It was not a closely guarded secret with the number of leaks, but we finally have a new camera drone from DJI. Say hello to the Mavic Air 2. It’s a big leap over its older brother, but is it worth upgrading?
First, DJI always impresses with their advertising campaigns. Pretty sure the company kidnapped someone from Apple because all of the ads have that ‘Apple’ feel.
Yeah, check out all this cool stuff you can’t do during a global pandemic. Ok, I wouldn’t be grinding rails on a snowboard even if there wasn’t a pandemic. Yeah. It looks cool, but damn if I don’t feel lazy now.
What’s New on the DJI Mavic Air 2
Pretty much everything. The original Mavic Air was decidedly more related to the DJI Spark than the other Mavics. That changed with DJI dropping the Spark in favor of the Mavic Mini, and now the Mavic Air 2 completes the complete design overhaul to match the flagship Mavic 2 Pro.
Sure, there’s something to be said for uniformity, but I wonder if DJI has gone a bit too far in the direction of everything looks the same. It should make any supply chain bottlenecks easy to overcome. Just set the size and start stamping out the parts.
DJI’s headline for the Mavic Air 2 is the new half-inch, 48-megapixel sensor. Toss in 4K60p and DJI has us all hooked. Yeah, the flagship Mavic 2 Pro can’t do 4K60p, but if you’re expecting us to make the Fall without a Mavic 3, you’re dreaming. Regardless of some of the nerfed features (reminds me of Canon), there’s zero chance DJI lets the Mavic Air 2 rule 2020 under $1000.
There are some buts to the sensor. While the new Sony sensor is incredible, a half-inch is still a half-inch. All the wow features are range-bound. And that’s not to say the upgrades aren’t worth it. They are as long as you understand the limits. And that limit is available light to the sensor.
Take a look at the ISO range for stills. If you want the full 48 megapixels, you’re topping out at 3200 in manual, 1600 for Auto. In the 12 megapixel mode, that leaps to 6400 and 3200, respectively.
Then there are the photo modes. Outside of a single photo, you’re stuck within the 12MP envelope. AEB is at 12MP. Burst shooting is at 12MP. It’s in the photo modes you can see where heat issues might become an issue, and DJI eased off the sensor.
Next up is the 4K HDR filming. That tops out at 30p. I honestly don’t have an issue with this at all. It would tax the sensor beyond, and the heat alone would tank the quality. Take the marketing video above. They are shooting straight 4K60p in D-Cinelike to color grade the footage. If 4K60p is the main selling point of the drone for you, I’m going to assume some level of proficiency in post-production.
Other new features include OcuSync 2.0, 34-minute battery life, and a new controller. The word from DJI is the Mavic Air 2 will support its smart controller, but the timeframe is unknown.
What’s Missing on the Mavic Air 2
For all the talk about improved object avoidance, the lack of side and top sensors is odd. It feels like the company knows the competition from Skydio is out there but wasn’t quite ready to give it full 360-degree object avoidance with tracking.
Considering the pricing similarities, I would have expected more here. The object tracking system is massively improved. Having at least the side sensors would have put it over the top in closing the gap in autonomous flying.
While it’s technically not missing, having the Mavic Air 2 default to the more consumer-friendly DJI Fly App is a bit of a disappointment. It would have been nice to see more granular controls over image sharpness, etc. It can be fixed via software or firmware update, so I’ll hold out some hope in this area.
Is the DJI Mavic Air 2 A Buy?
If you’re coming into camera drones for the first time or upgrading from the original Mavic Air, absolutely. The two may share a name, but comparing the generations is night and day. Better camera. Battery life. Range. Video. The list goes on and on. And it’s the same price. Hard to say no.
On the flip side, if you have a Mavic 2 Pro, my answer would be no. Yeah, it sucks not having 4K60p, but I’m not sure that’s enough to lose what you already have with the Mavic 2 Pro. You would be giving up features to gain maybe one or two. It’s better to wait it out for the Mavic 3 Pro. DJI is not going to let a mid-tier camera drone have better topline specs than its flagship for long. Maybe a few months. Maybe.