Mavic Air 2 for landscape photography

Northern Ireland Aerial Landscape Photography of the River Bann, showing Portstewart Strand and Golf CLub, Castlerock and Mussenden Temple.

My first drone

I bought my first drone in summer 2020 after years of landscape photography using a DSLR.  I was excited by the opportunity to capture the landscape from above and open up a world of unlimited compositions.

I spent a considerable amount of time researching drones before I bought one.  Lots of landscape photographers seemed to use the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, which has a larger image sensor than the drone I eventually bought, the DJI Mavic Air 2.

I choose the Mavic Air 2 because of its smaller size, and also because it was the latest generation of drone – the Mavic 2 Pro is coming towards the end of its life cycle.Since owning the drone I have discovered the benefits of limitations of drone use for landscape photography with the Mavic Air 2.

Key benefits of the Mavic Air 2 for still landscape photography:

– The drone is extremely easy to control and fast.  This helps you position it accurately and quickly within the landscape, making the most of short bursts of beautiful light.  Using a drone you have an almost unlimited choice of compositions.

– The Mavic Air 2 is extremely stable in high winds.  Even on the rugged and windy north coast of Ireland, all my photos from the drone have been sharp.  Putting it in tripod mode prior to taking landscape photographs really helps.

– The 5 shot exposure bracketing mode allows you to capture a very wide and usable dynamic range.  The landscape photograph at the start of this article was captured in this mode and the images were combined in Lightroom using the HDR function.  You can see that there is lots of highlight detail and the darker areas of the landscape photograph have lots of little and little noise.  I find this to be much more effective than using the Smart photo mode for high contrast landscape scenes.

Key limitations of the Mavic Air 2 for still landscape photography:

– The drone is advertised as having a 48MP photograph mode.  I have found this mode to be completely useless for landscape photography as the noise levels, colour and dynamic range are unacceptable.  However, I find that the native 12MP RAW files which are produced by the Smart photo mode or the exposure blending mode can easily be enlarged to produce high quality A3 prints.  In this category of drones that is more than acceptable.

– As someone who shoots with a very high quality DSLR, the Canon R, I found the quality of the photographs overall to be on par with my mobile phone, not my camera.  However, this is to be expected with drones, even more expensive ones.  It is important to remember that you will never capture these compositions with a DSLR.  By carefully processing the drone RAW files the quality is really good.

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