DJI Air 2S has a camera that shoots high-quality videos and photos — an affordable drone ideal for filmmakers
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- DJI’s $999 Air 2S is its first consumer drone to use a 1-inch sensor.
- The sensor allows the camera to capture videos and photos with enhanced image quality.
- The Air 2S is easy to fly and includes improved safety features such as obstacle avoidance.
DJI’s consumer drones (the Mavic series) are some of the easiest to fly, even if you are a first-time pilot. They incorporate operation that’s simple to understand, but users can take off the training wheels when they advance. They also utilize technology that promote safe flying, such as obstacle avoidance and aircraft detection. Having established itself as the premier drone maker, DJI has since focused on improving the camera image quality.
The new $999 DJI Air 2S ($1,299 for a complete bundle) is the first consumer-grade drone from DJI to use a camera with a 1-inch sensor, which delivers enhanced video (up to 5.
resolution), improved low-light performance, and sharp, high-resolution photos — making it an affordable option for budget filmmakers and video enthusiasts. (The DJI Mavic 2 also uses a 1-inch sensor, but that is geared toward more pro and advanced users).
Design and setup
Like the other DJI consumer drones we’ve tested, including the Mini 2 and Air 2 that are in the current lineup, the Air 2S is easy to set up and fly. If you own a DJI drone or you’ve used one extensively, the Air 2S will feel familiar. Newbies should practice, and DJI offers training tutorials.
The Air 2S is slightly larger and heavier than the Air 2, but I find both to be similar in operation. DJI’s drones tend to have solid build quality, and while I didn’t have any mishap with the Air 2S, previous drones I’ve tested all escaped accidents without injury. (If you are accident-prone, consider DJI’s Care Refresh program where, for a fee, you are covered for any accidents and even loss.)
For a drone, the Air 2S is compact and lightweight. I don’t have issues carrying it around and it never weighs me down, even with extra batteries in the carrying case. I also find it easy to set up for flight and pack away.
The Air 2S is the first DJI consumer drone to use a 1-inch sensor, which captures still images at 20 megapixels and high-resolution video up to 5.4K. And with a pixel size that is four times larger than the sensor in the Air 2, the Air 2S captures improved image and video quality, particularly in low-light situations.
Because the sensor can capture more information, you can zoom closer to a subject or object without physically moving the drone while preserving image detail — up to eight times, depending on the video resolution. These enhancements will appeal to filmmakers, digital content creators, and anyone who needs high-quality video from a compact drone.
While camera drones are primarily used to shoot videos, DJI’s newest Mavic models also excel at photos. The Air 2S introduces the SmartPhoto mode, which uses computational photography to capture 20-megapixel stills. In layman’s terms, SmartPhoto is an advanced auto mode that analyzes the scene for the best shot.
The user lets the camera decide if an image should have more vivid colors (HDR), compensate for lighting (low-light scenes), or adjust for the optimal settings for what’s in the frame (scene recognition). SmartPhoto is geared toward casual users who don’t want to fuss with settings, but advanced users will likely skip this function.
Unless you’re a filmmaker who wants to control the shots, the less advanced user can activate one of the automatic video modes. New to the Air 2S is MasterShots in which the drone picks a flight path and shooting mode after analyzing the scene, and then a quick 2-minute video with effects is compiled from the footage via DJI’s Fly app (iOS and Android).
The Air 2S also features three other auto functions found in other DJI drones: FocusTrack, which shoots videos around a subject or object, QuickShots for fun effects, and Hyperlapse, a time-lapse-like video.
The more advanced DJI drones include safety features to help you fly with more confidence. This means avoiding obstacles and flying in permitted airspace. The Air 2S uses DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 4.0, which the company touts as its most advanced autopilot system in any of its drones.
Compared to previous versions of APAS, the Air 2S has a wider view of obstacles and can automatically move the drone around, over, or under an object, or simply brake before a potential collision, thanks to the improved sensors located around the drone and the camera itself.
DJI says the Air 2S is more stable. Using the third version of its OcuSync technology and four antennas, the Air 2S maintains a connection with the pilot’s remote at up to 12 kilometers or approximately 7.5 miles. Like Air 2, the Air 2S also uses DJI’s AirSense to warn of nearby aircraft and geofencing technology when in potentially dangerous or restricted flight zones.
And, with global positioning, The Return-to-Home (RTH) function automatically brings the drone back to where it lifted off when the battery is low (flight time is estimated at 31 minutes) or it’s out of range. The Air 2S will also warn you if the camera gimbal needs calibration or if you installed the propellers incorrectly.
During my first round of testing, the Air 2S flew smoothly and I was always in control. It doesn’t have the quick braking like DJI’s new FPV drone, however the APAS 4.0 worked effectively in preventing a crash with a lamp post.
Because I was flying near an airport, the DJI App, which is used in conjunction with the remote control, warned me constantly that I was flying near a restricted zone and of planes taking off, even though I was flying in a designated safe zone. You can bypass these warnings, and while they can be annoying, I do appreciate having them for peace of mind.
While I didn’t encounter any issues during this testing, one annoyance had to do with the visibility of my phone’s screen. Because the remote controller requires my phone for the live view and connectivity, it’s difficult to see under bright sunlight. While this isn’t a fault of the Air 2S itself, it is something to keep in mind.
Due to the restrictions of where I was flying, I wasn’t able to use the automated functions — I will have more to say on this in a future update. However, in my previous testing of the auto modes in the Air 2 and Mini 2, I can confidently say they work well.
One function that I was not able to test — but have tested with the DJI FPV — is an upcoming ability to use DJI’s new goggles and motion controller. The goggles are similar to a VR headset, which delivers an incredibly high-resolution video feed from the drone’s camera.
The motion controller is a simplified remote that allows for one-handed operation. I find these two accessories — optional with the Air 2 — to work well and offer a new type of immersive flying experience. While they are essential to the FPV, which is designed for drone racing, they aren’t as critical for the Air 2S.
For most casual users, I think the DJI Mini 2 is the ideal drone. While it doesn’t offer many of the safety features or higher resolutions of the Air 2S or Air 2, it is cheaper and even easier to fly.
The Air 2S definitely brings some welcomed enhancements to the DJI lineup. However, if you don’t need the improved video quality, I find the Air 2 to be fine for many enthusiasts; the video quality from the Air 2’s camera is not too shabby. In fact, flying the Air 2S feels like flying the Air 2.
Picking the Air 2S or Air 2 will depend on your needs and budget, but both models are recommended (I will have details on additional flying experience and image quality in a long-term update).
As mentioned, DJI also makes the Mavic 2, which also uses a 1-inch sensor camera developed in cooperation with Hasselblad. For consumers and proper comparison, the Air 2S is more aligned with the Air 2 and Mini 2. However, you could argue that the DJI trickled down some of the Mavic 2’s pro features to the Air 2S.
For content creators or if this is your first drone and you want the best quality video out of the gate, the Air 2S is a drone worth checking out.
Again, the DJI Air 2S will sell for $999, which includes the remote controller and basic accessories. The Fly More Combo, which will sell for $1,299 and what I’m testing, includes three batteries, lens filters, a charging station, and a bag.
We will update our review shortly with longer-term testing to give a proper full assessment, but we like what we are seeing so far.