The initial DJI Mavic Air 2 reviews might go down as perhaps the most “theoretical reviews of all time.” The lockdown happened and that resulted in a lot of reviews based on specs. Except, specs never tell the full story, do they? We’ve tested this drone in Sweden during the lockdown, and it’s great, but it’s not as great as pictured by some.
The Controller & Signal & Flying
Regardless of the specs of a drone, a drone is only as great as the flying capabilities it comes with.
And this is where the Air 2 makes a massive leap compared to previous models.
The battery rated for 34 minutes? It does actually perform incredibly well, allowing for a flying experience that will allow you to capture everything you desire.
And DJI has done some incredible upgrades with the new controller.
- Range of up to 10 KM. – Most people won’t fly that far, but what we love about the new controller is how little disruption there is when flying. We didn’t lose signal once when testing.
- Big phones can now fit with ease, and the controller itself now has a spot for your phone on the top meaning that it’s much more ergonomic to fly now.
- The antennas are hidden in the handles.
- The dials can be taken out for smooth travel.
If you can’t control the drone how you like it, you won’t be able to get great shots. As simple as that.
This controller allows you to control your drone, in ways that make it super simple to capture great shots and drone itself, it’s incredibly comfortable to fly, even if you never flew a drone before.
This quick video showcases how simple it is to fly the drone, capturing calls, without any software help.
That has a lot to do with the flying ability of the drone, how good the gimbal is, and great sensitivity of the controller that is neither too strong nor too weak.
48 MP, but…
One of the features that stood out to us about this drone is the fact this drone comes with a 48 MP camera.
As our photographer took this picture before:
A magazine wanted to use it, and well, things were going well…until they checked the specs of the highest quality picture we had, and realized it’s not high quality enough for high-quality printing.
That picture was taken in 12 MP.
With the Air 2 having 48 MP, that right away grabbed our attention.
…And then we seen almost every reviewer talk about how great this feature is, without ever testing it because they couldn’t really test it.
We’ll just say it.
48 MP is not as great as it sounds….
And it’s for the same reason the likes of 48 MP never worked on smartphones.
The sensor is just too small.
Let’s explain briefly.
The smaller the sensor, the less light coming in. The more pixels, the less light per pixel.
The Mavic Air 2 has a sensor half the size of the Mavic 2 Pro. Mavic 2 Pro? It’s only a fraction of the size of a full-frame camera.
That’s why unless you have the perfect lighting, a 48MP camera on the DJI Mavic Air 2 just doesn’t work.
And we have some examples of the exact same pictures, with one taken on the 12 MP and 48 MP, and well, see how noisy the 48 MP is.
Here’s a question for DJI. Why not just 21/23/24 MP?
That’s the industry standard as far as cameras go, high enough resolution to use in prints, and would allow you to have far much more light than on the 48 MP photos.
In great lighting conditions, the 48MP camera does deliver some incredibly crispy photos that show the worth of having a 48MP.
…but getting to those conditions isn’t always easy.
At the end of the day, though, we could complain that the camera isn’t as great in low light as our sony cameras, but we have to remember most cameras cost over €1000, and this, it was less than that, for a great drone with a camera, so while we should have expectations, it’s also important to be realistic.
The Mavic Air 2 is advertised as a camera that can shoot at a bit rate of 120. 20 higher than the Sony a7 III.
Since platforms like Netflix like the highest bit rate possible for productions, seeing companies push for a higher bit rate was something we were happy with on paper.
…But more data doesn’t always mean a better image.
Sensor size matters and the Air 2 Pro will deliver significantly more pro looking footage, even though, hypothetically, it shoots at a slightly lower bit rate.
If you have a full-HD monitor right now, just ignore everything mentioned in this section though, as, on a full-HD screen, the Air 2 video will look absolutely incredible.
When you hit the 4K screen though, that’s where the flaws start to show.
But that’s fine.
Once again, remember the price of this drone.
However, that apart, due to the fact it’s so easy to fly the drone, how steady it is, even with higher winds, and the great signal, you can achieve some incredible looking footage, that nobody will question.
Something I really love is the no need to switch between PAL mode depending on your region, in order to eliminate the light flicker (There’s different frequencies around the world.) On most cameras, you need to format your card and restart your camera if you want to switch.
Active Track 3.0
This, I will admit, it makes life much easier.
Once you get into the spectrum of the higher-end drones, you need two people to control them. One to fly and one to move the camera.
Doing all of that by yourself, while possible, isn’t an easy task.
Active Track aids as far as camera movement, and it works very well.
You can get some incredible footage with it.
Simply select the subject you want to track, and that’s pretty much it. Incredibly easy to implement.
The issue? It doesn’t work at frame rates like 60, and that is quite limiting because most of the time, you will actually want to use it when filming at 60 frames, such as when filming sports.
This is once again something that depends entirely on what screen you have.
If you are watching the slow-mo on a full-HD display, it’s going to look pretty great. 4K? A bit more average.
That has to do with how many frames per second need to be captured vs the sensor size, but also with the fact that the bit rate is cut drastically when recording slow-mo.
240 fps video? Great. But it’s once again a feature on paper because while it’s there, it’s not great.
At least not when displaying on a 4K screen.
With that said, it’s great to see the option to shoot at 60 frames per second in 4k, something that isn’t an option with the A7 III.
At the end of the day, drones are only as safe as smart the pilot is.
Some people shouldn’t fly drones and give drones a bad reputation.
But one thing that DJI is known for is the safety of their drones.
The Air 2? It doesn’t have all the safety sensors that the Mavic 2 Pro has as it’s, for instance, missing the side sensors, but even with that, the drone is able to detect and deal with obstacles incredibly well.
Safety doesn’t all go down to sensors though.
Aspects like battery life, signal, and stability all also play a role.
And those things, like we already mentioned, the Air 2 does incredible.
The signal is incredible allowing you to control the drone without issues, even when far away, and the long battery life allows for a safe return home.
Of course, super useful features such as the ability to return home are present, and we’ll be honest, that has saved us once already when we just couldn’t find ourselves in a forest.
The US version of the Air 2 drones rock even more safety, with a feature that notifies you of all aircraft around you.
That’s not available on the non-US drones, and well, we wish it was, as it would improve the safety of drones all around the world.
The Fly More Combo Kit
Batteries? They are expensive, yet they are the most important piece of a camera or a drone. You are only able to do amazing work as long as you have a battery.
Kits? They allow you to get the batteries + a way to charge them, at a great price.
…But for the first time ever, DJI also now includes filters in their kits, which is perhaps a move set to target companies that make filters.
The filters DJI included? They do the job, except, we aren’t sure about the choices made by DJI here.
ND 16/ 64/ 256.
What we are missing is the 32. The 16 often isn’t enough when shooting video in sunny conditions, but 64 is just way too much, resulting in a too noisy video if the ISO is lifted up.
But frankly, filters and drones? That’s super annoying. Depending on whether you want to shoot a video or a photo, you will need to adjust, and that’s quite annoying. Can someone make a variable filter that’s built-in in a drone?
Is the Mavic Air 2 worth it? To Sum up this DJI Mavic AIR 2 Review
The Mavic Air 2? It brings a new chapter to DJI controllers. It makes a ton of features that people love about DJI such as active track, even better. And also brings quite a few new features not present on even higher-end drones.
…But it also disappoints from the perspective that DJI tried to sell features on paper. Features that are cool, but that quite a few of, are not worth using when trying to produce high-end content.
48MP is great, but 24MP would have been the best.
In fact, a slightly bigger sensor in exchange for less MP would have been even greater.
And 8K hyper lapses, while consisting of a lot of pixels, aren’t of the quality you would get on a higher-end camera.
To Sum up this DJI Mavic AIR 2 Review, the Air 2 is worth it because it is an incredible drone at an incredible price, but some of the features are more of a gimmick than a practical feature, and that’s what upsets us about this, otherwise, incredible drone.