DJI Air 2S Review
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
So having gone from drone hater to drone lover in a short space of time I now realise just what I was missing and have enjoyed using drones as much as doing normal landscape photography which lead to the inevitable upgrading of the DJI Mavic Air 2 to the DJI Air 2S, So was it worth it ?
Now I have to start of by saying that I loved my DJI Mavic Air 2, there was nothing to really dislike about it, 4K footage was great, it was easy to use so why would I upgrade it to the DJI Air 2S ?
In short what does it offer over the DJI Mavic Air 2 ? Short answer, not much unless of course it's exactly what you wanted out of the original, in which case it offers a serious bang for your buck.
The DJI Air 2S follows the same shape format as its predecessor with a very slight change on the front end but overall any accessories like batteries or extension legs from the Air 2 will fit as its the same shell, this however doesn't apply to any filters as the camera area has changed quite a bit.
Starting with that the biggest and most interesting change is the fact the DJI Air 2S now sports a Sony 1 inch CMOS sensor as opposed to the old Air 2 which was a humble 1/2 inch sensor, why is this important ?
Well the larger the sensor the more light it is able to gather and the better the dynamic range and quality of your output will be, so a very welcome step to be fair and it puts this drone on a level playing field with the top spec consumer drone, the DJI Mavic Pro 2, the one exception is there is no variable aperture, you are still stuck at F2.8 which still gives the Pro 2 the edge in terms of functionality with the ability to switch from F2.8 up to F11, This will no doubt be reserved for the Pro 3 which is rumoured to be released this year.
The 1 inch sensor though really does offer vastly increased performance and being from Sony it comes with a thoroughbred pedigree.
The next exciting spec is the fact you can now record in glorious 5.4K ! a significant increase from the 4k maximum on the Mavic Air 2 & Pro 2 models. This does however have a caveat, the 5.4K footage can only be captured up to a maximum FPS of 30, if you're looking for 60 FPS then you will have to settle for 4K footage which is still great but something to be aware of
the 120 FPS option will also take you down to 1080p rather than 4K which is a little disappointing but to be fair I never really found myself using the slow motion settings on a drone so I don't feel like I'm missing out to much.
There are also two log profiles in glorious 10 bit ! this is a dream for people who like to colour grade their footage as it gives you far more depth and control of the video footage and you can push it way further than the D-Cinelike profile from the Air 2.
For me this was the most significant update to the DJI Air 2S and this alone was enough to make me take an interest in it.
With the increased sensor size you now have increased resolution for the camera which goes up to 20 megapixel, again a big upgrade to the Air 2 with only 12 megapixels.
But wait I hear you scream, it was a 48 megapixel sensor on the Mavic Air 2 and you would be correct, but this was mainly down to some clever terminology and a quad bayer sensor which would take 4 x 12 megapixel photos and combine them into one at 48 megapixels, a neat trick but one that really and truly gave you results that not what you expected or hoped for, in fact most people stuck with the 12 megapixel shots as they seemed sharper and overall of better quality, so the marketing hype far exceeded the actual performance and while you had a 48 megapixel sensor in words, in actual reality you didn't !.
The new sensor on the DJI Air 2S gives an overall heavily improved image and a far better ISO performance but the reality is I still don't like to push much past 400 ISO to get truly useable footage, I mean you can but you will notice it especially while pushing footage in colour grading, it will become noisy and break up quickly much like the old Mavic Air 2 but it has improved over its predecessor so its defiantly a tick in the pro column.
DJI have also added a very useful feature with a digital zoom that can help with the new Drone laws that are coming in with 4x zoom at 4K with 30 FPS and 8x zoom when in 1080p and 30FPS. The footage again will show this and so I'm not a massive fan of using it to punch in, I would sooner film in 5.4K and then crop in in post production, but it is a cool feature and has its uses when you need a closer view but can't risk putting the drone closer in.
Again however there is a caveat, you can't use the zoom facility while recording in either of the 10 bit profiles, thus making it a little bit pointless for anyone who wants to colour grade and also not available in 120 fps modes.
The footage on the previous model was 120 bitrate whereas the Air 2S raises the bar to 150 instead, so another decent leap forward.
The next upgrade is with the sensors itself and the DJI Air 2S now has an extra set upfront which point upwards but when the drone is flying forward they point out directly in front of it which really does Improve the obstacle avoidance capabilities of the drone and I have to say I was really impressed with the way it handled a busy area of forest while tracking me perfectly and avoiding the trees.
The Air 2S still lacks the side sensors though and I had really hoped we would see these on this model, the usual sensors on the rear and underneath are still present and it does a really good job just be aware when flying sideways you may not be able put too much faith in the drone, more your own judgement.
In terms of transmission the DJI Air 2S now has 4 transmitters to give a better signal response and hopefully reduce any loss in connection or flyaways and again an improvement on the Air 2 which only had 2.
It also runs Ocusync 3, the very latest incarnation so connectivity is also improved and helps to reduce any latency.
The DJI Air 2S weighs in at 595 grams which is a 25 gram increase on the Air 2 but this is to be expected when you consider the 1 inch sensor and the added sensors on the front, in reality you won't even notice the extra weight.
The drone has however gained a little bit of speed over its predecessor but also I'm sure its slightly louder too, while I have no official noise level measurements for this to back it up its just something I felt I noticed.
All these extra features do come with a cost, flight time as quoted by DJI is now 31 minutes although in reality its between 20-25 minutes on a full charge flying in average conditions, a drop from the Air 2 quoted 34 minutes flight time, but a small price to pay for the increase in quality.
Storage and capacity remains the same as the older model with 8 gb internal storage which is very handy in case you forget your micro SD card, but this will be gobbled up fairly quickly in 5.4K modes, but you can run a micro SD card up to 256 gb to easily cope with constant filming at 5.4k on three batteries, intact a 128 gb card will easily cope with that too.
The controller remains almost the same on the DJI Air 2S as it was on the Air 2, The only difference being a refresh in the colour of the LED's which again is fine but a more compact version like the one on the Pro 2 would have been appreciated.
The power quoted is for 6 hours unless using it to charge a phone in which case this drops down to 4 hours but either way it will easily outlast the batteries on the drone even if you have a whole bunch of them.
The usual quick shot modes are still present on the Air 2S and can be filmed in up to 4k, sadly no 5.4K on these unless DJI chooses to do an update at some point but I can't see it, these will again be reserved for the Pro 3 I would suspect.
The biggest problem however with using quick shots is the default to 30 FPS and this can't be changed in anyway at the moment, so they are totally unusable for anyone who chooses to shoot in 24 FPS or 25 FPS for example as they won't match up in a timeline.
My only choice is to change to 30 FPS on all my blogging cameras and I'm just not prepared to do that, I have to say DJI this is really poor, even the Mavic Air 2 had the ability to change the FPS on the quick shots, again I hope this changes in a firmware update but really why release a drone that simply isn't ready ? Massive let down DJI.
It does however bring some new options to the table in the form of "Mastershot" which will essentially run through a series of pre programmed flight paths in one full video to give you the chance of getting some automated cinematic footage that you can either take parts of or use as a full roll of shots, simply highlight the subject you wish to film and the Air 2S does the rest for you, its pretty neat to be fair !
One of the problems with this was it was only available in 1080p to start with but fortunately after an update from DJI it can now be done in glorious 4K so it can actually be a really useful tool especially for new pilots that haven't got the experience to pull off these shots just yet, agin another benefit of the upgraded Air 2S.
The camera modes again remain much the same, whilst losing the 48 megapixel option it still gives you a really great image with the 20 megapixel camera but this can be slightly soft on the edges but still totally useable and printable.
Usual burst modes, auto exposure bracketing, panoramas and HDR modes are present and to be fair they are a large improvement over the Air 2 model.
Active track also sees an update into the 4.0 model which still works very well although I couldn't see much of a difference from the version on the Air 2 ? It was still very good and locked on to a moving target and kept with it even if I disappeared behind a tree it would anticipate where and when I would come out the other side so from that point of view its a success.
One point worth noting here is if you are using Active Track or any of the follow modes like point of interest or spotlight then you can only shoot in a maximum size of 4K, not the 5.4K that the drone comes with, This is a little frustrating and you can't help but feel DJI have held this back for the Pro 3 drone maybe ? but its very annoying if you're filming in 5.4K and then you want to use spotlight so you have to flip it over to 4K, and then when you're finished you have to remember to flip it back to 5.4K for normal recording, Why DJI, WHY ?!!!
The DJI Air 2S is priced at £899 which is an increase over the Air 2 but then the spec is much higher so to be fair I think its priced fairly well ?
There is of course the Fly More combo available which is priced at £1169 when purchased with the Air 2S.
Real World Performance
The 3 axis gimbal really does work well and the Air 2S is very stable in all but the highest winds and gives buttery smooth footage.
The 5.4K really does look better and gives you far more ability during post to get creative with zooming in not to mention the 10 bit log profiles which are so much better for colour grading.
The Air 2S is a great drone for novices right the way through to pros and offers enough features to attract both, right now I would say it is the best consumer level drone available for the price.
I do wish that DJI had C marked it though considering in 2023 it will now become a legacy drone rather than a certified model, but I guess this is all part of the plan to keep you buying, something that DJI have become masters of with their constant upgrades and new models.
I would have also liked to see the 5.4K available throughout the quick shots and follow modes too, this was a bit of a let down but 4K is still pretty good I guess.
You won't be able to pair this with FPV goggles for the time being either, while this doesn't bother me personally I know a few people will be put off by it.
The usual Fly more combos are available and to be fair most people won't purchase this without it but the price of them is creeping up slightly DJI, please be a little more reasonable with these as people are generally only buying them for the batteries and to be honest there are better chargers available on the aftermarket so it does really come down to just batteries and for £279 extra its actually cheaper to just buy two batteries really.
You do get ND filters which is great but DJI don't include the ND64 filter, and in order to get that you have to buy two other filters which you will probably never ever use at a further cost of £79 which is a bit steep, my preferred option is to buy two batteries, some aftermarket filters such as Freewells "All day kit" which gives you 8 great, useable filters and my own choice of bag.
This will come to around the same amount as the fly more combo but you will have better items that serve a purpose, and you won't need to buy extra filters so it actually works out cheaper.
Other aftermarket accessories I would highly recommend are the leg extensions from PGYTECH as quite often you will be on uneven ground or grass areas and they elevate your drone up just high enough to make sure it lands safely and your gimbal is not obstructed from doing its start up sweep.
Lyongtech do a battery charger that will charge your controller and up to four batteries at the same time rather than DJI's triple charger which does one after the other so takes three times as long.
It also has a few other advantages in that it can be used as a car charger too which makes it worth the price on its own for convenience alone but it will also charge your batteries to a 12v "Maintain" level to keep them in optimum condition while not in use, something that really will prolong your battery life.
Landing pads in my opinion are a bit of a cumbersome waste, the leg extensions give me more options when on rocky terrain and frankly an old tea towel will do almost as good a job and save you £20-30 !
ND filters are a must and although you get a set in the Fly more combo I would recommend a good quality set from the likes of Freewell or Polar Pro to give you the best quality glass and the most options.
Most sets will cover you with ND 4, ND 8, ND 16 & ND 32, but if you're flying on a bright day then you will need the ND 64, this is where DJI take advantage in my opinion as they make you buy a pack of 4 with to get the ND 64 with other filters you really won't use, not cool !
Farewells All Day 4K pack will keep you flying as it suggested, in all conditions plus it comes with polarisers as well, for me this is the better option.
So the big burning question, should you buy DJI Air 2S ?
Well it all depends on your situation at the moment, I'll try and run through a few scenarios that will give you a different answer to help make your decision easier.
If you don't already own a drone ?
Then 100% Yes, this is THE best drone on the market for the price, its feature packed and a joy to fly and novice or pro will be able to get fantastic footage, couple that with DJI's auto modes for video and photography and quick shots etc and its very easy to be making good looking footage right out of the box, there really is no downside ?
If you do already own a drone then it starts to get a little more complicated, it all depends on the spec of your drone and if the spec of the DJI Air 2S is worth the cash to swop, if the answer is yes then buy it, if no then stick with what you have which leads us nicely to the question most users are asking
Should you upgrade your Mavic Air 2 to the Air 2S ?
This is a much harder to answer question and will entirely depend on the individual and what you want to achieve with the footage.
The Mavic Air 2 is a superb drone, it really does offer a lot and takes stunning footage so if you're happy with it then in reality id say no don't swop because its hard to justify the cash layout for the performance you will gain over the Mavic Air 2 from the Air 2S.
If you don't shoot in manual mode or don't really need log profiles then again the Mavic Air 2S will more than adequately cover your needs and save you a few quid along the way.
If however you really want the following things, 1 inch sensor, ability to colour grade in 10 bit log profiles and footage that you can push much further plus glorious 5.4k footage, then this is your option.
Its a small upgrade list but the reality is if you're a creator then these things are pure gold, they are exactly what you have been waiting for and its well worth spending the cash on the upgrade and selling your Mavic Air 2 to fund it, the improvements are superb.
While its not cheap to upgrade I genuinely believe the new features make it worthwhile and I was quick to do it cause the benefits were exactly what I was looking for.
Got the cash ? Then don't think twice just buy it.
For a content creator this drone smashes it and spits out the competition, nothing else comes close for the price point in my opinion.
Do you wait for the Pro 3 ?
This again is a tough one, there is so much speculation on the net about what this drone will have, can you afford to wait for something that may or may not even come out this year ?
What will it offer that the Air 2S doesn't already, well probably a variable aperture, I should image 8K recording, plus a few more pro features, but these will no doubt have a matching price tag on them that I suspect will be around the £2k mark so for me it just wasn't viable. Add this to the larger size and extra weight and the decision was clear.
While 8K will future proof you for a long while I have to ask would I really need it ? most content is consumed on mobile phones so it's wasted to a degree so the Air 2S seemed more than adequate for my requirements.
The Air 2S did what I needed and wanted and was available now for half the rumoured price of the pro 3, it was a no brainer.
The DJI Air 2S is THE drone of the moment, it is the top of the game for this price point and the features are superb, Do I regret upgrading ? not one bit, The Air 2S is superb and my new favourite go to drone.
What would I have liked to have seen on this model that was missing ? Variable aperture was top of my list but I understand why its reserved for the Pro models, can I live without it ? Sure.
The fact you are stuck with only 30 FPS filming in quick shot modes is utterly unforgivable but I'm hoping a firmware update in the near future will cure this.
I would have liked to have seen some extra battery life but the increased performance and features are going to take their toll so again I guess its understandable.
All of these taken into account it still gives me a grin factor of 10 !
Want to see sample footage from the Air 2S, Then check out my YouTube Channel by clicking HERE
TOTAL 44/50 88%
Just for the record this drone was purchased with my own hard earned cash and this review is without bias, just my thoughts on the DJI Air 2S.