Update: DJI launched the Air 2S today ($999)

Okay, we’re heading toward the finish line, folks. DJI’s Air 2S, at $999 solo and $1,299 for the Fly More Combo will be released Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. And – trust us on this – it’s going to offer some big leaps over the Mavic Air 2.

You can now buy the Air 2S. And if you own or were considering a Mavic Air 2, you’re probably paying pretty close attention. In fact, we already know of people who have sold their Mavic Air 2 products in preparation for this upgrade. The question is, how much of an upgrade will this be?

The answer: significant.

Background

The Mavic Air 2 was, and is, a great drone. For me, personally, it hit that sweet spot where a lot of things just clicked together. I like the size of the Mavic Air 2. I also appreciate its speed and agility when compared with other non-racing drones. In fact, I call it the Goldilocks drone because it does a lot of things just right.

DJI Mavic Air 2
Detail of Mavic Air 2 – Scott Simmie Photo

But, to be honest, I wasn’t that blown away by the camera.

The Quad-Bayer sensor uses a technique called pixel-binning to create its claimed 48MP resolution images. I noted, when I really zoomed in on shots, that the details I expected to see just weren’t there. It was a bit disappointing, to be honest.

Air 2S

The DJI Air 2S offers a substantial improvement in this regard. Rather than the 1/2″ Quad-Bayer sensor, this machine offers a 1″ CMOS sensor that will reportedly have larger pixels – and it won’t use that pixel-binning method to create its 20MP images.

We expect this camera will perform better in low light with less noise. And we also anticipate that the detail of its images – despite the fact the resolution is lower on paper – will be a huge improvement over the Mavic Air 2.

And let’s face it: Pretty much anyone who buys a DJI consumer product is buying it because they want to use it as a flying camera. So if you’re looking for great images and video, why not make the best choice?

As we’ve previously reported, the Air 2S also features 5.4K video resolution – another significant leap from the Mavic Air 2.

What else?

The camera really is key here – and the single biggest reason why some people will want to get the Air 2S. But the drone has other improvements as well. As you can see in this image, it has additional obstacle sensors:

Those extra sensors will come in handy…

Those additional sensors on the top front are clearly positioned to do their work while the drone is angled and in forward flight. As usual, you’ll have the option of setting up the drone in the DJI FLY app to either brake when it senses an obstacle or move around it. Having additional sensors, for many pilots, can only be a good thing. Flight time is down slightly, from 34 to 31 minutes.

But I’ll take image quality over a few minutes of flight time any day of the week.

The downside?

Well, this is already out there, but it’s the absence of a feature many were hoping for: a variable aperture camera.

That’s what you get in the Mavic Pro 2, and the option gives pilots a lot more options to fine-tune their shots by controlling the exposure without having to change the shutter speed (or ISO). A lot of people really wanted to see a variable aperture in this drone.

The Air 2S features a fixed aperture, which will disappoint some…

Alas, they’re out of luck. The DJI Air 2S features an f/2.8 fixed aperture camera, meaning you can’t change to other f-stops. DJI is, apparently, thoughtfully including a set of good ND filters in the Fly More Combo, so that will help out (ND filters reduce the amount of light the camera receives). But it’s just not the same as having a variable aperture.

That feature, we suspect, will come with the Pro 3 when it’s released. And while we would have loved to see a variable aperture on this machine, from DJI’s perspective this is a premium feature reserved for the Pro series.

DroneDJ‘s take

Everything we’ve seen so far – and we’ve seen more than we can tell you – indicates to us this is going to be a really popular drone. We predict it will be the perfect choice for someone who wants to up their game from the Mini 2 (or even the Mavic Air 2), without waiting for the higher sticker cost of the Pro 3.

And, let’s face it: Despite the fact Mavic Air 2 doesn’t have the greatest camera, it’s not a bad camera. For many people, including those who already own that drone, there might not be a reason for this upgrade.

But for us? Well, the feature set we’ve seen leaves no doubt in our minds: This drone will prove a big leap from the Mavic Air 2.

While we have you: If you’re considering purchasing the Air 2S, please do so through our affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything, and helps support our work.

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