Cameras and flight modes

The EVO II camera

The standard EVO II includes a camera with a 1/2" CMOS Quad Bayer sensor, with pitch from straight down to 30º above the horizon, and can capture both Raw or JPEG images at up to 48MP resolution. It uses a 26mm (equiv.) fixed-aperture F1.8 lens with a 79º FOV and features an 8x digital zoom, with an advertised 4x maximum lossless zoom.

The Autel Explorer app includes several options beyond what's possible with the Mavic Air 2, which also features a 48MP camera. On the Mavic, 48MP is a separate shooting mode; with the EVO II, you can select Burst mode or shoot up to 5 consecutive photos in Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode. This gives you the unique ability to create 48MP images with High Dynamic Range (HDR) rather than being limited to 12MP imagery. One downside: you can only shoot in AEB and Burst while in Auto mode.

The standard EVO II camera can capture 8K video.

While you're able to toggle between 16:9 and 4:3 for both 48MP and 12MP photos, I found the app sometimes switched it around, and I constantly had to check to make sure I was on the setting I desired. I hope this improves with subsequent updates.

Having the ability to shoot 8K 10-bit video gives you the ability to punch-in, crop, and retain more detail overall. The EVO II's 8K camera can record at 8K/25p, 6K/30p, 4K/60p, and 2.7K + FHD/120p. It's also possible to zoom while filming.

The EVO II's standard camera does a good job capturing 4K/60p video.
The standard camera on the EVO II can also capture up to 8K/25p, though it requires a fair amount of compression to do so.

The EVO II Pro camera

The EVO II Pro features a camera with a 20MP 1"-type CMOS sensor, with a slightly narrower 29mm (equiv.) lens. However, it has an adjustable aperture, ranging from F2.8 to F11. Like the camera on the standard EVO II, it offers 8x digital zoom, with a claimed 3x lossless zoom.

In contrast to the standard EVO II, the EVO II Pro captures 6K 10-bit video. While lower in resolution than the 8K video on the standard model, the larger sensor delivers more cinematic footage. Recording options include 6K/30p, 4K/60p, and FHD/120p at 120 Mbps. As with the standard camera, you can zoom while recording video.

The camera on the EVO II Pro is also a solid performer at 4K/60p.
The EVO II Pro can capture up to 6K/30p on its 1"-type sensor.

Capturing photos and video

One observation I made, and what makes me believe that the EVO II is generally more suitable for professionals, is that Auto mode tends to grossly overexpose images. Activating Manual mode is necessary if you don't want parts of your photos or video footage blown out. The EVO II also gives you the option for shooting in Shutter Priority mode. You can toggle between color profiles in real-time, such as Black & White (B&W) and Nostalgic.

In some scenarios, Auto Exposure mode (top) will blow out certain areas that can't be recovered in post-processing. It's more effective to use Manual Exposure mode (bottom), as illustrated by the example above.

Photos taken on the EVO II are crisp and clear with 12MP, 20MP (on the Pro), and 48MP settings. NIGHTBEAT mode, which reduces background noise, works exceptionally well. I did not like how some photos are cooler in temperature, at times approaching magenta, even when the white balance is set to automatic. You can select Sunny to fix this, but I noticed this flaw occurs when shooting at dusk.

NIGHTBEAT reduces the amount of noise often found in photos taken in the dark or low light conditions.
Photo by Ron Medeiros.

While 8K and 6K video may offer up more detail, the high compression compromises the quality. As we covered in another article, many computers aren't equipped to handle 8K footage just yet. 4K/60p on the EVO II is crisp and sharp, even more so than on the Mavic 2 Pro, and is probably sufficient enough – especially for those recording video clips often.

Autel provides the option to record in A-Log, which gives you flat, neutral footage with dynamic range to color grade. It offers customers eight free Look Up Tables (LUTs) compatible with popular video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X.

While 8K and 6K video may offer up more detail, the high compression compromises the quality.

The quality of the 4K/60p video I was able to capture with both the standard and Pro is superior to its competition as far as sharpness and clarity are concerned. For example, the Mavic 2 Pro doesn't utilize its full sensor, making video footage a bit softer in contrast to the crisp footage captured with either a Phantom 4 Pro or Autel EVO II series.

The Autel Explorer app

Overall, the app is a bit convoluted. Hopefully, the designers will streamline the interface as accessing many features can be overwhelming, not to mention confusing.

When opening the app, you can select 'Camera' or 'Mission.' This could be combined into one section instead of forcing users to toggle between options when planning a mission.

Photo and video settings are located across the bottom in the 'Camera' section from the home screen. You can select file sizes, shooting modes, and file type (Raw, JPEG, MP4, and MOV). The ability to view the exact degree of the camera's tilt angle on both the app and remote screen is handy.

You'll find information such as the remaining battery time and the drone's latitudinal and longitudinal location along the top. The latter two aren't really that useful, considering a map of the drone's location and flight path home, which is also accessible, will more than suffice. Autel Explorer uses Google Maps, a nice addition given the additional details it provides of your surroundings.

The Autel Explorer app.

Additional settings allow you to establish a maximum height limit, which now ascends to 804.6m (2,640 ft.) above ground level. You can also activate the histogram and overexposure warnings, switch to Ludicrous mode for increased speed, and access additional features like Defog and Gimbal Lock.

Hyperlapse clips can capture images in 2, 5, 7, 10, 20, 30, or 60-second increments. The ability to select total video length is absent, which means you need to keep track of how long you're recording. I also didn't see any indication of how many photos were taken while recording clips. The drone does not automatically stitch the photos together, like the Mavic Air 2 or Mavic 2 Pro. With the EVO II, this is something you'll need to do separately.

Flight modes

The EVO II offers eight Intelligent Flight modes. Like most consumer drones in its class, it can track subjects such as cars, animals, and boats using Dynamic Track. There's also Tripod Track Mode, Parallel Track Mode, or Viewpoint Mode. I found the drone occasionally lost connection while operating in these modes if it flew behind a tree, for example.

Like most consumer drones, the EVO II can track subjects such as cars, animals, and boats using Dynamic Track.

Orbit Mode allows you to fly clockwise or counterclockwise around a designated subject. Unlike DJI drones, you're able to alter the drone's altitude while it's in autonomous flight.

Notably missing is the ability to record a 'dronie' or 'rocket' clip, two of the more popular automated features where the drone flies away from you or straight up. While these two features appeal more to casual users, the inability to capture a panoramic shot is especially unfortunate for professionals.

Viewpoint is an autonomous mode that lets you fly toward a target. The white line on top of the screen indicates you'll eventually fly too high if you select something above, while the bottom red dashed line indicates you'd fly into the ground if you selected your target below it.

Gesture Control allows you to control the drone with your hands. You can stretch your arms out to establish yourself as a target, raise both over your head to capture a photo, and raise one arm to start or stop recording a clip.

Precision Flight enables you to control the altitude, rotation, and speed for more cinematic footage. Dual Stability slows the drone's speed to prevent it from braking or banking too soon.

Autel continues to provide frequent firmware updates for the EVO II, but we also hope to see improvements to the app, features, and overall usability on the software side.

No Geofencing

One thing many users will appreciate is the lack of geofencing, a feature found on DJI drones that prevents them from flying in restricted areas.

While considered a safety feature, it can create a major inconvenience for a pilot who has secured permission to fly in, for example, busy commercial airspace only to find the drone won't take off due to a glitch. Permissions occasionally malfunction on DJI drones, preventing the drone from taking off. You won't have that problem with the EVO II.