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Autel vs DJI: Should You Really Buy Autel Drones Now?
Autel is quite famous for competing with DJI (it is basically their motto) when it comes to drones. It is a relatively new company founded in 2014 as compared to DJI which was founded back in 2006.
They are both major Chinese companies and they both offer some “monster” drones as they are known for being the best out there. But is Autel actually a DJI killer?
Are their drones better? The truth is that they do have a few issues. In this article, we will talk about Autel’s strong and weak points and do some comparisons between the two brands.
- Autel drones tend to have a blueish tint to their photos and videos, but this can be fixed in color grading.
- Autel drones have better exposure than DJI, with more balance between highlights and shadows. However, they handle whites less well than DJI, with a tendency to “burn” the area around the sun.
- Autel drones handle noise exceptionally well, with an option for 3D-DNR (3D Digital Noise Reduction) for live noise reduction in low-light conditions.
- DJI drones are more stable and durable than Autel. They cannot fly in high wind conditions and are more likely to fall if hit by something.
- Autel drones are water-resistant and perform well in extreme cold and heat conditions, but are not waterproof. They have a battery life that ranges from 20 to 40 minutes, with a forced landing when there are about 5 minutes of battery left.
- DJI drones only have front, rear, and bottom sensors.
- Autel drones have more detail and high dynamic range than DJI, but lower bitrate.
Colors and general quality
Autel drones in general tend to give a blueish tint to both photos and videos but it is not necessarily a con as it can easily be fixed in color grading. I personally prefer Autel’s colors as they look a bit more cinematic even as raw footage as opposed to DJI (Picture 1).
But that depends on your own preferences and whether you are going for a more cinematic or natural-looking image. When it comes to exposure, Autel pretty much prevails over DJI as there is more balance between highlights and shadows (picture 2).
On the other hand, one important detail that may be of little or major importance to you, especially if you plan on using your drone professionally, is that DJI handles whites better than Autel. Autel drones tend to “burn” the area around the sun way more than DJI ones do (picture 3).
The maximum video resolution their cameras can record is a faux 8K with EVO 2 and EVO 2 Dual reaching up to 7680 × 4320 resolution.
They generally shoot with a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, both the EVO 2 and EVO 2 Pro shoot 8K at 25fps, 6K at 30fps and 25fps, 4K at all the above to a maximum of 60fps, and 2.7K and 1080p at up to 120fps.
The EVO 2 Pro however offers a slightly wider lens of 82° while the EVO 2 lens is a 79° angle.
On the other hand, the DJI Mavic 3 Basic which is at the same price as the EVO 2 Pro can record up to 6K at a maximum of 50fps, but Mavic 3 has a 3/4 CMOS sensor as opposed to EVO 2 and EVO 2 Pro’s 1″ and 1/2″.
To summarize things a bit and make them less complicated, Autel sacrifices the sensor size and fps to offer a bigger resolution.
Sharpness and Detail (bitrate)
One of the things that first surprised me and made me think “I want that over DJI.” is Autel’s amount of detail and high dynamic range. Side by side with the $$Mavic 3, I can see so much more detail on the footage that the difference is hard to ignore.
Autel drones however have generally lower bitrate than DJI; always compared to products in the same price range. Evo 2 Pro for example has a max bitrate of 120Mbps whereas Mavic 3 is at 200Mbps.
But still, Autel records way sharper and clearer images than DJI which is definitely surprising.
The way Autel drones handle noise is probably one of the things that will blow your mind! If you use your drone for night or dark footage in general (e.g: interior), then Autel is definitely the one to go.
They offer an option for 3D-DNR (3D Digital Noise Reduction) which is basically a built-in algorithm for live noise reduction which makes low-light pictures sharper and clearer (picture 4).
The same algorithm is used in surveillance cameras. I said it is an option because Autel allows you to enable it or disable it if you like. I do not know why anyone would disable it though, but again, it is up to you.
Autel drones are generally very stable. They have performed extremely well in crash tests. However, they cannot exactly compete with DJI drones which are far more stable and durable. Autel drones, including the heavier EVO models, cannot fly in high wind conditions, unlike the DJI.
However, if they are struck by anything such as a ball or maybe even a bird, they are more likely not to fall and they will return to their primary position.
But again, they are more likely to fall than DJI. Water and dust do not affect the propellers but they are not as stable as DJI and if a hit forces even one of the motor arms to close, the drone falls, so keep that in mind.
Extreme crash tests have proven that these drones are water-resistant. They will get no internal or external damage even in heavy rain conditions. Do not damp it into the water though. They are not waterproof so be careful when you fly your drone over water.
They perform really well in extremely cold conditions as well. Snow does not affect them in the slightest and you will be able to capture some magnificent snowy scenery shots with no concern.
When it comes to heat, Autel drones also perform just fine. You can even fly it among fireworks and they will not get a single burn or scratch.
Battery life varies per drone model but they generally range from 20 to 40 minutes max drones always fly up to 6 to 7 minutes less than the battery lasts. Autel drones will force landing when there are about 5 minutes of battery left. This is definitely for the best. Is Autel a good brand?
Sensors and obstacle avoidance
One thing that Autel has to offer that DJI does not, is that all their drone models have sensors all around except for the top. DJI drones only have front, rear, and bottom sensors.
However, I believe both Autel and DJI should add top sensors as that would save your drone from hitting a ceiling; that being a building or even a cave ceiling.
Features and Modes
One of the things people love about Autel is the absolute absence of Flight Restrictions. You can literally fly your drone anywhere you want. Even in an Airport.
However, be respectful and do not fly over or near other people’s property. And also beware of military bases.
In 2021, Autel released the new panorama mode for the EVO 2 Pro which allows you to capture panoramic and 360° photos. It offers 4 options: Landscape, Portrait, Wide Angle, and Spherical which is the 360° option.
The Landscape mode captures 12 pictures (6 × 2) while the Portrait mode captures 6 pictures (2 × 3) so the final photo is half the size of the landscape picture. The Wide Angle mode captures 9 pictures (3 × 3) so you get an aspect ratio of about 3:4.
And the Spherical mode captures 26 pictures. However, the Spherical mode does not offer automatic photo stitching so be prepared to compose your 360° picture manually.
But no need for concern! You can do so with an Image Composite Editor or other similar programs.
Intelligent Flight Modes
Autel EVO 2 offers plenty of Intelligent Flight modes such as Orbit, Track Follow, Gesture Control, Dynamic Track, Tripod Track, and more. Orbit is perfect for cinematic shots where the drone encircles an object, person, or even building.
You just lock on the subject and the drone does a smooth orbital movement around the target. Another cool mode is Gesture Control and it is ideal for vloggers and YouTubers in general. You can control the drone’s movements with a single gesture of your hand.
And we reached Autel’s strongest point. Night Mode. As mentioned above, Autel has a built-in 3D Digital Noise Reduction which is something not even DJI can compete with. I was impressed by how clear the night footage looked.
The overall low-light performance is very good; contrast and exposure are well-balanced and you get maximum detail. But the absence of noise is something else! It takes night footage to a whole other level. So, if you primarily shoot at night, Autel is the only one to go with!
The peak altitude the Autel drones can reach, specifically, the EVO 2 is 7km while DJI’s peak is 6km. This is quite impressive. If you want to capture cinematic shots of the horizon and altitude is what matters the most to you, this is the drone to go.
However, beware of the airways in your area as airplanes fly lower when there are airports nearby and a strike with your drone could either cause an accident or it could damage your drone for good.
Don’t forget that Autel has no Flight Zone Restrictions, meaning you cannot know for sure whether your drone will crash on an airplane or not.
The EVO 2 offers the longest transmission distance in the Autel series of 9km. However, there is a Distance Limit on USA models that can go up to 500m. This can easily be fixed by simply switching off the limit.
Autel drones are quite fast with EVO 2 being the fastest. It can reach up to 45 mph. However, it cannot compete with DJI’s FPV which can reach up to 85 mph.
The EVO 2 Dual is currently the only Autel drone that comes with a thermal camera. However, EVO 2 supports a thermal camera as well and you can replace your current gimbal with a thermal one.
Autel has overall better controllers than DJI in terms of design and comfort and they remind more of a gaming console controller.
They do not come with a built-in monitor which is not exactly a con since you can connect your phone to it, but not gonna lie, a monitor would be a good addition.
Also, Autel does not sell FPV goggles for any of their drones. But on the other hand, you can get your hands on VR goggles from a third-party seller and connect them to your phone. There are also available bundles that include FPV goggles.
Autel EVO Nano is their “entry-level” drone at about $650. I don’t really know if this can even be considered entry-level since DJI’s entry-level Mini 2 costs about as low as $400. If you are low on a budget, I strongly suggest you invest in DJI instead of Autel.
One of the things that made my eyes open wide is that Autel offers only a 1-Year Warranty. For a drone that is going to be used under tough weather conditions and not inside a house, 1-year warranty is a joke.
DJI on the other hand offers a 2 Year Warranty plan and gives you the opportunity to extend it if your drone flies away.
Overall, Autel is indeed a good drone brand and can definitely compete with DJI. But in my opinion, it is not a DJI killer.
On the bright side, there are some parts such as Night Mode and Flight Zone Restrictions that Autel has no counter. They are masters of noise reduction, unlike any other brand.
But when it comes to cost, some of their drones are overpriced compared to what each model has to offer. Especially in comparison with DJI drones with the same features.