There are a lot of drones on the market. Some are toys or racing machines with no real camera, some are equipped with expensive DSLR-level cameras, and then there are the drones that most of us are likely to buy.
In terms of a medium cost drone with an above average camera experience, the list is very short. Perhaps the best option available: The DJI Mavic Air 2.
DJI Mavic Air 2 highlights
- Significant camera upgrade to 48MP
- Super smooth gimbal
- Very portable
- Class-leading battery life (at launch)
- Class-leading connectivity range (at launch)
There are pros and cons to any drone, and those will differ based on your specific needs. The best camera drones are large machines, and very expensive. Toy drones are affordable, small, and easy to lug around, but do not have cameras worth their weight. The middle ground is a set of consumer drones that balance portability with performance.
We are pleased that the list of reliable and worthy consumer drones is always growing. The DJI Mavic Air 2 landed in spring 2020, striking one of the best balances of functionality for the cost. (The newer Air 2S landed in April 2021, it costs a bit more, but has even better features and a much larger camera, learn more at the bottom of this article.)
Related: The best DJI Mavic Air 2 accessories
What makes the DJI Mavic Air 2 so great?
DJI Mavic Air 2 camera
Did you know that most drones utilize the same sensors as you’d find in your mobile phone? This is good news, it means that as phones continue to get better, so will our drones. The Mavic Air 2 is equipped with the 48MP 1/2-inch Sony sensor you’ll see on some of the best phones.
While you can shoot 48MP photos, the concept is to shoot 12MP images using pixel binning to improve quality. In the same vein, the sensor is capable of 8K video, but shoots 4K at higher bitrate instead.
The jury is still out whether the Mavic Air 2 camera is better than the 1/2.3-inch sensor in the more expensive DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, but one thing is for sure, if you don’t need the zoom, the Mavic Air 2 is an easier purchase to justify.
DJI Mavic Air 2 smooth video capture
One of the most difficult tasks for camera drones is to produce smooth video. No matter how good your drone is, wind and other environmental factors cause crazy amounts of turbulence. Your drone is constantly vibrating and shifting in the sky, without 3-axis stabilization, your video capture is hard to watch without getting sea sick.
DJI has been a leader in gimbal performance for a while now, and the DJI Mavic Air 2 rocks some of the best results we’ve seen.
Here is a simple video sample from the Mavic Air 2, you be the judge.
How portable is the DJI Mavic Air 2?
When you go hiking, do you bring a water bottle? Good, stay hydrated. That bottle pocket on your backpack is all you need for the DJI Mavic Air 2. The drone folds down to a small brick, ready to pack away for travel.
The drone is one thing, but there is the remote and accessories to consider. The Fly More combo comes with a small travel bag, but any small camera bag will be great for this drone as well. The joysticks can be stowed on the controller, so you don’t have to worry about breaking them. The batteries are evenly shaped as well, for easy organization.
We admit that the charger is the least portable aspect to this drone, but if you’re just taking the Mavic Air 2 and controller to go, it’s light-weight and easy to manage.
How good is the DJI Mavic Air 2 battery life?
Good. Very few drones stay airborne for this amount of time. The DJI Mavic Air 2 is rated for up to 34 minutes of flight time. Taking safety into consideration, you’ll get more like 26 minutes in the air. For some perspective, that is about 10 minutes more than the original Mavic Air.
How far can the DJI Mavic Air 2 fly?
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is one of the longest ranged drones on the market today. With a rated connectivity of 10 KM, about 6.2 miles, it tops our list of the best long-range drones with a mile to spare.
As always, “how far can it fly” is a loaded question. Are you talking about how much ground it can cover, or how far away from you it can go before you lose connection? Ground coverage is a math equation: speed x time = distance. Connectivity range is more complicated.
Whether you fly in optimal conditions, or you have high magnetic interference like exists in many parts of the world, your DJI Mavic Air 2 should keep you connected well beyond that legal line-of-sight, so fly safe.
Should I buy the DJI Mavic Air 2?
There are more than a few great reasons to consider the DJI Mavic Air 2. At launch, it hit the market as the best drone for the money that you can buy, with the balance of a great camera and solid flight features for the price. If you can afford the Mavic Air 2, buy it!
If your budget is a little smaller, the DJI Mini 2 is one of the best drones under $500. It’s ultra-portable, very easy to fly, and the 4K video capture is far better than any other drone we’ve seen at this price point. To be fair, it’s practically the only viable drone with a 4K camera in that price bracket.
If your budget is a little larger, the newer DJI Air 2S is the drone for you. It is practically the same airframe as the Mavic Air 2, so it shares most of the same great features we listed above, but then it packs a whopping 20MP, 1-inch camera that can shoot up to 5.4K video. On the inside, it also includes updated flight features, such as new camera modes, and O3 (Ocusync 3.0) which boosts the connectivity range to 12KM, or about 7.5 miles.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no doubt that the Fly More combo for DJI drones is a cost-effective way to extend the flight of your drone, but your needs should dictate if you should spend the extra money or not. With the newer drones getting upwards of 30 minutes of actual flight time per charge, an extra battery may be more than you need for a simple flight in the park.
However, if you are hiking for the weekend, a total of 90 minutes in the sky might be just about right. Considering the additional parts and accessories that come with a Fly More combo, it’s totally worth it if you are considering at least one additional battery for your kit.
For many hobby pilots, the DJI Mavic Mini is a compelling option. Make no mistake, the newer Mavic Air 2 is larger, faster, stronger, has more safety features, and can capture superior photos and video from the sky, so it really comes down to your needs.
If 2.7K video from a last-gen 12MP 1/2.3-inch sensor is good enough for you, spend $400 on the Mavic Mini, if you want 4K video from a 48MP 1/2-inch camera sensor, it’ll cost you a little more to snag the Mavic Air 2. We think it’s worth the extra cash, if you care about capturing photos from the sky.
Unfortunately, DJI has designed brand new components for the Mavic Air 2. The drone is a different size from the other Mavic drones, it requires difference size propellers, but we don’t see why they couldn’t have made the batteries cross-compatible. That’s business, I suppose.