DJI’s Mavic line of drones strikes the perfect balance of high quality images with portability and price. It’s the Goldilocks of DJI’s consumer lineup: much higher image quality than the Mavic Mini (plus many more bells and whistles), but not as out-of-reach as the Mavic Pro, which actually straddles the line of enterprise-grade drones. But when it comes to the DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2, what’s the big difference?
Grab your own DJI Mavic Air 2 from:
The DJI Mavic Air launched at the beginning of 2018 for an initial price of $799. While it’s since been discontinued from production and is no longer sold on DJI’s site: you can still find it at major retailers like Amazon (typically at a discount of $699).
“If you don’t currently have a Mavic Air drone, then in almost all cases, it’s worth paying $100 more for the Mavic Air 2.”
Today, the new DJI Mavic Air 2 starts at $799 through most retailers, including DJI.
I’ll save you from having to read the rest of this post and say this: if you don’t currently have a Mavic Air drone, then in almost all cases, it’s worth paying $100 more for the Mavic Air 2.
But if you currently have a Mavic Air, is it worth upgrading to the Mavic Air 2 to have both drones? Does the Mavic Air 2 really offer that much more than the Mavic Air?
Key differences between the DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2:
By nearly every metric, save for some like price or — depending on your perception, size — the Mavic Air 2 is better than the Mavic Air based on just the technical specfications.
The table below outlines some high-level differences between the two drones based on some key specs. It can fly longer. It provides better image quality. The transmission system is better, and it returns video at a much lower latency.
|Mavic Air||Mavic Air 2|
|Takeoff Weight||430 grams||570 grams|
|Width, unfolded||184 mm||253 mm|
|Max flight time (no wind)||21 minutes||34 minutes|
Effective Pixels: 12 MP
Effective Pixels: 12 MP and 48 MP
|ISO (Video)||100 – 3200||100-6400|
|ISO (Photo, manual)||100 – 3200||100-6400 (12 MP), 100-3200 (48 MP)|
|Max Video Bitrate||100 Mbps||120 Mbps|
|Video Transmission System||Enhanced Wi-Fi||OcuSync 2.0|
2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz Auto-Switching
|Latency||170 – 240 ms||120-130 ms|
|Internal Storage||8 GB||8 GB|
The specs are better, but is it really worth upgrading?
DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2: the camera
One of the most impressive features of the new Mavic Air 2 is its dramatically improved camera. When it launched in April, we called it a “photographer’s dream.” After all, the Mavic Air 2 is the first in the DJI Mavic series to offer 4K video at 60 fps and 120 Mbps.
Much of the “better camera” can be chalked up to a bigger (which, when it comes to sensors, means better) 1-2 inch camera sensor. Compare that to the 1-2.3 inch sensor on the original Mavic Air.
The other big standout feature of the Mavic Air 2 is the high-resolution 48-megapixel feature thanks to Quad Bayer technology. The Quad Bayer tech converts four pixels into one, which means more detailed images, especially when zoomed in.
Another big reason to love the Mavic Air 2 is a higher ISO range. A higher ISO means that images will have better detail, more vibrant colors and more contrast — and they’ll be less grainy in low-light.
When shooting both video and 12 MP photos, the ISO can extend to 6400 on the Mavic Air 2, vs. just 3200 on the Mavic Air.
Other unique photo video features in the Mavic Air 2 include:
- HDR video
- 4X Slow Motion video in 1080p at 120 fps
- 8X Slow Motion video in 1080p at 240 fps
- 12-megapixel images
Plus, here are just a few of the unique settings that the Mavic Air 2 is capable of:
- SmartPhoto: your drone records 12-megapixel photos to allow you to shoot in one of three image capture options
- HDR photos: your drone shoots seven varying exposures of the same photograph and merges them together ( to bring out a highly dynamic image)
- Hyperlight: your drone takes multiple photographs and merges them to bring out a clear image with less noise (useful when filming in low light)
- Scene Recognition: your drone automatically optimizes for landscape settings (helpful in situations where snow might otherwise appear gray, or faces might appear dark in front of a vibrant sunset)
- ActiveTrack 3.0: your drone can automatically follow a subject, thanks to state-of-the-art mapping technology and new flight path algorithms to offer improved subject tracking and obstacle avoidance
- Point of Interest 3.0: your drone flies an automated flight path around a specific subject
- Spotlight 2.0: your drone can lock a subject in the frame while the user has free operation of the drone’s movement.
DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2: the flying experience
Battery life: One of the biggest differences between the two drones: battery life. The Mavic Air 2 is capable of up to 34 minutes of flight time, vs. just 21 minutes on Mavic Air. That’s largely due to the Mavic Air 2’s 3,500mAh battery, vs. the 2,375mAh battery on the Mavic Air.
Extended battery life could be a huge money saver, as you might opt out of buying that additional battery. Or maybe you have backup batteries, but it provides peace of mind while you fly, as you won’t feel pressure to land your drone within ~15-20 minutes to get your drone back home to safety in time before the battery dies.
OcuSync 2.0: Another major difference is that the video feed on the Mavic Air 2 is transmitted via DJI’s proprietary OcuSync 2.0 transmission technology. OcuSync is primarily used among enterprise users or drone racers to aid in situations either where large amounts of live data must be transmitted or where data must be transmitted in less than a split second. That means lower latency, meaning less delay in the vide feed. Mavic Air latency is 170-240 ms, while it’s a much less 120-130 ms on the Mavic Air 2.
DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2: the remote controller
While many of the differences between the Mavic Air vs. Mavic Air 2 can’t be seen by the naked eye, here’s one big difference that’s cosmetic, while also making a huge difference in your drone’s performance: the controller.
The Mavic Air 2 controller has a much more simple design. A fold-out smartphone holder makes it easier to fit smartphones of all sizes (and doesn’t require you to remove your smartphone’s case, in most situations).
Many buttons have been pared down. Now you’ll get a toggle slider for Tripod, Normal, and Sport flight modes. One super interesting design: the antennae is built-in to the smartphone mount.
The new controller has the same screw-on sticks that people loved with the launch of the original Mavic Air.
Both drones have front and rear sensors, helping the drone potentially avoid crashing into obstacles. The sensors aren’t as comprehensive as the 6 sensors on the Skydio 2, so don’t expect the Mavic Air to be fully crash-proof.
However, the Mavic Air is much more crash-proof than its predecessor. The Air 2 also has depth sensors, enabling it to more accurately detect how far it is from the ground. And here’s the real standout: The Mavic Air 2 includes the APAS 3.0 system, which allows the drone to adjust its path to fly around potential obstacles that it can detect (as opposed to just stopping and hovering, as the Mavic Air does) — much more akin to the Skydio 2. So, if the drone sees a pole, it will fly to the side of it and continue on its way.
The apps: DJI Go vs. DJI Fly
There are a few different apps that DJI drones fly on, and both iterations of the Mavic Air run on separate apps. The Mavic Air runs on an app called DJI Go 4. The Mavic Air 2 runs on an app called DJI Fly.
The DJI Fly app was first introduced in October 2019 alongside the launch of the DJI Mavic Mini drone.
The DJI Fly app has a simplified menu which is better for newbies, while also not being any worse for pros. Everything is more intuitive. There is less information to bog down newbies with potentially confusing information like telemetry data — though it’s still there if you need it. Meanwhile, important information for all pilots (ie. battery life and signal strength) is more prominently featured.
And not only is the flying process easier, but it makes video editing even more seamless. A new video editor allows you to cut and splice videos together, set them to music and get them ready to upload to Instagram (or however you prefer sharing videos), all in-app.
Is it worth upgrading to the Mavic Air 2?
Maybe. I can for certain say that — unless your budget is ultra-tight — it’s always worth picking the Mavic Air 2 over the outdated Mavic Air. But if you already have a Mavic Air, should you dump it in favor of its shiny new sibling?
If image quality is super important to you (it very well could be if you’re, say, a real estate or wedding photographer), then go for the upgrade.
I’m also impressed by the vastly improved battery life. Again, for commercial use cases, that could be make or break. If you’re filming a wedding ceremony, you don’t want the battery to die right as the bride walks down the aisle. The Mavic Air 2’s increased battery life is absolutely worth it.
If you like to keep things simple, you might also appreciate Mavic Air 2 improvements. Even if you’re really only posting videos for Instagram and ultra-high image quality doesn’t matter, you’ll love the improved video editing on the DJI Fly app.
And the improved obstacle avoidance can also be a lifesaver, particularly if you’re not the best pilot.
Grab your own DJI Mavic Air 2 from:
Did you upgrade your DJI drone collection to include a Mavic Air 2? Let me know why or why not in the comments below!