How good is the Autel EVO 2 drone really?
Finally, the drone market seems to be coming back to life again!
For a long time, filmmakers and photographers both were waiting to see big news. It almost seemed like the iPhone-effect was rubbing off on the drone industry (saying that one powerful company holds the monopole, which also means that the innovations turn out smaller and smaller).
Market leader DJI seems to be putting their focus on small and transportable drones these days, not always to the pleasure of ambitious and professional filmmakers and photographers.
GoPros drone business got crushed and they left this aspiring but challenging market quickly.
And Yuneec seems to have gotten lost in a galaxy far, far away. They are quiet and not too ambitious these days.
Autel, an emerging company from China, takes on the battle and shakes the market awake again with its announcement of the first consumer drone with an inbuilt 8K camera.
But how good is the drone really?
And can it keep up to the promises its manufacturer made?
We put together the three main advantages and disadvantages of the Autel Evo 2 for you.
We are happy to announce that we got an early unit of the Autel Evo 2 drone for some intensive testing.
That is why our information doesn't come by hearsay but from our own experience.
Do you want to know more about the Autel Evo 2 Drone? Don't forget to watch our in-depth review:
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Advantage 1 | 8K Videos
Of course, the Evo 2's main advantage is it's up to 8K camera. Not to forget about being able to record 4K at up to 60fps.
Which such a high resolution, the drone lets the competition look almost a bit elderly.
Sure, many people ask, why 8K should interest them at all.
"What do you want me to do with 8K? I just recently bought a 4K TV."
Spoiler: this discussion already showed up when Full HD and later 4K were introduced to the mass market.
But: the main reason to nowadays pick an 8K camera is to shoot futureproof material. We don't own a single 8K screen either.
Also, the 8K material is of great help when working on standard Full HD or 4K projects, as you can seamlessly and without a great loss of quality zoom ("crop") into the footage, creating something like a digital zoom.
Which such a high resolution, the drone lets the competition look almost elderly.
8K in early 2020 is more about expanding one's creative possibilities, then being watched straight out of the camera.
And at some point, 8K is going to be the new standard, it's just a question of time. And those that invest early will have up-to-date, crisp and clean looking footage even then.
But how did the camera actually do during the test phase?
Firstly, nothing worked whatsoever. As we say in German: Tote Hose (literally "dead trousers").
We fly all the way to Iceland, fight with blizzards, unbelievable winds, hail storms and ice - and then, in one of the few calm moments the camera gives up and creates footage that looks like it was recorded with an unsharpness-filter.
The recordings were unusable - until Autel, after a few days, sent in a brand-new firmware, that then changed the game.
The 8K recordings the camera recorded then were crisp and clean and super sharp - there is a noticeable loss of quality in the corners, but the footage still looks way sharper than standard 4K, for example (even on screens that cannot display 8K, that's the funny sidenote).
Yes, the optics aren't ideal, a slight distortion is visible, but the 8K results still look very sharp due to the high resolution!
The Autel Evo 2 drone still is at an early stage - there will for sure be other firmware updates to even eliminate more of the current flaws.
Advantage 2 | Interchangeable Camera
Please note that we couldn't test swapping the camera of the Evo 2 drone yet, as we only have one of its cameras so far.
But Autel claims that it takes less than ten minutes and no fancy skills to replace the camera of the drone.
Currently, there are three camera versions:
1/2'' + 8K (Evo 2)
1'' + 6K (Evo 2 Pro)
1/2'' + 4K + FLIR LWIR Camera (Evo 2 Dual)
Not only will you be able to swap the camera in case it should ever break, which would be way more cost-efficient than having to replace the entire drone.
But it also means that maybe future and even better cameras will be attachable to the Autel Evo 2.
The modular structure of the camera is a huge advantage - and the Evo 2 pretty much the only serious consumer drone that at all allows replacing the camera.
Advantage 3 | Flight time + stability
The drone doesn't stay airborne for forty minutes as the specs might make you hope.
But it's already astonishing that it stays in the air for more than half an hour.
And all of that while weighing more than 1.1kg, and with the energy-intensive obstacle-avoidance system and its twelve cameras running.
32 minutes of flight time is a realistic value. Though you could probably add another minute or two under normal conditions. Remember that we were flying the drone in the cold and during quite strong winds only.
32 minutes of flight time are realistic
Still, users should be wise and acknowledge that working with a single battery is not gonna get them through a full day of shooting, but with only one or two spare batteries, that shouldn't be an issue anymore.
The Evo 2 drone flies steadily!
It might not sound like a great and hard to accomplish task, but other manufacturers already burnt their hands here (namely GoPro).
Even when the temperature dropped below -12°C and when the winds were howling, nothing could fluster the drone.
Watch this test clip:
At first, you might think that the drone is dancing and not flying too steady - but that wouldn't take the weather into account.
The drone's behavior, how it fought and laid its body into the wind, how it quickly adjusted to the gusts, was really well.
Nothing can unbalance the Evo 2 quickly, it flies smooth and steady.
Disadvantage 1 | Handling + Maximum Distance
The main disadvantage of the drone might be its overall handling.
Though Autel successfully learned many things from the competition, the menus are mid-comfortable to use. Some important ones even miss out completely (f.e. one to smoothen the gimbals start and stop motion).
The app crashed plenty of times, that's something that really shouldn't happen at all.
The app crashed plenty of times
Next, Autel is everything but modest.
Even though the Evo 2 is their second drone only, they love to show off with phenomenal specs.
They give a maximum range of about 9km in the US and 5km in Europe. That's big numbers and would be a new record in the consumer field.
In reality, though, the connection, especially the video transmission, breaks down way earlier - and with way earlier I mean already roughly after a few hundred meters, in good times after a kilometer.
In reality the connection, especially the video transmission, breaks down way earlier, often after a few hundred meters already
While flying, pilots in most countries are restricted to fly in line of sight by law anyways, but that doesn't excuse the try to massively improve the specs over what the drone delivers in reality. #notcool
We were also surprised to see that the drone only uses the 2.4GHz frequency.
Luckily, the return-to-home function did well - otherwise, I could probably have said goodbye to the drone quite a couple of times.
Disadvantage 2 | 48MP Photos
The Autel Evo2's camera is supposed to not only deliver 8K videos but also shoot 48MP photos.
That sounds like a big deal for photographers! At least on the paper.
The reality though upsets that rising happiness.
The 48MP photos, recorded with the Evo 2 in different modes, do not at all look sharper than those recorded with other up-to-date drones that often have half of the megapixels.
The images are sharp and usable, yes, but disappointing for 48MP.
Some modesty would look good on Autels future tech specs sheets.
Disadvantage 3 | Anticollission System
Not less than in total twelve cameras cover all flight directions (saying the front, back, right, left, up and down).
Considered by itself, that's good news.
OA sensors can be helpful even to the most skilled drone pilots (though they often don't want to admit they use them, which is not a shame, keep in mind that airline pilots have tons of extra safety features to back them up, doesn't mean that they couldn't fly without them).
The small cameras did well during the tests, they spotted larger obstacles and pushed the brakes of the drone early enough to prevent crashes from happening.
The downside though is that they seem to be set up so very sensitive, that they often spot obstacles that aren't really there - especially while flying backward that drone often came to a stop and I had to perform a recording that got interrupted again.
One time, the drone was so sure that there was an obstacle in the way, that I had to rotate it and fly it back forward.
The Evo 2 drone is a true pioneer and we are happy that Autel risked putting it on this risky and highly competitive market.
The drone flies stable and comes with a true 8K camera - though we would also be very interested in reviewing the 6K camera that also features a 1'' sensor. All of that is pretty cool!
The drone at the same time isn't fully mature yet. It has plenty of bugs and flaws that Autel needs to take care of with future updates.
If they do so and manage to get rid of them, then the Autel Evo 2 sounds like a really interesting drone to us!