DJI unveils the Air 2S drone with 20-megapixel camera

The updated mid-sized drone has superior photo and video chops.

James Trew / Engadget

It’s barely been a month since DJI unveiled a new drone, and the company already has another to show. This time, it’s the Air 2S, the latest iteration of its medium-sized camera drone. Note the absence of the Mavic branding, indicating we might be seeing more of a shift in how the company pitches each level of quadcopter it offers.

It’s not clear if the “S” branding here is an Apple-style upgrade to the previous model, but the Air 2S certainly looks like someone gave the previous model a light facelift. The design seems near-identical bar a few smoother lines and an extra pair of front obstacle avoidance cameras.

But what’s important here is the camera it seems. The Air 2S offers a larger (1-inch) sensor that shoots up to 20-megapixel photos or 5.4K video at 30fps (or 4K at 60fps and 150Mbps). All of which is a solid upgrade from last time around where photos were 12-megapixel and video topped out at 4K/60 or 120 Mbps.

Other camera perks include 4X digital zoom, doubling the amount of the Mavic Air 2 at 4K/30fps. There is also the option for 6X zoom in 2.7K and 1080p/60 modes. If you don’t mind shooting in 1080/30 you can squeeze that zoom feature right up to 8X. For videographers, the Air 2S supports three color profiles: Normal (8 bit), D-Log (10 bit) or HLG (10 bit)

DJI Air 2S

At 595g, the Air 2S weighs in a shade heavier than its predecessor (570g) which might also go some way to explain the slightly lower max flight time now — 31 minutes down from 33. There are other upgrades, though, one of which we already alluded to: that extra pair of obstacle cameras.

DJI claims that all four obstacle sensors have been updated, with those two new cameras enabling “binocular zooming” which the company claims recognizes objects both farther away and at faster speeds. There’s also “O3” which is DJI’s fancy new name for OcuSync (its video transmission technology) which, in a nutshell, means you can theoretically fly the Air 2S up to 7.5 miles away (12 kilometers) which is a shade over a mile more than last time. In practice, this means the video connection should be more stable over any distance within those limits.

As usual, there are some tweaks to the built-in smart flight modes which include Spotlight 2.0, ActiveTrack 4.0 and Point of Interest 3.0 — all of which are aimed at giving your shots that cinematic feel.

More interesting is the new “MasterShot” feature which seems to have been teased as an April fool, but one that appears to have been a creative tease in plain sight. MasterShot seems to combine pre-programmed flight paths with intelligent automatic editing. A sort of fire-and-forget mode to create automatic edits from whatever path you tell it.

The Air 2S goes on sale today for $999 for the standard bundle or $1,299 for the "Fly More" combo which includes three batteries, a charging dock, ND filters and the shoulder bag.

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