DJI Action 2 Camera Review: Mountain Biker’s Experience
Looking into action cameras for mountain biking to capture your bike adventures? The DJI Action 2 might just be the perfect camera package for bikers. In fact, it’s my overall best action cam for MTB in 2022.
Other action cameras like the GoPro Hero 10 or 9 may have more functionality, but there are two major aspects DJI’s new Action 2 camera is above and beyond, especially for biking:
The incredibly small form factor and weight of 56g are unnoticeable on a helmet. And the magnetic mount stays in place with the perfect angle while you take off the camera.
It basically fills the hole that the discontinued GoPro Session left with an incredibly capable action camera using the latest technologies. Now, let’s get into my experiences with one of the best cameras you can currently get for biking: the modular DJI Action 2.
- Weight and size.
- Footage quality & stabilization.
- Magnetic mount (maintains angle despite dismounting for playback or setup).
- Mounts to all GoPro accessories.
- Bright, big screen.
- PRO video settings (ISO, EV, Shutter, D-Cinelike, etc.)
- Widest field of view currently.
- Charging and file transfer between camera and battery module or dual-screen module.
- Price to performance.
- Battery life, especially stand-alone.
- Runs hot without airflow.
- Non-removable battery and lens.
- No adhesive mounts included.
- No SD card slot in the camera module & 22GB of usable internal memory.
- Low-light performance (typical for action cams).
- Price Power Combo: $ 399 or € 399 MSRP (Check current price on amazon)
- Price Dual Screen Combo: $ 519 or € 519 MSRP
- Battery life: up to 70min, 45min likely (camera module only)
- Internal memory: 22Gb usable (32Gb total)
- Max. Video Resolution: 4K
- Max. Video Framerate: 240 frames per second at 1080p
- Video Formats: MP4 H.264 and H.265 (HEVC)
- Field of View: 155 degrees
- Sensor: 1/1.7-inch CMOS
- Aperture: f/2.8
- Waterproof up to 10m
- Size: 39 × 39 × 22 mm
- Weight: 56g (camera module)
The only difference between the two available bundles “Power Combo” and “Dual Screen Combo” is a magnetic ball-joint mount (which is large and not stable enough for high impact riding) and an additional front-facing touch-screen on the battery pack.
For biking, the dual-screen combo does not make much sense, especially at the price difference. Usually, you won’t be seeing the camera while in use, and are even less likely to operate it. That’s why it was a no-brainer for me to get the Power Combo.
Since its release, the DJI Action 2 has been turning heads, and not only because of its modular magnetic design and touch display. That little guy packs a punch. It’s incredible what DJI has managed to fit into this tiny form factor of a 39 × 39 × 22 mm cube-like shape. At an extremely light weight camera of only 56 grams, it’s virtually undetectable while wearing anywhere on your body or bike.
This is important, especially for helmet mounts. A small action camera can be mounted below the helmet visor for a better, unobstructed view compared to on top of the helmet where a portion of the screen is blocked by the visor.
In order to achieve this powerful high-tech package, the engineers at DJI had to make some compromises to save space on the camera module. That’s why the USB-C charging port and the SD card tray are only found on the battery pack or screen module. The only input feature on the main camera is the power button and touch screen. I’ll get into what that means for the way you use it in the sections for battery life and memory storage.
How much does the DJI Action 2 weigh?
56 grams is the weight of the Action 2’s camera module. Combined with the battery pack it’s 113 grams and with the dual-screen combo, it’s 120 grams. The magnetic protective case adds another 25 grams to the overall weight.
Regardless of configuration, at that total weight, the DJI Action 2 is among the lightest action cameras on the market. All with a high-quality aluminum design and no compromises in video quality.
Mounting the camera is one of the biggest advantages of the Action 2, even though DJI doesn’t have many official first-party accessories. Like many action cams, it’s using the GoPro mount, but those two little feet are neither attached to the camera nor the housing itself. By separating the camera from the mounting mechanism, the DJI Action 2 takes advantage of all GoPro accessories while being easily mounted using the magnetic attachment system.
This magnetic mount is a game-changer for us bikers, that constantly struggle to find the perfect camera angle that captures the trail far ahead, the trail below, and maybe the handlebars and front wheel. Now you can keep the perfect angle while removing the camera for charging, setting changes, or reviewing your footage.
Both bundles include the magnetic mount, only the dual-screen combo the magnetic ball mount. The magnetic lanyard is a nice innovative addition, but not usable for biking because of the upper body position and too much movement when attached to the shirt. It would point down at the frame and knees. The camera needs to be at a 45° angle upward to capture the trail when riding. Also, the lanyard is “mounted” to the shirt, which is flapping around when in riding position (upper body bent forward).
That magnetic mount will not come off since it’s not only magnetic but also has two mechanical hooks that won’t let the system separate. The magnets are not what’s keeping the camera in place, but rather an extremely easy and comfortable way to mount, take off and re-mount exactly the same way.
For helmet mounting, I went with the official DJI mounting kit, but after using it I honestly can’t recommend it due to the circular surface area of the flat adhesive and the overall height of this system. Just get the GoPro mounts as they are low enough to actually fit well below the visor without obstructing your view. Those DJI mounts are still way easier to attach by twisting compared to pinching and sliding. So there’s that. With magnetic mounts, you won’t have to do that often anyway.
Generally, it’s hit and miss with third-party mounts. My personal take is that I don’t feel comfortable buying an expensive camera and relying on cheap mounting options for it to not fall off and wreck. So I tend to go with original parts. Also, accessories often outlast the camera itself and don’t get obsolete as quick – or never when you look at how action cams have been mounted for the last decade.
Personally, I have been using the GoPro “Chesty” chest mount since the first GoPro Hero HD for one of the most immersive views on a bike. The new V2.0 has some quality of life improvements and is comfortable to wear with the padding. It comes with one standard GoPro quick-release adapter. The DJI quick-release adapters won’t fit in GoPro’s slider system, but the magnetic mount will. In the past, this mount was pretty horrid to watch without image stabilization. With this camera, it’s become a joy to film and watch.
The overall image quality is certainly on-par with the best small form factor, portable, rugged action cameras out right now. It’s amazing what is possible with a camera that fits into the palm of a hand or into your pants pockets. The videos (and photos for that matter) are always crisp, sharp, well-stabilized and popping with color.
Sure, there are slight color variations between the most popular cameras – the GoPro Hero 10, the Insta360 One RS and this DJI Action 2 – but those differences are subjective and can be adjusted to your liking in post-production color correction.
Action cameras are known for their saturated colors, and the Action 2 is no exception. Its saturation is on the side of sometimes being too unrealistic for me personally. And I can’t quite the green of grass to a natural level using the normal colors. Thankfully the camera also offers a flatter color profile called “D-Cinelike” that allows for much more post-production coloring options. Or just leave the normal on for your typical colorful helmet cam footage.
One other kink action cams seem to have is overexposing the image. I’ve seen this with the Action 2 as well. It tends to overexposure on fully automatic settings, which makes the image more lively and upbeat. The downside is when you get those dreaded pure white areas, which have lost all detail and can’t be brought back with lowering brightness in an editing program.
In terms of frame rates, there is a huge selection available between 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60, 100, 120 and 240 frames per second. On a normal hand-held or drone camera, I usually shoot at 25 frames for smooth cinematic footage. But filming fast-paced movement close to the ground while biking, I tend towards 30 fps to get a little less blur and a more crisp image in order to see the trail better.
How wide is the Action 2?
At 155° maximum field of view, the DJI Action 2 has one of the widest FOV of any action camera. Besides that “ultrawide mode”, it also has a more narrow “wide mode” and a “de-warp” mode for removing the fish-eye lens effect.
I personally like the wide mode best to capture a large field of view while still being close to what you’d see through your own eyes (and it’s what I used in the above video). Ultra-wide has definitely an intense look as the surroundings zip by so fast, but it also has a tendency to trivialize the trail – also known as the GoPro effect. Both offer great videos, depending on what effect you want to create.
Slow-motion up to 8x
The camera sensor can capture the standard 60 fps framerates for videos with a lot of movement. It can also adjust to more cinematic frames per second at 30 and 25 for natural motion blur. For slow-motion shots, it can capture up to 120 fps at a resolution of 4K and 240 fps at Full HD (1080p).
Anything above 60 fps is not noticeable during normal playback as most monitors and TVs can only refresh up to 60 Hz anyway. Plus, more frames per second mean bigger file sizes. That’s why 120 and 240 fps should only be used for intentional shots you’ll want to slow down, not for constant filming.
Asking for increased performance from the camera also creates the possible issue of overheating it which leads to a recording stop until it cools off. Which hasn’t happened to me yet as I only record in 2.7K or 4K at 30 fps max.
On a mountain bike trail, anything under 60 fps was pretty much unusable a couple of years ago because the image would get too jittery. But the advances in image stabilization made it possible. Remember those clunky wearable gimbals? No need for any of that anymore with DJI’s Rocksteady 2.0 stabilization, which is among the best on the market.
Any more advances in this technology and it’ll seem like drone footage floating above the ground even on the roughest downhills. One area the stabilization underperforms tho is in low-light conditions, like deep in shaded forests. I noticed jittering (probably from a loose helmet visor) when going into shade while none of that is going on back in the sunlight. That’s during the same clip and with the same manual settings.
Recommended DJI Action 2 settings for MTB
Filming outdoor activities is tricky because of changing light conditions. It’s an important variable you can’t control. Additionally, while mountain biking you often ride in and out of shaded woods, which is creates even more contrasting lighting on sunny days. That’s why it’s easier to film inconsistent (cloudy) weather when natural lighting doesn’t vary much.
Like all action cams, the Action 2 does have automatic video settings to compensate for variables during a ride. But automatic settings always tend to be all over the place when left unchecked, creating inconsistent, amateur-looking films. This is why I stick with semi-manual and fully manual settings.
After a lot of rides in various weather and lighting conditions, I found the baseline settings the I could get the best mountain bike videos from my Action 2. Depending on the lighting, I only change one setting accordingly.
The best video settings for mountain biking in any light conditions:
- Framerate: 25 or 30 FPS
- Stabilization: Rocksteady 2.0
- Field of view (FOV): Wide or Ultrawide
- Pro Settings: On
- Exposure: Auto
- EV: -1.0 (to prevent over-exposure)
- Shutter speed: will vary automatically
- ISO: range from 100 – 1600
- White Balance: 5500K
- Color: D-Cinelike
Normally, I set the ISO as low as possible because a high ISO means a grainy image. But light sensitivity (ISO) is what’s required for the stabilization to work well. I’d rather have a stable, grainy video than the other way around. White balance is the only setting you can leave at one value all the time. In daylight, a WB of 5500K is highly recommended as WB, FPS and EV are the greatest difference-makers and will make your footage look cinematic.
There’s much more to finding good settings for your action cam. If you’d like to learn what each of the Action 2’s settings does and what it means for video quality, check out this in-depth article.
Similar to weight, milage with the battery life will vary depending on the configuration. On top of prolonging battery life, the charging pack also has some intelligent features in place.
How long the DJI Action 2 battery lasts
On average, 45 minutes of recording time is what the DJI Action 2 camera module can manage by itself at 4K resolution. With the battery pack, it can go up to 115 minutes. The lower the resolution and frame rates, the longer the battery charge lasts.
The longest possible would be at Full HD 24 fps, but I don’t record at 1080p so I couldn’t get the 3 hours of recording time the manufacturer is stating.
All in all, nothing to write home about, and to be expected with so little volume. Charging it tho is its strong suit.
How to charge the DJI Action 2
The battery pack or screen module is required for charging. Both double as a literal battery pack that will charge the camera module when attached and are the first batteries to discharge when filming. They’re also the only modules with a USB-C charging port.
A single full battery pack will fully charge the camera module about 1.6 times. So even without having the external battery mounted with the camera, it can get a total recording time of 115 minutes. It’s even recommended to only attach the camera and battery to each other magnetically when actually using them as the camera will slowly discharge the power module over time.
One drawback is the limited internal memory of 22 gigabytes, which can be expanded by an SD card, but only in combination with the dual-screen or battery combo. So two cubes are attached together like in the image.
That internal storage is definitely nice, and an external SD card is necessary, as you would expect. I personally got a 128GB SanDisk “Extreme” microSDXC. Whatever the brand you go with, make sure that supports up to 90Mbit/s writing speed, which is necessary for 4K video footage. In SanDisk’s case, that’s indicated by the V30 and UHS U3 categories.
If you happen to detach the module with the SD card while recording, the recording will stop. Any new footage from the next recording start will automatically be written onto the internal storage.
Settings and menu navigation
All popular action cameras have been trending towards touch screen navigation, instead of buttons. The same is true for the Action 2, as it only features a single button on both the camera module and battery module. One button with the same functionality, so it’s irrelevant which one you use.
Without touch-screen compatible gloves it’s a little cumbersome to navigate. If you found your preferred settings, starting to record only requires pressing the mechanical start button twice, or even only one with the “Snapshot” feature, which lets you select a specific action upon powering up.
DJI Mimo App
Alternatively, you can leave the camera where it is and set it up using your phone while seeing the currently mounted camera angle. Even while recording, which the GoPro app weirdly doesn’t do. The app provides all the video settings and lets you quickly swap between recording modes, even to the Livestream mode (which isn’t worth further mention for outdoor use).
One dark-horse feature is the haptic feedback on the Action 2. Especially for us who use it mounted instead of hand-held. The vibrations are subtle but can be felt through the helmet, chest and handlebar mount. In addition to the traditional beeping, haptic alarms are another way of getting your attention and letting you know the status of your camera (that is most likely out of your view) even when you can’t hear it.
The combination of auditory and haptic feedback is very pleasant to use. Both the acoustic and vibration alarms can be turned on and off individually.
Durability & longevity
When I got the camera, DJI had been running a promo to provide every customer with a magnetic protective case, which has a rugged look and feel. This provides me the confidence that the $ 400 camera on my head is going to be fine so I can shut it out of my mind and focus on my riding. It’s a relatively minor investment and can be had from third-party brands at half the price sometimes.
Common screen protectors for a couple of bucks are a simple insurance policy. Additionally, there is also real insurance in the form of the official “DJI Care”, which I didn’t go with since I never managed to wreck an action cam until now.
Neither battery nor the lens can be swapped in case of damage, which is a weird design choice for an action cam. So, any significant damage to this rugged camera is going to come from long-term use, battery charging cycles and scratched camera lenses and screens. That’s why I store the cam below 80% battery and protect the lens and screen surfaces. And successfully so far.
Less surface area means less cooling surface. And that has been a major complaint for many users. DJI addressed this by multiple software updates and by actually giving every single customer a magnetic protective case free of charge, as this helps with heat dissipation.
Still, overheating can occur when the camera isn’t exposed to airflow (it’s an outdoor action cam after all) or when recording high FPS slow-motion footage which is taxing for the computing hardware. I managed to reproduce an overheating recording stop while the cam was sitting idly on my desk, but not out on the trails while riding. So the issue is real, but don’t overestimate it since the bikers among you will be moving while using it.
Is the Action 2 waterproof?
The camera module of the DJI Action 2 is completely waterproof up to 10 meters without any additional accessories. The screen and battery, however, are only splash-resistant. So for underwater filming in a shallow depth, the camera module is enough, for more than 10 meters or longer battery life an underwater housing is required.
Does DJI Action 2 have a zoom?
There is up 4x digital zoom functionality on the Action 2. The zoom level can be set anywhere from 1.0 to 4.0 times in 0.1 increments. However, digital zoom will make the pixel count lower. A 4K picture with 4x zoom is effectively only a 1080p image upscaled to 4K. Lower resolution recording is recommended for storage management when using the zoom option.
Can you use DJI Action 2 as a Webcam?
The Action 2 can in fact be used as a webcam. The option for doing so pops up automatically on the camera’s touch screen when attaching it to a PC or MAC via USB cable. Due to the good video quality and its built-in microphones, it’s actually a great portable webcam to use.
If you got any more questions about the DJI Action 2 that I didn’t address, let me know!