DJI Air 2S – 3 Month Review
This is the dji air 2s, which ive been using for a couple of months now, since it first came out, and i bought it to replace my mavic 2 pro, which i been using for about three years since that came out on various photography trips and to Shoot video b roll and things like that now i wasnt really intending to do a review of this drone, but ive just been im here in iceland at the moment, ive been here for about a week or so with a workshop ive been using this drone a Lot and quite intensively and getting a lot of questions about it from the workshop participants, so i thought it might be interesting and useful to to put them on to get down my thoughts to talk about why i switched why i use this drone. What are the advantages and disadvantages i found in comparison with the mavic 2 pro and yeah just to go over what i think you can expect when you get a drone like this now. My use case is that im, a landscape photographer principally shooting with my cameras and i use a drone to give me a different perspective and also to shoot short clips and b roll and things like that. So its not the primary tool in my bag, but its pretty its something that goes with me everywhere and i do think the drones are pretty much essential. I really do love the kind of images and perspectives that they give you, i think, theyre wonderful for landscapes, particularly somewhere here, like iceland, where we can be right out in the wild, far away from people and civilization, and just get some really nice images.
Some really nice perspective that you simply cant get when youre standing on the ground with a tripod. So i think thats, a really good tool and ive been using drones. Since the first mavic came out since the mavic pro came out, which i thought was a wonderful drone, my issues with it were the small sensor. It gave me a lot of noise and wade in the videos it didnt really handle low light, particularly well when the mavic 2 pro came out. I thought it was an absolutely perfect. Drone. Ive never had any issues with it its that it. For me, it dji hit it out of the park its a great drone that i would still be using now. The only improvement that i ever wanted from the mavic 2 pro was that dji could make it smaller and lighter which is kind of what they did with the air 2s. It has the same sensor its pretty much the same optically as the as the as the mavic 2 pro, and that was something that really appealed to me in terms of the weight difference. The mavic 2 pro is about 900 grams. This is a little bit under 600 grams, so you already save about 300 grams, which is the weight of a small lens. But when youre out in the field, youre always going to be carrying at least three batteries and then, when you start to factor in the battery weight as well, this still weighs with with three batteries less than a kilogram, whereas the mavic 2 pro goes up to About one and a half kilograms, so youve got more than a half a kilogram in extra weight with that drone, which for me makes a difference im, typically typically out on long hikes like on this trip, weve been doing 10 or 15 kilometers a day up hills.
So saving weight is really important, particularly because this isnt, the only thing that ive got in my bag ive also got a couple of cameras and lenses and a tripod and stuff like that. So i really do appreciate the fact that its smaller and lighter and its something thats really paid dividends. A lot on this trip and ive really noticed it is significantly smaller than the mavic 2 pro. When you see them side by side, it does feel like the baby brother and my friends been using his mavic 2 pro on this trip and ive not really noticed any difference in in performance at all. In terms of the wind performance in terms of the battery performance in terms of the range so weve been flying in some quite high winds out over places like the volcanic eruption, getting the drones to some quite significant heights and a long way away. Well, weve been getting wind warnings, and this has always given me a really rock steady image and ive had quite a lot of confidence flying it now. Im not a naturally confident drone flyer that i do tend to get quite nervous when im getting wind warnings when the drones really a long way away when its about a kilometer and a half away hovering over a volcanic crater. That kind of makes me nervous so ive. I do find that ive trusted this drone every bit as much as a mavic 2 pro and my friend hes been out with it.
With his with his mavic 2, we havent noticed in terms of battery life weve been taking off pretty much at the same time, getting the the warning alert at pretty much the same time and bringing the drones back with a very similar amount of battery life left. Uh wind has an effect weve both been getting wind warnings at about the same time and have a similar level of stability. So i dont feel in practical performance that this really that you lose anything with this drone. I think dji rated it for 32 minutes or something in terms of battery life, but, as everyone knows, what dj i say about you will do is is really not what a battery will actually do. Thats rated in perfect conditions with the right level of humidity and ambient temperature, and absolutely no wind in real terms, flying this in windy places flying it in in colder places. You can expect something about 26 or 27 minutes of flight time now. Ive also noticed its in terms of the speed and things like that, its every bit as fast and and capable as the mavic 2 pro it gets me where i want to go when i put it in sport mode. If i want to fly out a long distance to start shooting thats really great, it is super fast, its very nippy and agile. The ascent, the ascendant descent speed seems to be faster than the mavic 2 pro.
I really do like that. It really does feel incredibly easy and and intuitive to control. Is it theres a level of um whats the word that im looking for it just it? I r you really do feel more connected to it, its a little bit less sluggish than the mavic 2 pro, and that was by no means sluggish, its quite a nippy drone. What i did notice is that in in what on the mavic 2 pro is tripod mode, and here theyve called cine, it doesnt actually move as slowly. Now i quite often like to move the drone very slowly if im flying between trees or things like that. If im flying over things, i want the drone to move very slowly, particularly if ive got the camera pointing straight down and if im moving backwards. But the the speed of this in cinema in its slow mode is a little bit too fast. The mavic will actually go a little bit slower, so that is one issue that ive had with the drone in terms of the sensors and things like that. This does lack sideways sensors on the side which the mavic 2 pro has. It has sensors on the top sensors on the back sensors on the front and the bottom and all those are great i found they perform really well in in picking up. You know, objects and stuff like that and avoiding them im, not someone who has a drone following me through trees.
So i cant comment on that, but generally in terms of not crashing into stuff, it is really excellent, but i do miss not having the sensors on the side. I have to be honest if youre using the drone to circle at all. So, if youre, if youre doing pounding shots sideways, if youre locked on to a fixed target in the landscape and youve got the drone, circling, then that lack of sideways sensors is an issue and its something that i have to be very aware of when im moving The drone sideways that i didnt have to really worry too much about with the mavic 2 pro now in terms of the image quality and the sensor and stuff like that, i dont im not going to do side by side microscopic comparisons. There are loads of those already on youtube. What i can say is that the fact that this shoots 4k 60 and the mavic 2 pro tops out 4k 30 does help, because it means that you can film a little bit high speed and then slow that frame rate down in post to 30 frames per. Second, so thats, something that i find really useful and, as i said, it has the same sensor as the mavic 2 pro, but it uses the sensor differently. The mavic 2 pro is 4k and it has two modes. So what it does, because the sensor is a 20 megapixel sensor which is actually more pixels than you need for 4k.
It does two things it can crop into the sensor – shooting 4k, but not using all of the sensor, or it can use the whole width of the sensor, but not every single pixel. So youre not getting all of the resolution that the sensor is capable of – and i think thats probably down to do with a data transfer speed the um, the mavic 2 pro tops out 100 megabytes per second, but this is 150 megabytes per second, so it can Transfer that data from the sensor a little bit faster, because what this camera does is it uses the whole of the sensor. So you can shoot at 5.7 k giving you more resolution to play with in post processing. So you can crop into that image and still have 4k, which brings objects a little bit closer. If you want to its incredibly useful and and the five point, the 5k footage does look really really great, so thats a great thing that, in terms of the still photography its 20 megapixel, the same as the mavic 2 pro so youre not going to notice any Difference at all, in the still images that you take with it. Another thing that i really like about this is the fact that the camera has a wider angle lens wide angle view. This is about 22 millimeter equivalent and the mavic 2 pro is about 28 millimeter, equivalent thats thats full frame 35 millimeter equivalent. So i that wider field of view really does help quite a lot, because, whenever youre flying the drone, basically the camera is pointing straight in front of you.
You cant really point the camera up because of the propellers. Now i shoot around mountains, a lot which meant with the mavic 2 pro i quite often couldnt get the tops of the mountains in it was quite often cropping them off. Unless i got the drone really high, which youre not allowed to do legally theres, a 120 meter altitude limit in most places in europe, so shooting the tops of mountains was quite problematic. If youre close to it, you had to go a long way back to get the whole of the mountains in, but then you lose something in the foreground. This slightly wider field of view really does make a difference in terms of photographs and in terms of videos. You get a lot more landscape in you, get a wider sweep of the scene and it allows you to get the tops and mountains and also get the tops of mountains or in a figure in the landscape much easier. So i do really like that and if you have any problem, if its too wide, if youre shooting at 5.7 k, you can quite easily crop in to give you that narrower focal length or crop into the 20 megapixel images. So in terms of the camera. For me, its better than the mavic 2 pro the the video, i think, its better than the mavic 2 pro because of the the additional resolution and the fact that it can shoot 4k. 60.
. Now, one of the things that i have seen that people are concerned about online is the lack of a variable aperture on the air 2s compared with the mavic 2 pro, which has a variable aperture now in terms of still photography. It really doesnt matter at all, because aperture doesnt work in the same way on a drone as it does in a real camera. You dont have to worry about depth of field from a drone, because your subject is always a long way away. Youre, shooting things on the ground so to have a fixed aperture at f. 2.8 is perfectly fine. It allows you to get the maximum amount of light impossible, so you dont have to worry about increasing the iso or having longer shutter speeds. So the variable aperture you dont – need to change the aperture when youre, shooting, still images, but where variable aperture does matter is when youre shooting video, because, if youre shooting frame rates of something like 24 frames per second or 30 frames per second, you really want to Be able to double your frame rate to keep smooth footage, something like 1 over 50 or 1 over 60, because having a little bit of blur in each individual frame actually gives you smoother footage. If every one of your of your images is pin sharp at one over 500, the the footage starts to feel a little bit more jagged. It actually is counter intuitive, but you want smoother footage.
You want a tiny bit of blur in each of those individual frames. In your 20 frame, 24 frames per second or 30 frames per second now in shooting in the daylight, even in a country like iceland, where its regularly cloudy and overcast its very hard to get that shutter speed of something like 1 over 50 or 1 over 60.. Its just too bright thats the kind of shut speed that you get in the blue hour, so having a variable aperture really does help with that uh. So quite often, i do find myself having faster, faster shutter speeds than i would like. Dji have kind of. Given you a partial solution to this problem by including nd filters – and i think its just in the fly more package – which i use a lot because they do help get the get the frame rate down. But i do miss having the variable aperture rate when it comes to shooting video. So what else can i say about this? Well, it uses ocusync 2, which i find rock steady. The connection is rocksteady. I havent had any dropouts whatsoever. Ive had the drone up to distances of about one and a half kilometers or weve, been flying out over the volcanic eruption. I never fly further than that im, not comfortable with flying further than that and uh it just it was rock solid, and that was in a heavily magnetic area, because the volcano is pumping out huge amounts of lava and magma.
So im super ive been super confident with the connectivity. Another thing that i liked about it that i noticed is you dont need to do the compass calibration when you set up so theres, none of that kind of twisting around and trying to get the gps. It connects to gps really quickly, which means you can get the drone in the air very quickly. When you arrive on the scene theres a lot thats messing around before you can be up flying and shooting video, so thats, really great in terms of the actual absolute image quality. In doing a comparison. I i im traveling in iceland moments, so the only ive not really had the opportunity to really look at the footage, because i just have an ipad with me. But when i get back home to portugal, ill ill put some of that video up on the screen and have a little bit more of an in depth. Look at the photo quality and the absolute video quality. So lets start off by looking at some of the still images. Now this is a raw image straight out of the camera you can see here. This was a really high dynamic range scene, lots of shadows, lots of really bright spots where the where the morning light was hitting the light. But we can really bring out the shadows here, because the dynamic range on the sensor really is quite impressive. Thats one of the benefits of having that one inch sensor now, if we zoom in just a little bit to look at the detail here – and you can see theres just plenty of detail here in the trees, it really is, it really does produce a really nice Image – and this is another image – this is one that ive already processed and you can see here.
The detail in the boat is really nice. It really does produce lovely images and, as i said before, it does shoot in raw and its important to shoot raw images, because this then doesnt apply sharpening and contrast and saturation it doesnt. Let djis presets do that. You can do that on your own when youre. Looking at the image in lightroom and it allows you to apply your own levels of contrast and really bring out the best of an image. Now when it comes to video, as i said before, youve got the exact same sensor that you got in the mavic 2. Pro so the video quality is pretty much exactly the same you can see here. This is a this is a clip shot in f log. I havent done anything to this uh and it was shot in relatively low light. This quite high dynamic range there here between the the very dark shadows of the um of the lava and the bright of the of the bubbling lava in the crater, and the sensor deals with it. No problem at all. This is another scene here which has quite high dynamic range. This one ive actually edited a little bit, but you can see that the video has no problem between the the brightness of the highlights and the darker shadows and ive heard. Some people say that they think that the image is over sharpened when compared with the mavic 2 pro now its, not something that ive noticed, im shooting an f log and while i havent shot the the two drones side by side, this is pretty much the same Location shot at a similar time of day.
I really dont notice much of a difference in terms of sharpness. The actual output of the video cameras is is almost identical for me now you do get f log on the air 2s, which is really important. Its important to shoot in in f log its like raw for video, because it allows you to capture all of the data in the scene, from the shadows to the highlights without any sharpening or saturation or contrast applied, thats, something that you can do in post processing. Using luts or whatever, and it just really allows you to get the footage to look the way that you want it to look and get it consistent across the different cameras that youre using now a quick word about active tracking. Now i dont use a lot of the features, but i do find spotlight really effective and it can be used on a person or a vehicle or even just a part of a landscape. You can basically use it to circle around the rock, and i found it much easier to access and use using the dj fly app than in the dj go4 app, which the mavic 2 pro uses. You dont have to dive into menus or anything like that, while youre flying the drone, you can just touch the screen touch the part on the screen that you want. The drone to circle around draw a square around that and the drone is going to lock on and its just super intuitive to use and really really effective.
So overall, then, ive been really happy with the air 2s in the months that ive been using in portugal. On the coast, where it gets really windy, and this last week in iceland, where ive pushed it as as far as im comfortable pushing drones and its its. Never really. Let me down its super, capable the the reception is capable the distance, the battery life, its its ability to handle wind and the image quality. All those things are great and every bit as good as the mavic 2 pro um. I really do like the smaller size. I really do like the lighter weight, its made a difference on some of the big long hikes that ive been doing. I find this really easy to just drop in my backpack when im going hiking on the coast in portugal. I also really appreciate the the greater resolution and the wider focal length is is great for me because i shoot a lot of mountains so its excellent, but i do miss the sideways center, the sideways facing sensor, thats, something that that has given me a few. A few concerns, but overall i believe that, if youre shooting, if youre traveling light, if youre, if youre out there hiking, this is probably a better drone to get than the mavic 2 pro its really really excellent. But i think that one of the things that people are going to be asking themselves when it comes to the air 2s is whether to get this or to wait for the mavic 3 pro now.
The specs of that have been leaked and its probably going to be out before the end of the year. So what we do know is that, in terms of the resolution, both photography and in terms of the video that the resolution is about is the same as the as the a2s. But it is going to have a bigger sensor and that bigger sensor is probably going to give you slightly better dynamic range and better low light performance and its also going to have a longer flight time, something like 50 longer. If the leak is too believed. But the cost of that is that its going to be heavier that longer flight time is for sure going to be coming with bigger batteries. So i suspect, with three batteries, youre going to be looking at something like double the weight of the air 2s and as well as that it looks like its going to be almost twice as expensive to buy. So you really have to ask yourself what your priorities are with the drone. For me, it looks very much like dji are reusing the mavic line to replace the old phantom line with all of the top level specs with their with their highest performing relatively portable drone, whereas the airline is more what the mavic used to be and that its A portable drone with excellent video quality. Now how good that video quality is how good you need it to be really depends on your personal use case now, for me, im not really interested in that.
I was always happy with the video quality, with the photography quality of the mavic 2 pro. I dont really feel a need to upgrade that its good enough already. I dont look at the footage that im using that im seeing and think i wish this were better. I used to with the with the original mavic, but certainly not anymore, so, im not really interested in increasing the the resolution or having better footage when i zoom in to 200. Its not going to make me happy with the video having a smaller and lighter drone. Does make me happier so for me this has been a really really welcome. Upgrade and ive been super happy with it, so i think thats it for this video. I hope its been useful and i hope its been interesting if youve got any comments or any questions. Just drop me an email or drop it in the comment box below and ill definitely get back to you now, as i say in iceland at the moment, if youd like to join me on one of these workshops on one of these photography, trips ill be back In iceland, again next year and doing various other trips to places like namibia and loferton, so id love you to join me on a workshop.