DJI Air 2S is a small foldable quadcopter drone launched in mid-2021. Having been on the market for more than a year, the Air 2S is not new but established as one of the best consumer drones available today. In this blog post, we will provide our general impressions and comparisons of the drone and our take on using it for photogrammetry.
The Main Feature
The Air 2S has a 1-inch camera sensor in a compact body, which is its main selling point. The only downside is that this camera does not contain a physical aperture you can close. For more advanced videographers, this means using ND filters is a must. Also, the Air 2S does not have lateral obstacle sensing. Otherwise, this drone is a complete package, with other obstacle sensing directions covered, excellent video transmission, and good photo and video quality in a compact package.
Real World Experience
DJI Air 2S provides a quintessential DJI quadcopter experience. The Fly app used for control has become the default DJI app and evolved its UX over the past year. If you are familiar with the Fly app or DJI products in general – the Air 2S will not surprise you in any way. The remote controller is the familiar DJI RC-N1 with its solid build and connection.
Flying experience is OK with the Air 2S. It seems to have more inertia and be less sharp than the latest DJI drones such as Mini 3 Pro and Mavic 3. It handled fluctuating wind conditions without any hiccups while lasting 20 minutes of real-world flight time in 11-celsius temperature outside, with some battery for the RTH left.
Photo and Video Quality
Image quality is as good as any other 1-inch camera-equipped drone with 20 actual megapixels (no Quad-Bayer sensor nonsense). The main difference is that you can still buy the Air 2S new, while Mavic 2 Pro, Phantom 4 Pro, and other 1-inch DJI drones are no longer available. You can take excellent raw photos and obtain superb 10-bit video with a flat DLOG color profile. The overall image quality is still perfect for 2022.
DJI Air 2S Comparison
The DJI Air 2S has two indirect alternatives from DJI. The smaller DJI Mini 3 Pro and the larger and more expensive Mavic 3. Also, the Autel Evo Lite+ provides similar image quality but in a different package.
DJI Air 2S vs. Mini 3 Pro
DJI Mini 3 Pro is the better choice for those who:
- We are looking for a drone under 250 grams for regulatory purposes.
- The smallest possible size for traveling with the drone.
- Shoot primarily vertical video for social media.
Otherwise, the Air 2S is the better choice as it has slightly better image quality and more video options. Also, it features upward obstacle sensing, which the Mini 3 Pro does not have. Overall the Mini 3 Pro may be more pleasurable to use, but the Air 2S is the more pragmatic choice for many.
Read more about DJI Mini 3 Pro here.
DJI Air 2S vs. The Mavic 3
Mavic 3 is a better choice for professional video makers and photographers looking for the best foldable drone. Mavic 3 provides:
- Better photo and video quality.
- A secondary telephoto camera.
- Omnidirectional obstacle sensing.
- Better flight performance and time.
These features come at almost double the cost. With that, Mavic 3 has crossed the realm of creative professionals and is no longer a product for hobbyist drone pilots.
Read more about DJI Mavic 3 here.
DJI Air 2S vs. Autel Lite+
Autel Lite+ provides the same excellent image quality as the Air 2S but with many asterisks. For serious videographers, the Autel does contain an aperture but does not support 10-bit video. It also has a much narrower field of view. Autel is bulkier but has a longer flight time and solid build quality. Still, we cannot recommend it over the Air 2S due to its unfinished software and usability. There are many arbitrary limitations in the software, which makes some aspects unbearable while being the more expensive option. If you want to read more, check out our Autel Lite+ review:
DJI Air 2s for Photogrammetry
None of the drones mentioned above can use third-party apps, except for the DJI Air 2S. Some flight planners support the Air 2S and offer automated flying. If you plan on doing photogrammetry, this makes the DJI Air 2S the best consumer option out of all drones on sale today. It has no real quality or usability drawbacks.
For photogrammetry professionals – the lack of a mechanical shutter might be of some concern. Still, as we discussed, you will probably run into other problems before seeing rolling shutter artifacts in your datasets. Otherwise, this is a good tool for specific photogrammetry applications and use cases for everyone.
The success of the DJI Air 2S is warranted. It is an excellent, compact foldable drone with unprecedented image quality for its size. It comes from when DJI still provided its SDKs for third-party app developers, and drones had flight planner support. It is the best choice for many hobbyists, enthusiasts, and creatives. And it seems to be the only choice for those looking to dip their toes into aerial photogrammetry and automated flights.