First Look: DJI MAVIC 2 Zoom

Ever since they first became affordable, I’ve loved drones. From the very first Parrot Bebop and its various iterations to a few wannabe donkeys, my current Karma and a smattering of various brand review units, they have all been fun to have and play with – mostly anyway.

So, when I received the opportunity to have a blast with the DJI MAVIC 2 Zoom, I leapt at it.

Losing a Karma to the tides at the bottom of Hervey Bay wasn’t that much fun, but skittering across the tidal flats of Roebuck Bay near Broome at Eco Beach resort certainly was. So was my first play with an earlier MAVIC Hamelin Bay in the south-west of Western Australia filming a sunset.

I admit there is always a trepidation after the Karma of flying over water; I am not sure if it will ever go away. As this was caused by the well documented faulty battery system giving a false sense of flying time potential in the ill-fated Karma series from GoPro, I never quite trust battery levels and fly time specifications anymore either, erring on the side of caution.

But nonetheless, they are fun and from a video making perspective you can get footage quite inexpensively that only a few short years back was simply out of the realms of the average video person without a humungous budget.

So, when I received the opportunity to have a blast with the DJI MAVIC 2 Zoom, I leapt at it.

Now there are two versions of the MAVIC 2 – the Pro and the Zoom. There are major differences between them so if one of these is on your shopping list, I suggest you weight them up carefully.

For example: the Pro has a 1” sensor whereas the Zoom is ½.3”. The camera on the Pro is 2 0megapixesl as against the Zoom at 12 Megapixels (they are both from the Hasselblad stable by the way so bloody good!). The Zoom will, well zoom and the Pro doesn’t but it has a wider aperture. The ISO ranges are different.

You get the idea. A complete table of both specifications side by side is at https://www.dji.com/au/mavic-2/info#specs.

Unboxing the Zoom

Unlike my Karma, where you ostensibly have the main unit (the drone) and a controller, the MAVIZ 2 Zoom does need a bit of sort of assembly. The props have to be fitted, as they do on the Karma of course, but the Karma has a built-in camera viewing monitor built in to the controller whilst the MAVIC 2 Zoom controller uses a smartphone as the monitor. This means that you need to attach the correct connector cable (Lightning, USB-C or USB-B) cable and cradle the smartphone inside the holding jaws / clamps of the controller containing a smaller LCD screen and the joysticks, buttons, knobs and thumbwheels etc.

A bit of dexterity is needed here; fat fingers are definitely out. Suffice to say I had to get Jacqui to do that bit.

Both units also need to be charged, with 2 ½ hours total time needed. Like the Karma, the MAVIC 2 Zoom has a “split” charger, letting you charge both at the same time with the intelligent battery on the MAVIC Zoom drone unit being removed for the purpose.

If I can make a suggestion, it is use these 2 ½ hours wisely to become familiar with the controls and modes of the MAVIC 2 Zoom as there are LOTS of them. You will need to download the manual as out-the-box you only get a quick start which is only useful prior to flying anyway.

The full manual is 64 pages covering all aspects and is in PDF format. I really wish companies would supply all the bits you need in the box …

You’ll also need to get the DJI GO smartphone app and install that in order to a) fly the MAVIC 2 Zoom and b) register it so you can use it. Thankfully there are no issues with the registration process as there is with say, the DJO Pocket issues I had recently. Just make sure you get the correct “post 4” version of DJI Go.

Another tip is to make sure all aspects of the software are up to date before attempting to fly. So many times, with drone testing I have gone to my test zone all hot to trot only to find you need a software update of some description before the damn thing will let you take off! It happened here too as it happens, with an update for the “safe database” being needed.

First Flight

This was uneventful barring one minor issue not too many will come across I’d venture. Whilst the control panel on the controller is quite readable, for the smartphone I used a Samsung Note 4. Why? Big screen and my workhorse Note 7 is not really functional at present with a bent chassis fracturing the back plate (and its going back under the Samsung recall notice anyway, albeit late. Thanks to my colleague Leigh 😊 Stark at Pickr for alerting me to this. For all your info on mobile phones and other gadgetrist stuff, he’s your Man).

Anyway, the Note 4 screen is notoriously useless in bright sunlight, so a lot of the flight was hit and miss, such as attempting to fire up the camera from the app controls. A second flight after re-reading the manual reacquainted me with the dedicated controls on the actual controller to do this.

For some odd reason I have yet to fathom though, the file created (an MP4 of just under 1GB) ended up being corrupt. This will need to be investigated, but the weather the last 24 hours has been absolute crap so another flight until the morning is not on the cards sadly.

I’ll report back then.

Speaking of which you can store files to the internal 8GB memory of the MAVIC 2 Zoom which is what I did, or there is a slot for a microSD card.

I’ll be having another familiarity session over the next few days as well before I start getting into some of the fancy-schmansy things that the DJI MAVIC 2 Zoom can do, so stay tuned.

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