The Mavic Air 2 with an attractive combination of images, stability and safety features, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is the best drone you can buy for less than $ 1,000.
The Mavic Air 2 ($ 799.99) is DJI’s entry into the small series of foldable drones. Thanks to its design, it can be stored in most camera bags and does not save on security functions. The camera uses a Quad Bayer design for sharp, detailed photos and 4K HDR videos. The footage is smooth and silky. If you want to spend less than $ 1000 on a new drone, Mavic Air 2 is the choice of our publisher.
The Mavic Air 2 is slightly larger than its predecessor, the Mavic Air, but you probably don’t mind. At 3.3 x 3.8 x 7.1 inches (HWD) and 1.3 pounds, it is thin enough to fit in the tool bags of most photographers.
The footprint is greater when the arms are extended and the drone is ready to fly, but the profile is still quite low. You may not be able to lift the lawn if the lawn is not freshly cut, but you will usually find a flat patch of soil or asphalt to throw away.
It is difficult enough to require a registration to be able to use it in the United States. The nominal fee is $ 5. We have an introduction to the regulation of drones. If you want to buy a drone but don’t know where to fly, take the time to read it before deciding to add a drone to your kit.
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If you’re used to photographing on the ground with your smartphone, a small shoulder bag is a great fashion accessory and protection for drones. DJI includes one if you buy the drone with extra batteries. Your Fly More kit costs $ 988 and includes a bag, two additional batteries, neutral filters and a multi-battery charger.
We receive the standard edition for your evaluation. You don’t have an extra bag or batteries, but everything you need to fly. In addition to the drone, you get a remote control, a single battery and the cables needed to connect the phone and charge all devices.
DJI rates the Mavic Air 2 for 34 minutes of flight time with a fully charged battery, a significant increase over Mavic Air (21 minutes). Our tests have shown that DJI claims to be very close to reality: as long as you do not fly in windy or difficult conditions, you will have no problem flying for half an hour at a time.
There are many built-in functions to improve flight safety. Front and rear sensors detect and prevent obstacles; You must activate it in the application. There is a downward facing sensor which is used to keep the drone in position close to the ground and to fly without GPS..
Air 2 has traffic lights to improve visibility. If you have trouble recognizing, you can turn on a bright light on the cart. Two GPS and GLONASS receivers are automatically activated for outdoor flight to keep you stable and track your position. Air 2 comes home at the press of a button and there is a drone search function that can record the last known location if you have to lower it for an emergency landing.
AirSense, an ADS-B transponder, is new in the series. It warns you if a piloted plane is near your drone. As a pilot, it is your responsibility to turn over the airspace to a helicopter or flying aircraft.
You should not fly more than 400 feet or a short distance from airports, but you may still encounter situations where you are sharing the air with another pilot. On my first flight with Air 2, I received a notification regarding a piloted aircraft.
AirSense equipment is, however, scarce. When you buy Mavic Air 2 in North America, you get a drone with the included function. However, DJI does not expect to see drones sold in other markets before the summer.
DJI drones prevent you from flying to areas where they are prohibited. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not in a restricted airspace. There is an authorization option in the app to unlock certain areas. However, before buying a drone, you should look at where you can fly in your neighborhood. The DJI Fly Safe page is a good place to start.
DJI returned to the drawing board of the Air 2 remote control. It was completely redesigned, dropping the LCD screen and moving the phone clip up and down. It is slightly larger and made of attractive gray plastic.
It is charged via USB-C and connected to the phone via a short cable, which is stored above. The Lightning cable for iOS devices is installed by default, but also includes micro-USB and USB-C cables. The control levers are also at the bottom.
Flying a drone is pretty intuitive: we have a guide to help you get started if you’ve never done it before. The left joystick adjusts the height and rotates the aircraft around its central axis, while the right joystick is used to move in any direction.
The buttons include power: DJI drones and remote controls require a short press followed by a long press to turn them on and off and return to the start. There is a programmable Fn key on the left and another on the right that you can use to switch between photo and video mode.
There is a toggle switch to change the flight modes. We recommend that you use Normal most of the time. Sport is available when you need to fly faster for better movement in your video, but obstacle detection is turned off and the drone can’t stop a penny. The configuration of the tripod does the opposite: it moves the drone very slowly, ideal for taking a static photo or a photo.
There are also basic camera controls on the remote control. You will find the dial on the left shoulder; Tilt the camera up and down. The photo / record button is located on the right shoulder: use it to take a photo or start a video from the remote control. If you prefer to check the registry through the app, you can do that too.
The remote doesn’t have the adjustable antennas that you can get with many other drone remotes, but don’t worry. I appreciated a solid connection between the drone and the remote control, even when I was flying to the limits of visibility in an overcrowded suburban environment. It’s nice to see that the affordable Mavic Mini suffered from connection issues while riding last year. The Mini also has less power, so flying in windy weather is not so safe. The Air 2 is good for flights in conditions of up to 23.5 miles per hour, up to 18 miles per hour for the Mini.
DJI Fly App
The controller has no display. So you need to connect the phone if you want to see the view from the camera. If you are interested in a drone that can fly without adding a smartphone, check out the Altar EVO.
Mavic Air 2 uses the DJI Fly app, which was introduced with the Mavic Mini last year. If you are upgrading from the original Air version, the user interface will be very similar to the previous DJI Go app. It is available for Android and iOS platforms. I tested the drone with an iPhone 8 Plus with DJI Fly.
The application displays the view from the camera lens, interchangeable with a Google Maps view of the area in which you are flying by pressing the screen. Screen control changes between different camera settings and flight modes.
You can dive into the menu to adjust other parameters: you can change the imperial units to metrics, add a grid grid to the camera screen or configure a virtual geo-fence to keep your drone at a predetermined distance.
The app also supports automatic recording modes and tracking functions. Mavic Air 2 automatically tracks an identified subject. It is not designed for purely autonomous flight like the next Skydio 2, so you should always check the controls. There is a new tracking option, Spotlight, which allows the camera to stay on a subject while the drone is flying manually.
The obstacle detection and avoidance system, DJI calls it APAS, works quite well. I took the drone to a local park and tried to crash it against the trees, but Air 2 automatically changed course to fly around it. I was brave enough to prove it to myself and I was unharmed.
I will find that the drone tends to increase the altitude by itself, not much, but enough to be very careful when flying under low branches. There are no ascending obstacle sensors.
You can find the automatic recording modes available here. Receive different types of revelations, including direct reverse and a boomerang feature that sweeps the subject in a wide arc before returning to the original view. There is also an orbit mode: it can be combined with tracking to avoid moving subjects. Air 2 does not have obstacle sensors on the sides like the Mavic 2 Pro. So be careful when using it.
The app does things that have nothing to do with theft. It’s also like updating the drone’s firmware, viewing flight logs and transferring media from the drone to the device. The Air has 8 GB of internal memory, which is suitable for storing around 15 minutes of 4K footage, and a microSDXC slot.
The video is automatically saved in the phone at 1080p. However, you need to transfer 4K videos via WiFi if you want to edit them in full quality on your tablet or phone. You must copy the images manually, but only JPGs are copied. I tried uploading DNG files directly to Lightroom Mobile using Air’s USB-C port, but it didn’t work.
Editing in the app is an option. There are fully automatic models as well as a time interface for more competent editors. However, the output resolution is limited to 1080p. If you want to change 4K on your phone or tablet, you will need to use another app.
You can also access your flight records in the app. Logs allow you to repeat flights and view the location, speed, altitude and life of the drone’s battery. You can play it in real time at double speed or scroll the flight like jumping forward in a video.
Quad Bayer Camera
A camera drone is as good as its sensor. For Air 2, DJI changed things by replacing Air’s 12 MP camera with a new one that can take 48 MP photos in DNG or JPG format.
The dual resolution capability results from the design of a Quad Bayer sensor. It is not much larger on the surface than a conventional smartphone camera, so the pixels are physically smaller. This leads to a little more grain, but to a noticeable improvement in the details when shooting at 48 MP.
Should You Use It Although the 48 MP figure stands out, it is still limited by a relatively small image sensor. I took a series of exposures in 48MP and 12MP modes, and while you can certainly see a little more detail when zooming in on a high-resolution photo, it’s far too much.
There are also some drawbacks: a more visible grain, a slight delay while the overview is writing to memory, and excessive file sizes (flat files are each around 100 MB at 48 MP, compared to around 25 MB at 12 MP). If you’re not using Raw, I wouldn’t worry about 48MP mode
There are also automatic shooting modes called SmartPhoto which are available at 12 MP and not available at 48 MP. If you want to use the drone in automatic mode, you can use it for better shots. Use scene detection to optimize settings, including modes for low light and HDR scenes.
However, the app doesn’t offer you many other controls. Profiles in black and white, sepia, vivid or similar are not available. You can certainly filter out JPGs before posting them to Instagram. However, don’t forget to activate raw shooting if you want to edit your photos.
I used Adobe Lightroom and RNI All Films 5 to get lawn greens in my spot aerial photography to make them look like what I want. The image above shows a shared view with my photo above and a JPG rendering outside of the camera below.
I definitely prefer the images of Air 2 to the previous one. The new image sensor and an excellent lens with a field of view of 24 mm (full format equivalent) and a fixed aperture of 1: 2.8 represent a significant improvement.
That said, it’s not the best camera you can get with a small drone for taking pictures. I still prefer the 1 inch larger sensor camera than the Mavic 2 Pro. It’s “only” 20 MP, but it’s not the most important thing.
The images of the Mavic 2 Pro are more realistic and show more depth. Longer focal length and Hasselblad color science are important, but physical aperture is also important: with the Mavic 2 Pro, you can stop and capture a precisely defined sun star – something you can’t get with the Air 2 lens.
Smooth, Stable Video
The Air 2 camcorder also records videos, but without a soundtrack. Supports 4K UHD resolution up to 60 fps. The quality is strong thanks to a transparent lens, stabilization of the gimbal and a compression rate of 120 Mbit / s. You can reduce the resolution to 2.7K if you wish, and there is also a 1080p option. When recording in 1080p, you can increase the frame rate faster, up to 240 fps for slow motion playback and higher speed.
As with the pictures, you don’t have many color options to choose from. You only have the choice between a standard or flat D-Cinelike look which must be corrected in color before sharing. You live in black and white and similar options are lacking, so you’ll have to do a little bit of work to get the movie where you want if you don’t like the basic look.
There is also an HDR option for videos that can be used up to 30 fps. I’m a fan: drone pilots often manage unevenly lit scenes, especially when they fly at a certain time of the day. The HDR built into the camera retains details in lights and shadows.
The aperture is fixed, so you must use ND filters to cut the incident light on a clear day if you want to keep the traditional angles. DJI includes a set in its Fly More package. You can also contact third parties. An ND variable is currently available or ordered. I tried similar moment filters for the interchangeable camera lenses and found that they were of the highest quality.
Accelerated movement (hyperlapse) is also supported. It is available in early 1080p, but DJI plans to add support for 8K output with a firmware update later this month.
The Right Drone for Most
With Mavic Air 2, DJI does almost everything right. The drone is as small as it should be and can easily be stored in a small bag so that you can take photos at the end of your favorite path. We have come a long way since you needed a Phantom 4 sized drone to get high quality results.
The picture and video features are top notch and can be used on a drone that costs less than $ 1,000. For best results, you should upgrade to a model with a 1-inch sensor or interchangeable lenses. The Mavic 2 Pro is still our best choice for professionals and serious hobbyists alike, but it’s twice as expensive as the Air 2 and not everyone has a professional budget.
There are people who may not be ready to buy a DJI drone for various reasons. In this case, Autel EVO and Parrot Anafi are good alternatives. EVO has an integrated display on the remote control so that the smartphone is not connected for the flight. Anafi offers USB battery charging processes that cannot be obtained with any Mavic drone.
But for most of us, Mavic Air 2 is absolutely the drone. It avoids the connectivity and wind resistance problems we have with the entry-level Mavic Mini, and has a much more powerful camera. We still want DJI to improve the imaging functionality of its Fly app, but that doesn’t stop Air 2 from winning our editor selection.
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With a compelling blend of imaging, stability and security features, DJI’s Mavic Air 2 is the best drone you can buy for under $ 1,000