DJI Mavic Air 2 Drone Review

DJI’s mid-tier folding drone is the Mavic Air 2. It is small enough to fit in most camera bags and has excellent safety features. Its Quad Bayer camera captures crisp, detailed images and smooth 4K HDR video. The best drone under $1,000 is the Mavic Air 2. The Mavic Air 2 is larger than its predecessor, but that won’t bother you. It fits most photographers’ gear bags at 3.3 by 3.8 by 7.1 inches. When the drone’s arms are extended, its footprint increases, but its profile remains low. You can launch from a flat patch of dirt or asphalt if the grass isn’t freshly cut. It’s heavy enough to necessitate a $5 US registration fee. Drone regulations are discussed. Read it if you’re thinking about buying a drone but aren’t sure where you’ll be able to fly it.

A small shoulder bag protects your drone if you use your smartphone for terrestrial shots. One with spare batteries is included by DJI. It costs $988 with a bag, two batteries, neutral density filters, and a multi-battery charger. The Standard edition has been evaluated. Everything you need to fly is provided, except for a bag and extra batteries. Aside from the drone, you also get a remote, a single battery, and charging cables. DJI claims that the Mavic Air 2 has a flight time of 34 minutes on a fully charged battery (21 minutes). You should be able to fly for 30 minutes at a time if you are not flying in windy or otherwise tricky conditions.

Built-in safety features increase flight safety. Activate the forward and rear sensors in the app to detect and avoid obstacles. When flying low and indoors, a downward-facing sensor assists the drone in hovering without GPS. The Air 2 has running lights and a bright undercarriage light. During outdoor flights, dual GPS and GLONASS receivers keep it stable and track its position. AirSense is a transponder for ADS-B signals. It alerts you when manned aircraft are near your drone, and it is your responsibility to cede airspace. With the press of a button, the Air 2 will return home, and there is a Find My Drone function to record its last known position.

You should not fly above 400 feet or near airports, but you may encounter another pilot. Air 2’s first flight: Manned Aircraft Notification. AirSense equipment is in short supply. The feature is available on the Mavic Air 2 in North America. DJI drones will not fly in restricted airspace, but you must avoid it. Before purchasing a drone, use the app’s authorization feature to see where you can fly in your neighborhood. Begin by visiting DJI’s Fly Safe page. The remote for the Air 2 has been redesigned. The LCD is no longer present, and the phone clip has taken its place. It’s bigger and has a grey plastic finish. The top-stowed cable charges and connects to your phone via USB-C. 

A Lightning cable for iOS devices is included, as well as micro USB and USB-C cables. Bottom-stow control sticks. The left stick controls the plane’s altitude and rotation around its axis, while the right stick propels it. A programmable Fn button is on the left, and a photo/video switch is on the right. Flight modes can be changed. In general, use Normal. Sport allows you to fly faster to add motion to your video, but obstacle detection is disabled, and the drone cannot stop on a dime. The tripod slowly moves the drone, making it ideal for framing a static shot or still photo. Power, however—drones DJIs and remotes necessitate a short press followed by a long press—and then Return to Home.

Camera controls are available on the remote. The camera is tilted using the left shoulder control wheel. Press the Photo/Record button on the remote to take pictures or start a video. The app allows you to control recording. Don’t worry about the lack of adjustable antennae on the remote. The drone and remote remained connected even when flying beyond visual range in a crowded suburb. The cheaper Mavic Mini had connectivity issues last year. Because of its lower power, the Mini is less safe in windy conditions. The Air 2 has a top speed of 23.5mph, while the Mini has a top speed of only 18mph. Because the controller lacks a display, you must connect your phone to see the camera view; the Autel EVO can be flown without a smartphone.

Last year, the DJI Fly app was released alongside the Mavic Mini. The app displays the camera view, which can be switched to a Google Maps view with a tap. The interface will be familiar if you upgrade from the original Air. On an iPhone 8 Plus, I tested the drone with DJI Fly. Camera and flight settings are changed using on-screen controls. You can convert imperial units to metric, add a framing grid to the camera display, and set up a virtual geofence to contain your drone. The app is in charge of shooting modes and tracking. While you fly the drone manually, Spotlight tracks a subject. Mavic Air 2 automatically follows a subject. Unlike the upcoming Skydio 2, you will still need to control it.

DJI’s APAS system performs admirably. I attempted to crash the drone into trees in a park, but the Air 2 managed to avoid them. I tried it on myself and was not harmed. Because the Air 2 lacks obstacle sensors, it should be used with caution. Because there are no upward-facing obstacle sensors, you must exercise caution when flying beneath low-hanging branches. Auto-shot modes have arrived. Pull back or use the Boomerang function to fly in an expanding arc around your subject before returning to the original view. When combined with tracking, orbit mode can circle moving subjects.

The app isn’t about flying. You can also upgrade the software, view flight logs, and transfer media from the drone. The Air comes with 8GB of internal storage and a microSDXC slot. To edit 4K video on your tablet or phone, you must first transfer it over Wi-Fi. Only JPGs will be manually copied. I attempted to transfer DNG files using the Air’s USB-C port but was unsuccessful. In-app editing is available. Templates and a timeline are fully automated. The maximum output resolution is 1080p. You’ll need a different app to edit 4K on your phone or tablet. Flight logs are included in the app. Logs display the drone’s location, speed, altitude, and battery life. You can play it in real-time, at double speed, or as a video scrub.

The quality of a drone is determined by its sensor. DJI replaced the 12MP camera on the Air with a 48MP camera capable of shooting in DNG or JPG. Dual-resolution is provided by quad Bayer sensors. Because it is not much larger than a smartphone imager, its pixels are smaller. Grain increases when shooting at 48MP, but detail improves. Use it? Although the 48MP resolution is impressive, the image sensor is small. While zooming in on a high-resolution photo allows you to see more detail, for most people, it’s overkill. Reduced file sizes, grain, and a slight delay while the huge image uploads (Raw files are 100MB each at 48MP, versus 25MB at 12MP). If shooting raw, skip 48MP. 

SmartPhoto automatic shooting modes are available in 12MP but not in 48MP. Use them to improve your shots in automatic mode. Low-light and HDR settings are optimized by scene detection. The controls in the app are limited. There aren’t any profiles in sepia, bright, black-and-white, or a similar style. Filter JPGs before posting to Instagram, but if you edit photos, consider Raw capture. To edit the suburban aerial photos of my lawns, I used Adobe Lightroom and RNI All Films 5. The image above shows my take on top and the JPG from the camera on the bottom. The photos on the Air 2 are superior to those on the Air. The improved image sensor and 24mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2.8 lens.

I still prefer the Mavic 2 Pro’s 1-inch sensor camera for imaging on a small drone. However, 20MP is not required. Mavic 2 Pro images are more realistic and detailed. Physical aperture is as important as focal length and Hasselblad color science. The Mavic 2 Pro’s lens allows you to stop and capture well-defined sunstars, which the Air 2’s lens does not. Air 2 video is silent. Supports 4K UHD at 60 fps. Quality is enhanced by a sharp lens, gimbal stabilization, and a compression rate of 120Mbps. There are resolutions of 2.7K and 1080p available. You can record 1080p at 240fps for slow-motion playback and speed ramping. Color options are limited, as they are with images. Color correction is required for a standard or flat D-Cinelike look. There are no vivid, black-and-white, or similar options, so you’ll have to edit the footage to your liking.

HDR video is available at 30 frames per second. Drone pilots frequently encounter uneven lighting, particularly early or late in the day. In-camera HDR effectively preserves highlight and shadow detail. On bright days, you’ll need ND filters to cut incoming light through the fixed aperture if you want traditional shutter angles. Fly More comes with a DJI set. Moment’s Variable ND is also an option. The interchangeable lens filters from Moment are of high quality. Moving time-lapse is supported by Hyperlapse. DJI intends to add 8K output with a firmware update later this month. DJI nailed it with the Mavic Air 2. The drone fits in a small bag, so you can film at the end of a hike. Previously, you needed a Phantom 4 to get good results. For a $1,000 drone, the imaging and video are excellent. Invest in a camera with a 1-inch sensor or interchangeable lenses for better results.

Pros

  • DJI unveiled the Mavic Air 2, a foldable drone capable of recording 8K video and taking higher-resolution photos and videos. It also has longer battery life.
  • “Mavic Air 2 proves that our smartest consumer drone doesn’t have to be the biggest,” said DJI President Roger Luo. We had to completely rethink the design and development process for the Mavic Air 2. We wanted to design a drone that even a novice could fly. Even at this historical juncture, we hope our drones foster creativity and provide a fun, educational experience.”
  • The Mavic Air 2 is the first Mavic drone to support 4K video at 60 frames per second and 120Mbps. Mavic Air 2 supports HDR video, 4x slow motion in 1080p at 120 frames per second, and 8x slow-motion at 240 frames per second. A mechanical 3-axis gimbal is used to ensure stable recording.
  • Hyperlapse is a moving timelapse simulation. Pilots can now shoot hyperlapse in 8K, with options including Free movement, Circle, CourseLock, and WayPoints.
  • Mavic Air 2 captures 48-megapixel images. The Mavic Air 2 can take HDR photos, which combine 7 exposures to create a dynamic image.
  • To reduce noise, Hyperlight merges multiple low-light photos.
  • Scene recognition is available on the DJI Mavic Air 2. The drone improves the photo’s color and details after recognizing the scene. Sunsets, blue skies, grass, trees, and snow are all recognized automatically.
  • High-quality images are captured by the Quad Bayer 1/2′′ sensor.
  • Mavic Air 2 has a flight time of 34 minutes. This one is about 13-14 minutes longer.
  • OcuSync 2.0 can send HD video from the Mavic Air 2 up to 10 kilometers away to a smartphone (6.21 miles). OcuSync 2.0 supports the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequency bands and switches between them automatically based on signal strength. To keep the video feed clear, anti-interference technology blocks unwanted signals.
  • The DJI Mavic Air 2 Fly app is compatible with iPhones and Android devices. Fly is a photo and video editor. New flight paths and high-tech mapping improve subject tracking and obstacle avoidance. ActiveTrack 3.0 is available on the Mavic Air 2. Mavic Air 2 can track a subject of your choice. It can reconfigure the subject if it temporarily disappears. Flight paths around subjects are automated in Point of Interest 3.0. The updated surface recognition in Point of Interest aids in the tracking of subjects.
  • Spotlight 2.0 allows you to freely fly your Mavic Air 2 while the camera remains focused.
  • Prices for the Mavic Air 2 vary. The Mavic Air 2, along with a battery and a remote, costs around $799. For $988, the Fly More version includes a shoulder bag, charging hub, and three batteries.
  • APAS 3.0 allows DJI drones to fly autonomously. This feature generates a new path around, under, or over objects to avoid collisions. The 3D mapping in the updated version aids in smooth transitions and fluid object movement.
  • The Mavic Air 2 is DJI’s first consumer drone to feature AirSense technology, which is part of the company’s 10-point Elevating Safety vision. AirSense receives aircraft signals via ADS-B. This alerts drone pilots to nearby aircraft, which improves safety. The pilot’s control screen displays their current location. As other aircraft approaches, AirSense alerts the drone pilot with messages, sounds, and vibrations, increasing the pilot’s awareness and ability to safely move the drone away.

Cons

  • It should have been brighter and better than before. The remote lacks an EV control wheel. The output resolution of app-based editing is limited to 1080p. The Mavic Air 2 weighs more than its predecessor. The Mavic Air 2 weighs 570 grams (1.26 pounds) versus 430 grams (0.95 pounds). This adds weight to your luggage, which is important when flying.
  • The Mavic Air 2 can export 8K time-lapse videos but not all video modes at launch. Later, 8K will be added. Other modes will receive an 8K resolution by June 2020. It is difficult to get Raw images onto your tablet or smartphone. Standard and flat video profiles are the only options.

The advantages of the Mavic Air 2 outweigh the disadvantages. The Mavic 2 Pro is my top pick for professionals and serious hobbyists, but it costs twice as much as the Air 2. Autel EVO and Parrot Anafi are DJI alternatives. The Anafi offers USB battery charging, which no Mavic drone does, and the EVO has a built-in display in its remote. The Mavic Air 2 is recommended for the majority of people. It avoids Mavic Mini’s connectivity and wind resistance issues and has a better camera. Although I would like DJI to improve the imaging features of its Fly app, the Air 2 remains my top recommendation.

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