The Skydio 2 promises the be one of the most exciting drones of 2019 and 2020. It is more capable than the original Skydio R1 but at a fraction of the cost. There is no doubt that the Skydio 2’s autonomous flight modes and object tracking can’t be matched by DJI’s Mavic or Phantom series prosumer drones. But what about that 1/2.3-inch sensor on the Skydio 2? It seems to come up short compared to the 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor on the Mavic 2 Pro. Let’s take a closer look at the camera on the Skydio 2 and how it compares to the Mavic series drones from DJI.
Skydio 2 Camera Comparison by NomiCam
Luckily we here at Half Chrome don’t need to test the camera on the Skydio in exhausting detail like we have so many times before. The independent lab NomiCam did it for us. NomiCam did side-by-side testing with the Mavic Air, Mavic 2 Pro, and Mavic 2 Zoom. They measured the drones on 5 objective metrics and also did subjective testing. Let’s see how the Skydio 2 stacks up.
Skydio 2 Vs. DJI – Objective Metrics
The good folks at NomiCam rated the 4 drones from Skydio and DJI on 5 different metrics: color, resolution, noise, dynamic range, and exposure. The graphic below shows how they feel the Skydio 2 compares.
The Skydio 2 wins for the best color and we can’t disagree. The rank order of Skydio 2, Mavic Pro, Mavic Zoom, and Mavic Air is completely consistent with our own testing. Granted we haven’t tested the Skydio 2 yet, but I still see room for DJI to improve. The Mavic 2 Pro with Hasselblad’s color technology was a big step up for DJI, but it looks like they still have a little room to grow.
It looks like NomiCam only tested one of each drone, and that can leave some room for error. There is some drone-to-drone variability in the real world. For example, in our testing, we certainly can’t rank the Mavic Air above the Mavic 2 Zoom as NomiCam did. My Mavic Air camera is a bit soft when you digitally crop, while my Mavic 2 Zoom is laser-sharp at all zoom states.
NomiCam gives only a slight edge to the Mavic 2 Pro in this category and I don’t quite believe the advantage is so small. Our Mavic 2 Pro lens is perfect when it comes to sharpness.
That all said, the Skydio 2 seems to be making the most of its 12 megapixels and it produces a really crisp picture.
I think NomiCam got this one right, the Skydio 2 clearly produces photos with the lowest noise. DJI cameras have consistently provided me with photos and videos that seem strangely noisy. The Mavic 2 and Phantom 4 series drones have improved over the older Phantom 3 cameras, but even the Mavic 2 Pro is still a bit noisy. We are happy to see the Skydio 2 winning, and I can’t agree more.
The Skydio 2 is taking cleaner pictures than the Mavic drones. I expect to see better stuff out of the upcoming Mavic 3.
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. NomiCam puts the Mavic 2 Zoom’s dynamic range really low in the ranking. While we do sometimes see some problems with the Mavic 2 Zoom, they can certainly be compensated for with camera settings. I always recommend taking photos with AEB (auto exposure bracketing) turned on when not shooting HDR (high dynamic range).
In any case, the Skydio 2 is winning here which is amazing given that is has a smaller sensor than the Mavic 2 Pro.
This one is all about algorithms and apparently Skydio has a little more work to do in optimizing exposure in their shots. The good news is that this can be handled in firmware updates if Skydio really believes they have a problem.
While DJI takes and Apple-like stance by not adding features to older model camera phones, I expect Skydio to take more of a Tesla approach to upgrades. I would expect the Skydio 2 camera to get better, not worse, over time.
The Verdict – Skydio 2 Competes!
The take away is clear – they Skydio camera is top-notch. Camera snobs may turn their nose up at a 1/2.3 sensor, but the results show that size isn’t everything. After all, the iPhone 11 (and the 10) still outcompete DJI drones in most situations, even with their relatively small sensors. DJI should be very nervous about Skydio, their new American competitor. The Skydio 2 is a very compelling drone with a lower price, equivalent camera, and way better flight modes.
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