Autel Evo Lite+ review: the best non-DJI camera drone you can buy

Given its massive market share DJI dominates the conversations when it comes to consumer drones. And it has certainly dominated the conversation this month on this very website, given the launch o the much-anticipated DJI Mini 3 Pro. But there’s another drone company that is able to stand up quite strong to DJI’s consumer line of drones, Autel. And the Autel Evo Lite+ is the darling of the company’s camera drone lineup.

Autel is pretty much the only company able to even compete with DJI, but it’s proving to be a solid competitor at that. Autel this year put on sale its latest lineup of camera drones, the Autel Robotics EVO Nano and Lite Drones, which come in base or “+” versions with upgraded specs.

And its Autel Evo Lite+ drone stands out especially given how it’s able to bridge the gap between some of the Mavic 3’s most swoon-worthy features, but at a price point much closer to the DJI Mini 3 Pro, which stands out for its relatively low, $759 price tag.

It’s testing time!

I managed to get my hands on an Autel Evo Lite+ drone so I could test out all of its features. Among the highlights:

  • 1-inch CMOS sensor
  • 6K/30fps video
  • 40 minutes of flight in a single charge
  • Adjustable aperture, f/2.8-f/11
  • Defog mode
  • Transmission range of 7.4 miles
  • Ultra wide angle obstacle avoidance cameras, allowing for a front field of view of 150 degrees

All that for a price of $1,249, which is a steep discount relative to the $2,199 DJI Mavic 3, which is currently DJI’s most expensive prosumer-minded drone available.

Get the Autel Evo Lite+ now. It’s available for purchase from retailers including:

So how does the Autel Evo Lite+ actually hold up against the spec sheet? Here’s my review:

The Autel Evo Lite+ camera

Super high quality video

Here are the Autel Evo Lite+ camera specs in a nutshell:

  • 6K 1″ CMOS
  • 20 MP Photos
  • F/2.8-F/11 Adjustable Aperture
  • HDR Video
  • 16x Digital Zoom
  • Up to 3x Lossless Zoom

This drone packs a large, 1-inch CMOS sensor into a relatively small package, which is impressive considering just a few years ago you wouldn’t see such a large sensor in a drone this small. Thus, you get a pretty remarkable ability to capture 6K video. The adjustable aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11. I appreciate that you have the choice to alter exposure and depth of field, depending on the style you’re going for.

Footage feels pretty bright, which Autel attributes to an RYYB color filter array design, which supposedly absorbs 40% more light than traditional RGGB arrays, allowing users to capture natural scenery in all its glory. The camera is smart enough to automatically balance overexposure and underexposure, which is helpful in shooting high-contrast scenes (like if you’re filming at noon on a sunny day).

I like this drone for filming sports or other fast-moving situations given the drone’s quick phase detection autofocus and dual focus algorithm. The camera only needs a few milliseconds to lock onto a shot, which is crucial. Considering the drone itself is likely already moving and your action subject is moving too, this upgraded tech makes it less likely you’ll miss a shot.

Moonlight algorithm: That also ties into another interesting component of the camera tech: low-light capabilities. Autel refers to it as their ‘moonlight algorithm,’ and the company designed it so your drone can still capture details with low noise in darker scenarios, like flying in a cave or as the sun is setting.

HDR: You have the choice to turn on HDR mode, which is also pretty neat. HDR (short for high dynamic range) is a technique where you take multiple photos of the same thing but at different exposure levels and then mash them together to create a sort of ephemeral look (you often see this with landscape photography). The Autel Evo Lite+ can do this for you automatically, snapping several photos at different exposures and automatically stitching them together to create your own HDR shot.

Plus, there’s a wide image transmission range of 7.4 miles.

Defog mode

Here’s something I haven’t seen on other drones: defog mode. This is a pretty interesting feature where the camera’s algorithms are able to automatically adjusts the camera’s vibrance settings to make your footage look crisp and clear. You would use this in scenarios where you’re flying through slightly wet conditions like through fog or up close to a waterfall that’s otherwise misty.

I did manage to test this on a day that it had been raining. I wasn’t willing to fly my drone in the rain, but I flew it post-rain in hopes I could test out this mode given there was still so much moisture in the air. I didn’t notice any difference, but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think the moisture in the air was enough to interrupt my footage anyway, so this wasn’t really a fair test. That said, it seems like a neat feature if you find yourself in wetter conditions than what I’ve been in when flying the Evo Lite+.

The RC controller requires you to connect your smartphone, which then enables you to use the Autel Sky App to control the camera.

The process of setting up and flying the Autel Evo Lite+

Over the past few years, it really felt like drone batteries could only last in the 30 minute realm of flight time. The Autel Evo Lite+ has crossed over into the 4-0 barrier, capable of flying up to 40 minutes, exactly (with no wind) on one charge.

While not as crash-proof as something like the Skydio 2 that has collision avoidance sensors on all sides, this drone at least has some degree of bonus safety with vision sensors for smart obstacle avoidance. There are forward, downward, and rear sensors, and if they sense something in their path, the drone will automatically slow or stop the drone mid-flight.

Setup and take off

To be able to control camera features and see what the drone sees as you fly your Evo Lite+ drone, you’ll need install the Autel Sky App to your smartphone or tablet (you’ll need to purchase this separately, if you don’t already own one). From there, you’ll connect it to the drone’s included RC Controller.

The app allows you to launch the drone with a single tap, snap photos/videos, and adjust the camera. You can use the app to select subjects like your friends or a vehicle, and tell the drone to focus on it.

I have a bias for drones that have a built-in touchscreen into the control, as is the case with the DJI RC (an add-on product for the new DJI Mini 3 Pro) or the Yuneec Typhoon H. I found this just means one more thing I need to update and keep charged. My smartphone battery always seems to die, especially since I’m often relying on it throughout the day (GPS directions to get to my flight site, social media to upload my footage instantly, and maybe ordering some food if it’s a long day). I hate to also rely on it to fly my drone too.

Though while the connect-your-smartphone style is not my favorite, the process at least felt fairly easy. The Autel Sky App downloaded to my iPhone 7 with no problem, and then only took a few seconds for it to sync with the drone when turned on.

The app has multiple robust features to control your camera. For example, there are preset options for lowlight and bright light shooting, which can make it easy to adjust your camera when flying at night one day vs. high noon another.

If transmission distance is key (perhaps you are worried about interference or just need to control it from a distance), this should come as good news: the EVO Lite+ can transmit video from over 7.4 miles away via Autel’s SkyLink, which is the longest transmission range in its class.

The Autel Evo Lite+ is pretty portable thanks to its foldable arms, making it a solid travel companion.

Handling tough conditions

I never flew this drone in particularly tough conditions myself aside from some post-rain flying. But, Autel promises it can hold up in some complicated air.

Wind resistance: It has 7-level wind resistance. If you find yourself flying in a strong headwind, you can turn on ludicrous mode, which has a top speed of 40mph, to get yourself back home. That’s based on the Beaufort Wind Scale, which starts with 0 and goes to a force of 12 to estimate wind strengths.

Level 7 indicates wind speeds between 32-38 mph, and — in the ocean — translates to white foam from breaking waves beginning to be blown in streaks along the direction of the wind. On land, you’ll see whole trees (not just leaves) in motion, and physically feel inconvenience when walking against the wind.

That’s fairly hefty, given level 8 indicates wind speeds strong enough to break twigs and small branches off trees.

Dynamic Track 2.1

While you can fly manually (and heck, it’s fun to!), drones are inherently autonomous, so you’d want them to fly themselves. The Evo Lite+ does this especially well when it comes to following a subject, with its built-in Dynamic Track 2.1 software.

Dynamic Track 2.1 lets you select someone to track and follow, and from there the drone keeps the subject in the frame. You’d likely use this for a long action shot, like following a runner through a trail.

Other shooting modes

There are other pre-programmed cinematography modes, so you can get a seamless shot without needing to be a pro pilot. They are:

  • Rocket
  • Fade Away
  • Orbit
  • Flick
  • Rotate
  • SkyPortrait (that’s a new one where the drone will rise, focus, and capture you while automatically blurring backgrounds to keep the focus on you)

Storing and transferring footage

While I don’t love the fact that you need your own third-party smartphone or tablet to see your photos (aside from pulling out the memory card and putting it in your computer), Autel makes the process of, well, processing your footage pretty easy.

Upon landing, you can simply place your smartphone close to the drone, and you’ll be able to download photos and videos at a 160Mbps (20MB/s), which is fast. Called SuperDownload, you’ll want to connect to Wi-Fi for the highest transfer speeds.

The Autel Sky App also offers editing and sharing features, including a MovieMaster tool. There are preset video templates, built-in filters and included music to choose from, which helps take headache out of editing your videos if you’re simply looking for basic clips, such as for social media.

Who else remembers the Autel X-Star from the mid 2010’s? The Evo Lite+ is a huge upgrade, and way more portable given those fold up arms!

How the Evo Lite+ stacks up against other Autel camera drones

Autel has four drones currently in production that are designed for consumers and photographers. (Separately, there’s Autel’s EVO II series which is designed more for enterprise users. Its specs are better designed for use cases beyond visual photography — and it’s also more expensive.)

There’s the Nano line, which is more akin to the DJI Mini line (and also fits into the sub-250 gram drone category, like the Minis), and then there’s the higher end Lite line, which more resembles DJI Mavic drones. The + versus non+ is because the + drones have a higher quality sensor.

The Evo Lite+ is the most expensive of the bunch, but here’s how they all stack up against each other:

Evo NanoEvo Nano+Evo LiteEvo Lite+
Takeoff Weight 249 grams249 grams835 grams835 grams
Folded Dimensions (including blades)260×
Max Flight Time with one charge (no wind)28min28min40min40min
Max transmission distance10km10km12km12km
Sensor CMOS1/2 inch1/1.28 inch (0.8 inch)1/1.28 inch1 inch
ISO rangeVideo:100 ~ 3200
Photo: 100 ~ 3200
Video:100 ~ 6400
Photo: 100 ~ 6400
Video:100 ~ 6400
Photo: 100 ~ 6400
Video:100 ~ 6400
Photo: 100 ~ 6400
Night scene mode: ISO up to 48000
Built-in storage?NoNo6GB6GB
Mechanical gimbal range Pitch: -125°~35°
Roll: -34°~33°
Yaw: -25°~25°
Pitch: -125°~35°
Roll: -34°~33°
Yaw: -25°~25°
Pitch: -135°~45°
Roll: -45°~45°
Yaw: -90°~90°
Rotate: -400°~400°
Pitch: -135°~45°
Roll: -45°~45°
Yaw: -90°~90°
Rotate: -400°~400°
Gimbal stabilization3-axis3-axis4-axis3-axis

Who is the Evo Lite+ for?

The Evo Lite+ is for a photographer looking for a higher-end drone who doesn’t have the budget for something like a DJI Mavic 3, but needs a better camera than what something like a Mini 3 Pro or a Nano+ has to offer.

It’s also a good option for those veering away from DJI, as the company has been the subject of concern around not just its huge market share, but from some politicians seeking to blacklist it over its Chinese ties (though for what it’s worth, Autel has headquarters in both Washington and China).

Autel’s tech is solid and reliable, and it fills a sweet spot of quality camera specs with a sub $2,000 price tag.

As far as Lite versus Lite+? Given the bigger, better sensor, it’s definitely worth springing the small addition for the Lite+ versus simply the Lite. In fact, the pixels in the Lite+’s 20MP camera are roughly twice the size of the Lite’s pixels, meaning more light, less interference and better pictures.

The Premium Bundle includes a carrying case designed to fit the Autel Evo Lite+ drone.

You can purchase the Autel Lite+, which is on sale and shipping now. It’s available in a range of colors including the company’s signature orange (remember the original Autel X-Star, which only came in orange and people called it the Orange Pumpkin?!), as well as red, white and gray.

The Autel Lite+ retails for $1,549. Or, upgrade to the Premium Bundle, which includes extra bells and whistles like spare batteries, neutral density filters, and a carrying case for $1,849.

Get the Autel Evo Lite+ now. It’s available for purchase from retailers including:

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