Review FIMI X8 SE drone with 4K camera for $499.99
The FIMI X8 SE is the actual successor of the Xiaomi Mi drone. The features and the price/performance ratio have also read really well so far. Is this the best DJI alternative yet from China?
|Model||FIMI X8 SE|
|Dimensions||204 x 106 x 73 mm (folded)|
<33 minutes flight time
|Camera||f2.2 12 MP CMOS; 78.8° FOV, 3-axis gimbal
Video: 4K @30fps
|Features||5 km range; motion tracking, GPS, GLONASS|
|Release||Spring 2019 in China|
Design – Is it actually Xiaomi, even though it says FIMI?
FIMI communicates very openly on their own website that they see themselves as part of the Xiaomi ecosystem. In fact, the company was already behind the development of the Xiaomi drone, which was launched in May 2016. The newer models are now also sold under the name FIMI. The first model was the FIMI A3, which is reminiscent of the old Mi drones.
The X8 SE also follows on from the design, but also brings with it other changes. The arms of the drone are now foldable for the first time, as is the case with the Mavic 2 or the recently released Hubsan Zino. The front above the camera is a bit wider and now has a black cover, behind which supposed sensors should fit. But there is no confirmed information about this yet. The battery is no longer pushed into the rear of the drone, but is removed vertically upwards and sits exactly in the middle of the drone.
The drone and remote control are compactly stowed in the box, there are not many accessories. Hidden under the drone are a total of six rotors and the various cables for the remote control. Under the remote on the right side is the charging cable for the battery. The latter has a European plug, by the way.
The enclosed manual is also in English and explains the first setup, the construction and various features in individual steps. Altogether there are no surprises, but also no negative ones.
Also the remote control was changed compared to the predecessor model. If there was a display integrated, you have to connect your own smartphone again. To do this, the remote control is pulled apart from the side and the mobile phone is clamped in the middle. The very wide handle may be unusual, apart from that the remote control looks good on the first pictures.
The remote control is connected to the smartphone with one of three enclosed cables. But we’ve seen this before, haven’t we? The cables look quite similar to those of the Mavic 2’s remote control. This is not only due to the connections; Micro-USB, USB-C as well as Lightning plugs are of course logical.
Another point that they must have copied from DJI: The removable control sticks. As with the Mavic 2, they can be unscrewed and placed directly in the remote control. Maybe only imitated, but still quite practical. Unfortunately, there are no spare sticks included, so don’t lose them.
|Dimensions||203.8 x 91 x 46.6 mm|
|Battery||3,900 mAh 3.7 V|
|Frequency range||5.725-5.850 GHz|
I would give only 8/10 points to the processing of the remote control. Basically the processing is good and the haptics excellent. But after a few flights the silicone base of the smartphone loosens on one corner. It’s possible that this won’t get any worse, but it’s not perfect anymore. Also the cables are not optimally processed. They may look like DJI’s, but they’re made of low-grade plastic. The same applies to the drone rotors, by the way. Not bad, but not quite top quality.
Before the first takeoff
Before you can get started, you have to set up the app. You will also need to prepare the drone before every flight, i.e. charge the battery, install the rotors and connect the smartphone.
The App FIMI Navi
The individual steps are explained briefly in the manual, but I want to mention them again here. First you need the FIMI Navi App, which you can find in the Playstore or in the App Store. If you want it easy, just scan the QR code in the manual. After starting you choose your region and create an account, which will be done in a few moments.
You will probably see an app update at once; I had two firmware updates in the first few days. It’s nice that they were eager to make improvements here. The process is also very simple. First you download the update to your smartphone. Connect the phone to the remote control and switch on both this and the drone. As soon as you enter the actual flight interface via “Enter Device”, the app should suggest to transfer the update to the drone. This requires an SD card in the drone, so you should have it ready.
The drone is now ready to go. Optionally you can ignore the firmware update and start flying directly.
Familiarize yourself with the interface before the flight. This is similar to most other apps and follows the same structure. The top of the screen shows altitude, distance, speed, GPS signal strength, WiFi connection, and battery level. At the top right you will find the settings. The controls for the camera are located at the right edge as usual, while the camera settings are displayed at the bottom.
Preparing the drone
The drone can be set up in less than a minute. Unfold the arms and add the rotors. You can tell which rotors belong where by a small mark on two arms. Make sure that the rotors engage properly! Especially the two propellers with the marking are difficult to use, at least on our model. If they don’t really engage, they can come loose in flight, even if they seem to be stuck.
Camera – 4K
The camera can record 4K video at a frame rate of 30 fps. (Up to 60 fps is also possible for 2K shooting, up to 100 fps for Full HD video.) In contrast to the FIMI A3, there is now also a 3-axis gimbal, which stabilizes the recordings. The 1/2.3″ sensor is the Sony IMX378, which is also used in the Mavic 2 Zoom. In principle, the camera can also be used for zooming, but this is only a digital zoom.
After the first flights I am especially enthusiastic about the gimbal. The shots are extremely quiet and on a par with DJI’s Mavic 2. Acceleration and braking even at high speeds are well balanced, as is the lateral tilt in sideways flight. I only don’t like the manual tilt of the camera 100%, because the wheel on the top left of the manual is not fine enough. It takes a lot of sensitivity to lower or lift the gimbal slowly and evenly. Maybe you can improve it by adjusting the tilt speed.
We have already made a short video from the first shots:
The quality of the recordings makes me a tiny bit suspicious. While the 4K videos look really great, recordings in Full HD (60 fps) seem strangely pixelated. Despite the lower bitrate setting, I can’t quite explain it yet. While filming, this isn’t really noticeable on the smartphone, but when watching it later, the difference can’t be overlooked (even on a Full HD display). So far I put it on the memory card and try a few different ones.
In addition one should think of a suitable SD card. The fact that it should have a certain memory volume is self-explanatory anyway. If you empty the card after every flight and save the pictures, 32GB are enough, 64GB or more are better. But also the speed plays a role, with a Class 10 you don’t have to do 4K recordings – as I noticed again. Here you should definitely use a V30 to V90 SD card.
So far I have only taken photos in 8 MP resolution, but they look good so far. Strong differences in brightness (with bright sky and backlight) are of course a problem, but you can also try out the camera settings a bit.
Thanks to GPS and optical sensors, the drone is also capable of some smart or independent flight modes. For example, you can use an app to fly off marked waypoints or orbit around an object. Also an automatic “Rocket” (vertical flight with the camera pointing downwards) or “Dronie” function (backwards climbing) are possible. Various tracking functions make it possible to track an object or a person from different perspectives. Timelapse recordings are also possible according to the description; in free flight, with an object in focus or with waypoints.
The battery is quite large with 4.500 mAh, and should provide up to 33 minutes flight time. The manufacturer limits this by saying that this is only possible with calm and constant 8 m/s, but it is still a considerable value. If the battery is almost empty, the app warns the pilot and the drone can return independently.
The drone has different tracking modes. Here I like the design of the app, which first shows an overview of the different categories (track, orbit, “dronie”, etc.) via an icon for the different smart functions. A tap on “Smart Track” then displays three new icons that represent the different tracking options. The drone can stay at one point and track an object with the camera, fly parallel to a moving object or follow an object at a certain height and distance.
To start, simply drag a rectangle with your fingers around the desired object or person. As soon as you confirm the selection with “Go”, the FIMI starts the tracking. During the camera movement you can still control the drone manually. Assuming that the drone is filming a jogging person, the distance and height can be changed while the drone continues to automatically follow the person.
There is also a so-called “Point of Interest” function, where the FIMI orbits around a point or an object. Here you can set the starting point, radius and speed, then you send the drone to its given path, which then automatically takes off.
Range & Connection
The range is a bit peculiar.. According to the description the FIMI should be able to fly up to 5 km. It must always be flown on sight, i.e. that is already far under 500 meters of end, depending on the weather. The remote control is definitely sufficient for this. From about 100-150 meters, the video transmission display will turn yellow (instead of white), and from about 300 meters, it will turn red to indicate that the signal is weakening.
Since also the signal transmission with me in the meantime already had a yellow display, I assume that 5 km are not nearly attainable. But if you follow the rules in Germany, you will probably never notice that.
However, I found it disturbing that there were repeated disconnections even at short distances and with a strong signal. This is not necessarily dangerous, as the automatic return function is extremely reliable, but incredibly annoying. Since I haven’t read about the problem yet, I suspect that the drone’s antenna might have picked up something. During the last flight the problem didn’t occur at all for more than 20 minutes.
The battery is quite large with a capacity of 4,500 mAh, and is supposed to provide up to 33 minutes of flight time. The manufacturer limits this himself by saying that this is only possible with calm and constant 8 m/s, but it is still a considerable value. If the battery is almost empty, the app warns the pilot and the drone can return independently.
This maximum value is indeed very optimistic, but nevertheless: The drone flies really long. So far I’ve flown almost exclusively in calm conditions, but every time I’ve flown for more than 25 minutes – but of course you don’t use the battery until it reaches 0%.
First impression – price/performance ratio is top, especially for beginners
All in all, the features of the FIMI X8 SE make you want more. Especially the price should arouse the interest of many: The drone costs about 450$ (sometimes more, sometimes less) – this is almost unrivalled with this equipment.
So far my impression of the FIMI is mostly good. The setup is quick and easy, the operation is easy even for beginners and especially the long flight time is a big plus for me. The gimbal does a good job, as well as the different tracking modes, which work error-free so far. I’m looking forward to the next flights and will soon be able to give a final summary here. I will then extend the article with more content.
Since also some of you have the drone meanwhile: How are your experiences with the FIMI X8 SE so far?To the gadget