In the world of cameras, a bigger sensor generally means better. A larger camera sensor typically means that —in two otherwise comparable cameras — the one with the larger sensor will likely be able to allow in more light while capturing less noise. You’ll get more detail, and more beautiful background blur (if that’s what you want). And the new DJI Air 2S offers up that glorious, larger sensor.
DJI on April 15 launched the DJI Air 2S, which stands out for its 1” sensor offering 20-megapixel photos and 5.4K video. That’s the same as what you get in the larger, more-expensive Mavic 2 Pro. The sensor also offers a larger pixel size of 2.4μm.
But why the DJI Air 2S is special is that it’s a super small drone, matching the portable size of its predecessors in the already strong Mavic Air line. And given its small size, the DJI Air 2S is the smallest drone that is capable of capturing 20-megapixel still images or video in 5.4K. Previously, the ability to get that kind of image quality came off with a tradeoff: you’d need to purchase a larger, less-agile drone.
And, it’s less than $1,000.
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Photography and videography features
Autonomous flight programming for better video capture:
The image quality is incredible, and DJI also offers up autonomous flight paths to ensure you can capture those images. The DJI Air 2 is also the first to have a new feature called MasterShots. MasterShots is an advanced feature that uses automatic flight path planning to set the drone’s course while recording video. From there, the MasterShots software can automatically merge the footage together to automatically generate a create a video for you based on what its algorithms determine are the best shots.
Plus, an upgraded FocusTrack mode includes pre-programmed modes like Spotlight 2.0, ActiveTrack 4.0 and Point of Interest 3.0 to help your drone fly in flight paths designed to make any newbie’s shots look just as advanced as those from a professional video operator.
Other pre-programmed flight modes include QuickShots (a staple DJI feature that can take photos inspired by the shape of a Rocket, Circle, Dronie, Helix, Boomerang and Asteroid), and Hyperlapse (which shows the world sped up from the air and in motion).
New zoom features:
A new digital zoom supports 4X zoom at 4K 30fps, 6X at 2.7K 30fps, 4X at 2.7K 60fps, 6X at 1080P 60fps and 8X at 1080P 30fps. One odd note though is that zoom only works for videos (you can’t use it for taking photos).
DJI Air 2S flight
The DJI Air 2S entails 31 minutes of maximum flight time. Four-way directional obstacle sensors help warn you when obstacles are getting close. And, if you’ve turned on the autopilot system called APAS 4.0, your drone will be able to maneuver around objects autonomously.
As far as range, DJI’s proprietary OcuSync transmission tech called O3 is designed to get you a stable feed at a maximum distance of 12km.
The drone includes the usual DJI safety features like Return-To-Home and GEO 2.0 geofencing.
Other goodies on the DJI Air 2S
While the big deal here is the sensor, this drone has a number of other, smaller goodies that make it increasingly appealing over the now-outdated models for it. They include:
- 8 GB of internal storage
- Better storage options: You can choose to record in H264 or H265, depending on preferences for image detail and storage capacity
- Choice of video color profiles: You can now choose from 3 — either Normal (8 bit), D-Log (10 bit) or HLG (10 bit)
Where and when can I buy the DJI Air 2S?
The DJI Air 2S is on sale now for $999. That price tag includes the drone, remote controller, one battery and all the cables and parts needed to get into the air.
Or, upgrade to the Fly More Combo for a total of $1,299. Here’s what’s included in the DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo:
- Everything from the standard combo, plus…
- 2 additional batteries (for a total of 3)
- ND filters
- A charging hub
- A shoulder bag.
That said, the DJI Air 2S is still more expensive than its predecessor, the DJI Mavic Air 2. That drone launched less than a year ago for $799.
DJI Care Refresh, which is DJI’s extended warranty program, is also available for purchase with the DJI Air 2S drone.
Is the DJI Air 2S worth it?
The DJI Air 2S is incredible for photographers who prioritize budget and portability. It’s biggest contender is with the Mavic 2 Pro.
The DJI Air 2S versus the Mavic 2 Pro:
The sensor is the same size as what you get on the Mavic 2 Pro, but that drone is larger and more expensive ($1,599 versus $999 for the DJI Air 2S).
But it’s even better for videographers in many ways than the Mavic 2 Pro, given that its maximum video resolution is 5.4K (versus 4K on the Mavic 2 Pro) and it’s 4K video bit rate is higher at 150Mbps versus 100Mbps on the Mavic 2 Pro). That said, while it is better in many ways, there is a tradeoff. Expect cropping at higher frame rates, because the full one-inch sensor is not used in the 4K 60fps mode.
Of course, the Mavic 2 Pro isn’t completely moot. Notably, you get the Hasselblad camera, which you won’t get on the Air 2S. There are also some other limitations, like that you cannot adjust the aperture on the Air 2S.
The DJI Air 2S versus the DJI Mavic Air 2:
The other big contender is with the old model, the Mavic Air 2. If ultra-high image quality is less of a priority for you, you might want to save your money and go for the older, lower-cost DJI Mavic Air 2. But here’s another reason why the DJI Air 2S is better: obstacle avoidance. The new model has even more sensors to help with obstacle avoidance (4 vs. 2), helping keep flight even safer — and inching the Air line closer to its competitor, the Skydio 2, which has 360-degree sensors.
The DJI Air 2S is the perfect happy medium drone for a photographer who wants higher-quality images than what’s afforded to them with the existing Mavic Air 2. And it’s for someone who doesn’t want a clunkier Mavic 2 Pro — they’d rather tuck their Air 2S into their jacket pocket, if necessary — while also being okay sacrificing a few image quality improvements for big price savings.
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