October 27, 2021 | By Josh Wussow
With the DJI Action 2 Camera, GoPro finally has a worthy challenger for the action cam throne.
In the world of action cameras, “clones” of popular models like the GoPro are a dime a dozen. But what’s been missing for some time is a genuine competitor, another company that can step up and challenge it for the outdoor video crown.
Enter DJI, maker of everything from drones to cinema and gimbal cams, with an updated entry into the action cam fray: the Action 2.
Boasting innovative design and a quality build, this action camera has the makings of a top contender. So confident was DJI that the brand offered to submit a camera for testing, along with a bevy of specs and product details.
After several days using the Action 2 Camera, it’s pretty clear that DJI is onto something.
Full disclosure here: I’m something of an action cam rookie. I prioritize camera performance when shopping for phones, so my cell has usually been good enough to capture my adventures.
But I’ve spent years with professional-grade cameras thanks to my video production studies in college. So the Action 2 provided me with a great opportunity to revisit a small, purpose-built video device. And after getting a taste, I can say I understand the appeal.
Let’s examine the company’s four key claims to see if it measures up to the marketing hype.
Oh, yeah — this is immediately apparent. Each of the Action 2’s modules incorporates into a similarly-sized brick, measuring 39 x 39 mm (just over 1.5 inches). And their thickness is a scant 22.3 mm (approximately 0.88 inches). These snap together through a system of magnets, strategically positioned so that there’s really only one way to line the pieces up.
The main component here is, of course, the Camera Module. It houses the lens, CMOS sensor, and 32 GB of memory. It features a single button on top with a 1.76-inch OLED touchscreen on the reverse and weighs in at 56 g (a hair under 2 ounces). The camera has its own internal battery, which DJI claims is good for 50 minutes of shooting.
After the fourth quarter 2017 earnings report, GoPro announced today it would cancel production of its Karma Drone and exit the drone market. Read more…
Then there’s the Front Touchscreen Module, which, though the weight feels the same, is a few millimeters wider across the hips. This piece is available as part of the aptly named Dual Screen Combo package ($519) and includes a pair of magnetic mounts. Beyond its added controls, this module houses a battery that brings a total of 160 minutes to your runtime.
Those looking to spend a little less can opt for the Power Combo ($399), which includes the main camera, a magnetic collar and adapter, and a battery module that’s more or less the same size as the camera. And, as you’d guess from the name, this ups the life of the device by 180 minutes.
Each of these snaps together seamlessly thanks to the strong magnets. They’re so strong, in fact, that I’d be careful using them around hard drives or other sensitive technology.
Additionally, DJI boasts an entire “ecosystem” of accessories.
Rather than diving deep into the rabbit hole of camera specs, let me give you the highlights. The Action 2 is capable of shooting at multiple resolutions and frame rates, all the way up to 4K video at 120 fps. Its field of view measures an impressive 155 degrees, and it’s capable of snapping photos at 12 MP thanks to its 1/1.7′-inch CMOS sensor.
And because most users will do their share of rocking around, the Action 2 features a pair of stabilization technologies: HorizonSteady and RockSteady 2.0. These should allow you to tackle the turns without sending your video quality plummeting over a cliff.
Things get a little strange when we come to the audio. The company states that its “Improved DJI Matrix Stereo technology offers four microphones, wind noise reduction, and increased dynamic recording range.”
This is true, if slightly misleading. The camera module itself has only one microphone, while the other three are housed in the front touchscreen brick. The battery pack, for its part, has no additional cameras.
As flashy as those specs may sound, none of it matters if you can’t work the system. Fortunately, I found the DJI’s interface to be a breeze to use. The touchscreens are simple to navigate, with intuitive icons and easy swiping.
Some of the more interesting software bits are the Snapshot (which “allows users to turn the camera on and instantly begin recording by pressing and holding the power button”) and a QuickClip segment that’s purpose-built for short social media videos.
And if you feel like changing things up, the camera also supports slow motion, hyperlapse, and timelapse videography.
So, the camera itself is simple to operate. But what about getting your masterpieces off its drive and onto yours? Again, DJI has made things easy. Both the front touchscreen and battery modules include a USB-C port, as well as a microSD card slot.
There’s also the Mimo app, which can be loaded onto your smartphone or device. In addition to wireless file transfers, the program adds the option to broadcast live feeds or edit videos on the go.
Using the USB-C cable, file transfers were quick as can be. The wireless version, utilizing one of the current-generation Samsung smartphones, was respectability fast. Just remember that, when you’re shooting at 4K, the file size can balloon in a hurry.
This, along with its USB connectivity, makes the Action 2 a viable streaming camera, whether you’re riding the trails or sitting at your gaming rig.
There are a lot of ways to read that bit of hyperbole. For me, I’m going to interpret it in two ways: durability and adaptability.
Let’s start with the first point. For any action camera to live up to its name, it’ll need to do more than take pretty pictures. Skiing, rock climbing, and dirtbike racing have been known to come with their share of impacts, after all. Fortunately, the folks at DJI built the Action 2 to last.
Both the camera and front touchscreen modules come with Gorilla Glass, making them highly resistant to scratches and shattering. In fact, all of the materials have a solid, quality feel to them. This is further buoyed by the company’s claim of 10m water resistance on the camera module itself, with the waterproof, dustproof, drop-proof case boosting the submersion rating to 60 m.
Speaking of waterproof, let’s move on to adaptability. As mentioned above, the Action 2 is compatible with a wealth of accessories.
The first-party accessories that caught my eye are the macro lens, Bluetooth remote control extension rod, and floating handle to keep the camera from sinking to the bottom of a reef. DJI also sells two different types of magnetic adapter mounts (one with fingers and the other with a ball joint) that work with “most third-party action camera accessories.”
As far as included options, the Action Camera itself comes with a magnetic lanyard. Rather than the typical headband mount (also available separately), this device allows you to mount the camera directly to your chest. Simply fit the lanyard into position, tuck it into your shirt, and snap the camera to the outside.
While I had my initial doubts about the efficacy of this setup, it worked surprisingly well.
While I have no major complaints about the Action 2, there are a few tiny things that irked me. First, DJI should have included the headband mount with the camera module. The magnetic pendant works well when you’re trying to take video straight on, but it requires you to turn your whole body to pan the shot.
Also, the various modules do tend to get hot as they charge. This is to be expected, given the amount of technology crammed into less than 4 square inches of real estate. Just be sure to place them somewhere ventilated while they’re plugged in.
Lastly, the mount on the floating handle was a little difficult to keep from wobbling. Even when tightened down, a firm shake could pitch the camera into an odd angle.
But I’ll be frank: Though my time with the DJI Action 2 was limited — I didn’t get a chance to scale a mountain or go scuba diving — when I go on those adventures, I want to take this camera with me. From my brief experience, the build and simplicity of this camera impressed me.
Far from being another GoPro clone, it feels like DJI has taken its own step ahead. The modular design really is a thing to behold, and its functionality is second to none.
If you’re looking for a camera to take off the beaten path, the DJI Action 2 is an excellent option.
Josh Wussow is a writer and power sector worker based out of Wisconsin. He has degrees in English and video production, but you wouldn’t know it by his reviews and photos. Josh enjoys camping, hiking, and anything involving a campfire or grill. His work has taken him from Tennessee to New Mexico and Colorado. He misses the mountains very much.
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