When I heard DJI was coming out with an upgrade to its Air lineup of drones, the first thought I had was: “Why?” DJI just released the Mavic Air 2 a year ago, and it’s a fantastic mid-tier drone that suits both semi-professional videographers and casual drone flyers who want to graduate from smaller drones, like the Mavic Mini 2. It checks most—if not all—of the boxes. There’s no need for a brand new drone in the Air lineup so soon, DJI—y’all ain’t Apple.
Yet my internal griping didn’t stop the most popular consumer drone company from proceeding, and now we have the brand new Air 2S. I have to admit, with its updated camera sensor and specs, the 2S now competes with more premium prosumer drones at a lower price, and I dig that.
The Air 2S looks exactly like its previous model, but only to the untrained eye. The front got a slight facelift to factor in the new upward-facing sensors, but other than that, it’s the same compact and foldable drone with DJI’s trademark 3-axis gimbal: nothing to write home about.
But the lack of change to its exterior belies completely upgraded guts. The Air 2S has a 1-inch CMOS camera sensor, which is huge. It’s double the size of its predecessor, and its footage quality is comparable to the DJI’s top-tier prosumer drones, the Mavic 2 and Phantom 4 Pro, in low-light settings and crop factor. At its highest resolution, the 2S can shoot in 5.4K at 30fps, a slight upgrade from the Air 2, which comes in at 4K ultra HD.
I love color grading, and to my very pleasant surprise, the 2S can shoot in 10-bit D-Log color profile, which is a delight for videographers and color enthusiasts like myself. Editors can pull more color, shadows, and mid tones than the Air 2, which shoots in 8-bit D-Cinelike, and even the Phantom 4 Pro, which shoots in 8-bit as well but in the D-Log spectrum.
Another notable thing is that the 2S has a zoom feature that can go up to 8X zoom, depending on what resolution you’re shooting in. It’s not an optical zoom, but it does the job—somewhat. Paired with its bigger sensor, the footage in zoom is not bad at all—check the video up top for the examples. But there’s a caveat: You can’t use the zoom feature in D-log or HDR mode, which is a bummer for cinematographers. We will see if this will be updated in the future. I hope it will.
Just like the Air 2, the 2S doesn’t have side obstacle avoidance sensors, even though DJI added two sensors facing upwards. The only reason why I bring this up is because the 2S has two features that work well together: Advanced Piloted Assist Systems (APAS) and ActiveTrack, the feature that follows a selected subject in frame. But it isn’t fun when the drone doesn’t see a tree and gets stuck, which leads to you climbing said tree for two hours just to even located it, and another hour to take it down carefully. Watch the video above to see it in real time; it’s not a pretty sight.
When it comes down to it, the Air 2S is a great drone, if you plan to utilize its larger sensor. If you bought the Mavic Air 2 for content creation and videography, definitely look into swapping out your Mavic Air 2 for the Air 2S. You could really benefit from the 5.4K resolution and 10-bit D-Log. If you’re a casual flyer and have an Air 2, an upgrade isn’t necessary. The previous model is still a great drone. But for $999, the Air 2S offers top-tier quality at a mid-tier price. Look into getting this drone—it won’t disappoint.