A drone is a really cool piece of photography gear. An aerial perspective is unique and difficult to get without one. Small plane and helicopter flights are expensive and short-lived. A drone allows you to get a similar aerial perspective on your own time and in the exact locations of your choosing.
There are limitations on where you can fly and most drones are also regulated by the FAA. With that said, there are still a ton of places in the US and internationally where you can use a drone for photos and videos. Also, FAA registration is currently very simple if you’re flying recreation.
I can’t stress enough how an aerial perspective totally changes the look and feel of a place, and sometimes, that aerial view is the best way to capture a location. And drones are just a lot of fun to use if you enjoy photography and videography.
It’s a great time to buy your first drone, too!
DJI just released the Air 2S, a worthy upgrade from the fan-favorite Mavic Air 2 that was released a year ago. The Mavic Air 2 was very well received, and the Air 2S maintains all the best aspects of the Mavic Air 2 while delivering needed upgrades to really elevate the new Air 2S.
DJI Air 2S
$999 Air 2S
$1,299 Air 2S Fly More Kit
- 3-Axis Gimbal with 22mm Lens & 1″ CMOS
- 20 MP Photos
- 4K/30p & 4K/60p Video
- MasterShots – Automated Flight & Recording Modes
- FocusTrack Subject Tracking Modes
- QuickShot Aerial Effects
- Hyperlapse Modes for Timelapse Videos
- 5-Mile Range, 31 min flight time
- 4-Direction Obstacle Avoidance
- HLG, D-Log 10-Bit Color & 12.6-Stop RAW
The Mavic Air 2 was lauded as ‘DJI’s best drone ever’ at its time of release. It was loaded with features and had a new controller design that made it one of the easiest drones to fly.
The only downside really was the ½” 12MP camera sensor. Although it did have a 48 MP, it didn’t deliver ‘true’ 48 MP stills. There are smartphones out there that can deliver image quality similar to the Mavic Air 2, but for the price and feature set at the time, it was hard to pass up the Mavic Air 2.
Well, the new Air 2S definitely addressed the camera. The new drone features a 1” CMOS sensor at 20 MP. We don’t know if it’s the same Hasselblad sensor that we see in the Mavic 2 Pro, but the image quality is striking. The larger sensor not only brings higher resolution images, but it also delivers 12.6 stops of dynamic range and better noise handling, which was an issue with the Mavic Air 2.
The 1” sensor puts it on par with the Mavic 2 Pro, DJI’s highest tiered consumer drone, but keep in mind the Air 2S is almost half the weight at 595g and smaller in dimension as well.
Video features on the Air 2S received two big upgrades over the previous model. One, the ability to record in 10-bit, and two, an increased resolution to 5.4K that uses the entire sensor (up to 30p).
10-bit is a huge deal for video, as it can handle almost a billion more colors than 8-bit video. The Mavic Air 2 only offered 8-bit so users needed to look to the Mavic 2 Pro for 10-bit.
The Air 2S solves this issue and now offers DJI’s log mode (D-log) and a 10-bit option which is ideal for the highest quality video work.
The 5.4K resolution is great to have too. Although most devices don’t display above 4K just yet, the extra resolution allows for additional zooming, cropping, and other adjustments in post.
It should be noted that the Air 2S can also do 4K/60p for slow-motion video. There is a slight crop on the 4K/60p video, but it’s just another feature that the Mavic 2 Pro does not offer.
There’s a new shooting mode with the Air 2S called MasterShots, which makes it easy for anyone to get cinematic-looking footage. It’s simple, you set a subject, and the drone will fly 1 of 3 routes based on the distance and proximity to the subject. The drone will record a sequence of footage and makes it super easy to capture great B-roll video. You can also choose from various editing templates to put something together for a quick social media share.
The Air 2S also has ActiveTrack 4.0 and it’s the best ActiveTrack yet. Simply select your subject and the Air 2S will automatically fly and keep the subject in the center of the frame. It works much better than the ActiveTrack system in the Mavic 2 Pro.
We also have great image shooting modes as well, like panorama, HDR, and a new mode called SmartPhoto, which uses HyperLight technology for better
Why Is it The Best Drone Right Now?
Simply stated, it’s easy to fly, the shooting mode is great, and it will deliver high-quality stills and video. The Mavic 2 Pro has set the bar for consumers needing a drone that can deliver the best quality in a portable size, and at a price that doesn’t break the bank. It’s over 2 years old though and DJI has come a long way.
The Air 2S builds on all the great things that made the Mavic Air 2 so successful. It’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable drones to fly due to the revamped controller design. It now matches the sensor size and image quality of the Mavic 2 Pro. And, it actually improves in the video department by offering 10-bit log modes at an increased 5.4K resolution and 4K/60p. The Mavic 2 Pro doesn’t have either of those things.
Did I mention the Mavic 2 Pro is $1,599 and the Air 2S is $999? The Air 2S is a no-brainer and it’s the best you can get right now from DJI. It’s one of the best consumer drones ever.
We can also assume since DJI just made a drone that pretty much matches and exceeds the specs of their higher-tiered Mavic 2 Pro at a lower price, that the Mavic 3 is on the horizon. But, there’s always something new and better. The Air 2S offers great futureproof features and should be a great drone to have for many years to come.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com
Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”
Night Sky Post-Processing
with Ben Blankenship
Tuesday, May 18th, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)