DJI releases new modular Action 2 camera: Review

DJI Action Camera 2 Review

DJI has just released its new Action 2 camera, and it’s a radical upgrade from the original Osmo Action camera. The modular design features some pretty slick engineering, with a ton of features packed under its magnetic hood. In many ways, it’s a camera unlike any other. Let’s dive in.

The camera, as you may have already heard, shoots 4K 120fps with 155° Field of View and 12 MP stills. But that’s not what’s going to appeal to potential users. That will be the modular design, which allows you to rock a pretty robust little cube-like device weighing just 56 grams (two ounces). More than that, it’s the magnetic features – which opens up myriad options for mounting, battery life, storage, and more.

It really is the first of its kind. But – in combos priced at $399 US and $519 US – is it the kind for you? Find out.

The Action 2 is magnetic

That, in addition to its size, is one of the main features of this machine.

The camera – and a host of accessories, including two modules (depending on the combo you purchase) – attach magnetically. You simply click them on or off in a snap. We started out by simply attaching the solo camera to the lanyard that ships with the unit. Just hang it around your neck, let the DJI Action 2 Camera snap in with a satisfying click, and start shooting. The camera hangs, facing forward off your chest (albeit upside-down). The built-in stabilization and horizon levelling produce pretty smooth video and the audio is quite decent.

Here’s the camera, hanging on the lanyard in this DJI image:

The camera and the lanyard have a magnetic attraction…

Of course, you can also click the camera onto any other surface that contains a significant amount of iron. So a steel pole, a shopping cart, skateboard truck, or rail – you name it. Plus, that magnetic camera attaches to one of two key modules that ship in the two available combos (we’ll get to that). In fact, as you’ll see in our review video, I even put the DJI Action 2 in my clothes dryer. (Seriously, I did.) There are a ton of other available (or soon-to-be-available) DJI accessories.

Props have to go here to Insta360, as I’m pretty sure it was the first company to use a magnetic lanyard, which works amazingly well with its minuscule GO 2 camera. But DJI has taken that concept much farther.

Ready for the video? You’ll find it here:

Size matters – and the DJI Action 2 is pretty small (which is good)

The camera, in its most basic configuration without a module attached, is a tiny block measuring just 39x39x22.3mm. Technically, that shape makes it a cuboid rather than a cube. It’s almost the same width and height as the old GoPro SESSION cameras, yet just a little more than half as deep. For comparison, take a look at it beside my old SESSION 5:

Look similar in size? The DJI is a little more than half as deep… (photo by Scott Simmie)

This is the Action 2 at its most basic, when you want the smallest device possible. (I think, though I stand to be corrected, that this may now be the smallest – or certainly one of the smallest – 4K action cameras currently on the market. This, of course, is going to appeal to FPV pilots. DJI does have some mounting options, but they’d likely add more weight than a lightweight printed holder. We suspect there will be 3D-printable files online shortly for lightweight cases/holders for this purpose.

Most importantly, however, that camera attaches to two key DJI modules.

The DJI Action 2 Camera modules

The most useful module for action cam people is likely going to be the Front Touchscreen Module. It features a front-facing OLED touchscreen that allows you to frame yourself. You can also access a number of settings options, most importantly resolution and frame rate. In 4K, you’ll find frame rates of 24, 25, 30,48, 50, 60, 100, and 120 fps. You can also easily access a digital zoom that goes up to 3x.

The front touchscreen gives access to key controls, including digital zoom… (Photo by Scott Simmie)

The OLED display is very clear and easy to navigate. The User Experience here is very good and intuitive. Skydivers, snowboarders (and FPV pilots) don’t like fiddling with deep menus, so DJI has this one right.

The DJI Action 2 Dual-Screen Combo retails for $519 US and includes what you see below: The camera, front touchscreen module, the lanyard, a magnetic ball-joint adapter mount, plus another magnetic adapter mount.

The DJI Action 2 Dual-Screen Combo is $519 US

The second module available is simply a battery, and comes packaged with the camera as the Power Combo. It retails for $399 US and includes the DJI Action Camera, the power module (which does not have a screen), the magnetic lanyard, and the magnetic adapter mount.

The DJI Power Combo is $399 US

FYI, DJI states the Action 2 Camera (solo) has a run time of up to 70 minutes on its own, 160 minutes when connected with the front touchscreen module, and 180 minutes with the power module. This is stated run time. We found, when operating the camera naked and carrying out processor-intensive tasks like hyperlapse or timelapse, it ran down much more quickly. But it does ship, in either combo, with the second module that also acts as a battery – so you should have plenty of time.

OLED screens on DJI Action Camera 2

The OLED screens (there’s one on the back of the camera itself) are protected with Gorilla Glass, as is the lens. DJI states the camera is “drop-proof” – though it does not reveal from what height the drop tests were conducted. The camera also features an Ingress Protection rating of IP68, which is a pretty good number. It’s waterproof to 10M on its own (but not with any modules attached), and you can go deeper with an optional waterproof case. That IP68 number also means this is pretty much dust-proof.

The modules snap together magnetically and are secured by two clips

As DJI puts it in the news release announcing the product:

DJI Action 2’s touchscreens are redesigned to make it easier and more convenient to control your photography so you can focus on the action. The camera unit features a 1.76-inch OLED touchscreen with an additional OLED screen on the front touchscreen module, which attaches securely to the bottom of the camera unit via magnetic locks, allowing users to set up a selfie and vlog instantly. Protected with Gorilla Glass, the touchscreens use haptic feedback for more precise control so you can navigate through camera settings quickly.

In our experience, this is all true. The screens are very sensitive and super easy to scroll through. You can literally change settings in seconds.

Stabilization

The DJI Action 2 camera features RockSteady 2.0, the company’s proprietary Electronic Image Stabilization technology. In addition, it has a horizon-leveling feature called HorizonSteady, which worked very well in our testing (you’ll see in the video). There were some small hiccups (explained in the video), but we can live with them.

The small camera has a number of mounting options available…

Of course, FPV pilots (and, say, motocross riders) probably aren’t too keen on having a steady horizon. Fear not, you can disable the feature and capture all of that amazing banking and other maneuvers.

Audio?

This is one area where older action cameras have traditionally sucked – though certainly manufacturers have been paying more attention in recent years. The DJI camera on its own actually captured decent audio, and when you attach the front touchscreen module, the single microphone on the camera gets a boost from an additional three microphones on the module. The company calls this combination of four microphones “DJI Matrix Stereo” and says it creates “immersive” sound during playback. (The second available module in the $399 combo is essentially a battery, and does not come with a screen or the additional microphones.)

We didn’t get a chance to really dive into that with headphones, but the sound coming out of this tiny camera on playback sounded pretty good to our ears (how did they get a decent speaker in something this size???).

Other features unlocked with the DJI Mimo app

Once you connect via Bluetooth or WiFi to DJI’s Mimo app, a host of other features become available. You can remotely control a variety of functions and settings, including shutter speed, ISO, histogram, Zebra displays (great for monitoring exposure), and much more. In terms of features, you can set the camera to the following modes via the app:

  • Hyperlapse
  • Timelapse
  • Slowmotion
  • Regular video recording
  • Quickclip (records video for preset durations you control)
  • Photo
  • Livestream

And yes, the camera can livestream directly to Facebook, YouTube, or via RTMP protocol. That’s a lot packed in. Plus, the Mimo app has an AI editor that can quickly pull together your scenes into a fully edited video, complete with music. Very useful if you’re after fast vids for social media sharing.

Oh, and when connected to Mimo the live view from the camera is very responsive. There’s a very slight lag but nothing worth complaining about. Plus, if you’re in the FPV world you’re going to be using a different camera with better range.

DJI Action Camera 2 specifications

We know a lot of you like to geek out on specs, so have at it. This table is direct from DJI:

General
ModelMC211
Dimension39×39×22.3 mm
Waterproof10m(with Waterproof Case 60 m)
Weight56 g
Camera
Front screen1.76inches 350 ppi 500±50 cd/m² 446×424
Sensor1/1.7 inches CMOS
FOV155°
Lensf/2.8
ISO range Photo:100-6400 Video:100-6400
Electronic Shutter SpeedPhoto:1/8000-30 s Video:1/8000 s to the limit of frames per second
Max. Photo Resolution4000×3000 
Photography ModesSingle:4000×3000 pixels  Countdown:turnoff/0.5/1/2/3/5/10 s
Video4K (4:3): 4096×3072 @ 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
4K (16:9): 3840×2160 @ 100/120 fps
4K (16:9): 3840×2160 @ 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
2.7K (4:3): 2688×2016 @ 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
2.7K (16:9): 2688×1512 @ 100/120 fps
2.7K (16:9): 2688×1512 @ 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
1080p: 1920×1080 @ 100/120/200/240 fps
1080p: 1920×1080 @ 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
Slow motion4K: 4x (120 fps)
2.7K: 4x (120 fps)
1080p: 8x (240 fps), 4x (120 fps)
Time-lapse4K/2.7K/1080: Shooting interval:0.5s,1s,2s,3s,4s,5s,6s,7s,8s,10s,13s,15s,20s,25s,30s,40s
Shooting time: ∞,5/10/20/30 min,1/2/3/5 h
StabilizationEIS(Rocksteady 2.0+HorizonSteady)
Max Video Bitrate100 Mbps
Supported File FormatsexFAT 
Photo FormatsJPEG/RAW
Video FormatsMP4 (H.264/HEVC)

What’s important in the DJI Action 2 specs

To a certain extent, that depends on your use-case scenario. What strikes us, of course, is the variety of 4K frame rates, including 120fps for those of you after slow-motion. We also like seeing that beefy 100 mbps bitrate, which indicates a solid amount of data being written. You can get up to 8x slow-motion at 1080p, and there’s great control over time-lapse intervals.

Nice, also, to see that the camera can capture still RAW files, and that you can choose between H.264 and HEVC (aka H.265) for video compression.

What’s it like to use?

Well, we have to say we were impressed. The user interface is excellent, startup time is fast, and you can quickly and easily change resolution and frame rates (arguably the most common adjustment) via the back touchscreen on the camera module alone. When you need more control, simply use the Mimo app.

Without the app (and we will explore Mimo), the camera really couldn’t be simpler to use. Simply power on by pushing the top button. It is set to default to video mode, at least until you get Mimo up and running.

We like the OLED display, and the huge variety of widgets that will be made available for virtually every mounting option you can think of.

The video, to us, looks very good. During one section you’ll see in the video, taken while driving, you’ll notice the horizon leveling doing its thing. In our case, it made the spot where the dash meets the windshield appear to move – so we’ll probably frame it differently next time. But man, for the size of this thing, it’s pretty impressive. The hyperlapse and timelapse functions were very slick, crunching our lengthy drive back to Toronto from the country into but a few amazing minutes.

We almost forgot: The camera has a new color temperature sensor built-in (you can see it; it’s that tiny circle just below the lens). DJI says the sensor “helps the camera restore color tones in complex lighting conditions and underwater recording for more natural, vibrant results.”

The rear touch-screen is a crystal-clear Organic Liquid Electronic Display (OLED). You can choose between still and video mode (plus others), then simply swipe for desired resolution and frame rates. The OLED screen is very responsive, and the settings display super clearly.

We also tried out the magnetic (of course) macro lens adaptor, which we thought was kinda cool. It simply snaps on top of the lens. There’s also a handy remote control extension rod, which can also function as a tripod and has a detachable remote controller. Slick.

The Mimo app unlocks the DJI Action Camera 2’s potential

We had some bugs downloading the test app. But once we had it, the full potential of this camera became apparent.

The Timelapse options are clearly laid out, covering the most common things people like to capture. Simply select a type of scene, and it will optimize how it will crunch everything down. Here’s what we mean:

  • The “Crowds” setting will crunch 10 minutes of real time into 0.5 seconds
  • “Clouds” will turn every 10 minutes into two seconds
  • “Sunset” will produce 3 seconds for every hours that goes by
  • “Custom” allows you to set your own parameters

There’s much more, of course. Mimo allow you to control every single parameter of this camera’s operation.

Downsides?

Yes, there are a few.

First off, we tried attaching the camera to the chain of a swing at the local playground. Not DJI’s fault, but there wasn’t enough iron in those chains for a really solid hold. We thought it would hang in there, but it fell off and dropped about four feet to the ground. It was fine.

But here’s the issue: When we picked it up, tiny bits of iron (you’d be surprised what’s in soil) adhered to the body. Yes, we were able to get them off, but we know some people will be taking this waterproof camera to the beach. If you’ve ever seen an Airpods case that’s been dropped in sand, you’ll realize that can be more than a bit of a hassle.

Of course, that’s the tradeoff with something magnetic, and simply something to watch out for rather than a red flag.

Battery life for the solo camera

We also noted that while the battery life of the solo camera is decent when shooting video, it really takes a hit when you’re using hyperlapse or timelapse modes. We had a full charge and went for a spin. Though we didn’t time it, we’d guess it ran for about 20 minutes before we received a battery warning that just 20 per cent charge was remaining. We’re guessing here that DJI’s stated “run times” simply mean how long the camera will maintain power under optimal conditions, not when it’s actually doing some serious processing. The camera does get warm while operating, but we didn’t experience extreme heat or any shut-offs.

For FPV pilots, it’s worth noting that the camera on its own does not have a USB port or a microSD slot. You need to connect to one of the other modules if you want to offload your footage or extend run-time. So if you’re doing a lot of flying (or other action stuff), you’ll want to either have a computer nearby or – more likely – be capturing your action with a module attached and MicroSD card inserted. When you’re recording 4K footage at 100 mbps it doesn’t take long to use up the camera’s 32 GB internal memory.

DroneDJ’s take

Even with the downsides mentioned above, we like this camera. It crams a huge number of features into a very small package, and it’s very well-integrated with the DJI Mimo app. An impressive number of other accessories will be available shortly, suitable for everyone from scuba divers to BASE jumpers.

But what we really like is that you don’t need all that to get started. In fact, for really basic stuff you don’t even need to fire up the Mimo app. Simply power on the camera, clip it to the lanyard or stick it to something reasonably magnetic, and you’re good to go.

We won’t get into a GoPro HERO10 Black comparison here. Probably later. But this is an innovative, well-designed product that will certainly find a customer base.

Finally, if you feel this story and video gave you some insight into this product, we’d appreciate you using our affiliate link if considering purchasing. It helps us all, and doesn’t cost you a penny more.

Thanks!

FTC: DroneDJ is reader supported, we may earn income on affiliate links


Subscribe to DroneDJ on YouTube for exclusive videos

Show More Comments