Spoiler alert: The Mavic 2 Pro ($1,499) is a worthy successor to the original Mavic Pro. It improves on it in almost every dimension, although if you already own the first model, there isn’t any single compelling reason you have to rush out to get the new one. If you do anyway, you’ll be quite pleased with the upgrades. As background, I’ve been flying my pair of original Mavic Pro drones for about 18 months now, all over the world, and they’re amazing. But the radio range, obstacle avoidance, and image quality were all areas that I could see room for improvement. The Mavic 2 Pro delivers on all three.
Mavic 2 Pro by the Numbers
For starters, the Mavic 2 Pro has a rated 31-minute flight time, about 10 percent better than the original Mavic Pro. It also comes with omnidirectional obstacle sensing, instead of just forward facing. It is about the same size and weight as the original, except for the larger camera module. OcuSync 2.0 remote connectivity ups the theoretical control range to 8 km and provides an improved latency of 120 ms for 1080p video previews. DJI says the new model is also quieter, but to be honest I didn’t notice a difference in practical use compared with the Mavic Pro fitted with updated low-noise propellers. In Sport mode, the Mavic 2 Pro is capable of an impressive 72 kph in calm conditions. An added downward-facing light also helps the drone’s sensors perform accurate landings and obstacle avoidance in low-light conditions.
The biggest upgrade in the Mavic 2 Pro is the improved camera. Now that DJI owns Hasselblad, DJI has put that company’s imaging talents to good use in creating a 1-inch sensor 20MP camera to match with its own impressive gimbal technology. That’s a major upgrade from the 12MP, 1/2.3-inch sensor on the Mavic Pro. The camera on the Mavic 2 Pro also features a variable aperture, with a range of f/2.8 to f/11. For close-up shots, that can be helpful in getting better depth of field, and on bright days can make it easier to get the optimal shutter speed for video. You’re probably still going to want a nice set of ND and polarizing filters, like the Cinema Series from PolarPro that I’ve been using for both my Mavic Pro drones and the Mavic 2 Pro review unit (note that they take different size filters, so you’ll need to get a new set even if you already own a Mavic Pro or Mavic Air). That’s particularly true since closing down the aperture of the Mavic 2 Pro past f/5.6 results in a decrease in sharpness, according to the detailed tests performed by the team at PolarPro.
Like the Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro can capture 4K video at 30 fps. However, it can now do it in 10-bit if you use DJI’s Dlog-M color profile or its HLG profile for HDR video (if you’re fortunate enough to have a TV that supports HLG display).
All-Around Obstacle Detection
For me, the other most significant improvement in the Mavic 2 Pro is the addition of all-around obstacle detection. Only having obstacle detection in front, like the original Mavic Pro, is of limited use if you’re doing any kind of interesting videography. The new sensing tech does have one major caveat, though: The left and right sensors are only active when you’re tracking an object, using QuickShot, or flying in tripod mode. Even then, DJI explicitly excludes damage caused by hitting something on the left or right from its warranty coverage.
The new obstacle avoidance technology has already saved my review unit once. I had been launching straight up to get video of a mile-long freight train curling around itself going through the Tehachapi Loop tunnel. After a couple dry runs to figure out where I wanted to position the drone, and which PolarPro ND filter to use, I decided to move my car further down the pullout to get out of the way of other cars that might also want to pull over to see the trains. When the next train came, I launched the same as before. Oops. I hadn’t noticed that moving my car back had also put it under some high up tree branches. The obstacle avoidance worked perfectly, stopping the climb and warning me to go around.
Flying the Mavic 2 Pro
Thanks to the hefty new battery, I did get improved flight times compared with flying my Mavic Pro units. Radio reception also seems better (anecdotally I can get about the same signal quality with just the controller antennas that I could before by adding a small reflector), as does the quality of the video preview image on my phone and tablet. In a nice touch, the joysticks can be unscrewed and placed in a small compartment on the side of the remote for safe keeping when traveling. The controller’s charge port is still an older micro USB connector, though, instead of a newer USB-C. The new charger (you can’t use your old charger with the new batteries) also only has one USB output instead of two, although that probably won’t bother most people.
Shooting With the Mavic 2 Pro Camera
The Mavic 2 Pro’s Hasselblad-branded camera is more than a numbers upgrade. Images shot with it are clearly higher-quality than those shot with the original Mavic Pro, as befits the 1-inch sensor and updated optics. For a rough comparison, it is similar to moving from a high-end smartphone camera to a decent point and shoot.
As far as some of the more-advanced camera modes, I found I can now rely on DJI Go’s built-in functionality to create impressive 360-degree panoramas, saving me the time and effort of doing my own stitching unless I really need maximum quality.
The Mavic 2 Pro has two different ways to shoot 4K video. You can use the entire sensor and it will down-sample the output to 4K, or you can use a “pure” 4K resolution area in the middle of the sensor. In my tests, I found the latter to be a simple way to get a slight telephoto effect without losing resolution.
This 360-degree panorama of the smoke from the Camp Fire floating over the Bay Area was done with the DJI Go Panorama feature and uploaded right out of the camera.
The Mavic 2 Pro Is Still a Work in Progress
Curiously, the Mavic 2 Pro is missing some of the important video features found on the older Mavic Pro. For example, it currently doesn’t offer D-Cinelike recording, which is a favorite for many who didn’t want to go to the work of shooting in a Log colorspace and post-processing. Shortly after the release of the Mavic 2 Pro, DJI did make a LUT for its DLog-M mode freely available, so as long as you have a program like Premiere Pro, Power Director, DaVinci Resolve, or Final Cut, you can shoot in 10-bit with DLog-M and post-process for a more sophisticated look than the default. Similarly, you can shoot in 10-bit HLG if you have a display device that supports it. The default color mode does a basic correction for you and then records your video in 8-bits ready for viewing. Personally, I can’t wait until Adobe enables third-party LUTs in Premiere Rush, as its lightweight UI is ideal for most of the drone videos I work with.
Some of the photo, video, and flight modes from the Mavic Pro are still missing, and the promised Waypoint functionality has also not been delivered yet. As of now, there are six intelligent flight modes supported: Hyperlapse, ActiveTrack, QuickShot, Point of Interest, TapFly, and Cinematic.
Should You Spring for a Mavic 2 Pro?
The Mavic 2 Pro is the best general-purpose portable flying camera I’ve seen. Unless you need the amazing obstacle avoidance of a Skydio (and can fork over $2,500 for it), and if you can afford the $1,500, the Mavic 2 Pro is a great choice. If you have a more limited budget, the Mavic Pro is slowly getting less expensive, as is the DJI Spark. Parrot’s Anafi slots roughly in between the last two of those. I haven’t had a chance to work with the Mavic 2 Zoom, so I can’t compare it with the Pro, but my gut says that the Pro, especially with its 4K Crop video mode, is a better investment overall (although it is about $250 more).
On the other hand, if you already have a Mavic Pro, you may want to hold off. You could always stop renewing your DJI Refresh and put the money towards a Mavic 2 Pro in the event you crash your current drone. But if you do upgrade, you’ll definitely be impressed by all the incremental improvements.
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