The DJI Action 2’s video performance may be respectable rather than groundbreaking, but its pioneering magnetic mounting and mod system not only works brilliantly – it also serves to set it apart from all its rivals in the action cam market. This is a camera that performs well (particularly where image stabilisation is concerned) but its true value lies in its tiny, lightweight body and the ease with which it can be mounted to various things – even the front of your shirt – and quickly adapted to suit different tasks.
- Compact size
- Clever magnetic modular design
- Extra wide field of view
- Effective horizon levelling EIS
- Prone to overheating
- Poor performance in low light
- Add-on modules not waterproof
- UKRRP: £349
- USARRP: $399
DesignMagnetic and modular
Storage32GB of built-in storage for recording and microSD
Battery life70 minutes (1080/30p recording)
DJI is the market leader in camera drones by a country mile, but it’s still playing a distant second fiddle to GoPro when it comes to action cams. The Action 2 feels like a bold attempt not only to catch up with GoPro’s Hero line, but to offer something a little different.
While the first DJI Action sought to emulate the Hero, its replacement wants to stand out on its own merits. It does that chiefly through its innovative modular design, whereby the main camera unit can be paired up with various mounts or modules to enhance functionality or add features.
A bold design is one thing, but can the Action 2 outmatch its great rival when it comes to performance and image quality?
- Modular add-ons add versatility
- Camera can be worn
- OLED touchscreeen
The Action 2’s main unit is tiny, measuring in at 39 x 39 x 22.3mm, and weighing a modest 56g. That makes it a lot smaller and lighter than any Hero-class GoPro, so much so that DJI claims it’s a wearable as well as an action cam.
To that end, there’s a magnetic pendant in the box: slip it around your neck and the Action 2 can be firmly stuck to your shirtfront. It makes for an effective and pretty discreet first-person body camera.
The camera is currently available in two different packages: the Power Combo comes with the main unit, the Power Module (which increases battery life to 180 minutes and adds a MicroSD card slot), the lanyard and a short USB-C cable for charging. The Dual Screen Combo offers the same selection but adds a magnetic ball-joint adapter (that’ll fix the camera to tripods or anything with a GoPro-style mount) and replaces the Power Module with a Front Touchscreen Module (which incorporates an OLED touchscreen, MicroSD slot, four extra mics and a battery boost that gives the combined package up to 160 minutes of recording time).
The main unit is crafted from slick-looking, premium-feeling metal and offers water resistance to a depth of 10m. Used without the Power and/or Front Touchscreen Modules, its battery lasts for around 70 minutes when recording 1080p video and it has 32GB of internal storage.
DJI says the main unit is drop-proof and dust-proof as well as waterproof. It has a Gorilla Glass lens cover to resist scratches and dings. It should be noted, however, that neither of the modules offer the same water protection – so if you’re going for a dip make sure you remove them first (or invest in DJI’s dive case, which has space for one of the modules alongside the main unit and extends the waterproof depth to 60m).
Modular action cams are nothing new, but I haven’t seen anything quite as slick as the Action 2. There’s a satisfying clunk as one module firmly clicks onto another and (thanks to a clip that backs up the magnetic pull) a real sense of solidity in the connections.
You don’t have to fuss around with screws, clamps and the like quite as much as with a GoPro so everything feels a bit faster and simpler. The ability to remove the Action 2 from a vlogging handle and clip it to your bike in the space of four or five seconds is a real boon.
Given that you may be using the magnetic mount to fix the camera unit to all manner of fast-moving contraptions (paddle board, car, skateboard or, in our case, bike), that’s reassuring – although I wasn’t quite so certain of everything staying put when I stacked both the camera and the Front Touchscreen Module on a bike mount and rode briskly over a cobbled street. It did stay on, to be fair, but it felt and sounded a tad precarious.
App and UI
- Only a single physical button
- The DJI app is the best way to control settings
- The app isn’t perfect: the Wi-Fi link disconnects after only a minute or so of inactivity
The Action 2 has a single physical button on top, performing both power and recording duties. When the unit is powered down, tapping the button turns it (quickly) on, while a long press turns it on and starts recording immediately using your last saved settings. When it’s powered on, a short press stops/starts recording or takes a photo, while a long press powers it down. So far, so simple.
If you want to get into the weeds with settings and other options, it’s all through the tiny rear touchscreen, but thankfully it’s all very straightforward and the touch sensitivity seems to be tuned just right.
Occasionally you’ll need to tap one of the dinky icons a second time when the first doesn’t register, but in general through a combination of fingertip dabbing and swiping, anyone familiar with modern day user interfaces will be able to quickly find and change the option they’re looking for.
It’s even easier to control things using your smartphone and the DJI Mimo app, though. Open it up and turn the camera on and the two devices should detect each other quickly, with the app giving you a prompt to link them. This creates a Wi-Fi connection between phone and Action 2, allowing the app to function as a viewfinder, editor and remote control for the camera.
The app isn’t perfect. The Wi-Fi link disconnects after only a minute or so of inactivity, which means you’ll be frequently tapping the on-screen button to re-establish it. I had lots of trouble trying to transfer big video files from the camera to the phone for editing and playback. All too often the transfer would drop halfway through, appear to be completed only for the file to not have actually transferred at all. In some cases the app would crash completely.
You may have more luck if you’re working with a newer handset than my iPhone 8, perhaps – but hopefully, Mimo will be updated in the coming days or weeks to improve stability.
- Some issues with the device overheating
- You then have to wait until the unit cools down to record a follow-up clip
- Performance is otherwise quite impressive
Let’s get to the main point about the Action 2’s performance right away: it has a tendency to overheat and this limits its capabilities at higher resolutions.
Stick the camera in 4K or even 2.7K and hit record and you’ll get only a few minutes of footage before a warning sounds and everything shuts down to cool off. I managed clips of over 10 minutes before it happened, but complaints online suggest some users (perhaps those who live in warmer climes) are getting only five minutes, or even less.
This might be understandable on a baking hot midsummer’s day in Greece or southern Spain, but in the UK in November it’s surprising – and potentially annoying if you want to record longer clips. Not only is your recording unpredictably short, but you then have to wait until the unit cools down to record a follow-up clip.
It’s a shame (and hopefully will be mitigated or fixed by future firmware updates) as the Action 2’s performance is otherwise quite impressive. You can record 12MP stills or video at a variety of resolutions and frame rates and, although it can’t match the 23MP still and 5.6K/60fps performance of the GoPro Hero 10 Black, 4K at 120fps is perfectly respectable.
Furthermore, the Action 2’s 155º field of view is wider than the Hero 10 Black’s, meaning you can fit more in the frame. You can shoot videos in up to 8x slo-mo or 30x hyperlapse, and livestream your footage via YouTube, Facebook or RTMP.
Using the Action 2’s excellent RockSteady and HorizonSteady electronic image stabilisation (EIS) will result in a crop, which means a tighter field of view. When you see the improvement in stability and smoothness, though, you probably won’t mind: HorizonSteady (which is debuting on this camera) in particular does a fantastic job of keeping everything level when you’re wobbling around.
Image quality itself is decent when the ambient lighting is good. There’s a real pop to the videos’ blue skies and skin tones look realistic. You’ll spot some flare when the sun creeps into view, but nothing major. When the fiery orb dips towards or below the horizon, however, the Action 2’s footage starts to become flat and grainy, with too much detail lost to noise. Given the size of the camera that’s not a huge surprise, but the absence of even some kind of stacking “night shot” mode for stills is a little odd.
Should you buy it?
You want a tiny modular action cam that’s almost as good as a GoPro when it comes to image quality: The Action 2 is a great performer for its size, with particularly good EIS, and the wealth of modules and mounts gives users lots of scope for achieving interesting shots.
You want to record longer clips at resolutions above 1080p: The tendency to overheat here means you’ll end up with short clips only, plus an irritating wait for the camera to cool back down to acceptable temperatures.
The Action 2 doesn’t feel like an action cam in GoPro’s shadow, or one made in the GoPro mould – and for that DJI should be commended. The hardware is well constructed and solid, the mounting system is clever and easy to use and the footage and photos are impressive.
That said, we still wouldn’t expect established GoPro users to jump ship to DJI. Had the Action 2 offered something truly groundbreaking – like incredible low light performance – it might have done the trick, but we don’t think the magnet system is enough. And then there’s the overheating issue and the limits it puts on higher resolution recordings to consider.
How we test
We thoroughly test every action camera we review. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Author: Sam Kieldsen
This article comes from Trusted Reviews and can be read on the original site.