Drone review shootout: DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
Even two years on from it’s release, the original DJI Mavic Pro is still about as close as we’ve come to the perfect drone—easy to fly and offering a good 27-minute flight time, it came housed in a revolutionary (for the time) compact body, and packed a sharp lens and solid, if unspectacular, video capabilities.
In fact the drone’s only real weakness was its somewhat small 12MP sensor and primitive low-light performance. This led many photographers and videographers to lean towards the Phantom 4 Pro, which we loved for its image quality, but disliked for its size.
Looking back, it seems the perfect combination would be a 20MP sensor like the one in the Phantom 4 Pro, combined with the compact body of the Mavic. We’re glad to say DJI have listened.
In most respects the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are the same drone – new propellers inherited from the Mavic Platinum make them quieter, more sensors on each make them easier to fly (and less likely to crash!), and a new transmission system, OccuSync 2.0, improves their range and reduces the chance of dreaded signal dropouts.
They’re also fast. In “sport mode”—which turns off some off the built-in obstacle-avoidance technology —they can both fly up to 72kph (about 8kph quicker than the original Mavic).
What’s different in each new model is the camera. The Mavic 2 Pro is built around a fixed Hasselblad 28mm f/2.8 (equivalent) lens, the first co-produced camera since DJI acquired a majority stake in the legendary Swedish camera manufacturer in 2017, while the Zoom features a 24-48mm f/2.8-11 zoom.
While a zoom lens in a drone might sound appealing, the trade off is a relatively small 1/2.3-inch, 12-megapixel sensor, the same as in the two-year old Mavic Pro. The 1-inch sensor in the Mavic 2 Pro is four times the area and also produces a bigger 20 megapixel image.
Video capabilities also get a boost over the original Mavic. Both drones get 4K at 30p, 2.7K at 60p and 1080 at 120p. However the Mavic 2 Pro, with 4K 10-bit HDR support, can be plugged into a 4K TV with HLG and will play back footage as natively shot with brighter highlights and increased contrast.
It’s with video that the Mavic 2 Zoom is perhaps the better equipped of the two, as not only can you shoot at the same frame rates as the Pro, you can also zoom in or out while flying to create the infamous Dolly Zoom effect popularized by Alfred Hitchcock.
However on paper at least the Mavic Pro 2 should be the better drone for stills photography, and it is. We tested both drones over seven days and the Zoom is not awful by any means, it’s just when you put the images side-by-side the Mavic 2 Pro images look sharper.
You might not notice the difference if your main goal is to share your images on instagram, but if you plan to show your images on a large screen, or in print, you can see the Mavic 2 Pro images contain more detail, the details are sharper, and there’s more information in the shadows and highlights.
Noise performance is better too. In low-light conditions, say at the beginning or end of the day, you can push the ISO of the Mavic 2 Pro to 800 ISO comfortably, or 1600 ISO at a pinch if you’re shooting RAW and happy to spend some time in post-production playing with the Noise Reduction sliders.
With the Mavic Zoom we found you’re pushing the limits of acceptability at 800 ISO. Compared to the Mavic 2 Zoom with 13 EV stops, the Mavic 2 Pro with its Hasselblad camera goes up to 14 EV stops, offering even higher dynamic range and more image clarity too.
Another benefit of the Mavic Pro 2 is the fact it offers full aperture control. Set the exposure mode to Manual or Aperture Priority mode and you can choose the aperture you want with a simple turn of the control wheel on the top left of the remote. You don’t have that option with the Mavic 2 Zoom, which closes the aperture down automatically as you zoom.
That’s likely to be a deal breaker for photographers who like to have some say in the way the camera handles depth-of-field. As well most lenses are sharpest in the middle of the aperture range, f/4 or f/5.6 in this case, so it’s frustrating to be stuck at the outer edges of the aperture range, f/2.8 or f/11, when the lens is zoomed in or out.
If you’re leaning toward the Mavic 2 Pro at this point, there’s a couple more things to consider. The Mavic Zoom does offer something the Pro doesn’t, called Super Resolution mode. It works like this: in Super Resolution mode the camera captures nine exposures. The first is captured at the wide 24mm focal length and is used as a guide shot. The next eight photos are taken of that scene with the lens zoomed to the 48mm setting.
The images are then stitched to form one impressively large and detailed 48-megapixel image. When it works, the results are impressive. But, and it’s a big but, it takes around 20 seconds to capture a single Super Resolution image and the drone has to remain perfectly still while the nine images are captured. It’s a good feature to have but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it is useful and makes up for the camera’s other shortcomings.
However unlike the Zoom version, the Mavic 2 Pro uses HNCS (Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution) technology for more natural and accurate colors. Also, it supports a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile which generates higher dynamic range and deeper colors for both videos and still images. With the upgraded color profile, the Mavic 2 Pro is able to record over 1 billion colors, while the Zoom version records 16 million colors.
It’s worth mentioning just how mature the flying experience is on these second generation Mavic drones too. They are incredibly easy to fly and simply worlds away from the first era of drones we used just a few years ago. They’re also a vast improvement on the original Mavic Pro. No other drone manufacturer has been able to deliver such a polished flying experience as DJI, and it’s testament to the stability of the OccuSync 2.0 system that over a week of testing we didn’t experience a single signal dropout, with the feed remaining consistent even when flying the drones some distance away.
But what about the Phantom 4 Pro, especially now that it can be purchased cheaply second hand? One of the strengths of the Phantom 4 was that it was much more stable in high winds than the original Mavic. And while the 900-gram Mavic 2 has a similar design to the original Mavic, it actually weighs about 200 grams more. In use, this translates to a better more stable flying experience.
So, which of the new models is the best choice for still photographers? It’s your call, but for us it’s the Mavic 2 Pro. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but that extra $500 gets you a Hasselblad lens, a bigger sensor, more megapixels and aperture control. All that adds up to better images. And if you really need to zoom, you can always fly closer!
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
Despite sharing the same body as the Mavic 2 Pro, it’s hard not to feel the Mavic 2 Zoom is the poorer cousin to the Pro. We found the zoom feature only useful on rare instances where we couldn’t physically fly closer to our subject, and the lack of manual camera controls was frustrating. Images were also considerably noisier and retained less detail than the Pro.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Yes, this is the drone you’ve been looking for! DJI have hit it out of the ballpark with the Mavic 2 Pro. The flying experience, image quality and features are all impressive, and offer considerable and measurable improvements over the original DJI Mavic. You won’t be disappointed.
Finally a huge thanks to EE Hobbies for the loan of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for this test. Check out EE Hobbies’ full range of drones and other products here. ❂
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