DJI Mavic Air 2
$799 ($998 with ‘Fly More’ kit) | dji.com
DJI just released the Mavic Air 2, the successor to the original Mavic Air that arrived in 2018. Notably, it’s the first Mavic drone to offer 48MP stills, 8K HyperLapse and 4K/60p video at 120 Mbps. It’s also the first consumer drone equipped with AirSense, DJI’s alert system that receives automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) signals from nearby manned aircraft and displays their location on the remote control’s screen
Whereas the original Mavic Air comes in a variety of colors and resembles the DJI Spark, the Mavic Air 2 falls between the Mavic Mini and Mavic 2 Pro with regards to appearance, size, performance, and weight. DJI told us it did a lot of testing to determine the best balance between size, portability, and features, and determined that 570g (1.25 lbs.)—the weight of the Mavic Air 2—overwhelmingly felt right.
Arriving at an ideal weight and size apparently wasn’t the only priority for DJI when crafting the Mavic Air 2. Adding features found in more sophisticated drones, including the Inspire 2, to a model 337 grams lighter than the Mavic 2 series, DJI also aimed to make this its smartest drone to date. Did they pull it off? Let’s take a look and find out if the Mavic Air 2 is the right drone for you.
- 570g (1.25 lbs.) total weight
- 1/2″ 48MP CMOS image sensor
- 24mm equivalent lens (84º FOV), fixed F2.8 aperture
- 12MP and 48MP photos
- 4K/60p and HD/240p video at 120Mbps
- H.264 and H.265 codecs
- HDR video and panorama
- 8K HyperLapse
- Spotlight 2.0 subject tracking
- Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0
- 34-minute max flight time
- 68 kph (42 mph) max speed
The compact, feature-packed Mavic Air 2
When folded down, the Mavic Air 2 is 180x97x84 mm and fits in the palm of your hand. This is slightly larger than the original Mavic Air, but it’s still quite a bit smaller than the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom models in the line above it.
|The Mavic Air 2 is larger than the minuscule Mavic Air, but it still fits in the palm of your hand (mostly).|
A more dramatic change is found in the design of the controller; it’s larger and boxier than other remotes in the Mavic series, and is designed to mount a smartphone on top rather than on the bottom, like past Mavic models. The phone is secured with a clamp similar to DJI Phantom series remotes, though it doesn’t extend far enough to hold a tablet. The clamp on the controller is quite difficult to adjust and securing the smartphone is a struggle at times.
Remote pilots can easily toggle between Tripod, Normal, and Sport flight modes as the mode switch is featured front-and-center on the controller. Similar to other Mavic remotes, Return to Home and Power buttons are on the front. The upper-right button allows you to alternate between still photos and video.
|The Mavic Air 2’s controller is larger than others in the Mavic series and mounts the smartphone to the top, rather than the bottom, for better visibility. It also works with a case on your phone, unlike previous Mavic controllers.|
The upper-left button features a ‘Fn’ button that activates the auxiliary light and additional sensors that assist with several functions, including smoother landing in low-light conditions. There’s also a controller wheel on the top left that tilts the camera up and down. Two joysticks are stored at the bottom and can be screwed on for flying or removed for storage.
When first unboxing the Mavic Air 2, you’ll notice stickers labeled ‘A’ and ‘B’ on the top and bottom arms of the foldable drone. The legs unfold in the same manner as the Mavic 2 and Mini, and the labels are affixed with a beginner pilot in mind. Two bags labeled ‘A’ and ‘B’ contain 3 propellers, 1 extra for each type if a replacement is necessary.
The Mavic Air 2’s controller is designed to mount a smartphone on top rather than the bottom.
Attachment points for the props are color-coded, with a silver ring where the ‘A’ props attach and plain black for the ‘B’ props. It’s a subtle touch to help ensure that all components are properly affixed, and if a propeller is incorrectly placed the drone will not take off. This might confuse consumers new to flying a drone, but it’s a good safety feature. The props have an aerodynamic design that allows for quieter flight, and the Mavic Air 2 is quieter than the Mavic Mini – which is less than half its weight.
|The camera sits snugly on a 3-axis gimbal. The sensors at top are part of the obstacle avoidance system.|
Photos and video
The camera, which uses a 1/2″ CMOS Quad Bayer sensor, is mounted on a 3-axis stabilized gimbal. It can capture Raw images, JPEG images (at either 12MP or 48MP resolution), as well as Raw + JPEG. In addition to standard movements, the gimbal can tilt upward up to 24º.
The Air 2’s camera boasts a 24mm (equiv.) fixed-aperture F2.8 lens with an 84º FOV. DJI’s Fly More combo includes 3 neutral density filters that appear to twist and snap on and off like those for the Mavic 2 Pro. (Our review unit didn’t include filters so we were unable to test them).
DJI has also added SmartPhoto modes, similar to computational photography techniques used by many smartphones, to improve photo quality. These include:
- HDR photos: the camera automatically captures 7 different exposures and combines them for greater dynamic image.
- Hyperlight: images taken in low-light conditions, especially on DJI drones, tend to be grainy and contain noise. Hyperlight takes multiple photos and merges them for a clearer image.
- Scene recognition: this mode allows the drone to recognize 5 major components of a photo – sunsets, blue skies, grass, snow, and trees. It will analyze these objects and maximize tone, clarity, and colors.
SmartPhotos are captured at a resolution of 12MP
One thing I noticed is that 48MP images are a bit darker relative to Single or SmartPhotos. The latter feature worked quite well when capturing a sunset, and the HDR photos I was able to capture are quite good for a 1/2″ sensor and could be passed off in professional situations.
In Single and 48MP mode, the sky and sun were blown out while the foreground was practically pitch black. SmartPhoto recognized these components. Both photos are unedited.
I was surprised at how well Hyperlight and Scene Recognition worked, as evidenced in the photo above. Panoramas could be improved, as stitching doesn’t always match up, though the app I’m using is still technically in beta and some of these bugs will likely be ironed out with subsequent firmware updates.
The Air 2 is the first drone in the Mavic series that can capture 4K/60p video at 120 Mbps using the H.265 codec. This is impressive for a drone that retails under $1,000. Additionally, there’s 4K/30p HDR video, and HD/120p and HD/240p will deliver some serious slow-motion footage — up to 10x on a 24p timeline.
The Mavic Air 2 shoots impressive 4K/60p video, thanks to its support for the H.265 coded at bit rates up to 120 Mbps.
I was quite impressed with the quality of the 4K/60p and even 4K/30p video. However, objects in my slow-motion clips were a bit more blurry than I expected, even at a 240p frame rate. Does the 120 Mbps bit rate make a difference here? Yes, for this particular camera. The quality of video footage I was able to gather in various lighting scenarios is exceptional.
DJI’s normal color profile has been optimized for the ideal amount of saturation and detail, but its D-Cinelike profile is also included for more advanced shooters. 8K HyperLapse video will be available when the Air 2 ships in mid-May, 2020.
These video clips, captured at HD/120p and HD/240p are slowed down 4x and 8x on a 30 fps timeline. At 8x slow motion, movement of the tennis players in the second clip is barely noticeable.
Odds and ends
The Mavic Air 2 comes equipped with obstacle avoidance sensors on the front, rear and bottom of the aircraft. There aren’t any sensors on top. An auxiliary light with additional sensors, which can be activated from the controller, is located on the bottom to assist with landing in challenging conditions such as low-light environments.
DJI claims a maximum 34 minutes of flight time for the Mavic Air 2, a significant increase from the 21-minute life expectancy of the original Air model, though this figure is derived from flying in ideal conditions; DJI states that 33 minutes is more likely when performing a typical flight. I flew in moderate winds and found the figure to be closer to 30 – 31 minutes, on par with the Mavic 2 series.
|The bottom of the drone includes obstacle avoidance sensors and an auxiliary light.|
A microSD card slot, which supports up to 256GB, is located below the battery portal. 8GB of internal storage is provided as backup should the memory card become full (or if you forget to bring a card along). Photos or video captured internally can be accessed through the micro USB portal on the opposite side of the card slot. Two cables that connect to a laptop are included with the Mavic Air 2.
This model is also equipped with DJI’s Geo system, which prevents drones from entering prohibited areas including airports. For those unfamiliar with drone laws, this feature will come in handy. Geo zones, as well as ADS-B, can be deactivated in the Fly app.