DJI Action 2
from $399 | DJI.com
The DJI Action 2 is a modular action camera with a very compact body and impressive 4K video capabilities. It’s a reimagined version of DJI’s Osmo Action camera and features a variety of magnetic modules so users can customize it to their shooting needs.
The Action 2 uses a 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor, which is larger than the 1/2.3″ sensor in the original Osmo Action camera. Its F2.8 lens gives a 155º field of view (FoV) and a new color temperature sensor helps the camera quickly adjust as shooting situations change.
The camera also features a new stabilization mode called HorizonSteady that promises to keep horizon lines stable regardless of camera orientation and DJI’s RockSteady 2.0 to reduce shake. Other features include Hyperlapse, Timelapse, 8x slow-mo, and ‘Lapse Control’, allowing users to control the speed and duration of hyperlapse and timelapse modes. The camera can be used as a webcam or for live streaming at 1080/30p.
- 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor
- F2.8 lens with a 155º FOV
- Video: 4K/120p (16:9, 3840×2160), 4K/60p (4:3, 4096×3072), 2.7K/120p (16:9, 2688×1512), 2.7K/60p (4:3, 2688×2016), 1080/240p
- 12MP photo (Raw or JPEG, but not at the same time)
- 4x digital zoom with HorizonSteady off, 2x digital zoom with HorizonSteady on
- 32 GB of internal memory
- micro SD card slot on front-facing camera and battery pack modules
- 1.76″ OLED touchscreen
- One built-in microphone (increases to three when paired with front-facing camera module)
- Electronic image stabilization up to 60fps
- Waterproof down to 10m (33 ft.) without a case, down to 60m with a case
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Body and design
The Action 2’s updated body design is the most visible change to DJI’s line of action cameras. It is extremely compact when used without any accessories, weighing just 56 grams (~2 ounces) and measuring 39 x 39 x 22.3mm. The OLED touchscreen is found on the back of the camera, and a single button on the top allows you to record video or shoot photos.
Camera settings are all changed using the OLED touchscreen on the back or the DJI Mimo app. On the bottom of the Action 2, you will find magnetic contacts that allow you to connect various accessories to the camera.
|The DJI Action 2 can connect to a battery pack or a front-facing screen module using its unique magnetic design.||The tiny but powerful magnets on the bottom of the DJI Action 2 let you attach a variety of accessories.|
You can connect the front-facing screen module or an extra battery pack to the Action 2 to increase its battery life. Using either of these accessories also lets you record to a micro SD card, expanding upon the main module’s 32GB of built-in memory. The front-facing screen boosts battery life from 70 minutes up to 160 minutes (shooting 1080/30p), and the battery pack will increase battery life up to 3 hours. The two modules cannot be used at the same time.
The DJI Action 2 can also be used with accessories like a magnetic wearable necklace for capturing FPV video, a floating handle and waterproof case, a magnetic ball-joint adapter mount, a remote control extension rod, mini tripods, and a macro lens accessory.
|Attaching the front-facing screen module or the extra battery pack will double the size of the DJI Action 2, but it also adds increased functionality and extra battery life.|
The modular magnetic design makes it easy to swap out accessories quickly while still keeping the overall size of the Action 2 relatively small. The magnetic design also lets you attach the Action 2 to any magnetic surface, which in theory sounds like a way to capture some unique points of view. But for reasons I’ll explain below, I wouldn’t recommend attaching this camera to the hood of your car.
|Spite Fuxxx performing at Our Wicked Lady. |
F2.8 | 1/60 sec | ISO 6400
What it’s like to use
Although the magnetic design is handy for attaching extra battery packs and tiny tripods, it’s less functional when attached to random magnetic surfaces. I attempted to attach the Action 2 to a metal C-stand and was disappointed to see it slowly slide down the length of the stand. The magnets in this device are clearly designed to be used with other magnetic DJI devices.
Although the camera attaches nicely to the wearable necklace accessory, the FPV footage leaves something to be desired. I shot some hyperlapses with it, and keeping my hair, headphone cable or jacket from covering the camera was an issue. The horizon lines in the footage also tended to be a little skewed.
If you are shooting with the Action 2 attached to the necklace, you will want to control it using the DJI app, but if the camera is on for a long time, I found that the camera tended to disconnect from the app, and the camera would stop recording.
The necklace is more discreet than a chest harness, but the blinking light on the front of the Action 2 makes it pretty obvious that you are wearing a camera. Depending on the size of your chest, the design might also prove a little awkward, and the magnet that allows you to connect the camera to the necklace accessory is tiny and easy to lose track of.
The camera is also prone to overheating and shutting itself off, and wearing it close to your body only seems to make that happen faster. Although having a hands-free option with the camera is a nice touch, I preferred holding onto the camera or attaching it to one of the mini tripods. For a hands-free option, the headband might offer a slightly better choice for capturing FPV perspectives.
|Using one of the mini tripods was the easiest way to work with the DJI Action 2. The stabilization tech inside the camera is good enough that it eliminates the need for a gimbal.|
Ultimately, the speed at which the camera seems to overheat could be its biggest drawback. In use, the Action 2 became extremely hot to the touch after about three minutes of shooting at 1080p. While shooting 4K footage, it wasn’t uncommon in my time with it for the camera to overheat, stop recording, and shut itself off.
When used in a controlled environment, the longest we could record while shooting 4K/50p before the camera shut itself off was around seven minutes. One ‘fix’ is to record at a lower resolution, which produces less heat, but for many users that will defeat the purpose of buying a 4K action camera. However, DJI shared some additional information about the camera’s thermal management that proved helpful.
As long as the wind velocity around the camera is at least 1 m/s, it shouldn’t run into overheating issues in average outdoor temperatures
It turns out that air cooling is part of the camera’s design. It’s built from an aluminum alloy that’s designed to conduct and dissipate heat and, according to DJI, as long as the wind velocity around the camera is at least 1 m/s, you shouldn’t run into overheating issues in average outdoor temperatures. Additionally, the camera includes a setting that allows you to adjust its cut-off temperature to suit your usage and preferences. It can be set to Standard (48º C) or High (53º C), with the latter giving you a bit more latitude.
What this means is that the context in which you plan to use the camera is important. When doing controlled testing on a tripod in an apartment, or even when shooting bands at indoor clubs as we did, there’s unlikely to be much of a breeze flowing over the camera, and it will heat up pretty fast. On the other hand, if you plan to mount the camera on your bike’s handlebars or use it on your snowboarding helmet, with wind flowing around the camera and wicking away heat, then overheating might not be as much of an issue.
The Rizzos perform at TV Eye in Ridgewood, Queens.
F2.8 |1/40 |ISO 3290
The touchscreen is responsive, but given the camera’s tiny size, it requires somewhat nimble fingers. Switching modes on the back of the camera can be a little cumbersome, as you have to swipe from the center of the screen to toggle between photo, video, quick clip, slow motion, and timelapse modes.
You can use the DJI Mimo app to change modes, but unfortunately, the current version still doesn’t support file playback, so if you want to view your footage on a larger screen, you will have to download files on your computer. It also means that features like the AI editor are inaccessible.
Image and video quality
Although it’s frustrating not to be able to view anything through the app, the footage that the Action 2 produces is pretty impressive. The wide field of view is great for shooting video, and even when shooting by hand, the footage is extremely stable. Color reproduction is nice and vibrant, and auto exposure is accurate. Video is saved in MP4 (H.264 or HEVC) format.
During my time with the Action 2, I brought it to several live shows and was impressed by what it could do. It’s much smaller than a phone, easier to hold onto, and if someone in the crowd comes careening into you mid-set, you don’t have to worry about the Action 2 taking a tumble. It happened, and the Action 2 was just fine. If it had been my phone, it would have been a bummer.
With only one microphone, the audio quality isn’t going to be ideal, but realistically the sound captured at those shows was on par with what I might have been able to grab with my phone. The add-on microphone accessory coming in December will be an essential accessory if the audio quality of what you are recording is important.
As mentioned earlier, the Action 2 can heat up fast and is prone to shutting itself off, so it may not be the best choice for capturing behind the scenes footage. I tried to use it as an additional camera on a music video shoot and was disappointed that it had overheated and shut itself off during most of the takes of the song.
The 12MP out-of-camera JPEGs look good enough, and having the option to shoot Raw gives you more flexibility with edits. However, the Action 2 requires you to pick one format and doesn’t allow you to capture both JPEG and Raw at the same time. Most action cams don’t have the ability to shoot super close, but the Action 2 is unique since it offers a macro lens attachment. Shooting with the macro lens accessory does introduce a pretty heavy vignette to the images that it produces, though.
DJI spent more than two years rethinking its place in the action camera market, and the Action 2’s design is truly innovative. This camera is tiny, the field of view is wider than most of its competitors, stabilization is excellent and the footage that it can capture is impressive.
We’re optimistic that app functionality will improve over time, but overheating could be a problem depending on how you intend to use the camera. It makes sense that air cooling is an integral part of its design given the minuscule size, but this limits its use in certain situations. As such, the Action 2 is probably not the best choice for shooting 4K video of static setups or indoors, but it might fit the bill for outdoor activities or action sports.
The price is also somewhat high for what you get. The Action 2 by itself is $399, but if you bundle it with the front-facing LCD module, it jumps to $519. The design here is undoubtedly innovative, and we were impressed by the quality of the footage it captured. But the price is high for a camera that could potentially overheat and shut off when you least expect it to.
What we like
- Compact size with tons of handy accessories
- Modular magnetic design
- Impressive video
- Excellent stabilization
What we’d like to see improved
- Functionality of the DJI Mimo app is limited
- Camera relies on airflow to avoid overheating and thermal shutdown
- No micro SD card slot on the main camera module