DJI have finally refreshed the main “Pro” line of Mavic drones. Fans of the original have waited two years, clutching their greasy dollars, deftly avoiding other drone enticements along the way.
Now that the Mavic Pro 2 has arrived however, eager Mavic fans face a conundrum.
There are two, mutually-exclusive Mavic 2 drones to choose from. Choosing one means giving up on some things you’d get with the other. Most people aren’t in a position to buy both, so which one of Mavic 2 Pro vs Zoom should be the one to spend your hard-earned dollars on?
If you haven’t been following the Mavic line since launch, you might not realize how important this release is. To help you understand why the two new Mavics matter, here’s a brief bit of context.
Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are available at the DJI shop.
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Why Does Anyone Care?
Until then we expected drones to be either compact and sort of crappy or big and bulky, but with great specs and performance.
DJI said nuts to that and created a product that would make plenty of pro drone owners feel some buyer’s remorse.
The main draw of the original Mavic Pro was its foldable design. This was a device designed to be thrown in a backpack and hauled along anywhere.
To borrow from a popular photographer’s saying, the best drone is the one you have with you. While the idea of lugging a Phantom around all day isn’t very appealing, you could easily forget that you had the Mavic with you until you saw something worth shooting.
Of course, footage matters. No amount of convenient design can make up for bad video. Luckily the 4K shooter on the original Mavic Pro produced beautiful 4K imagery, good enough to use in some professional projects.
A Fistful of Mavics
Boy were they! The Mavic Pro was just the start of a whole new family of small drones. Since the original Pro came out Mavic have released the Mavic Air. I’m also tempted to add the DJI spark to that family, although only as a non-foldable cousin.
The Air is in many ways a more refined version of the Mavic Pro. Coming in at a substantially lower price, smaller size and with few meaningful compromises. In fact, I would not be surprised is DJI’s biggest competition to the Mavic Pro is the Mavic Air.
Here is a drone that does almost as much, does some things objectively better and is even less of a hassle to transport. Faced with buying a Mavic Pro or Air, I’d wager the typical consumer would have to work hard to justify spending more money on something that really feels a little outdated compared to the Pro.
It’s not good for a company when customers have a hard time picking between two products, so the need for the Mavic Pro replacement has been felt acutely in the past few months.
There’s a New Sheriff in Town
Clearly then, the Mavic 2 had one job above all. It had to be a clearly superior choice to the Mavic Air. More expensive, but with no doubt as to what you would be getting for your additional outlay.
Now that the Mavic 2 is out, people who were stuck between buying the original Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air have a much easier choice. Either you want the clearly superior specs of the Mavic 2 and are willing to pay for it, or you are happy with the brilliant Mavic Air and want to save some cash to boot.
Features Common to Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom
I should make it as clear as possible – the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom are almost entirely identical. This is the same drone platform in both cases, with a handful of specialized features and function on each side of the fence.
The previous Mavic models have, in my opinion, set the bar for contemporary drone design.
The Mavic drones aren’t just some of the most advanced compact folding drones internally, they look like it too.
The Mavic 2 is not radically different in design language compared to the original, but it’s clear that DJI have actually rethought the body extensively.
The lines are cleaner and softer, suggesting better airflow. There’s an added hint of robustness too which I can’t quite put my finger on. Honestly, you’d have to put them side-by-side to notice, but it’s there to see.
Setting the issue of design changes aside, judging the Mavic 2 on its own looks there’s nothing to complain about at all. It looks like it’s worth the asking price and will probably age very well unlike the Phantom line which now looks very dated.
Weight and Size of Mavic 2 Zoom vs Mavic 2 Pro
There is only a tiny 2g difference in weight between the two models at 905 and 907 grams for the Zoom and Pro respectively. This isn’t heavy by anyone’s standard, but it is heavier than the old Mavic Pro, which weighed a scant 743g with the removable gimbal cover in place. The Mavic 2 drones also dwarf the Air, weighing more than twice its featherweight 430g.
When unfolded, the Mavic 2 measures 354 mm across, a tiny bit bigger than the Mavic 1, which was 335 mm crossways. The Air, for sake of relative scale, is only 213 mm across.
When folded the Mavic 2 is 214x91x84 mm (lengthxwidthxheight). The Mavic 1 is 198x83x83 mm. The Air is a ridiculous 168x86x49 when folded. Holy moley.
I included the Air’s specs just to point out how the Mavic and Mavic Air drones are in an entirely different class. Given that other specs are as clearly separated, the Mavic 2 and Air should really not be spoken of in the same breath, as we were forced to do with the Mavic 1.
What’s really interesting to me is how the Mavic 2 is both significantly heavier and a little bigger. Given that the Mavic 1 was heavily marketed by its low size and weight, this seems like a step back.
On the other hand, DJI has stuffed a lot more tech into the Mavic 2, turning it into a more complete product. Which makes me suspect that this will be the last mainline Mavic drone to bulk up instead of slim down, because the core feature set is now stabilized.
From a user’s point of view I don’t think the increase in size makes a practical difference and the weight really only matters if it affects performance. There’s nothing in the specs to suggest this and I think the opposite might actually be true.
Speed and Endurance
Flight performance is one of the main specifications that sets a professional drone, costing thousands of dollars, from prosumer and consumer models. Big pro drones can haul ass at crazy speeds.
The DJI Inspire 2, for example, can hit a top speed of 94 kph. The Mavic 2 will do up to 72 kph in sport mode. The Mavic 1 could do 65 kph in sport mode, on a quiet day. So while the Mavic 2 is not going to get you those high-speed shots true professional drones can, it will still easily run away from the drone its replacing.
The other important metric that drives people to fork out for a new drone is flight endurance. The Mavic 1 had a maximum, wind-less flight time of 27 minutes. The comparative claim from the Mavic 2 is 31 minutes. An extra four minutes doesn’t sound like much, but in drone flight terms it’s an age. That’s about 15% better than the Mavic 1 and the new drone is heavier.
Battery technology isn’t advancing at close to the speed electronics are. So an improvement of this size in just two years is worth applauding. I suspect that it was achieved mainly by better software and more energy-efficient onboard equipment. Which, I have to remind you, has also been increased.
Another major improvement that contributes to overall better flight times, is the redesign of the Mavic 2’s body. DJI says there’s 19% less drag on the new Mavic. Better aerodynamics means more speed. All of this culminates in DJI claiming the Mavic 2 has the best flight endurance of any consumer drone.
While it has been two years since the mainline Mavic refresh, DJI did actually bring out the Mavic Pro Platinum. It cost $200 more and offered small improvements here and there. One area where it made a big difference however, was in the noise department.
Thanks to a new electronic speed controller and redesigned propellers, the Platinum offered 91 less noise. Although the utility of this is debatable, that technology has carried over to the Mavic 2. So if the noise levels of the drone are an issue, perhaps it scares the wildlife away, then you get the new quieter tech included in the asking price.
In the early days with the first generation Phantom drones, we used to laugh our butts off at videos of people unboxing their expensive new camera drone and then totalling it against a nearby wall.
While the schadenfreude was enjoyable, it certainly wasn’t a good look for DJI. So the company has been working since those days to make each generation of drone smarter and less likely to end it all in a shower of sparks and plastic.
Even the low-end DJI Spark has forward facing-sensors used for obstacle avoidance. The Spark will stop in its tracks before going head-first into something. The higher-end Mavics will even alter their flight path and keep going.
The Mavic 2 has the expected forward-facing sensors too, but for the first time DJI has added sensors that cover every direction around the drone. This is not just a first for a Mavic, but for any DJ drone. Which means that right now a Mavic outclasses the Inspire when it comes to object avoidance.
These sensors are really impressive too. The front sensors can see up to 40 meters and under 20 meters they can detect objects with high precision. They work effectively up to 50 kph, which means you’ll have to be at the top of your game if you need to go faster.
While the Mavic 2 does have eyes in the back of its head, they aren’t quite as sharp. The maximum and precision ranges are 32 and 16 meters respectively. They’ll only work up to 43 kph, so if you’re shooting while going backwards you need to be aware of this limitation.
There are also top, bottom and side sensors. However, there are still some important limitations. DJI is quick to point out that the side sensors only work in certain modes. Regardless if they’re on or off, the DJI warranty explicitly does not cover sideways crashes. It looks like we’ll have to wait for the Mavic 3 for this new omnidirectional system to really reach its potential.
One very cool feature is a downward facing light to help the downward sensor in dark conditions. Although in many parts of the world it is illegal to fly your drone when daylight has faded beyond a certain point.
I am very intrigued by the inclusion of APAS or Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems. DJI says that this actively avoids objects in the flight path, which I take it to mean that the drone figures out how to safely get from point A to B without having to stop and ask for your input. The Mavic 1 had this, but other DJI consumer drones have limited active avoidance abilities. Besides, the Mavic 1 only had forwards- and downwards- facing sensors. So this is a whole new ballgame.
The original Mavic Pro had some really great intelligent flight features. This is where the drone takes over piloting so that you can concentrate on getting the shots you want. Strangely there seem to be several of these modes missing compared to the Pro 1. Terrain follow is one of the casualties. It’s unclear if DJI will put these back in at any point, but for now we have to assume that they won’t when making a purchasing decision.
Hyperlapse is one of the most loudly-touted features and shows off how stable the total system can be. This mode basically takes a number of stabilized photos so that you can build a timelapse with motion. It looks fantastic and is incredibly useful for documentaries and other similar programs.
There are also modes like the free path, a circle flight path, courselock and GPS waypoint-based flying.
One really great feature is known as task library. This lets you film exactly the same shots at different times of day, which lets you do some awesome editing tricks and illustrative shoots. I can imagine tracking a construction project over months, doing exact repeats of the same flight path. There’s a lot that can be done with these tool and I’m excited to see what people come up with.
ActiveTrack 2.0 is a welcome addition a well. Intelligent active subject tracking has consistently been one of the best features on DJI drones over the last few years. An effective machine vision technology, all you have to do is tap the subject you want the Mavic 2 to track and it does the rest.
This new version of ActiveTrack is much more than just a software solution. On previous DJI drones with this feature, it worked by analysing the 2D video image, which can be very hit and miss depending on the exact subject and scene. Now the Mavic 2 makes use of it’s forward spatial sensors to get 3D object data.
Then it combines this with the video feed to get a much more accurate lock. Even more impressive, it used predictive AI to keep tracking the object when it goes behind something else. In other words, it tries to guess the speed and direction of the object and keep filming until it emerges again.
Panorama photos also get a pretty sweet upgrade. You can do proper photospheres, half-spheres and normal horizontal and vertical panos. That’s great content for VR headsets or for websites.
There’s also the usual gimmicky but cool automated filming modes that create flashy yet predictable results. Asteroid and boomerang both feature, fun to play with but doubtful that anyone will ever put these into a final video.
FPV and Video Transmission
It’s amazing how quickly wireless video transmission is improving in both quality and range. The average user might not realize it, but encoding, transmitting, receiving and decoding HD video over kilometers is a monumental technical task. Yet these days it works so well no one gives it a thought.
The Mavic 2 is equipped with DJI’s Ocusync 2.0 transmission system. This is a dual-band system, which means it uses both the 2.4 and 5.8 Ghz bands to send and receive data. The system can instantly and automatically switch between the two frequencies depending on situation.
The downstream speed to the video receiver is up to 40Mbps. That’s technically more than a 4K stream would need, but Oculus have limited the live video transmission to 1080p. This isn’t a problem at all, it’s actually very good. In fact, I doubt most people can tell the difference between 720p and 1080p on a smartphone screen while flying a drone. At that size and distance, with distraction it’s not noticeable.
Where it starts to make sense is when you take another DJI product into account – the DJI Goggles. These FPV goggles have two 1080p screens. When you have a magnified screen just an inch or so from your eyeball, the difference between 720p and 1080p will be clear as day. Helping you make out details while flying that would simply be impossible at lower resolutions.
DJI promises about 120 milliseconds of delay, which is too low for most people to notice. Some short-range drone racing systems claim sub-millisecond delays, but the Mavic 2 is sending this data from as far as eight kilometers, so I’ll happily cut them miles of slack.
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At first glance the transmitter control looks more or less like the ones we’ve seen come with other Mavic models. However, this controller has the removable stick we saw with the Mavic Air, but where the Air’s controller is sans screen this one has a very readable LED screen like the Pro 1.
The device holder arms fold up neatly, as do the antennas. There’s a spot in the arms for the sticks too, making this very compact when packed away. The phone holder arms can open up quite widely, soif you have one of those stocking phablets there shouldn’t be an issue.
The Package Deal
When you buy either Mavic 2, you’ll get a box filled with only the most essential things you need. Apart from the drone. Controller, battery and charger, there are various cables covering lightning, micro USB and the new USB-C standard. You also get spare parts for the most vulnerable consumables. Basically you get spare propellers and control sticks in case you break the first sets.
As with previous Mavics, there’s an included gimbal protector, which you can choose to take or leave. There are also a few nifty cable sliders and a USB adapter to ensure you really are covered in terms of connectivity.
DJI is offering a package deal where you get a Mavic 2 and a set of DJI Goggles. These FPV goggles are some of the best in the business and let you use motion to control the gimbal. Given the fact that the Mavic transmits 1080p footage, the Goggles are an excellent choice and the bundle offer is the cheapest way to get them at the moment. They are also compatible with many of the existing DJI drone on offer. It’s a lot of extra money, but if you want both this is a golden opportunity.
Fly More, With a Difference
At the time of writing, DJI doesn’t seem to be offering one of their “Fly More” bundles as an integral package with the drone. Instead they are selling it separately as the Mavic 2 Fly More kit.
Basically the fly more kit contains a bunch of stuff that you really want to expand your drone’s flight time, but at a discounted price. I actually think it’s more consumer friendly to sell the kit on its own. Before you had to pull the trigger on the Fly More discount when you bought the drone. Which is great if you’re flush with cash, but not if you had to scrape together the cash for the base model.
Now you can buy the drone confident that you can always add the Fly More kit when you’re ready. The Fly More Kit has some really awesome accessories. The most prominent of which is a DJI shoulder bag to keep all your drone bits in one place.
You get two more batteries, to total three with the one that comes with the drone. You get a charging hub to juice them up in parallel and you get a car charger. Another really interesting addition is the power bank adapter. This converts a flight battery into a power bank. It might sound weird, but since a smartphone is an integral part of your flight system, it makes sense to have backup charging method. DJI says a full flight battery only needs about 20% of its capacity to fill up a typical smartphone.
The kit also comes with a set of “low noise” propellers, but it’s not clear if these are even quieter than the ones that come with the drone or just the same ones and now they are just called “low noise” all the time. A little confusing DJI, maybe some clarification on your site would help
Of course, if you don’t want all the stuff in the kit, you can buy it all separately, but be sure to add those costs up, it might be that the full kit costs as much as the bits you want separately.
Shared Camera Features
Although the two drones have drastically different camera hardware, they share many software features which help make the most of whichever snapper you choose.
For example, the HyperLight feature works to give you better quality low-light photos without nearly a much image noise.
What Makes the Mavic 2 Pro Special?
The unique heart of the Mavic 2 Pro is the Swedish-made Hasselblad camera. This specific DJI-custom model is called the L1D-20c. Why they didn’t give it a snappy brand name like the Zenmuse I will never know.
The core philosophy of this camera is to maximize image quality. It has a massive 20 megapixel camera and a lot of bespoke image processing and lens technology. If colour accuracy and image quality are your top priorities, then the Pro immediately seems like it should get your attention.
The image sensor in the Mavic 2 Pro is at least one generational leap over the Pro 1. The sensor is four times as large, which means there’s way more area for light to hit. Indeed, the ISO level has gone from 3200 to 12800. That’s much better low-light performance than a drone launched just two years prior.
This camera also has a much wider range of addressable colours. Using a 10-bit color space, compared to the first Pro’s 8-bit abilities. In practice this meant that the Mavic Pro 1 could encode about 16 million colours. By adding two more bits of addressable space, that number now shoots up to 1 billion colours.
What this boils down to is that the image will not have much more subtle colors and given that 10-bit, 4K HDR displays are quickly becoming mainstream, it’s something that viewers will actually get to appreciate. The camera also has a flexible aperture range, going from f/2.8-f/11.
The camera on the Pro 2 absolutely stomps on the Pro 1, but it’s not as if the Pro 1 was flying around with a cardboard pinhole camera either.
Do note that the Pro’s camera is a different shape and size than previous models and the Zoom. So any filters have to be specially designed for this camera.
The tech specs for video recording give you 4K 30p, 2.7K 60p and FHD 120p. These are exactly the same formats as the Zoom supports, despite the much larger sensor. Both drones also support the high efficiency H.265 codec. Which is a good thing in case you were wondering.
What Makes the Mavic 2 Zoom Special?
Glancing at the Mavic 2 Zoom’s camera spec sheet and it immediately looks like much less of a leap over the Pro 1. It has the same sensor size and megapixel count, which might feel a little disappointing.
Indeed, the improvements in the zoom are almost all in the optical department. As the name suggests it’s main claim to fame is its optical zoom. But why is that something to shout about?
Let’s digress for a moment and talk about the two ways modern digital cameras achieve zoom. If you didn’t know, zooming is the act of magnifying the image so that a part of the frame not fills the whole frame, without getting any closer to the subject.
One way to do this is using something called “digital zoom”. This is essentially the same thing as blowing up a photo on your computer screen. You don’t actually get more detail, but less.
Optical zoom, on the other hand, uses optical magnification to alter the light focused onto the camera sensor. You still get the use of every pixel in the sensor, but the image appears to be closer than it really is.
In the context of a drone like the Zoom the implications are plentiful. It means that you can get close up shots with the drone quite a distance away and then almost instantly switch to a wide-angle perspective by zooming out.
The “distance” you can cover using a zoom in a given time is way more than the drone could do by flying in and much more reliable.
It also means you can achieve camera effects like a dolly zoom, which is basically impossible otherwise. Dolly zoom is included as an automatic function, which is going to be a lot of fun and now probably overused by everyone. The zoom function therefore gives you many more options in terms of framing your shots and changing between those different framings.
How much zoom is on tap? Although the optical zoom is only 2x, combined with some clever digital trickery, the Mavic 2 Zoom offers lossless 4x video zoom for FHD footage. This means that there will be no pixelation or lost detail.
The Zoom function has also been combined with a fast autofocus system. A 40% percent speed improvement over the Mavic 1. Finally, despite only being a 12MP drone, the Zoom has a brilliant software function that uses stitching to quickly create a 48MP “super resolution” landscape photo. I’m sure aerial landscape photographers are going to be thrilled.
In terms of the camera’s technical specs when it comes to video you still get 4K at 30fps. 2.7K at 60 fps and FHD at 120 fps. It still uses the new X.265 codec that the Pro does, so cutting edge as far as consumer tech goes.
Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom: Which Camera is the Best?
I honestly hope that the Mavic 3, if and when it does come out, won’t split camera features so painfully down the middle. This is a genuinely hard choice to make because each camera has a lot going for it.
The only way I can think of approaching this problem is by thinking which features are going to have the biggest impact on the final product. If I wanted to make a video I’d much prefer the flexibility of the Zoom’s 4x lossless zoom function. It completely changes the game when it comes to framing images or getting hard to capture shots.
The zoom lets you get good footage from places where the drone can’t go, can’t get to quickly enough or would cause noise issues. More importantly, it allows for much more in-camera shot wizardry and the sorts of cinematic aerial and crane shots previously reserved for strictly professional drone cameras.
The Pro 2’s Hasselblad camera on the other hand, has a much more subtle impact. It’s classical music to the Zoom’s rock and roll. Richer colours, more detail and better fundamental photographic attributes. It’s a marvel that will go right over the head of most viewers.
10-bit, 4K displays are still pretty rare. Which means a lot of what you make won’t be appreciated at the moment. There’s no doubt that the Mavic 2 Pro takes amazing photos, but that’s not the same as saying theMavic 2 Zoom is trash in comparison.
If you look at the sample photos and footage provided by DJI and the community, only the most cynical person would say the Zoom’s camera isn’t capable of amazing imagery.
So I’d say that if my main priorities were low-light shoots, still landscape photography and projects where colour depth really matter, the Pro 2 is the way to go. For everyone else the Zoom is the more flexible, cinematically relevant piece of gear. It’s what I’d buy.
A Little Criticism, A Lot of Praise
This is the best Mavic DJI sells and arguably the best drone of any kind made by DJI at the moment. They have refined, redefined and nearly perfected what a high-end consumer drone should be. Anyone with a budget for a drone in this bracket should think long and hard why they should not buy a Mavic 2.
That being said, there’s no such thing as a perfect product and some choices made by DJI are irksome.
For one thing, this drone can’t be used with a smartphone only. It’s seems weird that you can leave the controller at home if you own a DJI Spark, but have to lug it along for the flagship drone.
The other feature I really, really want to see in the Mavic 3 is the 180-degree tilt-gimbal from the Parrot Anafi. This allows you to shoot straight up, unlocking a whole new dimension of filming possibilities. Don’t forget, the ANafi also features 2.8 lossless zoom, so DJI shouldn’t get too comfortable.
So in the wrap up I’ll say that DJI have knocked it out of the park again, but should probably refrain from continuously competing with themselves. Both the Mavic 2s are great, but my opinion on Mavic 2 Pro vs Zoom is that the Zoom has broader appeal.
There’s little else on the market that competes at the moment and I think we can now look forward to a new round of competitors from the other industry players. Don’t worry, we’ll be right here when they inevitable show up.
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