The larger camera sensor and 5.4K recording are worthwhile upgrades for professional photographers and videographers, though most pilots starting out with a drone will be just as happy with the Mavic Air 2 for $200 less, which is more of a crowd-pleaser and remains our Editors’ Choice winner. If you want more than 4K, however, the Air 2S is worth the price bump.
A MAVIC NO MORE
This is the second drone release from DJI in a row to drop Mavic from the product name, so it’s safe to say the company is moving away from clever branding. Instead it gets right to the point here—this is the DJI Air 2S, a bit bigger than the DJI Mini 2 and with a different camera than the otherwise similar DJI Mavic Air 2. OK, so it’s still confusing, but hopefully, things will make more sense as DJI continues updating its naming conventions.
The Air 2S follows the Mavic playbook closely. It’s also pretty small, at just 3.3 by 3.8 by 7.1 inches (HWD) when folded and about 1.3 pounds, and it takes up just a little more room in a camera bag than a typical 2470mm full-frame zoom. The arms fold in a jiffy, too.
It’s heavy enough to require FAA registration, though. If you’re flying for fun, a $5 fee covers any drones you own for three years. Pilots making money—perhaps for real estate or cinema production—are required to pass a certification exam.
DJI is selling the Air 2S on its own for $999.99 or in a Fly More Combo for $1,299.99. The standard edition includes everything you need to get started—the drone, a flight battery, a remote control, and chargers. Fly More gets you two additional batteries, a multi-charger, a set of neutral density filters, and a carrying case.
Neither version ships with a memory card, but the drone has some internal storage. It’s only 8GB, though, which fills up very quickly at 4K or 5.6K. It’s ample if you’re using the aircraft primarily for photography, but it’s just not enough for video. A microSD card is a necessary add-on, and I’d go for one with at least 64GB so you don’t have to worry about filling up the card— they’re not at all expensive.
DJI Air 2S
1-inch sensor camera. Video at up to 5.4K quality. Robust safety features. Obstacle detection and avoidance. Automated camera shots. HDR, Log, and Standard video profiles. AirSense transponder. Half-hour flight time.
Doesn’t offer in-camera filtered looks. 8GB internal storage isn’t much. Remote doesn’t include EV control wheel. App-based editing limited to 1080p output. HDR HLG workflow for pros only. Raw images don’t transfer to smartphones and tablets automatically.
The DJI Air 2S is a small folding drone with a premium 1-inch sensor camera, 5.4K video, and a number of automated flight and safety features, making it a prominded alternative to the more affordable Mavic Air 2.
A big card is especially useful given how long the Air 2S can stay aloft. Its battery is good for around half an hour—DJI rates it at 31 minutes. How you fly, wind, and other factors come into play, but our tests show the half-hour estimate to be pretty accurate.
As for safety features, there are plenty. The Air 2S’s positioning system leverages GPS and GLONASS satellites, as well as visual sensors, to determine position and hover perfectly in place. It supports automated return to home and includes an obstacle-avoidance system and geofencing support.
DJI limits flight capabilities in areas where restrictions are in place. For more information on how this affects use where you live, refer to its Fly Safe site (https://www.dji.com/flysafe)—it includes an interactive map and also details the procedures pilots can use to unlock flights in certain zones.
DJI redesigned its flight remote last year for the Mavic Air 2 release, and the same remote is included here. It’s a rectangular gray slab with removable control sticks, a number of camera and flight control buttons, and convenient USB-C charging.
The remote fits comfortably in your hand, not unlike a video game controller. It has a clip at the top to hold your smartphone—you’ll need it to view and control camera settings. Both Android and iOS phones are supported, and the drone ships with Lightning, micro USB, and USB-C cables to ensure compatibility with your device. The clip is big enough to support larger handsets, and the remote charges your phone. These are welcome features, as the battery in my big iPhone 8 Plus doesn’t last as long as it did a few years ago.
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