DJI Action 2 uses magnets to rethink action-cam design
DJI overhauled its rugged little camera to make it more versatile and it totally works.
Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
DJI released its first action cam, the Osmo Action, in May 2019, and while it wasn't as game-changing as the company's drones have been, it did make some waves with its awesome image stabilization and its front selfie screen. For the Action 2, DJI trimmed its action cam into a cube and, with the help of magnets, created an ecosystem of accessories to make it much more versatile right out of the box.
The square little camera can be used on its own, but you can also add on a front-facing OLED touchscreen module to give you the same selfie experience as the original. It also has three mics that combine with the one in the camera module to capture audio from all directions to create more immersive audio. There's also a battery module that you can attach instead to extend your recording time up to 180 minutes.
The Action 2 Dual-Screen Combo runs $519 and includes the camera and touchscreen module. Australia and UK pricing wasn't immediately available but its US list price converts to approximately AU$690 and £375. The Action 2 Power Combo with the battery module is $399. I was able to spend a little time with one; here are my first impressions.
A familiar but original design
For anyone who loves action cams or wearable cameras in general, the Action 2's cube shape won't seem all too original. GoPro's Session (one of my all-time favorite designs despite its shortcomings), the Polaroid Cube and others were there first. (The Cube even used magnets for mounting the camera, too.) That said, DJI has certainly made the design its own.
First, DJI somehow crammed a 1/1.7-inch sensor into a tiny box along with its image processor, a battery, 32GB of storage and a 1.76-inch OLED touchscreen on back. The screen is Gorilla Glass, the case is metal and it's waterproof to 10 meters deep (33 feet). It has a strong magnetic base, so you can easily do things like pop it on a range hood above your stove to shoot your next cooking video.
But what really sets it apart are the set of pogo-pin contacts on the base that permit you to quickly connect to an add-on OLED touchscreen module to give you a front-facing display or a battery module to boost your recording times. (The camera on its own can record for up to 70 minutes.) Insta360's One R camera uses a similar modular design -- and I'd argue more useful -- that lets you combine different camera modules with a small touchscreen module. If you're after a purely an action-cam experience, though, the Action 2's design satisfies.
Shooting options are standard fare
Compared to the GoPro Hero 10 Black or the Insta360 One R, the Action 2's shooting options seem limited. For most people, though, the selection of resolutions and frame-rate are going to be enough. It can capture video at up to 4K at 120 frames per second, 2.7K at 120fps and 1080p at 240fps. You can shoot time-lapse and hyperlapse (aka motion time-lapse) clips and live stream at up to 1080p at 30fps. DJI also added a QuickClip option for capturing 10-, 15- or 30-second clips. The camera can be used as a webcam, too.
By the way, this camera gets hot when you use it or even just charge it. That's partly because the body seems to act like a heatsink. However, it's likely this could overheat like other action cams, and DJI did include an "auto-stop record temp" setting that can be set to standard or high. When you set it to high, the camera warns you that it will increase the temperature and recording duration limit. I wouldn't use it for continuously recording 4K clips at 120fps with the camera stationary and no airflow.
Image stabilization or horizon-leveling
The Action 2 has the company's latest version of its RockSteady electronic image stabilization, which works really well. It gives your video a similar smooth appearance you'd get from DJI's Pocket 2 camera and its motorized three-axis gimbal. The EIS has some motion artifacts that you won't get with a gimbal but, in my limited testing, the results were really good.
DJI also added HorizonSteady to help keep your picture looking level even when the camera isn't. However, if you use it, you don't get the full image-stabilization powers of RockSteady. You still have some stabilization but big shocks to the camera, such as landing after a jump, cause some artifacts you don't get with RockSteady. Also, HorizonSteady isn't available at 4K or with frame rates faster than 60fps.
The accessories make the difference
While I love that GoPro built mounting fingers into its cameras, DJI bests that with its magnetic clips. Just bring the camera close to one of the new mounts and they snap together tightly. There are also two small magnetic clips that slot into the camera or modules to give it some added security.
DJI did make a magnetic mount that works with GoPro accessories but also created a lineup of its own. Those include a waterproof case good down to 60 meters, a floating handle, a remote control extension rod/tripod and a ball-joint adapter mount that can be used on a tripod or its adhesive base. There's also a macro lens that magnetically attaches over the lens on its front. Oddly, though, DJI doesn't offer a protective lens cover so if you scratch the built-in one, it's there for good. A wireless mic will also be available at a later date.
The magnets in the base of the camera are plenty strong on their own, too. That's why you're able to mount it on the included lanyard and skip the chest mount you'd have to use with other action cams (though not the Insta360 Go 2). The Action 2's magnetic modular design does help it stand out from the competition more than the original even if it does also feel like a combination of features from the competition. We've still got more testing to do before I can say for sure that it's worth the $400 to $500.