After GoPro and 3DR have completely discontinued their drone production and other manufacturers such as Parrot and Yuneec are also struggling with rather low sales figures, the supremacy of the Chinese drone supplier DJI seemed to be a fact for the consumer drone market in the long run. With Skydio and Autel, however, there are now two companies that want to fight for a place in the market with a lot of new technology. Good for buyers, who can look forward to more choice of models and lower prices. But what does the competition really have to offer? Today we are testing the new EVO II from Autel!
Focus on image quality
Autel puts the new camera features of new Evo II models in the spotlight. The Evo is available in three different camera versions:
- Evo II with an 8K camera
- Evo II Pro with a 6K camera with 1-inch Sony image sensor and adjustable aperture
- Evo II Dual combined with thermal camera and 8K camera
The Evo II version comes with a 48 MP camera that delivers an 8K resolution (8,000 x 6,000 pixels). The camera is equipped with a Sony 1/2-inch image sensor. The 35 mm lens also has a particularly good light sensitivity with a F/1.8 aperture.
The Evo II Pro version is aimed more at professional photographers and filmmakers: While the Pro version “only” offers 6K resolution, you can still expect clearer, more detailed images since it is equipped with a bigger 1-inch image sensor, compared to the 1/2-inch image sensor from the Evo II 8K. In addition, photo enthusiasts have full camera control with an adjustable aperture (f/2.8 to f/11).
The third version is the Evo II Dual, which offers a thermal imaging camera (a FLIR LWR) for IR images in 640 x 512 pixel format, in addition to the 8K camera. The resolution on IR is 4x higher compared to a Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual. The Evo II Dual is therefore very interesting for rescue services, industrial applications or a use in the construction sector – for example, to evaluate the thermal renovation status of buildings or inspections of solar panels. But be careful: Those who want to use the Evo II for surveying and mapping should know that Autel is not yet supported by the major mapping software providers (SkyeBrowse, DroneDeploy and Pix4DCapture), so all images have to be imported manually or with Autel’s own software “Autel Explorer”.
On the plus side: the camera system of the Evo II is modular, which means you can swap between the different cameras on the drone. This allows the drone to be equipped for different applications.
Image quality of the Evo II compared to the Mavic 2 Pro
We were able to directly compare the Autel Evo II Pro 6K images with a Mavic 2 Pro. As a reminder, the Mavic 2 Pro offers a very similar package with a 20 MP Hasselblad camera with a 1 inch CMOS sensor.
In a direct comparison of the DNGs we could not identify a clear favorite, sharpness and resolution are equally good on both cameras. When zooming in closer, the Autel camera was slightly better in regards to noise, which was more visible on the Mavic Pro. On the other hand, the Evo II seemed to be a bit more prone to camera flares. With the JPEG files the Autel image algorithm showed quite a lot of sharpening. The color temperature was good but we slightly preferred the one on the Mavic. But to be honest: The differences are minimal, both cameras deliver a very good quality and the Autel EVO II Pro is not inferior to the Mavic 2 Pro.
Flight performance and range
Image quality is important but not the only relevant factor when buying drone. When working with a drone, you also want decent flight time, range and obstacle detection. On paper, the Evo II delivers on all of it: maximum flight time is 40 minutes, outperforming the DJI Mavic 2. In reality, the Evo managed a good 30 minutes in the test, which is still a very good value – it’s a fact for all drones that you never reach the specified flight time under real flight conditions. The top speed is 45 mph (20 m/s or 72 km/h) (which of course eats up battery power), which is the same like for the DJI Mavic, and 45 mph / 54 km/h in normal mode.
Built Quality & Handling
The Autel drone comes in a compact design with collapsible rotors for transport and is surprisingly light with only 2.6 pounds / 1.17 kg. Also included: an automatic obstacle detection system with a total of 12 sensors (covering all directions, including up and down), which guides the Evo II past objects on an alternative flight path. With the help of the iOS/Android Autel Explorer app you can use the usual intelligent flight modes like Orbit, GPS Follow, Dynamic Track (automatic object tracking via visual object recognition), Viewpoint and flight planning via waypoints and of course you can adjust the camera settings.
We liked the flight characteristics of the Evo II very much, the drone is stable in the air and copes very well with windy conditions. The obstacle detection worked reliably on our “test tree”. Also the controls are easy to use, but a subjective impression remained that all settings were a bit more “fiddly” than with DJI. For example, the setting of the gimbal sensitivity seemed to us to be a little better solved with DJI. Some is true for the look & feel when holding the drone. Just a subjective impression, but Autel could certainly improve on that.
Pricing and Availability
The Evo II is cleary positioned against the DJIs Mavic Pro Series and priced slightly below the DJI models:
- Evo II – $1495
- Evo II Pro – $1795
- Evo II Dual – $1999+
Who should consider the Autel Evo II? Autel wants to appeal to photographers and film makers and offers with the 8K and 6K camera a very good image quality for a fair price. Big plus: The modular setup with the possibility to easily change the camera. The image quality of the Evo II is very good, but also not twice as good as the 4K camera of the DJI Mavic Pro. Nevertheless, it offers a nice resolution backup for photographers.
Keep an eye on the lack of interfaces to common mapping software providers, if that is an important feature for you. If this is not an issue for you, the Autel Evo II is definitely a good option.