When Autel announced the folding Evo it looked like DJI was going to have some stiff competition. It took quite some time for Autel to actually launch after it was teased and early firmware glitches didn’t get the Evo off to a smooth start. DJI released the Mavic 2 lineup and people quickly forgot about the Evo. However, Autel has since addressed the firmware issues it carries a lower price tag than the Mavic lineup at $999. After spending some time with the Evo and comparing it to both the Mavic 2 Zoom ($1149) and Mavic 2 Pro ($1499) I have to say I’ve been impressed.
The Autel Evo is the best drone you can buy for less than $1000 and it can even do some things the Mavic 2 drones can’t. Let’s take a closer look at the features of the Evo and how it stacks up to the competition from the world’s biggest drone maker, DJI.
The shiny orange Evo stands out in more ways than one. I spoke with the Autel representatives at AUVSI and they said that the Evo’s 4K camera quality would fall somewhere in between that of the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro. After doing some flights with all three I have to say that the Evo is right there with the two Mavics. You’ll have to check back later for the full comparison.
Check out the video above to see the Autel Evo in action.
Autel Evo Camera
One thing that the Evo does that no DJI Mavic can do is shoot 4K footage at 60 fps. Both Mavic 2 options top out at 30 fps. I also enjoyed shooting 720p at 240 fps so I could slow down footage. The Evo can record at 100 Mbps using either H.264 or H.265. It can snap 12 mp photos and it has an AEB function for photographs. In many ways, the Autel Evo is every bit as capable as the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom or Mavic 2 Pro.
|Mavic 2 Pro||Mavic 2 Zoom||Mavic Air||Autel Evo|
|Megapixels||20 MP||12 MP||12 MP||12 MP|
|Max Frame Rate@1080p Resolution||120 FPS||120 FPS||120 FPS||120 FPS|
|Max Frame Rate @4K Resolution||30 FPS||30 FPS||30 FPS||60 FPS|
|Max Video Bitrate||100 Mbps||100 Mbps||100 Mbps||100 Mbps|
|Fixed Focus / Auto Focus||Variable Focus||Variable Focus||Fixed Focus||Fixed Focus|
|f/Number||f/2.8 – f/11||f/2.8 – f/3.8||f/2.8||f/2.8|
|Equivalent Focal Length||28 mm||24-48 mm 2X Optical Zoom||24 mm||22 mm|
|Horizontal FOV (measured)||64°||38° – 70°||69°||78°|
Like the Mavic Air, the Evo has a fixed-focus camera. That means that everything will be in focus as long as the objects you are filming are more than a few feet away. The zoom camera on the Mavic 2 Zoom and the large sensor of the Mavic 2 Pro don’t allow the luxury of a fixed-focus lens set. The fixed-focus lens will be an advantage to most pilots who will appreciate never needing to worry about out-of-focus footage or “focus breathing” when capturing video.
The JPEGs from the Autel Evo preserve the highest dynamic range. Of the four tests shots, only the Evo preserves the color and texture of the sky.
The field of view on the Evo is very wide at 94° (I measured a horizontal FOV of 78°). In some cases, this can yield really good results. Unlike the Mavic drones, you can also occasionally see the front props in the camera depending on flight speed and wind conditions. If you want to take a look at the full resolution of these pictures then click this link.
I found the camera to be extremely sharp for both photographs and 4K video. The Evo’s photographs compete very well with the Mavic 2 Zoom and it beats the fuzzy 4K video of the Mavic 2 Pro. In general, the JPEGs and videos are produced in a flatter profile in the Evo than with the standard settings of the Mavic drones, so color grading an easy task. Stay tuned for more detailed comparisons of the camera quality.
Evo Features vs Mavic 2
The Evo is slightly smaller and lighter than the Mavic 2. Flight times are comparable, with the Evo checking in at 30 minutes and the Mavic 2 drones claiming 31. The Evo claims a range of 7000 meters to the Mavic 2 range of 8000 meters. This is 4.3 miles vs 5 miles. Both have excellent range. I don’t see this discrepancy as too important since most regulatory agencies require pilots to be able to see their drones at all times. There is an argument to be made that the Evo can actually fly farther within visual line of sight because of its bright orange color. Take a look at the chart below for a closer look at how the Evo stacks up against the Mavic lineup.
|Mavic 2 Pro||Mavic 2 Zoom||Mavic Air||Autel Evo|
|Flight Time||31 minutes||31 minutes||20 minutes||30 minutes|
|Range||8000 meters||8000 meters||4000 meters||7000 meters|
|Weight||2.0 lbs||2.0 lbs||0.95 lbs||1.9 lbs|
|Folded Size||8.4 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches||8.4 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches||6.2 x 2.7 x 2.7 inches||7.6 x 3 x 3.5 inches|
|Max Speed||45 MPH||45 MPH||42 MPH||44 MPH|
|Obstacle Avoidance||6 Directions Cameras and IR||6 Directions Cameras and IR||3 Directions 7 Cameras||3 Directions Cameras and IR|
|Special Features||Best Camera on a Folding Drone||Only Consumer Drone with Optical Zoom||Super Portable, Easy to Use, Unique Flight Modes||Great GPS and Customer Service|
|Our Favorite Flight Modes||Timelapse||Dolly Zoom||Asteroid||Waypoints|
Controlling the Autel Evo
The controller of the Evo is very nice. Its built-in color screen can display either useful information or you can use it to display video of your flight in crisp 720p. In order to get a built-in screen with the Mavic, you’ll have to spend another $750 to get their Smart Controller. I still found myself using my smartphone as it has a larger screen and allowed me to access more information at one time.
The Evo has the smart features you would come to expect on a drone in this price range including Dynamic Track, Viewpoint, Orbit, VR first-person view, and Waypoint mission planning. They all work as expected. There are three flying speeds Standard, Precision and Ludicrous.
I found the controls were too sensitive and the drone moved too quickly in Standard mode when trying to perform precise motions with the drone. Luckily the Precision mode was the exact fix I was looking for. In Precision, it is buttery smooth and I was able to get the shots I needed.
I even found the smart modes worked better in Precision mode. When flying an orbit in Standard mode the drone struggled to yaw smoothly. Clearly, Autel still has a few bugs to work out. Ludicrous speed is exactly what you’d think it was. It is comparable to DJI’s Sport mode. Ludicrous speed isn’t for getting good shots, but rather for moving your Evo from one place to another in a hurry. It definitely moves, topping out at 44 mph.
Autel vs DJI
Autel is known for their top-notch customer service. Being based in the Pacific Northwest, many people like the idea of a US-based company. Some people feel that DJI is collecting too much data and enforcing too many restrictions. Autel simply lets you fly. DJI remains the only major drone manufacturer that we have seen actively pushing for improved geofencing and remote ID. I commend DJI for their efforts, but in today’s environment of immature government systems, some freedom can be useful to the responsible professional pilot.
Putting Evo to the test
Currently, I’m collecting data on the Evo, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic Air. We are taking lots of 4K videos and shooting pictures so that we can truly compare. If you want to see how these 4 folding drones stack up against each other you’ll have to check back in soon. For now, I can say for certain that the Autel Evo is the best drone you can buy for less than $1000. You can pick one up from Amazon for $999.
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