DJI Drones Explained – which is the right one for you?

by Oscar

This article is an in-depth look at the current consumer drones that DJI has to offer. DJI drones are indisputably the top choice when it comes to aerial cinematography, for both hobbyists and professionals.

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DJI is the largest drone company and they make solid products that are packed with features to make your flying experience as easy as possible, if you are just starting, you can’t go wrong with them.

Which DJI Drone Is Best?

DJI offers a few different drone models, they might seem similar especially when looking at the comparison table below. Do not be fooled by this however, this line up goes from high end professional equipment to beginner level cinematography. All of these drones are relatively easy to fly, straightforward to set up and excel in different ways.

DronePrice $Flight TimeMax ResolutionSensor SizeMax BitrateRangeWeightDimensions (folded if applicable)Avoidance SystemMax Speed
Mavic Mini39930 mins2.7k 30fps, 1080p 60fps6.3x4.7 mm40 Mb/s4 Km249g140×82×57 mm1, downward29 mph
Mavic Mini 244931 mins4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps1/2.3”100 Mb/s10 Km249g138×81×58 mm1, downward35 mph
Mavic Air79921 mins4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps6.3x4.7 mm100 Mb/s4 Km430g168×83×49 mmyes, 3 directions42 mph
Mavic Air 2799344k 60fps, 1080p 240fps1/2"120 Mb/s10 Km570g180×97×84 mmyes, 3 directions42 mph
Mavic 2 Zoom134931 mins4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps6.3x4.7 mm100 Mb/s8 Km905g214×91×84 mmyes, all directions48 mph
Mavic 2 Pro159931 mins4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps13.2x8.8 mm100 Mb/s8 Km907g214×91×84 mmyes, all directions48 mph
Phantom 4 Pro159930 mins4k 60fps, 1080p 120fps13.2x8.8 mm100 Mb/s7 Km1375g289×289×196 mm (can't fold)yes, 5 directions45 mph
Inspire 2?329927 mins4k 60fps, 1080p 120fps13.2x8.8 mm100 Mb/s7 Km4250g42.7×42.5×31.7 mmyes, 3 directions58 mph

The first place to start when looking at buying a drone is what you want to do. Spending $1600 on a Mavic 2 Pro just to get some “drone selfies” on holiday a few times a year might not be worth it, especially when it is much larger and more expensive than something like the Mavic Mini 2 which you could just throw in a backpack and forget about.

The drone that stands out for me here is the DJI Mavic Air 2. It is packed with features, has a new improved camera that allows for 4k 60fps, as well as DJI’s new Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) 3.0, allowing for safer flying as well as improved tracking of people and objects. But if you have a smaller budget and just want something basic, the Mini 2 is also an excellent option.

Mavic Mini 2 – Budget Drone for Basic Users

DJI Mavic Mini 2 Best Budget DJI Drone

This is the cheapest option in the line-up, great if all you want is something basic that takes decent, stable aerial videos and nothing fancy.

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With the new legislation that has been placed almost worldwide, drones that weigh over 250g will need registering if you want to fly it anywhere. The response from DJI was undeniably impressive: they made this Mavic Mini 2 that has a range of 10Km, a flight time of 31 minutes and a camera that is capable of recording videos at a crisp 4K resolution, weighing a mere 249g!

Since it’s under 250g, you do not need to register this drone in many places (check your local regulations before purchasing), and yet it can still accomplish almost everything that the more expensive, heavier drones can do. I seriously recommend looking at some sample footage on Youtube from a DJI Mini 2 as it is a very capable drone and should not be overlooked. For an interesting perspective, an iPhone 11 weighs 194 grams – that’s how light this drone really is.

Compared to the bigger Mavic Air 2, the Mini 2 can also record 4K, Thanks to the improved bitrate (from 40Mb/s to 100Mb/s) and resolution, the difference in image quality between the Mavic Air 2 and Mini 2 is hardly noticeable. However the Mini 2 can only do 30FPS while the Mavic Air 2 can do 60FPS. the higher frame rate allows you to slow down the footage without making it too choppy.

The DJI Mini 2 has an improved maximum speed at 35MPH compared to the 29MPH of the previous version. However as a result, it could cause problems (sudden dips) when flying at max speed and filming horizontally, as the drone is now allowed to tilt at a higher angle at 40 degrees, leaving not enough room for the camera to stabilize the up and down axis. This might also happen in very windy situations. The solution to this is – fly slower, and avoid windy days.

Finally, it also doesn’t have any sensors for obstacle avoidance so it’s slightly more prone to being crashed than its more expensive alternatives.

Back to its good points: its cheap so if you crash it or lose it, it’s not as much of a loss. Oh and did I mention it’s foldable? It is tiny so if you have it in your backpack for a long hike you won’t even notice it, and for a cheap way into aerial cinematography, it is a great place to start. Not to mention it outperforms any other drones at this price point. The DJI Mini 2 is truly an impressive contender for something of this price and size.

Here’s a list of improvements in the Mini 2 compared to the previous Mini 1:

  • Price increased due to better hardware, DJI Mini 2: $449, Mini 1: $399
  • Much longer range thanks to the newer OcuSync 2.0 signal transmission system (10Km vs 4Km)
  • Folded size is smaller despite being the same weight
  • Supports Phone Charging
  • Quick video download to smartphone

Despite of all the great improvements, the Mini 2 still doesn’t handle wind as well or fly as fast as the larger Mavic Air 2. And the Mavic Air 2 is equipped with 3-direction sensors for obstacle avoidance while the Mini 2 only has downward sensor, so you are less likely to crash with the Mavic Air 2.

If either price, size or weight is the primary consideration for you, then the DJI Mini 2 is a fantastic option (the Mavic Air 2 is $350 more – almost double). But if your sole focus is in flight performance, reliability and the higher video frame rate, then I’d recommend the Mavic Air 2.

Mavic Air 2 – DJI’s Latest Offering with Impressive Features

Mavic Air 2 - DJI's Latest Drone

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DJI released the second rendition of the Mavic air in May 2020. At the time of writing, it is clear that the Mavic air 2 has the best price to performance out of any of these drones on this list. It boasts the longest flight times, the best range, OcuSync 2.0, 4k 60fps, the list goes on. For its size, it is undeniably impressive and definitely a leap forward in the capabilities of these compact drones.

It’s interesting to see that DJI would release a drone that, on paper, seems superior to the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom. However, the Mavic 2 Pro still takes the edge due to its larger Hasselblad camera sensor, allowing for a more professional image as well as manual control over the aperture. The Zoom has its ability to control optical focus which allows for more creative freedom when capturing more unique visuals. If I had the choice over the three drones and price isn’t a factor, I’d choose the Mavic 2 Pro. If I had a tight budget, I’d probably choose the Mavic Air 2 for its value. Its packed with features, has a larger sensor than the Zoom, and for a saving of £300-£600, seems like an obvious choice.

It does have one minor negative from its predecessor due to its superior performance. Compared to its previous iteration, it has lost a bit of its transportable nature. With a remote twice the size, a slightly larger footprint overall and a greater overall weight it will take up more space in a backpack. Saying this, it is still smaller that the Mavic 2 series, with a smaller footprint (albeit only marginally) and only around 2/3 the weight.

I have a suspicion that the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom is also due a revamp as they came out the same year as the Mavic Air 1. It doesn’t seem like DJI would make something this capable for a smaller price tag than their more premium products.

Mavic 2 Zoom – For The Creative Users

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The Mavic 2 Zoom uses the same sensor as the Mavic Air, is larger and more expensive. Its obvious differences come with its newer technology: better flight time and range, and of course the newest feature, 2x optical zoom.

With this comes some new modes, the most prominent being “dolly zoom”. Used in the right scenario it can create a very interesting effect to spice up your video edits, but I feel it may fall short and be more of a gimmick for the casual users.

The Mavic 2 Zoom also has 4x “lossless zoom”, which I don’t see being used in a professional manner as it can only be used in a resolution of 1080p and uses digital zoom to essentially crop in on a video.

A feature I can see being used professionally is the “super res photos” which essentially captures 9 photos and stitches them together to create a massive 48MP photo, allowing for a greater level of detail in your images.

I would compare the Mavic 2 Zoom most to the Mavic Air. The Mavic 2 Zoom definitely produces better video on paper, but not something that is incredibly noticeable. For a more professional use, or just if you want slightly superior images quality, I’d choose this over the Mavic Air.

Just be aware that it is considerably larger, so will be slightly more cumbersome on long hikes to get that perfect shot. For me the Mavic 2 Zoom strikes an odd middle ground: if you want a drone for professional means, the Mavic 2 Pro is certainly the better option. If you’re more of a casual user, you can get a Mavic Air for cheaper that performs similar to the standard of the Zoom. I will say the Zoom is still a very capable drone, with the optical zoom allowing you to widen your creative freedom in a unique manner.

Mavic 2 Pro – For the Professional Users

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If you want better-looking videos without saving for a DJI inspire 2, this is the drone for you.

It has a larger, 1-inch Hasselblad image sensor meaning that it can capture more light, and perform better in low light conditions such as indoor or later in the day, as well as having a higher ISO ability, again aiding it in low light situations.

It can also shoot in 10-bit Dlog-M, essentially meaning it has more natural looking colours, aiding in more accurate colour grading in post editing. It seems the Pro is the slight upgrade of the Zoom, with slightly better functionality when it comes to a more professional end product – hence the price difference.

I would say this suits someone pursuing a professional image; whilst it can be used fairly easily by a beginner due to its very simple interface (DJI GO 4 App), you won’t be able to get the most out of it, especially when there is so much you can do during editing the footage or images when you have finished flying.

That being said, this drone really has it all. The Mavic 2 series offers the best obstacle avoidance system currently available on any DJI products, has a great range of up to 8km and with a top speed of around 45mph (72km/h), gives you a lot of creative freedom to open up the range of things that you can shoot. DJI has managed to offer this technology in a fairly light, relatively transportable drone in comparison to its more expensive counterparts, the Phantom 4 Pro and the Inspire 2.

Phantom 4 Pro – Almost As Good As the Mavic 2 Pro

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Before talking about why I wouldn’t suggest this drone anymore, I will say that the phantom series is really what kicked off DJI’s mainstream popularity, with a lot of the company’s success being based around this very product. It offers professional level quality, ease of use with a true ‘ready to fly’ ideology, that anyone could pick up and obtain some great footage.

Having said this, I can’t suggest that anyone buy one of these (at least new) in this current era. The only strong point over the Mavic 2 Pro is that it can shoot in 4K 60fps over the Mavic’s 4K 30fps. Every other technical aspect seems to match the Mavic 2 Pro, in a package that is heavier and harder to transport because it cannot be folded into a smaller shape.

Prior to the release of the Mavic 2 Pro, I would have wholeheartedly suggested this for those individuals that want to push their professional capabilities as a creator, but since the release of the Mavic 2 Pro it seems to have been dethroned at this price point.

However, if you can get one at a good price (albeit retail on a Phantom is more expensive than the Mavic 2 Pro), it is still a highly capable drone. It may be larger and more of a hassle to travel with, but it still has all the excellent features of the Mavic 2 Pro, such as long flight times and an excellent camera, paired with an easy to use interface.

Inspire 2 – Business Level

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The DJI inspire 2 is the ultimate cinematography workhorse that you can just buy off the shelf.

On this list it is easily the most capable and most adaptable, due to its swappable camera and lenses to suit any environment, to get any shot required. It demands the highest price because it can haul around heavier equipment, can raise its motors above the camera for better flight characteristics as well as full uninterrupted 360-degree views, the list goes on.

This drone is not for the average users. This is truly a professional piece of equipment and requires a large boot to be hauled around in. For its capabilities, it does come in quite a small package – but at 4.2kg for just the drone, it’s not something you’re going to take on holiday for a few dronies.

The Inspire is often used in the creation of TV shows and movies, such as “blue planet” and many others, capturing anything required of it due to its adaptable nature and its top-tier visuals from its array of accessories. I’d only suggest this to individuals that are starting an aerial photography/cinematography business, that have good editing skills and some experience with safe flying of drones. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Edit History

  • Mar 2020 – Guide created
  • May 2020 – DJI Mavic Air 2 released to replace Mavic Air 1
  • Jan 2021 – DJI Mini 2 released to replace Mini 1

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Joe 31st May 2020 - 4:49 pm

I understand that these drones require a smartphone that uses Wi-Fi protocol 802.11 a,c. Is that true? The reason I ask is that not all smartphones use that protocol. I would like one of these drones that you can fly right away, rather than take months, or years to learn the true ins and outs of flying.

RCSchim 26th May 2020 - 1:35 pm

It’s not hard to click on any article in your Blog Mails. It’s rather hard to choose from the plethora of good information here :)
Glad to see you’re back in blog business,
greets from Austria, Mario

Marc Frank 20th April 2020 - 8:29 pm

You’ll have to do an Update in 17 days, when the Mavic Air 2 comes out.