Autel EVO II review

With 8K video recording, 48-megapixel camera, long flight time and all-round collision sensors, the Autel EVO II looks to have stolen the Top 8k Drone Crown.

OUR VERDICT
The Autel EVO 2 firmly sets its sights on the aging DJI Mavic 2 line, and in many respects surpasses it – not least in resolution and collision sensors. Its looks aren’t for everybody , but there’s no arguing with the video quality. you’ll fly without your phone which is massively convenient, but there are some esoteric aspects of the planning and software.

PROSCONS
8K Video
4K at 60fps
Good flight modes
Phone-free operation
Software should be more polished
No Panorama mode
Mix of USB ports
No cables supplied

The Autel EVO II builds strongly on its predcessor. the first Autel EVO, the company’s first folding camera drone, was an able competitor for DJI’s Mavic Pro series. On the spec sheet, it had been arguably the winner, boasting 4K at 60fps. It also included a ground-breaking controller with a built-in color display which meant your phone wasn’t (always) needed. there have been some issues though; the orange shell didn’t quite have the finesse of DJI’s consumer styling, the software lacked the stress on shareability and usefulness and a few felt the machine was a touch skittish within the air. The Autel EVO II doesn’t discard the high-vis orange, and it definitely places the stress on specs again, but can it beat the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom?

In a word, yes. a bit like the Mavic 2 series, the Autel EVO 2 airframe is obtainable with different cameras. The 8K EVO 2 is that the lower priced model while the EVO 2 Pro maxes out at 6K video but from a 1-inch sensor. there’s also an EVO Thermal (the 8K camera paired with a 640 x 512 FLIR thermal camera) on offer, for more specialist roles.

The model tested here is that the “standard” model, and although 8K video (7680*4320 pixels at 24 or 25fps video) might sound more impressive, the image sensor features a quarter the area of the EVO 2 Pro. actually it’s an equivalent Sony IMX586 stacked CMOS 48-megapixel sensor because the Mavic Air 2, with a ƒ/1.8 lens giving 25.6mm effective focal distance .

As a customer, then, Autel Robotics offer you the selection between biggest sensor or another exciting feature in 8K video. This feels very almost like the selection between a telephoto lens over a good smaller sensor, or a 1-inch sensor with no zoom that DJI’s Mavic 2 series presents customers with, although Autel says that users are going to be ready to swap their cameras (though you would like to be confident with tiny screws and ribbon connectors).

Autel EVO II: The Airframe

The EVO 2 airframe definitely feels the part, and while we can’t say we are completely hooked in to the colour or styling, there’s nothing to complain about. While the packaging would be reception within the Apple Store, the aircraft feels a notch closer to professional than consumer, and therefore the slightly hump-back design is sensible once you realize it’s built around an enormous 7,100mAh battery.

In practice that battery gave us about 33 minutes useful flight, instead of the quoted 40, but we did got to tweak the return-to-home warnings within the settings – by default they are available a touch early.
When folded, it’s not tons bigger than a Mavic 2, but when open it’s 53mm wider at 397mm across. It’s also a noticeably taller, partly by the inclusion of legs on all four arms, providing a useful 22m ground clearance. If the Mavic may be a sports car, the Autel may be a rugged 4×4 which may begin from a worse surface.

The ruggedness doesn’t come at the expense of features – the aircraft houses the 12 camera sensors necessary for true omnidirectional collision sensors, it needs two cameras on either side and therefore the top. additionally there are ultrasonic landing sensors, and downward facing LED lights. This thrashes the Mavic 2’s half-hearted equivalent: the DJI drone can only use its side sensors in some automated modes, while the EVO 2 will detect and avoid objects do you have to be close to hit them sideways.

This feature is usually available (so long as you don’t select the 45mph ‘Ludicrous Mode’) and it worked in our tests, and made us feel safer flying, especially when tracking a topic from the side. Not that it’s essential to try to to this manually; the drone is additionally equipped with a number of subject tracking modes. These include Dynamic track (follow), Tripod Track (hovers while camera follows subject), Parallel Track (follows subject and moves with it, sort of a dolly), Orbit (around a hard and fast point), Smart Orbit (around an object).

Autel EVO II: The controller


The controller is sort of light, and feels a touch just like the weak link, design wise. The phone grip, an easy arm, was no problem to use with my iPhone 11 Pro Max in its case. Indeed the phone is positioned above the controller, as I prefer it, and therefore the fold our arms make holding the controller comfortable, so from a practical perspective all is sweet and therefore the 9km range is quite sufficient.

Where things subside is that the connectors; there are not any perfectly tucked-in cables to attach phones as there are with DJI’s controllers – just a Micro USB connector for charging (not USB-C just like the drone) and an outsized USB socket for connecting to your phone. I had to truly hunt my very own iPhone Lightning cable, which dangles rather awkwardly if you’ve been wont to a Mavic.

That lack of design polish continues into the built-in display. in fact it’s brilliant that it are often used as a monitor, dispensing with the necessity for the phone in the least for basic video and photo operation, but the layout of the instrument data might be a touch more beautiful (it’s perfectly functional) and on a bright day the screen isn’t as bright as you’d like (the same are often said of a phone though). Complaints aside, you’re getting most of the way toward the optional DJI Smart Controller, without spending nearly half the worth of the drone again!

Autel have also tried to offer you additional options as a pilot with the addition of Gesture Control and voice command. the previous will recognize you if you hold your arms above your head for a couple of seconds, then take a photograph if you hold them straight out or a video if you hold one arm up. After your gesture, the drone winks its lights in acknowledgement, supplying you with a flash to pose (so you don’t need to be photographed within the gesture). It works fine, but feels a touch gimmicky, and that we aren’t sure we like giving a drone a one-armed salute!

Similarly Voice command is ok – when enabled a microphone icon appears bottom left of the screen and you’ll make commands like ‘start recording’ or ‘take off’, but these are much easier to try to to with the control sticks. Hopefully it’ll eventually add commands that permit you set video resolution or which might actually save time menu hunting – then it’d actually be useful.

Autel EVO II: The camera

The results from the EVO II 8K are striking, and therefore the camera isn’t in need of functionality, with one notable exception. There are not any panorama modes which rotate the drone automatically and produce stitched panoramas. This seems an odd omission, especially since the drone is capable of quickly plotting and executing automated survey missions for mapping – DJI drones don’t treat default. You can, of course, stitch yourself in Photoshop, but that seems a touch clumsy.

Outside mapping, as a stills camera the EVO II is impressive. The JPEGs it produces have a subtle but effective HDR effect. there’s some clear geometric distortion, however, especially toward the sides , which isn’t unsurprising in within the Raw files from a good lens, but one would expect to be processed call at the JPEGs. On the opposite hand, it seems that the 48-megapixels, a minimum of in decent light, do provide tons of detail, as are often seen within the tower example. This shot also gives a thought of the limited dynamic range when the image has been exposed for the bottom instead of the sky but it’s impressive that details of Grus are often made out in the least .

Turning to video, it’s hard to understand how useful whopping 8K video files are just yet, since so few devices can actually play them at full speed. Much of the time, if you’re composing correctly, you would possibly find shooting at 4K the higher option, not least because it can get you to 60fps (and subtle but effective HDR) but also because most devices can play it without stuttering. Where the high-res modes inherit their own is for cropping in post-production, since a 2x zoom is effectively lossless at 4K. But shooting at 4K produces great video which is sharp without being overly crisp. the sole area of serious disappointment was the digital zoom, which looked far worse than the equivalent feature on the Parrot Anafi.

Which brings us to switching between things, and therefore the Autel Explorer app generally . I was, for the foremost part, pleasantly surprised by the tool. Camera settings are accessed by a bar along rock bottom of the screen which slides left or right to permit you to pick resolution, frame rate, recording format, auto or manual exposure then on, each button producing a menu. The flight modes are easily invoked via a sink page on the highest bar, and therefore the record functions and video/still swap are as obvious as a phone camera app. the sole irritation – one I’m sure are going to be fixed at some point – was that any warning messages were hard to dismiss.

At no point did we experience any issues with the preview video when flying within the 500m line-of-sight limit which the united kingdom mandates, and our test locations weren’t in need of electromagnetic interference none of which appeared to pose a drag .

Verdict


The EVO2 is undoubtedly an excellent aircraft, and pairing it with the very half-inch sensor that helps the DJI Mavic Air 2 beat its older brothers doesn’t hurt, but the digital zoom is not any substitute for an optical one, nor as polished because the equivalents in latest phones. If you don’t need panoramas, and may keep your fingers from the digital zoom option, this is often a class-leading aircraft and an honest camera. Assured within the air, confidence-inspiring in terms of safety equipment (so long as you don’t feel the necessity for geo-fencing) and with mapping tools inbuilt this could be the primary choice for several .

The 6K Pro version, with 10-bit video and a 1-inch sensor offers more where quality instead of pixel count is that the key factor – that’s a choice for your wallet and objectives but, for now (panoramas aside) the EVO 2 succeeds in making the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic Air Zoom look distinctly out of date.

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