Pixy drone hands-on: A flying robot photographer for Snapchat users

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Drones are everywhere these days, shooting dramatic exposures and awe-inspiring landscapes of social media platforms. The problem is that it’s not exactly familiar to beginners who have used smartphones. Last month, Snap debuted a $ 230 Pixy drone for those people. It requires little skill and acts like a personal robot photographer to help you create nifty aerial shots.

You don’t have to fly the Pixy. In fact, if you wanted, you couldn’t. Rather, it flies on its own and performs a pre-programmed pattern that focuses on you as the user. It has great potential to take great aerial photographs with little user intervention, such as parties and tourism activities.

Snap calls itself a camera company, but other photo-centric products like Spectacles have had limited success. For me, Pixy drones are more promising because they can help users get more interesting content than phones and regular cameras. I had it in the French countryside last week, so let’s see if it’s as versatile as I want.

Hardware and setup

Gallery: Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users | 20 photos


At just 3.6 ounces (101 grams), the Pixy is small enough to fit in a bag or hang around your neck using the included protective case with a strap. It’s pretty cute-it looks a little flimsy, but I’ve heard some oohs and aahs from friends and bystanders. However, it proved to be surprisingly resistant to falls and accidents, and emerged from several unscathed such incidents.

The four propellers are inside the protective cowl, so you can’t ring tree branches or fingers. At the top is the start button and mode dial, and at the bottom is the battery compartment and charging indicator light. There is also a camera at the bottom, but this is for precise hand detection, not for taking pictures or videos. The USB-C port on the back allows you to charge your drone and transfer files to your mobile phone or PC.

The main camera shoots 2.7K video and 12 megapixel images at 30fps. I shoot in 16: 9 landscape mode, which is a bit strange considering the vertical snaps. However, you can use the app’s cropping tool to convert the capture to portrait mode.

Steve Dent / Engadget

The first thing to do is sync to your account via Bluetooth. This puts you in standby mode and holds down the start button. From there, Snapchat detects Pixy and syncs everything over WiFi. In my tests, the process was seamless on both iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S10.

Then set the dial to one of four flight modes (hover, rival, follow, orbit). They are fairly trivial, and the hover keeps the drone in place, allowing it to perform any action in front of it. Reveal starts the face firmly and zooms out to a height of 10-30 feet to show the background. Tracking around (best if you can see your face), Orbit draws a 360 degree circle at a distance of 10 to 30 feet per head height.

Each of them can be fine-tuned in the app with different flight times, distances and more. If you frequently use flight modes like Reveal with certain settings, you can save them to your favorites dial for easy access using the app.

In use

Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users

Steve Dent / Engadget

After selecting the flight pattern, keep Pixy lifted so that the camera can recognize your face and press the start button. Take off to perform the selected operation and save your videos and photos to 16GB fixed internal storage. Depending on the mode and settings, this is sufficient for about 100 videos and 1,000 photos.

All flight patterns worked fine, but as mentioned earlier, follow mode works best when you can see your face. It doesn’t detect a specific person, but it seems to be tenaciously fixed to the same face, even if multiple people are in the shot.

When you’re done, just hold your hand down and land directly on it. This is where the camera at the bottom works. It worked pretty well, but sometimes I had to move my hand a bit to catch it and prevent it from falling.

Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users

Steve Dent / Engadget

Then of the Snapchat app[思い出]If you jump to the section, you’ll see that there are some Pixy clips ready to be imported. You can copy it to your PC via USB-C, but first you need to adjust the Snapchat settings in the Pixy section (“Import via USB”).

Once you have some clips, you can start editing. If you want to post to a snap, you can use the auto crop feature to convert the subject to a portrait video while centering it. You can then trim the video, add music, and use special PixyAR lenses such as “Flame Aura”, “Multiples” (created by three people), and the classic VHS tape effect Record. It also comes with two special speed ramp effects, Jump Cut and Hyper Speed.

trade off

Good so far, but there are many things you can’t do. There is no obstacle detection sensor in the first place, so if something gets in the way, the pixie will hit you. Leaves and twigs did not always stop it, but walls, branches and the human body did. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, Pixy is pretty tough.

Lack of obstacle detection shouldn’t be a problem for most people, as it can’t go very far or high (up to 30 feet). However, to avoid problems, you should test each operation in a large open area to get an idea of ​​the distance traveled.

Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users

Steve Dent / Engadget

Another important limitation is flight time. According to Snap, the Pixie can fly for 4-5 minutes or 5-10 times on a single charge. You can buy an additional battery for $ 20 each and get a portable dual battery charger for $ 50. If you think you need that extra flight time (you’ll do), your best bet is the Pixy Flight Pack, which adds a charger and two additional batteries for an additional $ 20.

Also, because it has no gimbal and is strictly dependent on electronic stabilization, it may display unstable images when flying in strong winds. By the way, the light weight of the pixie means that you can’t fly it out in a gust of wind at all.

The quality of the images and videos isn’t amazing, but it does the job. It was a nice surprise to show it to a friend of a professional photographer. The exposure level was good and adjusted well when moving from shade to sunlight. With a moderate amount of light, it worked well indoors.

When you open a video or photo on your PC screen, it’s clear that you can’t compare it to your smartphone or other drone, especially in dark places. However, even if you trim vertically to reduce the resolution, it still looks decent on your smartphone. So it’s definitely enough for most Snapchat users.

Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users

A friend of my photographer brought it to the wedding, and he thought it was great to grab some extra shots or show what’s happening behind the scenes. Little setup or pilot is required, so all he had to do was launch Pixy and the rest was done. Ideal for busy photographers, if quality isn’t an issue.

I enjoyed it as a fast and easy drone, and I think it’s like taking it with you to take nice rivals and aerial photos while traveling. I was curious about the comparison with other Snapchat camera products like Spectacles and Snap’s ambitions, so I asked Karissa Bell, senior editor of Engadget for social media.

“Given what they did with their glasses … there was a lot of interest at first, but once you start using it, it’s newer,” she told me. “Pixie is really interesting because it looks like it has more possibilities.”

“If you’re really active on Snapchat [or] Creating a Spotlight video with features like TikTok is really creative. But $ 230 isn’t small, especially for young people in Snapchat’s core demographics. So I think it’s more likely to be more successful than glasses, but if you’re just looking for a drone, there are many drone companies out there. “

Actually, it seems to be difficult to get it because I have been waiting for 4 months since the pre-order started on April 28th.It can drop on demand, but SnapCEO Evan Spiegel also Said The Verge The company “should have made more.”

wrap up

Pixy Drone Hands-on: Flying Robot Photographer for Snapchat Users

Steve Dent / Engadget

Still, it looks like Snap is riding something on Pixy. It’s not as powerful as an expensive drone like DJI, but it doesn’t really matter. Rather, it’s a way for social media users to take cinematic shots even if they’re not drone experts.

You can also hand over your photo and video chores to Pixy to focus on creating Snap content. If you’re having a night out with your friends, you can send them to take a picture without using a selfie stick or other tools.

Battery life is pretty poor and image quality is reasonably good, so it’s not perfect. It’s also quite expensive considering that you can buy a decent drone for such money for $ 230. For example, I’ve seen DJI’s Spark Mini sell for $ 250.

However, Pixy is not designed for enthusiastic drone users who may buy at that price. It’s made for social media creators who might even think it’s cheap considering what they can do for them. Responses from passers-by and friends were overwhelmingly positive, with many saying they might buy. If it’s a sign, Pixy could hit.

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