The only thing that gives me pause is its $999 price – $200 more than the $799 Air 2 it replaces in DJI’s lineup. Buying a drone for more than the combined price of a PS5 and Xbox Series X is a lot, especially now with ever-increasing regulations against drones. But if you’re in the market for a drone that can do it all and is just the right size, you really can’t beat the DJI Air 2S.
DJI Air 2S Review
DJI Air 2S – Design
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the DJI Air 2S is how frog-like it looks. This is thanks to its upward obstacle detection sensors that peer up at you like a pair of tiny amphibian eyes. The top of the drone is also sculpted with more gentle curves around the quad-array of sensors, making it look even more like a frog.The other big change older drone users will notice is the front gimbal is significantly larger in order to house the new 1-inch, 20MP camera sensor. It’s a big step up from the DJI Air 2’s half-inch 48MP sensor. But don’t let that lower MP figure fool you – while it might seem like the new camera is a drop in resolution, it actually makes image quality look better, but we’ll get into that later.Surprisingly, despite packing two more obstacle sensors and a twice as large camera, the DJI Air 2S is hardly bigger than its predecessor. Both drones measure exactly the same 183×253×77 mm (L x W x H) when unfolded, and the Air 2S is only 6mm longer when folded into a 180×97×74 mm package.
Unfortunately, the DJI Air 2S does weigh a little more at 595g compared to the 570g DJI Air 2, which ends up slightly reducing flight time from a maximum of 31 to 30 minutes.
DJI Air 2S – Features and Performance
The Air 2S isn’t the biggest mainstream airframe DJI makes – that award goes to the more professional-facing Mavic Pro 2 – but this is an incredibly stable and responsive drone. And thanks to the newly added upward-facing sensors adding an additional axis of obstacle detection, you can feel even more comfortable flying this drone in a forest or around buildings.
There’s three different flying modes you can switch between. The first is “Cine” which slows down your airspeed to a single-digit crawl for the most stable slow panning shots and long time-lapses. The “Normal” flight mode speeds things up to about 15-20 mph with full obstacle detection.
Lastly, there is “Sport” mode which fully unlocks your ability to zip around at max speed, but at the cost of disabling all your obstacle detection sensors. The drone is rated for a maximum airspeed of 42.5 mph, but with a strong tailwind, we saw speeds as high as 47 mph.
No matter how you decide to fly, the DJI Air 2S feels extremely responsive. Using the drone with the included controller is a seamless experience, and it’s incredible how you can do anything from twitchy micro-adjustments to slow smooth pans in even the most responsive sport mode, which is my preferred way of flying.
I was especially impressed that the drone’s gimbal was able to keep the horizon completely flat while the drone orbited around me at 30 mph, rolling at about a 45-degree angle.
As for connectivity, the DJI Air 2S is rated for a maximum video transmission range of 12km (7.45 miles). I only ever saw glitches in the live view feed from the drone when I flew behind a building or on the other side of the coast. I only ever truly lost the drone once during my testing and it managed to safely fly back and land at its launch point all on its own.
While the DJI Air 2S is rated for up to 30 minutes of flight time (31 minutes of hovering in no wind), you can see your flight time drop dramatically depending on what you’re doing. With the quadcopter flying at max speed and recording 4K 60fps footage, I saw the battery life drop to as little as 10-15 minutes.
DJI Air 2S – Video and Image Quality
The DJI Air 2S’ new 1-inch sensor really makes a world of difference compared to its predecessor. While it’s technically lower resolution at only 20MP compared to the original Air 2’s 48MP sensor, I feel the image quality is much better now.
While shooting max resolution images on the Air 2 sounds great, they would always resolve with strange noodle-shaped artifacts all over the place. To avoid this on the original Air 2, you basically had to constantly shoot images in auto HDR mode, which would lower your image resolution to just 12MP.
The new 20MP image sensor on the Air 2S completely avoids this problem and the image quality out of the camera is simply stunning, with plenty of detail and a wide dynamic range. Things only get better when you work with the RAW files in Lightroom and other image processing software.
DJI Air 2S Image Samples
Take a look at all the details I can recover in the blown-out and underexposed portions of this photo below.
As for video, the new 1-inch sensor also unlocks 5.4K video recording. It’s great for capturing an extra pinch of detail, but shooting at this resolution also limits you to 30 fps, for the most part I opted to shoot at 4K 60fps instead.
If you prefer to shoot in a tighter field of view, you can add 4X zoom at 4K 30fps or 2.7K 60fp. Or get an even longer focal length with 6X zoom at 2.7K 30fps or 1080P 60fps. You can also achieve the maximum 8X when recording at 1080P 30fps.