Last Updated on February 15, 2022 by Devaun Lennox
Released in the spring of 2020, DJI’s Mavic Air 2 is their latest midrange consumer drone to capitalize on their folding design. And it comes to market offering substantial changes over the original Air, released two years prior. DJI’s Air lineup is slotted just above the Mavic Mini and the higher-end II Pro series. And it’s acclaimed for being feature-rich but budget-friendly and ideal for traveling creators. On paper, it brings 4K 60p video, a new flight controller, longer battery, 8K Hyperlapse, Ocusync 2 connectivity, and much more.
And, in many ways, it mixes the capabilities from their flagship Phantom 4 series and the Mavic Pro lines into a more compact package, representing the extreme portability of the Mavic Mini with the power of the II Pro. DJI aims this drone to compete primarily with Parrot’s Anafi. In today’s post, we address its strengths and weaknesses. And we’ll assess how it stands in their current lineup and whether it’s a worthwhile consideration.
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What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the DJI Mavic Air 2?
Build Quality & Design
It obtains a similar collapsible wing form and design philosophy as other recent Mavic drones. And it’s clear they’ve taken inspiration for this new release from the II Pro series. However, it’s quite a departure from its predecessor, which had a more stealthy and bold look. And it could be a slight contention point for some users who preferred the more “attractive” design of the original model.
”DJI continues ruling the midrange consumer segment.”
But, the highlight difference is that this drone is now substantially larger and heavier than before, moving to 570g from 430g, an 32% increase. In hand, this increase in weight is easily noticeable. And it’s grown in both footprint and form factor, now closely matching the II Pro series drones. So this new design does compromise on the travel-friendly compact form factor to a certain extent. However, it does come with some welcomed improvements. Namely, the larger frame improves its stability and overall flight dynamics. And it’s noticeably more stable than before. Additionally, DJI’s also opted for low-noise wind resistance propellers, reducing noise.
And it makes the drone far more discrete and with less unwanted attention. DJI’s also redesigned the battery and its housing. And the battery now uses a clipping design, and the app even displays an alert when it’s improperly connected. It’s a slight change that makes it easier to assess whether the battery is appropriately installed. Lastly, they’ve also added an LED light at the bottom, similar to the Pro series, which helps with visibility during flight.
Outside of that, it has a dedicated MicroSD card slot, which supports cards up to 256 GBs. And the drone also has 8 GBs of internal storage, which is a godsend if you forget the SD card. DJI also includes extra propellers and control sticks with purchase.
Overall, the build quality is excellent and on par with DJI’s other current releases. It’s well made and robust. And they offer a full suite of replacement parts, so you can get extra parts if needed.
It features a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor and a fixed 24mm equivalent f/2.8 lens with an 84º POV mounted to a 3-axis gimbal. And this camera shoots 4K UHD up to 60p, a first in the Mavic line, or 2.7K 60p, and 1080p up to 240p. And the camera records videos with a maximum data rate of 120 Mbps to the MP4 or MOV formats with either H.264 or H.265 HEVC compression.
The addition of 4K 60p is a substantial change, as the Phantom 4 Pro was the only other consumer drone offering this frame rate. The updated data rate is also a notable improvement, outperforming even the II pro, which only provides 4K 30p at 100 Mbps. And overall, the video quality this camera produces is excellent. The footage is sharp for a 1/2-chip, with a reasonable dynamic range. The camera also does a great job in auto mode and compensates accordingly in tricky lighting conditions. Plus, with 60p, you can now perform faster movements and pans with ease, making it a solid option for general purpose work.
For stills, this camera shoots 48MP images, in addition to standard 12MP. And it shoots both JPEG and RAW photos in the DNG format. It also offers 360º photo capture, panoramas, and up to 8K Hyperlapse videos. DJI’s also increased the camera native ISO range by one stop, now capped at ISO 6,400. And overall, the quality of the stills this camera produces is excellent. Shooting images in the 48MP modes offers noticeably improved fine details. And it’s a substantial improvement over the predecessor 12MP maximum when you need utmost detail from the sensor. The low light performance in the 12MP mode for stills and videos is marginally improved too, which is great. And these are the result of the slightly larger 1/2-inch CMOS sensor from Sony. But, more importantly, the new Quad-Bayer array, which alters how the sensor captures light and color by combining several pixels together. And this configuration provides higher resolution and better low light performance.
DJI has equipped the drone with manual controls over the footage, including ISO, shutter speed, WB, and picture profile settings. And you can record in the D-Cinelike profile to capture flat footage that lends better during grading. Alternatively, you can record in H.265 (HEVC), which captures a less compressed image, with more information and a better dynamic range. However, it’s rather tough to edit. So you’ll want to convert to H.264 before processing.
The drone also offers both HDR stills and videos. And you can record up to 4K 30p to capture more dynamic range and color in-camera.
It also features SmartPhoto, which mereges scene recognition, HDR, and HyperLight into a single mode. And essentially, this allows the camera to automatically optimize settings based on the scene it recognizes, such as sunsets, skies, snow, grass, or trees. It’s an excellent option for beginners to avoid manually configuring camera settings for proper exposure and white balance.
The latest firmware update receives 4K Zoom, letting you apply a 2x digital zoom in 4K 30p and 2.7K, or 4x in 1080p 60p.
Like other high-end DJI drones, you can pitch the gimbal upwards, from -90 to 24º. And this extended range provides an interesting perspective of the horizon line when flying low.
Battery life is excellent. It features a new 3500 mAh battery, instead of the older 2375 mAh. And DJI now rates the drone at 34 minutes of flight under ideal conditions, representing a 61% improvement over the predecessor. This nearly doubles its performance in the real-world, and you can expect upwards of 30 minutes of flight in the standard mode.
With this new release, DJI’s opted to re-design the included remote controller. And the new controller offers substantial upgrades but also has some associated cons.
The most notable improvement is the flight controller now debuts built-in Ocusync 2.0, which is DJI’s proprietary transmission technology taken from the Phantom and II Pro series. With this addition, it now provides low latency (120 ms) 1080p 30p video transmission with a working distance of 6.2 mi (10 Km). Comparatively, the original model used Wi-Fi only with a transmission range of 4 Km in 720p resolution with a massive latency of 170-200+ ms. But, like the original model, it still supports both the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz dual-frequency communication. And the controller automatically switches to the best bandwidth to reduce interference in real-time. And this improves the overall handling and responsiveness in congested network areas. Together, the remote controller rarely, if ever, loses communication to the drone. You may run into the odd situation where it does, but not remotely to the same extent as before. Overall these are tremendous improvements over the predecessor. And this previous Achilles heel of this series is now mostly resolved.
But it doesn’t stop there. DJI’s overhauled the flight controllers design this go-round, which is slightly larger than the predecessor, mostly in height. But otherwise, it’s about the same width and general thickness. The increase in size has noticeably improved the controllers handling and ergonomics, however. And the controller is now remarkably comfortable in hand. But, crucially, the updated size has also allowed for a re-designed phone mount on the top with integrated antennas, which is brilliant. And this change offers a far more secure and robust connection than before. Lastly, it now boasts a remarkable battery life of 240 minutes, doubling its predecessor, and offers USB-C charging, rather than Micro USB, nice. Overall, this controller is superior to the older design. And it takes several cues from their higher-end Smart Controller.
But, outside of this, the controller still provides dedicated camera modes, a customizable FN button, shutter release, and gimbal control. But, it now has a dedicated mode selector, so you can easily switch from Tripod, Normal, or Sport Modes. And the control sticks are removable with a section in the bottom for storage.
With the updated Ocusync 2.0, overall flight performance and reliability are greatly improved compared to the original model, which used Wi-Fi alone. And now, you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi alone when flying in urban areas and suffer from miscommunications or disruptions in the video feed due to noise. And this is great news so you can avoid any dangerous situations caused by a loss of communication.
Instead, the drone can fly almost entirely unobstructed, and the 1080p live stream remains consistent throughout. So gone are the stutters and general connectivity issues that plagued this line. DJI’s also enhanced Ocusync this go-round, which performs marginally better than the II Pro, particularly as you approach the drones 10 Km maximum range. And the system is quite robust as far as wireless transmission is concerned.
From a flying standpoint, taking off and landing is relatively easy. Just press the Return Home Key, and it’s back. You’ll fly this drone using the DJI Fly App, not the Go4 app of its predecessor. And, interestingly, this is another contention point amongst some users. But, in general, the DJI Fly App is superior in user-friendliness, with a simple, streamlined design. And it’s far easier to navigate and master without being overly design-heavy or forcing you to hunt through menus to access flight settings. However, it simply doesn’t offer the same level of manual control and advanced functionality, which we’ll cover in the con’s section below. Nevertheless, the app remains well designed and intuitive to operate.
The drone uses GPS+GLONASS with a single compass and IMU. Even so, it’s accurate and stable with a ±1.5 m hovering accuracy, which is quite good. And the hovering accuracy now closely matches the II Pro. It’s also quite fast, topping out with a top speed of 42.5 MPH (68 km/h) in the Sports Mode. And like most DJI products, it’s supremely responsive to the flight control inputs and easy to fly, even in high winds exceeding 30 MPH. So overall, new users and seasoned flyers should have little difficulty in operating this product.
Additionally, with the new low-resistance propellers, the drone’s now noticeably quieter than the original model, which is essential if you want more discretion when flying. And the typical drone whine is much lower.
It obtains APAS 3.0, which is DJI’s proprietary piloting assistance system for automatic flight planning. This uses advanced mapping technology to scan the surrounding areas for better subject detection and obstacle avoidance in complex scenes. And it helps greatly when using intelligent flight modes and subject tracking.
It obtains obstacle avoidance sensors on the front, rear, and bottom panels. And these sensors work in conjunction with APAS to avoid collisions and help land safely.
The drone also obtains DJs full suite of QuickShot autonomous flying modes. And with a few taps in the app, the drone can perform various maneuvers within a complicated route. And all of these intelligent flight modes are easily accessible and intuitive to control. The list includes Rocket, Dronie, Helix, Circle, Boomerang, and Asteroid. However, it also features the new intelligent flight mode called Focus track, which combines Active Track 3.0, Point of interest 3.0, and Spotlight 2.0 into an easy to use package. And you can now follow moving targets as a point of interest, such as a car or boat. And combined, it helps create cinematic footage that’s akin to using a second operator to control the gimbal with an unprecedented level of freedom.
It features Automatic Return Home and precision landing.
With the latest firmware update, they’ve added the Safety Flight Mode, which avoids obstacles automatically without responding to commands.
It obtains DJI’s ActiveTrack 3.0, which follows subjects while avoiding obstacles in the flight path. And they’ve updated the algorithms and machine learning protocols for better pathfinding and prediction. Essentially, this allows the drone to re-engage with subjects even if objects temporarily block them. It’s a slight improvement over the version 2.0 system, where it maintains targets more consistently. And, in general, tracking works well, but it’s not entirely flawless quite yet.
Build & Design
Since DJI’s altered the propellers’ design, it’s actually now possible to install them incorrectly, which wasn’t the case with the previous system. And if you’re not careful, you can easily put the propellers onto the wrong motors. So take some extra precautions here. Otherwise, the drone will flip over when taking off.
With the new design, the drone doesn’t provide as much ground clearance in the rear, so it’ll require a third-party riser on uneven terrain or caution during take off.
The new controller is indeed more cumbersome and bulky than the compact design featured on the previous generation. But, it’s a relatively minimal trade-off considering the added features.
However easily the most significant drawback in this regard is the increased size of the drone. One of the primary selling points of this particular lineup was the size, which was quite compact considering the feature set. But, the same can’t be said about this new design, which is notably larger than before. Instead, it’s now much closer in size to the Mavic II series, which will surely frustrate users wanting a more portable option.
It lacks D-log, HLG, and 10-bit recording. For these features, you’ll have to opt for a Pro series drone.
As mentioned previously, the HEVC H.265 compression is tough on computers in post-processing. And shooting in this format requires a fairly high-end well-configured editing computer. So if you plan on shooting 4K 60p, know the footage will be tough to edit in post. Otherwise, you’re out of luck, which will be the vast majority of us. So, maybe consider skipping the Air 2 and getting the original model instead.
Shooting videos in 1080p 240p takes a huge quality hit, where the footage is quite soft with aliasing. Shooting in 120p is the better option if you want super-slow motion. Otherwise, stick with 4K or 2.7K.
Shooting in the 48MP mode introduces more noise into the images than the standard 12MP mode. So there’s a cost with the increased resolution. But, sadly, the standard mode thoroughly lacks detail and also suffers from artifacts. So there are some interesting trade-offs here.
The camera lacks bracketing when shooting in the 48MP stills mode. AEB is only available for 12MP stills. So, if you want to bracket exposures, you’ll have to do so manually, making it quite challenging since the drone can drift in-between frames.
The camera’s lens has a fixed aperture of f/2.8, which you cannot change whatsoever. Instead, you’ll have to rely on an ND filter when shooting in bright conditions. If you want more fine gradual control, you’ll have to get the Pro series.
The camera lacks any continuous shooting modes.
With only a ½-inch sensor, shooting at night isn’t a good idea. Most of the footage will either be too dark or grainy for professional use. So avoid these situations unless you’re in an environment with ample light.
But most frustratingly, the app doesn’t offer any additional image options, such as contrast or sharpness adjustments. Instead, you’re stuck recording in either the normal or D-Cinelike profiles. And sadly, this doesn’t provide users much flexibility to reduce the internal sharpening, which gives its footage a slightly unnatural look. Sure, this oversharpening look is a classic flair amongst most DJI products. But, it’s ultimately a negative and a strange contention point since the predecessor has these options via the Go4 app.
The battery information and other on screen display parameters are difficult to read when filming outdoors under harsh conditions using the app. These particular icons are rather small.
While ActiveTrack is noticeably improved, it’s still rather jerky and isn’t the smoothest.
It doesn’t have side or top facing avoidance sensors. So be cautious when flying sideways to avoid collisions.
You cannot adjust any of QuickShot speeds, making it quite difficult to use them if you want to have variable flight speed during the maneuver.
You cannot disable the downward-facing sensors via the app, which becomes an issue if the obstacle avoidance system mistakenly triggers. This is problematic when you’re landing in fog or in tricky situations. Sadly, this feature is only available on the Pro series drones.
While DJ has updated the drone in terms of technology and capabilities, they did downgrade the flying experience via the app. While more intuitive, this app doesn’t provide the same level of high-end professional features found on the Go4 app, somewhat alienating experienced drone pilots. You cannot currently adjust the gimbal speed or control sticks dampening to suit your preferences. And this is strange, as the gimbal pitch settings, in particular, is a feature offered on much lower-end drones. So it’s quite strange to see DJI overlook this feature at launch. As a result, the flying experience is too limited for professional drone pilots.
Additionally, shooting in the auto mode doesn’t allow any slight adjustments, nor can you see the current settings are in real-time. This wasn’t the case with the Go4 app, which displays the settings and allows minute adjustments. And strangely, the app also lacks WB presets, such as cloudy, sunny, and so on. Instead, it’s solely Auto WB or Kelvin settings.
The drone lacks redundant IMU and GPS systems onboard. Thus, it has no fail-safes, which could be dangerous, causing a potential crash. If this is a deal-breaker for you, consider opting for the Pro series instead.
The European version of this drone lacks Air Sense, a warning system for incoming aircraft through the app’s interface. It’s a useful feature that would help increase safety. But, only North American releases offer this feature due to hardware supply shortages.
Is this a good beginner drone?
With the updated Ocusync and obstacle avoidance systems, this drone is supremely easy to fly, reliable, and safe. And given its price point, it’s not unreachable. Sure, it’s slightly limiting for advanced pilots. But the updated flight app makes things much easier for newcomers. It’s admirable to see DJI continue pushing in innovation, given its predecessor was already unmatched by rivals. And they’ve greatly improved on this lineup.
Is this a good drone for you?
Current DJI Mavic owners should consider upgrading, particularly if you own the Mavic Mini or the original model. With the updated Ocusync 2.0, superior battery life, 4K 60 FPS video, and excellent controller, it’s a worthy update.
At this price point, this drone delivers unmatched detail and image quality amongst other small sensor drones. And the HDR capabilities and 4K 60p video make it quite a powerhouse that matches the II Pro series. As it stands, it’s an excellent alternative for aerial cinematographers who want a more affordable option, not needing advanced video functionality.
In the end, while not perfect, DJI has excelled with this release. At its current retail price, it’s unlikely that the Mavic Air 2 won’t be a popular release. With its broad feature set and comfortable flying experience, it’s doubtful it wouldn’t appeal to both hobbyist and enthusiast pilots. And it’s a powerful drone in the consumer segment that will surely impress many. It’s quite impressive to see DJI deliver a product of this caliber at such a competitive price. It could easily be 30% more and be justifiable. But, no. They’ve chosen to remain approachable, which is wise on their part. And it shines as another example of them pushing the bounds in innovation, despite the potential fall out within their lineup. Even so, this is a worthy companion drone for II Pro or Phantom owners. Yet, one that obtains much of their high-end capabilities. And despite the smaller sensor, it’s the better value proposition in some ways. Simply put, the Air 2 is arguably the best drone released at this price point, given its features, design, and quality. And sure, it’s not perfect. But, if you want to step up your production quality or want a powerful traveling companion, this is your best bet.
The Mavic Air 2 provides enormous updates to an already class-leading product with HDR, 8K Hyperlapse, 4K 60p, and much more. And it’s quite a powerhouse release from DJI. And it stands as arguably the best mid-range consumer drone available right now.