It can be difficult to choose from the plethora of drones currently on the market.
However, the DJI Air 2S stands out as the best value drone for taking photos.
If you’re in the market for a new drone, you may be considering some of the latest models from DJI or other companies.
However, the DJI Air 2S is a great combination of price and features.
It takes stunning, high-resolution images, shoots high-quality video, and is extremely user-friendly.
Plus, it’s compact enough to take with you wherever you go.
If you’re a photographer looking to get an aerial perspective for your images, check out my DJI Air 2s review.
Table of Contents
DJI Air 2S Specs
- Great Photos
- Large Sensor
- Easy to use
- Fixed Aperture
- Fixed Focal Length
- Modest Flight Time
Maximum Speed: 43 mph / 19 m/s
Maximum Flight Time: 31 Minutes
Vision System: Downward, Forward, Backward
Hovering Accuracy: ±0.33′ / 0.1 m
Maximum Range: 6.21 Miles / 10 km
Sensor: 1″ CMOS
Effective Pixels: 20 MP
Focal Length: 22mm (35mm Equivalent)
Aperture: f/2.8 fixed
Minimum Focusing Distance: 2′ / 0.6 m
ISO Range: 100 to 12800
Max Photo Resolution: 5472 x 3648
Photo Format: JPEG, DNG
Overall Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.0 x 7.1″ / 97 x 77 x 180 mm (Folded)
Weight: 21 oz / 595 g
Build & Appearance
After several generations, the DJI Air line has become more refined.
The build quality of the DJI Air 2S is excellent – the drone feels sturdy and is more compact than the original DJI Air 2.
Its slimmer profile, though slightly heavier, exudes elegance and modernity, and its camera is significantly enhanced.
Although the addition of an ‘S’ to the name may appear subtle, this drone represents a substantial upgrade.
At first glance, the drones might look similar, but a closer inspection of the camera and vision-sensing system reveals notable differences.
The primary distinction is the upgraded image sensor, now a 1″ 20mp, as opposed to the earlier 1/2″ 12mp. Furthermore, two added vision sensors equip this drone with downward, forward, and backward obstacle detection.
While the controller maintains a familiar design, it now features Occusync 3.0, enhancing both range and connection stability.
Though the standard controller is more basic and affordable, I highly recommend opting for the DJI RC Remote Controller due to its integrated 5.5″ touchscreen display.
Using a phone or tablet for navigation works, but an integrated screen streamlines the process and eliminates one more device to charge.
After piloting the DJI Air 2S, or even after a mishap, its robust construction becomes evident.
My experience with DJI drones over the years has proven their remarkable resilience. The Air 2S clearly upholds this legacy of durability and toughness.
Boasting a refined and sleek design, the DJI Air 2S stands out as a premier drone.
Ergonomics & Handling
The DJI Air 2S has excellent handling and ergonomics. The new vision sensors make handling obstacles even easier, and the refined design is very easy to use.
This drone mirrors the style of several generations of DJI drones and is very comfortable if you are familiar with the layout and controls of previous versions.
The batteries have the same top mount style, and the SD card slot is in the same position as other DJI drones.
When it comes to the controller, the standard option (DJI RC-N1) is adequate, but I strongly encourage an upgrade to the DJI RC because of the built-in screen.
You’ll also get the ergonomic advantage of several more buttons/dials. I like to set additional controls to adjust the aperture for exposure adjustment and quick camera forward/down movement to see below me when landing.
Having additional controls at your fingertips makes flying much faster without having to dive into the menus during flight.
I especially like the ability to switch between photo and video modes without having to take my fingers off the sticks.
The other big improvement of the DJI Air 2S is the inclusion of Occusync 3.0. While this boasts a flight distance of up to 7.5 miles (12km), the more reasonable benefit is a solid connection when flying around obstacles.
If you happen to go behind a building or some trees, your connection is much less likely to drop off.
Keep in mind that if you are flying professionally, you must stay within line of sight of your drone at all times, so flying behind obstacles isn’t allowed.
Nor is flying 12km away since I’m confident nobody’s eyesight is that good ;)
Although the DJI Air 2S has improved obstacle avoidance with forward, backward, and downward sensing abilities, you must keep in mind that the drone is still lacking side sensing abilities, so don’t fly sideways expecting the drone to warn you before you bounce off a rock or tree.
If you opt for the fly more combo, you’ll get the compact carrying case that holds everything you need to fly this drone.
Three batteries will give you a solid hour of realistic flight time (I usually stop flying at 20-30% battery life), and the compact charger that fits in the case will quickly get your batteries charged up.
The multi-battery charger that comes with the drone is very nice to have, but I found the battery mounts to be a little sensitive.
You can easily bump them off the charger, especially if you often charge your batteries in a car like I do.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that the DJI Air 2S is a very easy drone to fly. The controller mode switch can be easily flipped to Cinematic mode for a much slower and smoother flight pattern.
Additionally, if you’re clear of any obstacles, you can slide into Sport mode for faster flight but keep in mind that the drone will not avoid obstacles automatically.
Because of the wide focal length of the camera and the moderately sized sensor, the images on this drone are almost always in focus.
It does have a minimum focus distance of 2′ (0.6m) which is quite impressive for a drone, but the reality of most use cases is that the focus is well beyond that distance.
Beyond several feet, the camera on this drone will be reaching the hyperfocal distance, ensuring that everything is sharp.
In practical use, hearing the responsive beep and flashing green square is satisfying to know that everything is in focus, but I rarely worry about it and have never had an issue with sharpness in my images or videos.
If you want more manual control, you can choose manual focus and slide the focus to get a sharp image.
Low Light Performance
While smaller drones are not known for their low-light performance, the DJI Air 2S stands apart in this category. Because of the much larger sensor, you can expect improved image quality at higher ISO values.
The 1″ sensor is double the size of the previous version of this drone and gives much higher performance when it comes to elevated ISO levels.
I found the images to be very good up to about ISO 400 and usable up to ISO 800 on the Air 2s. Beyond that, you’re seeing a significant downgrade in quality.
If shooting in low light is your primary concern, definitely consider upgrading to the Mavic 3 series, which offers better image quality.
Additionally, you must keep in mind the loss of dynamic range and apparent sharpness when increasing your ISO. I’ve found that lowering your shutter speed is a good way to overcome this issue.
As long as it’s not too windy and your subject is still, you can easily shoot at shutter speeds of 1/50th or even lower to let in more light.
The f/2.8 fixed aperture lens is relatively fast and will allow you to keep your ISO low. I rarely shoot above 200 ISO and instead prefer to drop my shutter speed to get proper exposure in low light.
Regarding image quality, the DJI Air 2S is a big step up from the original Air 2. With double the sensor size of the last model (now 1″ – 20 mp), this camera is very capable.
If you’re a photographer looking for an affordable drone with great image quality, this is one of the best options on the market.
You might be tempted by the other drones on the market offering 48 mp cameras, but the reality is they are using a 12 mp camera to create an enhanced image.
With the DJI Air 2S, you’re getting a true 20MP image with excellent sharpness and color. The raw files DNG format files have great dynamic range (~12 stops) and can be edited to produce great results.
With past drones, the images were difficult to process with minimal latitude in exposure, but the DJI Air 2S files have great flexibility to adjust the highlights/shadows in post as well as match the color to other cameras in a gallery of images.
This improvement in image quality has allowed me to incorporate drone images into my workflow while maintaining a consistent look to the images.
Nothing is worse than trying to match the color of two different types of camera sensors that look drastically different. Luckily this isn’t a problem on this camera.
In terms of video quality, the DJI Air 2S offers 5.4k at 30 fps as well as 4k at 60 fps. Both are impressive offerings for such a compact and affordable drone.
When it comes down to practical use, the video is quite good. I utilized this drone as a backup to my Mavic 3, and it offers a similar image.
One quick practical tip when it comes to recording video at the highest resolution is to avoid the h.265 codec. I find the compression to cause playback issues on my relatively late-model Macbook Pro.
There are a variety of other features available in the video, but I find it best to keep things simple. Find a good composition in good light and record at the highest quality you can.
There are somewhat gimmicky features like a digital zoom and mastershots available but I typically opt to utilize the core features where this drone excels.
The overall performance of the DJI Air 2S is excellent. I appreciate that it is full-featured where it matters (big sensor) and slim/sleek in stature.
Often times you have to get a big drone to get a high-quality camera/sensor, but this drone delivers despite its compact body.
It has enough flight time to get great photos/videos, it is easy to fly, it has a proven design, and it is very affordable. All these combine to make this drone an excellent choice for the photographer looking to get an aerial perspective.
I particularly appreciate that the DJI Air 2S is quick to use. Gone are the days of compass calibrations with every flight and laggy controller connections. This drone is solid and functional for a professional photographer.
Because of the larger sensor, this drone is perfect for photographers. I mainly use it as a backup to my Mavic 3 for commercial photo/video jobs. It is compact enough to bring with me just in case the unexpected happens with my main drone.
It may not have all the features of most late-model drones, but the price is great, and it has the core features that I rely on when producing images and video.
Other Useful Features
A couple of other features to note about this drone are its compact size and simple gimbal cover.
These two things may not seem like much, but having a compact drone makes it even more likely you will bring it with you.
A drone is no good if you hesitate to put it in your bag because of its size/weight. The only way you’ll have the ability to get an aerial perspective is if you bring your drone with you.
Thinking back to the days of the huge Phantom drones from DJI, bringing a DJI Air 2S now seems so easy!
The other small but appreciated feature is the simplicity of the gimbal cover. I love how the Air 2S now has a small plastic one-piece gimbal cover that is easy on/off.
Anything that makes working with the drone easier/faster is a win in my book! Overall, the DJI Air 2S is one of the easiest drones I’ve used because of its classic design.
How I Tested the DJI Air 2s
After doing extensive research into the full lineup of DJI drones, the DJI Air 2S arose as a clear winner for a backup to my primary drone. It offers all the features I need at a great price.
Once in hand, I put the DJI Air 2S through its paces to make sure the images and video would hold up to my standards.
After hours of flight time and lots of image/video review, I knew this would have a place in my kit.
This drone has been effective on many commercial photo and video projects. I have thoroughly tested it in practical use settings and have been very pleased with the results.
If you’re looking for a reliable drone, look no further than the DJI Air 2S.
Alternatives to DJI Air 2s
While there are other drone makers in the market, I would say the majority of the competition for the DJI Air 2S comes from other DJI models.
All of these drones offer similar features, but none have what I think is the most important feature that sets the DJI Air 2S apart: a 1″ 20mp sensor.
If you want a drone for getting true 20mp photos, the DJI Air 2S is your best option for the price.
You could look for a used Mavic 2 Pro, but it is no longer in production and is much larger than the Air 2S.
If video is your primary focus, you might look at the Mini 3 Pro. It is extremely compact and has solid video features.
If budget is not a concern, the Air 3 is a great option. It has lots of new features, but it doesn’t have as large a sensor if photography is your main focus.
DJI is currently producing a plethora of drones, and it is impressive to see the variety of features they offer. Despite this, the DJI Air 2S fills a unique spot in the lineup and is a great choice!
Value for Money
At around $1,000, the DJI Air 2S Fly More combo is a great value. It includes the drone as well as 3 batteries and all the accessories you need to get flying.
For the image quality and the size of the sensor, this is an excellent value. It almost feels like the DJI Air 2s is punching above its weight class with the 1″ sensor compared with the other comparable drones that have much smaller sensors.
If you want a fully featured but still compact drone for photography (or video), look no further than the DJI Air 2S!
What is the DJI Air 2S good for?
The DJI Air 2S is an excellent drone for photography because of its large 1″ sensor and compact size. The photos are great quality and it has lots of features that make it easy to fly.
Is the Air 3 better than the DJI Air 2S?
The DJI Air 3 is a newer but not necessarily better drone. The DJI Air 2S offers a 20mp 1″ sensor giving it better photo quality than the Air 3. The Air 3 does offer a variety of improved features like omnidirectional obstacle avoidance.
Do I need a license for the DJI Air 2S?
Because it is over 250 grams, you will need to register it but you are not required to get your part 107 license unless you are flying commercially (this includes social media and YouTube if you are earning money).
DJI Air 2S Review | Conclusion
Overall, the DJI Air 2S is the perfect drone for photographers.
The main selling point as I’ve mentioned throughout this Air 2s review, is the 1″ 20mp sensor combined with the compact size and affordable price. No other drone in the DJI lineup has this combination of features.
As a professional photographer, the DJI Air 2S was an obvious choice to back up my Mavic 3 in the event of a crash on a shoot.
I always have backup gear with me, and with the complexity of drones, having a backup is essential.
I’ll be keeping this drone around as a backup when I have important commercial jobs that require drone photos/video in the deliverables.
I also know several photographers who have specifically sought out the slightly older model because of its high-quality images.
If you want a great drone at a great price, check out the DJI Air 2S!