DJI’s second-generation GoPro killer couldn’t look better… on paper.
The Action 2 is a gorgeous tiny camera with a rich feature set and a clever modular architecture that allows users to extend the capabilities of a basic camera device. It looks just like what Apple would make if they were given the responsibility of revamping the GoPro Session camera from the past. It’s available in two versions: a $399 bundle that comprises the main camera unit and a magnetically attached battery cube that adds hours of recording time to the gadget, and a $519 variant that includes the camera unit plus a front-facing display module. The 56-gram Action 2 core camera unit matches the newest GoPro Hero10 Black’s 4K/120fps capabilities in a package that’s half the size, or so it’s claimed.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days with the gadget, and as the title says, I wasn’t really impressed. In conclusion, this device is really attractive and innovative in a few areas, but it was far from ready for release.
First and foremost, the excellent stuff.
The main goal of the design is to strike a balance between mobility and battery longevity. If a user only wishes to take a few fast videos for Instagram, the remaining modules may be left at home. With a tiny design that can be worn on a user’s chest with the attached magnetic lanyard, DJI hopes to promote the Action 2 as a crossover action camera that’s made for pro athletes and influencers alike. When shooting (or attempting to film) 4K video on the Action 2, I discovered that the core camera unit can provide roughly 30 minutes of footage on a single charge, which is plenty for social media clips but not enough for a regular action cam (DJI claims up to 70 minutes of run time). Shooting when connected to either the battery module or front-facing camera module allowed for much lengthier usage.
Now for the awful news.
On paper, stabilised 4K video at 120 fps in such a compact device sounds incredible, but I found those claims to be much too good to be true – far too wonderful to be true. The gadget was only able to film at its maximum end-setting for less than five minutes before overheating caused it to cease recording. Indeed, even at the gadget’s lowest 24fps speed, I couldn’t capture 4K without the device finally shutting down due to overheating. A device that DJI is partially presenting as a chest-mounted or head-mounted wearable becoming so heated that it can no longer operate is a tough challenge.
A DJI spokesperson confirmed that other reviewers had similar issues with overheating and that the only fix, for now, is to shoot at a lower resolution.
I find it difficult to get much deeper into the hands-on than this since the inability to reliably capture 4K quality footage at any frame rate makes this a difficult sell for anyone to buy at launch. While I admire GoPro’s foresight in making such a significant inter-generational design shift for Action 2, I’ve grown to enjoy the company’s more gradual advancements, which may lack the pizazz of the Action 2 but regularly perform as claimed.
We were great fans of the original DJI Action camera, which debuted in 2019 and quickly established itself as a serious challenger to GoPro. The original Action had a compelling collection of features, many of which GoPro would implement in subsequent iterations. “For the time being, however, the majority of the nits that may be plucked here are little. That’s really impressive for what’s effectively a first-generation product from a well-known company,” my colleague Brian Heater noted at the time.
The Action 2 is a different situation, and while DJI may be able to correct these flaws with firmware upgrades, this gadget was obviously not ready for review, and I wouldn’t recommend ordering one (the Action 2 is available for purchase today) until the company has demonstrated a number of major changes.