There’s no doubt that the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the two hottest camera drones of the year. Soon after the release of the new Mavic 2 models, DJI announced that the original Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro would be discontinued. The fact that DJI discontinued both of their flagship models show just how popular they expect the new Mavic 2 to be.
Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom
Now that I have spent countless hours flying both the Zoom and the Pro models of the Mavic 2, I have a great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both drones. One has a 1-inch sensor and Hasselblad technology while the other has the first optical zoom implemented on a consumer drone. You may have heard that the Mavic 2 Pro is better for photographers while the Mavic 2 Zoom is better for videographers. The story is a bit more complex than that. Both drones have their merits, but chances are, the Mavic 2 Zoom is the better drone for you. Let’s see why.
Mavic 2 Zoom Replaces Original Mavic Pro…And the Phantom 4?
The Mavic 2 Zoom is the clear successor to the original Mavic Pro, the most popular drone of all time. The Mavic 2 Zoom is better than the original Mavic in all ways because of its better specs, additional flight modes, and a more impressive camera (in all zoom states). These features make the Mavic 2 Zoom the hands-down winner.
The photos from the original Mavic Pro (center) can’t compare with the new Mavic 2 Zoom (left) and Mavic 2 Pro.
The original Mavic Pro was more popular for consumers than the Phantom models because of the Mavic’s improved portability and lower cost. The Phantom models have been more popular with inspectors and real estate photographers because they have been around longer and because of the Phantom 4 Pro’s superior camera quality. With the improvements to the Mavic 2 Zoom’s camera, the picture is less clear. The Mavic 2 Zoom now better serves the some of the markets traditionally served by the Phantom models.
The Power of Zoom
Initially, I was very skeptical about what could be done with just 2X zoom, but I have been surprised with just how often I have used it. The zoom can be very handy, especially when recording in 1080 where you get additional digital cropping that produces a total of 4X zoom, from 24 to 96 mm equivalent focal range.
There have been times when I wanted to do a point of interest orbit but there were trees that I might hit while circling. Now I just zoom in and fly above the trees. Recently I was “chasing” a train without having the time to do a detailed survey of nearby trees. I was able to simply zoom in without fear of hitting a branch.
A snapshot of the train chase taken at 4X zoom from the Mavic 2 Zoom.
[pullquote]A drone with zoom capability has started to feel less like a novelty and more like something that I can’t live without.[/pullquote]
A drone with zoom capability has started to feel less like a novelty and more like something that I can’t live without. The narrower 48 mm equivalent focal length often feels more “cinematic,” likely because we are all accustomed to seeing high focal length aerial footage from helicopters that are forced to fly further away from their subjects than drones.
Contrary to my initial fears, the footage recorded at 2X and 4X zoom does not look shaky thanks to the Mavic 2’s stellar gimbal.
Not the First Zoom Lens
Of course, the zoom feature isn’t new to drones, but it is new to practical high-quality drones. The original Inspire had the Z3 camera, but its price and size put it out of range for most consumers. The Parrot Anafi offers 3X digital zoom, but its image quality does not hold up well when compared to the Mavic 2 Zoom. Simply put, DJI hit a home run with the Mavic 2 Zoom.
DJI has made some improvements over the shaky footage captured at 7X zoom on the Inspire 1.
Surprising Image Quality
When I purchased both the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro, I “knew” what I was going to find. I was going to discover that the Mavic 2 Pro had unbelievable image quality while the Mavic 2 Zoom produced soft images due to compromises in lens design and more moving lens groups, all on a vibrating drone platform.
It turns out I was right about the Mavic 2 Pro, it is stellar. However, I was wrong about the Mavic 2 Zoom, it is also stellar.
The Mavic 2 Zoom at 2X Zoom shows the most detail in these cropped images of a barn. At f/2.8 the Mavic 2 Pro uses its larger sensor and extra pixels to produce a sharp image, but that benefit is lost at f/11 where the image gets a bit blurry.
While the Mavic 2 Zoom only has 12 megapixels, it makes full use of them. It produces some of the most pleasing videos and photos that I have seen from any DJI drone, or any other drone for that matter. The image is sharp at 24 mm, 48 mm, and all zoom states in between. The lenses make no compromises so far as I can tell; the images I get are not limited by lens design or build quality.
The 2X Zoom of the Mavic 2 Zoom shows the most detail in cropped mages of our test target.
More Flight and Camera Modes
With more camera capability comes more flight modes, and the Mavic 2 Zoom does not disappoint in this area either. The Dolly Zoom feature on the Mavic 2 Zoom is the best I have seen. I never quite understood why it wasn’t included on the Phantom 4 Pro, which also has enough pixels to make an impact with this mode. A dolly zoom on a drone is a logical fit, and I am happy to finally have it.
The Mavic 2 Zoom also sports a “super-resolution” 48-megapixel image that you can produce when the drone automatically stitches together nine images taken at 48 mm focal length. With this mode you to get poster-quality image resolution. This is another feature not offered by the Mavic 2 Pro, which has a fixed focal length.
The Mavic 2 Zoom is Better for Inspection
Before the release of the Mavic 2, the Phantom 4 Pro had been the go-to drone for many 3D mapping and inspection tasks. Its 20-megapixel sensor was hard to beat, and for the money, it was the best option on the market. With similar specs, the Mavic 2 Pro is just as capable as the Phantom. So what about the Mavic 2 Zoom? While it is limited to 12 megapixels, the Mavic 2 Zoom also has 2X lossless zoom. What wins, more zoom or more pixels?
The Mavic 2 Zoom can resolve finer features at 2X zoom than the 20 MP sensor on the Mavic 2 Pro
I ran the numbers and it turns out that at any given distance the Mavic 2 Zoom has more ability to resolve fine details than the Mavic 2 Pro. For example, at 100 meters (328 feet) of distance from the object you are imaging, the Mavic 2 Zoom can resolve to about 1.6 centimeters (0.6 inches) while the Mavic 2 Pro can resolve down to only 2 cm (0.8 inches). So, the answer is pretty clear, the Mavic 2 Zoom is better for seeing fine details. Is it better for mapping?
Is the Mavic 2 Better for Mapping?
When flying mapping missions one will typically fly at an altitude that is safe based on nearby obstacles. If accuracy is critical to you then the Mavic 2 Zoom wins for getting you more data per inch than the Mavic Pro can record. More data with fewer pixels does come at a cost, however. You will need about 3 times as many photos with the Mavic 2 Zoom at 48 mm equivalent focal length than you would need to cover the same ground with the wider field of view on the Mavic 2 Pro.
While the Mavic 2 Zoom can resolve finer features it also covers less ground with each photo.
Why the Mavic 2 Zoom Is Best for You
Chances are you are not a Hollywood filmmaker. You are a weekend warrior. You are a real estate photographer. You are an inspector who wants a highly portable drone. Because you don’t need the best dynamic range and the best color profile, chances are the Mavic 2 Zoom is the drone for you. It is better than any Mavic or Phantom before it. I simply love the Mavic 2 Zoom.
Take a look at the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom
What About the Mavic 2 Pro?
If photography is your focus, I do have to recommend the Mavic 2 Pro. Its dynamic range and 20 megapixels are hard to beat. That doesn’t mean you will be disappointed with the Mavic 2 Zoom. High dynamic range (HDR) JPEGs can pull out the darks that are otherwise not as strong on the Zoom. “Hyperlight” (multi-frame noise reduction) JPEGs can help you automatically reduce the noise you get in dark scenes when using a high ISO value. Auto exposure bracketing and burst shooting can be used for those who want to do their own post-processing. All of these features on the Zoom help make up for its photographic shortcomings.
The Mavic 2 is stable enough to capture long exposure shots. I had the Mavic 2 Pro set at ISO 100, f/2.8, 1s exposure.
If you are a true professional filmmaker then I have some bad news: You should buy both of the Mavic 2 drones. It’s the only way to get Hasselblad processing on a 20 MP sensor while also having access to the creative flexibility of the zoom. The good news is that both Mavic 2 drones fold up, so you should have no problem fitting them in your bag with the rest of your kit.
Take a look at the Mavic 2 Pro from the perspective of the Mavic 2 Zoom.
To Sum It All Up
- The Mavic 2 Pro is the better drone for the professional photographer.
- Professional cinematic filmmakers should consider adding both drones to their kit.
- The Mavic 2 Zoom is better for inspectors, real estate photographers, weekend warriors, and everyone else.
The Mavic Air is more compact and may be the best option for travelers for whom compact size is critical.
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