic 2 Pro, double the weight of the Mavic Air, and just a bit heavier than the original Mavic Pro. it also folds up to the size of a large water bottle, about the same size of the Mavic 2 Pro, and a little less than double the size of the Mavic Air. We found this size and weight 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, you'll be better served by the Mavic Air, but the Zoom certainly won't weigh you down.
One area where the Zoom improves over the original Mavic Pro when it comes to portability is the controller. Similar to the controllers of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic Air, the Zoom's controller folds up into a package that is barely larger than a smartphone. It accomplishes this thanks to removable joysticks that store inside the controller, resulting in a very streamlined package.
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 are going to have no issues getting this drone off the ground and recording footage.
One unique feature of the Zoom's controller is the zoom knob on the upper left side. This knob is just like the one on the other side that controls 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 an optical zoom, the Zoom offers a well-rounded machine at a relatively reasonable price. If you don't need that zoom, however, you can get nearly equal video quality from the DJI Mavic Air for significantly less. If you're looking for the best video quality possible, and are willing to do some editing to get at that quality, you'll end up with a better value in the long run from the slightly more expensive DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
The 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 have use of an optical zoom on a drone this is by far the best consumer option available.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata