DJI drones under $500: the battle between the Mini SE vs Mini 2 vs Mini 2 SE

So you’re looking to buy a drone, and your budget is less than $500. You don’t want a cheap toy drone — you want a quality camera drone that’s reliable, easy-to-use, safe and still has share-worthy image quality. When it comes to drones in that price range, really only one drone maker delivers: DJI. Of the DJI drones under $500 on the market now, your options are the DJI Mini SE, DJI Mini 2 and the DJI Mini 2 SE.

Here’s a breakdown of all three DJI drones under $500, and a comparison to help you find the best drone for you:

What DJI drones under $500 are out there?

DJI has created had a handful of drones under $500. Those in production and available new from the factory now are the DJI Mini SE, DJI Mini 2 and the DJI Mini 2 SE.

You might be able to find others that have since gone out of production, such as the DJI Mini, but it’ll likely be either used or from a third-party reseller. There’s also the now out-of-production, and very short-lived DJI Spark, which debuted at just $499. DJI is also affiliated with another less-than-$100 drone called the Tello, which is made by a partner company called Ryze using DJI parts. And sure, you might also be able to buy one of DJI’s fancier, usually $1,000 drones used for under $500, but understand the risks of buying used drones.

All of the DJI drones in this guide (the DJI Mini SE, DJI Mini 2 and the DJI Mini 2 SE) weigh less than 250 grams. Drones under 250 grams are a big deal because many types of federal drone regulations do not apply to drones of that size (in the U.S., drones under 250 grams do not need to be registered with the FAA for recreational operations and do not need to be Remote ID compliant). That makes drone-flying more convenient for international travelers who are more likely free to fly in a foreign country, without having to get registered or licensed in a place they might be visiting for just a few days.

Of course, it also means these drones are just small and light, making it far more convenient to take out on a hike or anywhere else where portability is important.

Here’s a history of some of the DJI drones under $500, both past and present:

Sally French, The Drone Girl, with the original DJI Mini in 2020.


The first drone we ever saw in this category was the Mavic Mini, debuted in 2019 for a shockingly low $399. At the time, DJI had really been focusing otherwise on its Mavic drones, which generally cost more than $1,000. The next closest drone to the Mini at the time was the Mavic Air, which still started at a hefty $919. The Mavic Mini has since gone out of production, but DJI now manufacturers a very similar drone: the DJI Mini SE.

The DJI Mini SE launched in June 2021 and is essentially a slightly-modified version of the now out-of-production Mavic Mini. It goes for an even-cheaper $299.

Its camera still has a decently-large 1/2.3-inch CMOS. Image quality is good, though not great, taking stills up to 12 MP and video at 2.7K.

While its body is still far stronger than a cheap toy drone — as we’ll discuss later in the comparisons — it’s not quite as powerful as the other DJI drones under $500. Its max horizontal speed is 13 m/s (versus 16 m/s for most competitors) and has a maximum flight time of just 30 minutes (versus 38-51 minutes for some competitors).

At just $299, it’s the cheapest one of the bunch.

DJI Mini 2

The DJI Mini 2 launched in November 2020 for $449, becoming the first DJI drone of that size and price point to offer 4K video. It packs in 12-megapixel images and a maximum video resolution of 4K/30fps @100 Mbps.

It uses OcuSync 2.0, which is a transmission technology developed by DJI and used in many of its other drones, is incorporated into the Mini 2 (it was not used in the original DJI Mavic Mini). Unlike the Mavic Mini, it does not rely on Wi-Fi, thus it has a far more reliable connection.

Besides better camera and a more reliable connection, the Mini 2 offers another important improvement: it’s more sturdy in rough conditions with the ability to withstand winds up to 24mph (up from just 18 mph previously).

Read more: DJI Mini 3 vs. Mini 2: which drone is better?

Purchase the DJI Mini 2 starting at just $449 now from:

DJI Mini 2 SE

In February 2023, DJI announced the DJI Mini 2 SE. At $369, it’s essentially a stripped-down version of the aforementioned DJI Mini 2.

The biggest downgrade in the SE versus the original DJI Mini 2 is lower video quality. It delivers 2.7K video, which a pretty serious downgrade from 4K video. But for stills, it’s mostly the same — and the drone still has that same 1/2.3-inch CMOS with 12MP of effective pixels.

Consider it the perfect balance between ease of use, reliability, and affordability. Though, you won’t be able to buy this one just yet. It won’t go on sale until March 22, 2023.

Sally French, The Drone Girl, reviews the DJI Mini 3 Pro in May 2022.

An honorable mention: the DJI Mini 3

I do want to give an honorable mention to the DJI Mini 3, which launched at the end of 2022. It costs $559, which puts it above the criteria to rank in best DJI drones under $500.

However, it can get under $500 — kind of. DJI will sell you the Mini 3 for just $469 if you opt out of the controller. You’ll want a controller somehow, so this option really only works if you have a controller, likely from owning a previous model of a DJI drone. You might also easily come by a controller in a scenario where the drone itself broke (or flew into a tree) but the controller is still good.

With a 1/1.3-inch CMOS and 12 MP of effective pixels, this has the highest-quality camera of the bunch. There’s also a downward vision system and the DJI O2 transmission system. That’s not as good as the Mini 3’s big sibling, the Mini 3 Pro (that one offers a forward, backward and downward vision system alongside DJI O3 transmission), but it’s pretty impressive for the price point.

Read more: DJI Mini 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro: which drone is better?

Purchase the DJI Mini 3 starting at just $469 (no controller) or $559 with controller now from:

Comparing all the DJI drones under $500

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of all three (well, maybe 4 depending on your accounting) DJI drones under $500, let’s put them side by side to better understand their differences:

DJI Mini SE DJI Mini 2 SE DJI Mini 2 DJI Mini 3
Starting price (price includes lowest-price controller) $299 $369 (goes on sale March 22, 2023) $449 $559 (or $469 if you don’t need a controller)
Takeoff Weight < 249 g < 249 g < 249 g < 249 g
Dimensions Folded (without propellers): 138×81×58 mm (L×W×H)

Unfolded (without propellers): 159×203×56 mm (L×W×H)

Folded (without propellers): 138×81×58 mm (L×W×H)

Unfolded (without propellers): 159×203×56 mm (L×W×H)

Folded (without propellers): 138×81×58 mm (L×W×H)

Unfolded (without propellers): 159×203×56 mm (L×W×H)

Folded (without propellers): 148×90×62 mm (L×W×H)

Unfolded (with propellers): 251×362×72 mm (L×W×H)

Max Flight Time 30 minutes 31 minutes 31 minutes 38 minutes (with Intelligent Flight Battery)
51 minutes (with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus *)
Max Horizontal Speed (at sea level, no wind) 13 m/s 16 m/s 16 m/s 16 m/s
Max Ascent Speed 4 m/s 5 m/s 5 m/s 5 m/s
Max Descent Speed 3 m/s 3.5 m/s 3.5 m/s 3.5 m/s
Max Takeoff Altitude 3000m 4000m 4000m 4000m (or just 3000m with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus)
Max Wind Speed Resistance 10.7 m/s (Level 5) 10.7 m/s (Level 5) 10.7 m/s (Level 5) 10.7 m/s (Level 5)
Image Sensor 1/2.3-inch CMOS 1/2.3-inch CMOS 1/2.3-inch CMOS 1/1.3-inch CMOS
Effective Pixels 12 MP 12 MP 12 MP 12 MP
Video 2.7K HD 2.7K HD 4K HD 4K HDR
Video Transmission System Enhanced Wi-Fi DJI O2 OcuSync 2.0 DJI O2

Obviously the DJI Mini 3 is the best of the bunch if you don’t factor in the cost. But for folks who prioritize saving money, then it might not necessarily be the best.

If you’re a videographer, you should at least opt for the Mini 2 over the Mini 2 SE. The Mini 2 SE’s 2.7K video is a pretty serious downgrade from 4K video on the Mini 2. If you can afford to go just above the $500 threshold, go for the DJI Mini 3. There, you’ll find the larger sensor to provide even-higher image quality. (If you’re fine going over-budget, you might even consider the DJI Mini 3 Pro versus the Mini 3, as it offers even better image quality, including 48 MP versus 12, and 150 Mbps Max video bitrate versus just 100).

Then again, if you only care about aerial photos and don’t take videos, then you might as well save the $80 and just get the DJI Mini 2 SE versus the DJI Mini 2.

If you’re seeking the best DJI drone under $400, go for the DJI Mini 2 SE over the DJI Mini SE. While both have similar cameras, the Mini 2 SE is far more powerful than the Mini SE in terms of the body itself. It can withstand stronger winds, it flies faster, it’s capable of taking off in higher altitudes, and its transmission system is far more reliable than simply Wi-Fi thanks to the use of DJI O2. Basically, it’s far less likely your drone will crash or fly away. For most folks, that reliability is worth paying the extra $70 for.

If you’re simply looking for the cheapest possible drone, then the DJI Mini SE can work for you. The DJI Mini SE is good if you fit into one of the following molds:

  • You’re brand new to drones and don’t want to commit to something you’re not absolutely certain about.
  • You’re flying in very simple environments like open fields over relatively short distances (well within your line of sight).
  • You take photos, not videos. Or if you do take videos, image quality is not a priority (e.g. you’re filming for small phone screens, rather than large TV screens).

Which DJI drone under $500 do you recommend? Are there other factors folks should consider when choosing an entry-level DJI drone? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

The post DJI drones under $500: the battle between the Mini SE vs Mini 2 vs Mini 2 SE appeared first on The Drone Girl.

Recent Posts