Released in 2020, Fimi’s X8SE marks their latest midrange consumer-oriented release from the Xiaomi subsidiary. As their midrange product, the X8 is aimed at hobbyists and newcomers wanting an affordable yet capable option. And it fills an interesting gap in the market between the popular DJI Mavic Mini and Mavic Air series. But, it mainly competes with the Hubsan Zino 2 and Parrot’s Anafi. In today’s post, we address its strengths, weaknesses, and see how it compares to rivals.
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What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the FIMI X8SE 2020?
Build Quality & Design
It features a nearly identical collapsible wing design as the earlier X8 models, where the arms store beside the body. And doing so reduces the drone’s footprint, making it easier to store while traveling. The drone also maintains a sturdy aluminum construction with a rainproof coating, so you can confidently fly in adverse conditions without damage. A nice bonus.
However, Fimi’s managed to reduce the running weight 25g’s and the drone now weighs 765g. Granted, this isn’t enough of a difference to notice in hand when making a direct comparison between models. Even so, the reduced flying weight comes with refined aerodynamics and more powerful brushless motors, which both improve the flying experience. Additionally, Fimi’s also upped the integrated MicroSD slot to support 256 GB cards so that you can capture more footage per card.
Overall, the drones design feels robust, well made, and reliable. And its battery compartment has a secure clip, clamps in tight, while the wings feel well-engineered without play. Fimi also includes a full set of replacement propellers in the box. But, you can always find replacement parts if needed.
It features a new 1/2.6-inch Sony CMOS Sensor and a fixed 26mm equivalent F/2.0 lens with an 80º FOV mounted to a 3-axis gimbal. And its latest Hisilicon chipset records 4K UHD video up to 30p, 2.7K 60p, and 1080p up to 90p with a 100 Mbps data rate to the MP4 format.
Do know, while Fimi’s refined this sensor, it is slightly smaller than earlier models, which use a 1/2.3-inch chip. But, there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable reduction in image quality from this change.
However, they have improved the gimbal’s tilt accuracy tolerance and algorithms to 0.005º, which is excellent for this class. And this tighter tolerance provides smoother pans and tilts during flight, particularly at high speeds. Additionally, they’ve added the new H.265/HEVC codec, which provides similar quality and detail as the standard H.264 codec. But, it requires 40% less strange space. Unfortunately, using this newer codec is quite tough on your computer in post-processing, so beware. This new model also brings HDR recording for both stills and video. And enabling this setting lets you capture stunning images with more detail and information in contrasting scenes.
Overall, the footage this camera produces is good for a sensor of this size. And the default settings provide natural color rendering and sharp images. It’s also clear Fimi’s also addressed the internal processing to reduce overexposures and vignettes in the corners. And also gone is the blue cast that plagued earlier models.
For stills, this camera shoot 12MP images in both the JPEG and DNG RAW format. And it offers a reasonably modest ISO range from 100 to 3,200. Overall, the camera’s stills quality is in line with this price point. And the images are detailed with a reasonable dynamic range. But, it’s best to underexpose to retain information in the skies. Otherwise, you will see a noticeable loss in detail as the skies clip.
It obtains F-Log, which produces flatter footage with more room for post-processing adjustments.
It has built-in panorama. And it can capture multi-angle panoramas in one-tap to either the landscape or portrait orientations. The app also automatically stitches them together. Plus, Fimi even includes the rectangular 3 x 3 mode for a broad format panorama, not just the standard 3 x 1.
It has a 3x Digital Zoom, which helps you get closer to a subject without getting dangerously close.
It has a Time-Lapse Mode, with plenty of customization. And it also supports three types of intelligent flight modes for added flair.
It has the Night Shot Mode, which helps capture better night time images with more detail, clarity, and less noise. But, it’s best to set the drone to tripod mode and avoid high winds. Otherwise, you will see motion blur throughout the frame.
Battery life is excellent for this class. While it uses the same 4500mAH battery as earlier models, Fimi’s managed to up the flight time to 35 minutes under ideal conditions. This is a slight but noteworthy improvement over its predecessor’s 33-minute maximum. But, realistically, you’ll get around 30 minutes of flight under normal conditions.
Fimi includes an RC controller with purchase, with a large central-mount that supports small smartphones with cases to midrange tables like the iPad Mini. And this controller offers the classic flair of functionality, including 1-click return home, mode selection, gimbal pitch, and flight controls. But it also has a customizable joystick, which you can program to recall various settings through the app. Helpful. Additionally, the control sticks are also detachable, and there’s a dedicated slot on the RC for storage.
Overall, the controller is excellent, even though it’s on the cheaper side. It’s well-contoured, comfortable, and responsive to inputs. And the video transmission single works well across the supported 5 mi (8 Km) transmission distance, with caveats.
You fly this drone using the Fimi Navi 2020 app. And it provides all of the essential flight parameters such as elevation, speed, and more. But, you can also share a live aerial feed online via social media, which is interesting.
The app itself is well designed, and all critical parameters are easily visible, including battery life, camera settings, and the current position on the map. And making fine-tune adjustments to the flight controls and gimbal settings are also intuitive. The same applies to performing calibrations. You also have full manual control over settings from resolution, quality, encoding, white balance, and metering.
Overall, the app is excellent and closely matches DJI’s Go4 app, with a similar UI. It’s easy to connect to, and the user interface is straightforward and intuitive. Everything’s accessible at the fingertips without being overly cluttered. So it’s unlikely new pilots will find it challenging to master.
Flying the drone itself is also easy and doubly intuitive. Take-offing is as simple as performing a calibration, then pushing the 1-click take-off. In the air, it’s quite reminiscent of a DJI Mavic series drone. So existing pilots of these products will have little difficulty flying and mastering this particular drone. But it’s also easy for newcomers. And it’s stable with little toilet blowing in normal circumstances, where it predictably maintains its 1.5m hovering accuracy. But, it’s also quick, reaching a top speed of 40 MPH (18 m/s). Even so, you won’t find it overly challenging to fly, unwieldy, and unpredictable.
It offers various flight modes and features, including Smart Object Tracking and planned flights. And it uses integrated AI algorithms to detect a subject intelligently. You can perform these following tracking features through the app: Trace to track targets from different viewpoints, Profile to track in parallel, or Lock to track from a fixed perspective.
It also has Flight Planning integration, which is improved and more powerful than previous models. Flight planning allows you to tap and set waypoints in the app, and the drone automatically flies this flight route once configured. It’s an excellent tool if you want to streamline the flying process and capture a specific sequence.
It offers several Intelligent Flight Modes, which Fimi calls Smart Shots. And with a single tap, the drone locks onto the desired subject and performs a complex aerial maneuver. These include Rocket (it flies upward), Circle (it circles the subject), Dronie (it flys backward and upward), or Spiral (it spirals the subject). These are a great option if you want to capture these movements quickly, without the hassle of relying on required piloting skills.
It features Automatic Return Home and precision landing, which Fimi calls its Precise Visual Position System. And the drones downward-facing camera helps recognize optional launch pads for a safe landing. This system is also fairly accurate, and it combines well with the drone’s internal GPS + GLONASS system for reliable landings. As a result, it confidently lands within a 3m range of the take-off location, which is great for this price point.
It features Dual IMU systems, a redundant safety feature to help the drone recover from lost connections.
With only a 1/2.6-inch sensor, the dynamic range is relatively limited. And capturing correctly exposed images in-camera will be tough. If the footage is even slightly overexposed, you’ll see a dramatic loss of detail. And even after the firmware updates, the clouds are often overexposed and not recoverable. With that, you’ll want to underexpose by at least a 1/2 stop to maintain detail in the sky.
Additionally, this camera is not the greatest when shooting in low light. Granted, this is the fate of all sensors of this size. Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid these situations. Otherwise, most of the footage will be too dark or grainy for professional applications.
It’s important to reiterate that shooting in H.265 HEVC is tough on computers in post-processing. This is a new format to market, and it requires a fairly well-configured computer for proper playback. So, if you plan on shooting in this codec, understand it may be choppy and sluggish.
The camera’s lens uses a fixed aperture, which you cannot change. So you’ll want to attach an ND filter when flying in bright conditions to avoid overexposures mentioned above.
The drone lacks 4K 60 FPS and 120 FPS at higher resolutions. So if you want to record super-slow motion, you’ll have to take a dramatic quality hit in 720p to do so. Ouch.
Unfortunately, the drone does over travel once you let off the control sticks. And it drifts somewhere around 5º from the target location. Thankfully, you can familiarize yourself with this behavior, and with practice, you’ll automatically compensate for how it moves. But, it does mean that it does complicate making precise movements.
The drone lacks additional Wi-Fi shielding. So, depending on where you fly, you may experience a loss in signal as you approach distances of 3,000 ft. If this happens, the drone will engage the fail-safe automatic return home and head back into range.
The precision landing takes at least a minute to work. Until then, the drone loiters over the take-off location until it fully recognizes the scene. The problem is, if it’s windy, it’ll constantly drift and have a difficult time landing. In these situations, you’ll have to land manually.
It lacks obstacle avoidance sensors, and without them, it has no way of recognizing surrounding objects. With that, take caution when using Smart Tracking features to avoid collisions.
Is this a good beginner drone?
This is an excellent beginner’s drone, minus the obstacle avoidance functionality. But, even so, you get a powerful feature set and an easily mastered flight app for the price. And as it stands, this is one of the better options at this price.
Is this a good drone for you?
This drone is also an excellent option at this price for those wanting an affordable Search and Rescue (SAR) drone. Interestingly enough. It offers a long transmission distance, real-time GPS, digital zoom, and plenty of speed. Combined, these features make it ideally suited for this kind of application.
This drone is also a great alternative to DJI products. And if you want similar enough features without the higher-end price tag, this is surely one to consider.
In the end, Fimi’s X8SE delivers incredible value for money. And newcomers and hobbyists will be pleased considering the features and price. Sure, it’s not 100% perfect. But, Fimi’s managed to deliver a product that rivals several higher-end drones twice the price. And it’s one that offers little faults in the grand scheme.
Fimi’s X8SE 2020 offers exceptional value for money. And it bundles a relatively high-end feature set without the accompanying price tag. As such, it’s an excellent option for newcomers or hobbyists and a powerful DJI alternative.