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Even if you are a first-time pilot, DJI’s consumer drones (the Mavic series) are some of the most straightforward to operate. They incorporate easy-to-understand operation, but users can remove the training wheels as they progress through the program. They also make use of technology that helps to ensure a safe flight, such as obstacle avoidance and aircraft detection, among other things. After establishing itself as the world’s leading drone manufacturer, DJI has concentrated on improving the image quality captured by its cameras.
Using a 1-inch sensor, the new $999 DJI Air 2S ($1,299 for a complete bundle) is the company’s first consumer-grade drone to use such a camera. It produces enhanced video (up to 5. 4K resolution), improved low-light performance, and sharp, high-resolution photos, making it a cost-effective option for budget filmmakers and video enthusiasts on a tight budget. It is worth noting that the DJI Mavic 2 also has a 1-inch sensor, but it is intended for more professional and advanced users.
Design and setup
The Air 2S, like the other DJI consumer drones we’ve tested, including the Mini 2 and Air 2, which are still available in the current lineup, is simple to set up and operate. When it comes to DJI drones, if you own one or have used one extensively, the Air 2S will feel very familiar. Beginners should practice, and DJI offers training tutorials to help them get started.
Although the Air 2S is slightly larger and heavier than the Air 2, I find the two to be very similar in terms of operation and performance. DJI’s drones are known for their high build quality, and while I didn’t have any mishaps with the Air 2S, all of the other DJI drones I’ve tested have managed to avoid being involved in accidents. (If you are prone to accidents, consider signing up for DJI’s Care Refresh program, which will cover you for any accidents and even loss for a small fee.)
The Air 2S is a small and lightweight drone, which is unusual for its class. I have no trouble transporting it, and it never feels like it is weighing me down, even when I am transporting extra batteries in the carrying case. It’s also simple to set up for a flight and take down afterward.
New 1-inch sensor
With its 1-inch sensor, the Air 2S is the first DJI consumer drone to capture still images at 20 megapixels and high-resolution video at up to 5.4K. The Air 2S is also the first DJI consumer drone to capture video at up to 5.4K. A fourth-generation sensor, four times the size of the sensor used in the Air 2, captures significantly better image and video quality, particularly in low-light conditions, compared to the Air 2.
Because the sensor can capture more information, you can zoom in closer to a subject or object without having to physically move the drone while maintaining image detail — up to eight times, depending on the video resolution — without having to physically move the drone. Those working in the film industry, digital content creators, and anyone else who requires high-quality video from a small drone will appreciate these enhancements.
While camera drones are primarily used for videography, DJI’s newest Mavic models are also excellent for photographing subjects. The SmartPhoto mode, which uses computational photography to capture still images at a resolution of 20 megapixels, is new to the Air 2S. Putting it simply, SmartPhoto is an advanced auto mode that analyzes the scene and selects the best shot for you.
If the user does not specify whether a photograph should have more vivid colors (HDR), compensate for lighting (low-light scenes), or be adjusted for the optimal settings for what is in the frame, the camera will determine these settings (scene recognition). SmartPhoto is geared toward casual users who don’t want to fiddle with settings, but advanced users will most likely skip over this feature altogether.
Your private cameraman
Automatic video modes can be activated by the less experienced user unless they are filmmakers who want to have complete control over their shot sequences. In addition to MasterShots, which are new to the Air 2S, a quick 2-minute video with effects is created from the footage by DJI’s Fly app using the drone’s pre-determined flight path and shooting mode after analyzing the scene is determined (iOS and Android).
There are three other auto functions found in other DJI drones, as well: FocusTrack, which shoots videos around a subject or object, QuickShots, which produces fun effects, and Hyperlapse, which creates a video that appears to be time-lapse-like.
Security, security, security
The more advanced DJI drones are equipped with safety features that allow you to fly with greater assurance. This entails avoiding obstacles and flying within the boundaries of permitted airspace. DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 4.0 is used in the Air 2S, which the company claims is the most advanced autopilot system it has ever used in any of its drones.
A wider view of obstacles is provided by the Air 2S compared to previous versions of APAS, and the drone can automatically maneuver around or under an object, or simply brake before colliding with it, thanks to improved sensors located around the drone and within the camera itself.
DJI claims that the Air 2S is more stable than the original Air. The Air 2S maintains a connection with the pilot’s remote for up to 12 kilometers (approximately 7.5 miles) using the third version of the company’s OcuSync technology, which is implemented through four antennas. When in potentially dangerous or restricted flight zones, the Air 2S makes use of DJI’s AirSense technology to warn of nearby aircraft, as well as geofencing technology, which is similar to that of the Air 2.
Furthermore, thanks to global positioning, the Return-to-Home (RTH) function automatically returns the drone to the location from which it took off when the battery is running low (the flight time is estimated to be 31 minutes) or when it is out of reach. A warning will also sound if the camera gimbal requires calibration or if the propellers have been installed incorrectly on the Air 2S.
Our first tackle efficiency
During my first round of testing, the Air 2S performed flawlessly, and I was always in complete command of the aircraft. Although it does not have the quick braking capability of DJI’s new FPV drone, the APAS 4.0 was effective in preventing a crash with a lamp post in this situation.
The DJI App, which works in conjunction with the remote control and alerted me constantly that I was flying near a restricted zone and that planes were taking off, even though I was flying in a designated safe zone, was activated because I was flying near an airport. You can choose to ignore these warnings, and while they can be inconvenient, I appreciate having them for my own peace of mind on occasion.
While I did not experience any problems during this testing, I did have one minor annoyance, which had to do with the visibility of the screen on my phone. Because the remote controller relies on my phone for the live view and connectivity, it’s difficult to see in bright sunlight with the remote controller. While this is not a fault of the Air 2S, it is something to keep in mind when using the device.
The automated functions were not available to me due to the restrictions of the airport where I was flying — I will have more to say about this in a subsequent update. However, based on my previous experience with the auto modes in the Air 2 and Mini 2, I am confident in saying that they are effective.
One feature that I was unable to test — but which I have tested with the DJI FPV — is the upcoming ability to use DJI’s new goggles and motion controller, which will be available in the near future. Similar to a virtual reality headset, the goggles display a video feed from the drone’s camera that is extremely high-resolution and detailed.
The motion controller is a simplified remote control that can be operated with just one hand, which is convenient. Both of the optional Air 2 accessories, in my opinion, work well and provide a new type of immersive flying experience that is worth trying out. The FPV, which is designed for drone racing, requires them to function properly, but the Air 2S does not require them to function properly.
What are your options?
The DJI Mini 2 is, in my opinion, the best drone for the majority of casual users. Even though it does not have many of the safety features or higher resolutions of the Air 2S or Air 2, it is significantly less expensive and even easier to fly than those models.
The DJI Air 2S is a welcome addition to the DJI lineup, bringing some much-needed improvements. I believe that the Air 2 is sufficient for many enthusiasts if they do not require improved video quality; the video quality produced by the Air 2’s camera is not bad at all. The Air 2S is so similar to the Air 2 that it almost feels like flying the Air 2.
The choice between the Air 2S and the Air 2 will be determined by your requirements and budget, but both models are highly recommended (I will have details on additional flying experience and image quality in a long-term update).
As previously stated, DJI also manufactures the Mavic 2, which also employs a 1-inch sensor camera developed in collaboration with Hasselblad and is similar in design. The Air 2S is more closely aligned with the Air 2 and Mini 2 in terms of consumer appeal and proper comparison. However, one could argue that DJI ported over some of the Mavic 2’s pro features to the Air 2S, which is a more affordable model.
The underside line
The Air 2S is a drone that is worth considering if you are a content creator or if you are purchasing your first drone and want the highest quality video right out of the box.
The DJI Air 2S will be available for purchase for $999, which includes the remote controller and other basic accessories. The Fly More Combo, which will retail for $1,299 and is what I’m currently testing, includes three batteries, lens filters, a charging station, and a bag. I’m currently testing the Fly More Combo.
We will update our review in the near future with longer-term testing in order to provide a proper full assessment, but so far, we are pleased with what we have seen.
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Niamh Murphy, a writer who is always seeking new challenges and pushing the boundaries of what's possible with the written word. I believe that writing is not just about expressing oneself, but about taking risks and experimenting with different forms and styles. I strive to create work that is both innovative and thought-provoking, that pushes the limits of what's possible with the written word. I believe that writing has the power to change the world, and I am honored to be a part of that tradition.