I decided to share my own personal user experience and initial observations of the Autel EVO II Pro 6K
after having flown it for the first time. During the first flight I went through all 3 batteries and mainly focused on the camera features, the app, and how the drone itself flies. I also put it through a range of different tests that I have developed over the years of owning DJI drones. My sole use of drones is for commercial work; everything from promo videos to real estate to music videos, large events and more. So the tests that I put my drones through is in preparation to use them in many different situations where the success of the project depends on the drone being reliable and delivering on the client's image quality expectations.
I have flown or owned every DJI model since 2014 and never even considered another maker until DJI's geofencing kicked in mid flight 2wks ago and force landed my Mavic Pro into the ocean. So some of this review will be comparing the EVO II to the DJI Mavic Pro or the P4 since the P4 also has a 1" sensor. I'll keep this post updated as I find new good and bad things.
I have decided to start with the bad since it is a shorter list than the good.
- Tablet Holder - This problem hit me before ever even taking off. There are no good tablet holder options. One option doesn't fold at all so it doesn't fit in any of the current rugged cases and the other option does not hold an iPad mini which I found out the hard way. I ended up with the GPC tablet holder but had to make some serious modifications to hold my iPad mini. The GPC mount also feels really flimsy where it attaches to the holder.
- Horizon Tilt -
Yes the horizon definitely tilts far more with the EVO II than it ever did with any DJI drone I have flown. It is still easy to fix with keyframes in video and rotation in Lightroom but it is literally always tilted; with DJI drones it would tilt occasionally if the drone took off from an uneven surface or there was a strong cross wind; the EVO II tilts at least 90% of the time. This one was user error, after performing an IMU, compass, and gimbal calibration the horizon is now perfect. It does tilt quite often but no more than any DJI drone I've flown.
- The App - The app is nowhere near as good as DJI's app; the worst part about it is when you run it on a tablet it will not use the full screen so a lot of screen real estate is wasted as if they never thought people would want to use anything except their phones. Besides the scaling issue, it can be difficult to get the camera information quickly. In the DJI app you can always see things like frame rate, EV, resolution, etc. at a glance; with the Autel App you have to scroll around quite a bit to see all of your settings.
- Obstacle Avoidance - Obstacle avoidance feels like it is way too sensitive; a few times in the middle of the air with nothing around it it kicked in and slowed the drone. Also, when flying lower to the ground it was a real pain to deal with and seems overly cautious. I know it can be turned off but it would be nice if it had a lower sensitivity setting.
- Lens Flare - It suffers from really bad lens flare at certain angles to the sun. Of course all lenses have lens flare under certain conditions but the way the 6K camera handles it is not good. The flare was very uncomplimentary and pretty much made that particular angle in relation to the sun unusable for professional work. I never had that kind of lens flare problem with the DJI drones.
- No One Button Ludicrous Mode - With the DJI drones I use Sport Mode all the time to return quickly after completing a project or if there is a strong headwind or cross wind I use it to improve the handling of the drone for the return flight after filming. The Autel remote does not have a dedicated button for this and you could lose valuable seconds in a strong headwind scenario having to go into the app to enable ludicrous mode.
- Controller Battery Life - The remote's battery life so far seems worse than the Mavic's probably because of the display screen. This could still be because the batteries haven't fully broken in yet, but I noticed just updating the firmware made it drop by 20% and a single flight cost around 15% of battery life.
- Custom Color Profiles (New Finding 31 Jan 2021) - I plan on shooting exclusively in LOG and also like to turn sharpness down to -2 and contrast down to -1, but the app does not save the settings. So now I have to remember to set the settings each time and lose battery life while doing so.
- Remaining Battery % (New Finding 5 Feb 2021) - The EVO II started force landing when the time remaining still showed 4min, if I had not been able to cancel the landing process I would have lost it in the ocean. I'm not sure yet if the time remaining is just wrong, the EVO II is overly aggressive with forced battery landings, or if it just can't properly detect the remaining percentage. I never had this problem with DJI drones and could fly them until they showed 0% remaining.
- Car Charger (New Finding Feb 6 2021) - I bought the car charger thinking I could use that combined with my Goal Zero 400 battery pack to recharge the flight batteries at long events....well its a complete waste of money for me. It has circuitry to prevent draining your car's battery to the point to where it won't start and there is no way to turn it off. So when I tried to use it with my battery pack it would not charge the flight battery even though the battery pack was fully charged and can charge about 5 flight batteries before it dies.
- Battery Level Indicator (New Finding 6 Feb 2021) - I know this seems minor, but it is very difficult to see the battery level indicator on the back of the batteries in direct sunlight. You have to shade the battery from the sun to see the level. With the DJI drones the light is bright enough to see even in direct sunlight.
- Stuck Battery Remaining Indicator (New Finding 27 Feb 2021) - On a recent flight the battery level indicator in the app, on the remote, and on the battery all showed 100% even though the battery only had 40% remaining. This is the most serious bug I have seen to date. If your battery remaining time seems stuck or doesn't decrease while flying I recommend you land immediately and restart the drone.
- Inaccurate EXIF Metadata (New Finding 25 Jan 2022) - I discovered that the EXIF data for the GPS altitude that the EVO adds to the raw images is wildly in accurate. It is bad enough that it lists the altitude based on ASL vs AGL, but it is not even close to being accurate. It showed 250m below sea level when the drone was about 150' AGL. This doesn't sound like a big deal until you need that data to verify a specific job or want to use the exact same altitude for say a recurring project, I never had that problem with DJI drones.
- No Geofencing - Without a doubt my favorite 'feature' by far. It was a relief just knowing there was no chance geofencing could kick in during the flight and risk downing the drone.
- Range Test - While the range was acceptable it was not exceptional. This was a little disappointing; I have taken every drone since 2014 that I have owned to the same park and performed the same tests over the years so I know for a fact that the EVO II started dropping its video signal at the exact same range as the DJI drones; and yes I pointed the controller in the direction of the drone and I had the antennas pointed down.
- Straight Line Test - One of the tests that I do is position the drone exactly aligned with railroad tracks and see how long the drone can fly in a straight line over the railroad tracks before it drifts off course. I have the center cross hairs turned on for this test. The EVO II performed better on this test than any DJI drone I have ever tested this way. DJI drones tend to turn slowly left without constant slight correction during forward flight.
- Orbit Test - Orbiting is one of my favorite drone movements so I always see how a drone performs during orbits. With the center cross hairs turned on I orbit clockwise and counter clockwise around an object. Once again the EVO II straight out of the box with no tuning performed flawlessly. Orbits in particular require very precise control input and the drone must adhere to the input without drifting to perform a smooth orbit which is why I like this test.
- Camera Angle Feedback - I have wished DJI would add this feature since 2014...I even emailed it as a feature request to DJI and of course got no response. It is nice to see the camera angle shown in the app. There are plenty of times when you want to mirror a specific camera angle such as if you were filming something and had to land to change the batteries then took off again and want the footage to look like a single take; or when you are creating progression construction photography and want each visit to the site to look identical to the last visit.
- Overall Handling - Many YouTube reviewers stated that the EVO II does not handle as well as the DJI drones; I don't feel that way at all, straight out of the box settings feel very smooth to me, the only thing I am going to do is turn down the gimbal tilt speed which is the same thing I did with the DJI drones.
- ALOG - The EVO II's ALOG is way better than anything I have seen come out of DLOG. DJI in my opinion is overly aggressive with their LOG profile and they tend to throw away data that cannot be recovered. Autel's ALOG was a joy to color grade; it took seconds in Davinci Resolve to grade it to the Rec.709 standard.
- Highlight Rolloff - So many people get caught up in dynamic range and low light performance; few people discuss highlight rolloff. A camera can have great low light performance and dynamic range but terrible highlight rolloff and the image will be unrecoverable when the highlights are over exposed. The EVO II 6K camera has great highlight rolloff from what I can tell so far.
- Camera Settings Buttons - This is a nice feature that the DJI drones don't have; I was able to change all of the camera settings without having to touch the tablet screen.
- Flight Time - Flight time was ok, it did not seem any longer than the DJI drones though; its supposed to be 40min but that must be when it is just sitting on the ground with the blades spinning because just getting it into the air and my remaining time dropped to 33min. The batteries will probably perform better after a few charging cycles but for now its nowhere near 40min. This really isn't a bad thing though, 30 useable min is still plenty to me.
- Initial Setup - DJI's initial setup where it demands your email address and account information always irked me. I felt like they were demanding far more information than should be needed just to fly the drone. The EVO II's setup was much less invasive although it would be nice to know exactly what information is sent during the "Activation" portion of the setup but I was surprised that it did not even ask for an email address.
- Battery Temperature Recovery Time (New Finding 31 Jan 2021) - The EVO II's batteries do not seem to make you wait until they cool down to start recharging. This was always a major annoyance with DJI; you had to wait sometimes up to 2hrs just to start recharging their batteries starting with the P4, so mobile charging was impossible.
- Alerts / Warnings (New Finding 5 Feb 2021) - I've noticed the alerts and notices are much less invasive than DJI's. With DJI they would cover the whole screen midflight and force you to clear them by hand. Also, they popped up more and more; high wind warning, above takeoff altitude warning, line of sight reminder, airspace warning....and on and on, so annoying. Autel's Explorer app stays out of your way, auto hides the alerts after a few seconds, and doesn't nag you with useless information.
- Quieter Props (New Finding 5 Feb 2021) - I added the new quieter props to the EVO II and it did make a difference in sound. The EVO II was already quieter than the P4 or Mavic Pro, but now it is even quieter both the dB and pitch decreased while I did not observe any loss in stability or performance.
- Ludicrous Mode Stability (New Finding 5 Feb 2021) - I flew in ludicrous mode most of today because I was filming boats who were averaging 30-40mph. The EVO II is surprisingly stable even in ludicrous mode compared to the DJI drones whose gimbals seemed to lose control in Sport mode. It really feels like the EVO II's gimbal is much stronger than the ones DJI uses.
- Gimbal 30 Degree Angle (New Finding 12 Feb 2021) - Now this is seriously cool, you can point the camera up by up to 30 degrees without seeing the props in the shot. This opens up a whole new area of creativity for establishing shots, flying under tree cover, bridges, etc. anything where there is something above the drone. I am going to leave the 0 degree limiter on most of the time, but its great to have another creative option when the situation calls for it.
- Incognito Mode (New Finding 13 Feb 2021) - The EVO II lets you turn off the front AND rear lights, this is seriously useful in many situations and I have been using this feature a lot more than I initially thought I would. DJI never let you turn off the rear lights going back as far as the Phantom 2.
- Useable Range Without Interference (New Finding 25 Feb 2021) - This was a pleasant surprise; the EVO II seems to have a longer useable range than any DJI drone I have flown with one major caveat; it has to be in an interference free area. The DJI drones seem to be able to better handle interference heavy areas but the EVO seems better at longer ranges when there is no interference.
- Lens Profile Corrections (New Finding 10 March 2021) - The EVO II 6K's lens has very little vignetting and barrel distortion. Both can be fixed in post but fixing barrel distortion in particular is a destructive process that makes the fixed regions blurry and can make stitching panoramas more difficult.
- Low Light Performance (New Finding 4 April 2021) - The EVO II 6K continues to impress me with its lowlight performance. It took me awhile and a lot of testing to reach this conclusion after having flown the Inspire 1 and Inspire 2 with the X5 camera.....but I can now say without hesitation that the lowlight performance of the EVO II 6K exceeds the MFT sensor in the Inspire's X5 camera.
- WFM - Its always annoying to me when camera makers add a LOG profile but leave out the waveform monitor which is the number one tool you need to expose for LOG footage. It would be nice if they would add a WFM option. In lieu of a WFM I used the histogram to set exposure and its ok but nowhere near as useful as a WFM for LOG footage
- Monitor LUT - Another tool I wish they would add when shooting in LOG. A Rec.709 monitoring LUT would be great to improve visibility. The good news is that the ALOG footage is nowhere near as flat as DJI's DLOG so it is not as hard to monitor even without a monitoring LUT.
- Better Remote - the current remote just feels really odd in the hands; the ergonomics aren't great and the handles feel like they are going to close at any moment. Also the remote has no way to attach a lanyard, the P4's remote is still my favorite to date (built in tablet holder and lanyard loop). I know this is meant to be smaller but I still think there's room for improvement here. Lets not forget those terrible buttons on the underside, they are so easy to push that its best to just not assign anything to them. I wish I could disable them completely because the remote still beeps when one is pressed.
- Different Color - The orange is pretty hard to get used to.
- Altitude Limit - The altitude limit is set to a generous 2600' or so but it would be nice if there were none at all. Prior to the pandemic I travelled outside of the USA quite a bit and frequently took a drone with me; when you are going up a mountainside with a drone it records how high you are from your takeoff point not based on AGL, so I ran into a few situations with DJI drones where it refused to go any higher because it thought it was 1500' AGL when it fact it was only a few hundred feet above the mountainside. Even stateside the FAA lets you go above 400' when you are close enough to something higher than that in certain airspace.
- Controller Charging Interface - Getting brand new consumer products that still use the old USB standard are just annoying at this point. As consumers we will never be able to get rid of our old chargers and standardize on USB-C if we keep getting brand new products that don't have USB-C ports. So it would be nice if the charging interface were USB-C.
- Shutter Angle - It would be nice to have a shutter angle option to keep from having to adjust the shutter speed during ISO / Aperture changes.
- AGL In Metadata - I noticed in the RAW images metadata that the EVO II only stores the altitude Above Sea Level (ASL). It would be nice if it also stored the altitude Above Ground Level (AGL). AGL is much more useful when doing precision work like commercial elevation views and virtual staging.
- Aspect Ratio Overlay Guides (New 17 Jul 2021) - I shoot a lot of video content and for social media I need an aspect ratio of 4:5 to fit properly on Instagram and Facebook. It would be great if it was possible to add different aspect ratio guides to the video display so that I could compose the scene for both Instagram/ Facebook and YouTube/Vimeo. My regular video camera has this and it is great to be able to see right on screen what would be in the scene on Instagram and other social media platforms.
This is just general information that I'm finding out on my own as I use the EVO II. These are things that either are impossible to find in the documentation or that aren't documented at all.
- Crop Factor - It appears the EVO II 6K has a crop when shooting 4K60FPS, I'd estimate the crop factor to be around 1.2x or 1.3x so not much of a crop but it definitely looks like a crop when you go from 4K30FPS to 4K60FPS.
- 10bit vs 8bit - The 4K60FPS and 6K30FPS HEVC H.265 footage is only 8bit 4:2:0 footage where as the 4K30FPS HEVC H.265 footage is indeed 10bit 4:2:0 footage, I'm not sure what 1080P is or if changing to the MP4 container or H.264 will matter.
- JPG vs RAW - The EVO II 6K has the ability to take images while filming video; however the images will be saved as JPG even if you have it set to RAW only. To get RAW images you must stop filming video first. To take a picture while filming video you have to use the shutter button on the remote. These images are far lower quality than the regular JPG images let alone RAW because they are just screen grabs from the video; this means they don't use the full sensor width, and they inherit the video color profile so I definitely do not recommend using this feature if you want quality images.
- Framerate (New 14 April 2021) - The EVO II 6K shoots at 30FPS and 60FPS which I still find odd every time I drop the footage onto a project timeline. Every other camera I own shoots at 29.97FPS and 59.94FPS. So far it hasn't seemed to matter, but I still find it odd.
- Field of View (FOV) (New April 25 2021) - The FOV of the EVO II 6K at 82° is narrower than the DJI P4 Pro by 12°. This comes with both pros and cons which I discuss in greater detail in this post.
As long as the EVO II continues to perform exactly as it did during its test flight today then I am happy with my purchase; once again because the completely oppressive geofencing system is gone. I am sure Autel will continue improving the app and the drone and as long as the drone does not do something that is completely beyond my control then it could easily become my main drone in the future.
New (24 March 2021)
I created a camera campaign style video with the EVO II entitled "Explore Your World". Despite all of its shortcomings, it is definitely possible to create amazing footage with the EVO II 6K
New (4 April 2021)
The image below was shot at F2.8 | ISO100 | Shutter 1/5s | WB Auto | Format RAW. To the human eye it was nearly pitch black outside. Yet the EVO II 6K camera was able to retain an incredible amount of color information.
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