DJI Air 2S drone review — This thing is RAD!

Drone shots are a fantastic way to add energy and production value to your videos. As the market leader, DJI has released a lot of drones in the last few years. Assessing their differences and working out which one is best for you can be difficult. In this review of the DJI Air 2S, we will help you make the right choice. In addition to discussing its pros and cons, we will compare the Air 2S with the Air 2 and the Mavic 2 Pro.

All the details

At its core, the Air 2S has a one-inch sensor camera. It can shoot up to 30 fps in 5.4K, 60 fps in 4K and 120 fps in HD. Its maximum video bitrate is 150 Mbps in H.264 and H.265 codecs. Additionally, it can record in 10-bit D-Log for HDR video with a higher dynamic range.

There’s also a range of automated settings to enable you to capture complex cinematic shots easily. Its battery life promises a flight time of half an hour. For comparison, the Air 2 and Mavic 2 Pro have a slightly better battery life, but only by a matter of minutes.

Advertisement

How to Make a

DIY Green Screen

Free eBook

Free

How to Make a

DIY Green Screen

Free

Thanks! We will email your free eBook.


The Air 2S has a robust set of safety features. We were impressed by the obstacle detection and avoidance systems in our tests. The drone also has an AirSense transponder to warn its user of other aircrafts in the area and prevent collisions.

While the Air 2S is technically a little heavier than the Air 2, it’s not by much. Its form factor is nearly identical to the Air 2. The extra weight comes from the upgraded camera and additional crash avoidance sensors. Though, the extra weight isn’t a problem; the Mavic 2 Pro is larger and weighs around 50% more than the Air 2S.

Improved camera

One of the main differences between the Air 2S and the Air 2 is their camera sensor sizes. Moving from a half-inch to a one-inch sensor means the Air 2S now has the same size sensor as the Mavic 2 Pro. The Mavic has a Hasselblad camera, but the Air 2S camera is not labeled with a brand. However, the camera’s form factor is very similar, and we were really impressed by the Air 2S’ image quality.

The Air 2S can shoot 5.4K resolution video, which is great. Shooting at higher resolutions allows you to have an oversampled image and downscale to 4K in post-production. This results in a much sharper image than you would get shooting at 4K resolution. The extra pixels also give you more flexibility when in post-production, allowing you to crop in or stabilize the shot.

The camera has a field of view of 88°, equating to a full-frame equivalent focal length of 22mm. Its aperture is fixed at f/2.8, so you will need to use ND filters if you want to avoid overly high shutter speeds on bright days. Also, the camera has a shooting range of 0.6m to infinity.

Internal storage

One negative about the Air 2S is the amount of internal storage, which is only 8 GB. It’s the same as the Air 2 and Mavic 2 Pro but will only last around half a flight if you’re filming from takeoff. 32 or 64 GB would get you through a few batteries and you wouldn’t need to worry about offloading your footage until you’re finished. However, you can add microSD cards up to 256 GB to increase recording time, but we still would have liked to see more internal storage.

Obstacle avoidance

The Air 2S adds upward obstacle sensing to the forward, backward and downward detection featured in the Air 2. But what does that mean in practice?

To test the tracking, we went to a nearby park to fly the Air 2S. We set the drone to follow our subject and had him walk through a bunch of low-hanging trees. Even though we were completely hands-off, the drone followed our subject with no problems. Our subject was even able to run away from the drone and it still safely avoided the trees. The Air S2’s obstacle avoidance worked spectacularly and is one of the drone’s top features.

The only thing we found the Air 2S didn’t detect was a chain-link fence. We didn’t fly into a fence, but we tested the drone against one. The Air 2S saw the poles, the uprights, and the horizontals, but it didn’t see the chain-link fence itself. However, when we were in a little dome area, it did tell us that there was something above us and in front of us, which was really impressive.

Intelligent Flight Modes

The Air 2S has a selection of Intelligent Flight Modes. Spotlight Mode locks the camera on a subject while you control the drone to move it around. The Air 2S has two ActiveTrack tracking modes. In Trace mode, the Air 2S will follow a subject at a constant distance. When set to Parallel mode, it tracks the subject at a constant angle and distance from the side.

Point Of Interest mode sets the Air 2S to circle around a subject at a set radius and speed. This mode supports both static and moving subjects. In our tests, tracking and Point Of Interest worked together really well. We set the drone orbiting our subject then had him run away from it. The Air 2S followed him while he was running, and when he slowed down, it continued to orbit him again.

QuickShots and MasterShots

QuickShots are a selection of pre-programmed camera moves that make it easy to achieve dynamic drone shots. Dronie is the classic drone selfie where the drone flies away and up with the camera locked on the subject. Rocket has the drone fly up while the camera points down. Circle sets the drone circling the subject while in Helix mode; it flies up and around the subject on a spiral path. More advanced QuickShots include Boomerang and Asteroid modes.

The MasterShots feature is another difference between the Air 2S and the Air 2. In MasterShots mode, the drone keeps the subject in the center of the frame while executing a series of different maneuvers in a sequence. It then edits the video clips together to generate a short cinematic video montage. If you are shooting a vlog, it gives you a great sequence to cut away to. It’s also beneficial if you work as a solo shooter and have less time to plan a range of moves.

One downside of using MasterShots is that you can’t shoot in D-Log when using this mode. However, it’s a feature that’s intended to deliver ready-to-use sequences straight from the drone. If your project or sequence requires you to shoot D-Log, it makes sense that you probably wouldn’t be using an autonomous flight mode.

Performance

Every DJI drone we’ve ever flown, which is just about every release they’ve had over the last five years, has the same experience. When we’re flying it, the menu feels the same. The controls feel the same. They have a very controlled experience across the full breadth of their drones.

Unfortunately, the Air 2S isn’t compatible with the DJI’s FPV Goggles yet. Having flown with the FPV Goggles, it’s nice to be able to have the world blocked out. We were shooting in the bright sun, and it was hard to see our cell phone screen. If the goggles were available, we could have focused on our shots instead of being concerned about the glare on our controller. Thankfully, DJI will roll out FPV Goggles support for the Air 2S sometime in the near future.

Final thoughts

So, should you buy the Air 2S? We really liked it. We were not expecting to be blown away by this drone, but it did everything we wanted it to do. It was easy to fly. The battery life was great. It has a great range of automated camera moves and MasterShots sequences will save content creators a lot of time.

Tracking is very intuitive to use. The Air 2S has fantastic obstacle avoidance. It’s well worth the upgrade from the Air 2. The improvements in obstacle detection deliver better subject tracking as well as helping to keep your drone safe.

The Air 2S doesn’t have all the features of the Mavic 2 Pro, but it is better than the Air 2. We like the upgrade to a one-inch sensor. It’s something that we hope to see more of because you get a better image from a bigger sensor. We were really impressed by the image quality from the Air 2S.

Overall, the DJI Air 2S was great to fly and we really were happy with its image. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Air 2S to anyone looking for a compact drone that shoots professional-quality video. We’d recommend the DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo bundle, which gives you extra batteries and ND filters. It also comes with a shoulder bag and at a good price.


What we like

  • 1-inch sensor
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Tracking
  • 5.4K video

What we don’t like

  • Low internal storage
  • Not compatible with the DJI FPV Goggles V2 yet

Specs

Maximum Horizontal Speed42.5 mph / 19 m/s (S Mode)
33.6 mph / 15 m/s (N Mode)
11.2 mph / 5 m/s (T Mode)
Maximum Ascent Speed13.4 mph / 6 m/s
Maximum Descent Speed13.4 mph / 6 m/s
Maximum Wind Resistance23.5 mph / 10.5 m/s
Flight Ceiling3.1 Miles / 5000 m
Maximum Flight Time31 Minutes
Maximum Hover Time30 Minutes
Maximum Tilt Angle35°
Vision SystemDownward, Forward, Backward
Obstacle Sensory Range1.3 to 144.4′ / 0.4 to 44.0 m
Forward Field of View71° (Horizontal)
56° (Vertical)
Backward Field of View44° (Vertical)
57° (Horizontal)
Remote Controller / Transmitter Operating Frequency2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz
Maximum Operating Distance7.5 miles / 12 km
Sensor Type1″ CMOS Sensor
Sensor Resolution Effective20 Megapixel
Focal Length22mm (35mm Equivalent
Field of View88°
Maximum Aperturef/2.8
Minimum Focus Distance2′ / 0.6 m
ISO SensitivityVideo: 100 to 6400 (Auto)
Video: 100 to 12,800 (Manual)
Video Format:5472 x 3078p at 24/25/30 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
3840 x 2160p at 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
2688 x 1512p at 24/25/30/48/50/60 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
1920 x 1080p at 24/25/30/48/50/60/120 fps (150 Mb/s MOV/MP4 via H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC)
Media/Memory Card Slot Single SlotSD/SDHC/SDXC [256 GB Maximum]
GimbalNumber of Axes: 3 (Pitch, Roll, Yaw)
Control Range
Pitch: -90 to 24°
Yaw: -80 to 80°
Angular SpeedPitch: 100°/s
Battery ChemistryLithium-Ion Polymer (LiPo)
Capacity3500 mAh / 40.42 Wh
Overall Dimensions7.1 x 3.0 x 3.8″ / 180.0 x 77.0 x 97.0 mm (Folded)
7.2 x 3.0 x 10.0″ / 183.0 x 77.0 x 253.0 mm (Unfolded)
Weight21.0 oz / 595 g

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.