Introductory price 250 €
Snapchat, a “camera company”
Snapchat (or now Snap) is hardly known as a manufacturer of photo or video equipment. However, here and there, the firm markets intriguing products. After the Spectacles (V1 and V2), camera glasses inspired by our dreams of child apprentice spies, the American company is back on the attack with a drone! Baptized Pixy, this small yellow cake attracts as much as it arouses circumspection. Sold for €250 all the same, or even €275 if you opt for the pack with two batteries and a charger, the product is a victim of its own success, with a waiting period of 10 weeks at the time of writing these lines, and increasingly limited stocks.
A nice toy
Once in hand, it is the fun aspect of the drone that surprises the most. In a very garish yellow, symbol of the brand, it adopts an all-plastic coating that takes us back to the greatest hours of Happy Meal toys. It is also particularly light with its 101 g and fits in a large pocket. This drone is ultra accessible and has only two controls: a button used to make it take off and a control wheel that is reminiscent of the compact cameras of the early 2000s.
From this wheel, we have access to four predefined flight programs and a fifth that we can choose as a favorite. The “stand-by” mode is only used to power up the device. Do not look for any means of piloting via the Snapchat application, there is none, at most you can adjust the duration of the flights (between 10 and 60 s) according to the programs or the distance traveled by the aircraft. apparatus: we are talking here about a maximum of 9 m.
A fully automatic drone
The strength of Snap’s Pixy lies in its total automation, which makes it very easy to use. Once turned on, just place it, camera facing you, and press the only button available. The machine starts with a lawnmower noise and rises a few centimeters above the chosen support (most of the time the “pilot’s” hand). Once the detection of a face has been carried out, the drone launches more frankly and performs the selected program.
Be careful not to fly it in rainy, windy weather or near a body of water, because it is a small sensitive being. The same goes for reflective surfaces or cliff edges that can confuse the craft. Also, Snapchat specifies that it is advisable to opt for sufficient, natural lighting and to place a person sufficiently close to the drone sensor under penalty of seeing it perform stunts as in our video in introduction.
Simple and fun, the Snapchat style
The programs range from hovering a few cubits away from the person filmed and/or photographed, through a panoramic mode up to about ten meters from the target. You can still opt for an “orbital” flight: the drone performs a more or less large rotation around the target. Finally, there is a subject tracking mode. If it has the merit of existing, its operation is a bit risky. We are not in the presence of a high-tech product, and we must not rush it. It will therefore be necessary to be careful not to walk too quickly or too slowly for fear of seeing your mini UFO remain flabbergasted. If the object hits an obstacle, from a leaf to a brick wall, it will automatically decelerate to try to land, not without going through a moment of rather comical panic. However, the drone never crashes violently.
We explained that to take off, the drone must be in front of a person, and that it can follow subjects. However, it is not facial recognition per se. It can detect the shape of faces, but nothing more. If you were planning to use your Pixy as a low-cost mass surveillance tool, go your way. Similarly, your neighbors can be reassured, the drone must always be in front of its user and cannot exceed 4.5 m in height: you will therefore not be able to spy on an entire block of houses thanks to it. Only the shrill sound of its blades could disturb your neighborhood.
Could it be any louder?
In the same vein, if by chance you want to get into the production of vlogs with Pixy, do not forget that the drone does not carry any microphone. It would be useless anyway because of the sweet melody that we mentioned above and which escapes from its carcass. In addition, we are quickly confronted with the main problem of the Pixy: autonomy. Indeed, the battery endurance is announced for 5, 6 or 8 flights depending on the program selected. In fact, do not plan to use the drone for more than 3 or 4 consecutive minutes. This greatly reduces the feeling of fun related to the machine. Because yes, Pixy, despite her appearance cheap and the noise emitted, is quite amusing to use… for a few moments only, because after, it is the dry breakdown.
A flying selfie stick
If you have invested in additional batteries, you can extend the experience for a few moments, but no more. You have to understand that in Snapchat’s imagination, Pixy is a kind of revisited selfie stick. A tool that we take out sporadically and for only a few seconds. Except that your selfie stick, in addition to being silent, does not need a mains socket to work…
Another concern related to the use of drones relates to the legal framework for flights. Even if this drone belongs to category C0, the lowest in terms of legislation, it can still not be flown in town and in certain other public places. Here you will find an official map indicating the authorized flight zones.
The biggest USB key in the world
Once the flight sessions are over, it is worth contemplating the work done. For this, there are several methods, but you have to start with the Snapchat application (obviously). The equipment of the drone is quite immediate and here you can change certain shooting parameters or even activate the transfer directly via the USB port of the beast, whose internal storage is 16 GB. It is therefore up to you to review your images and download them. And Snapchat leaves the choice up to the user. You can of course rework your videos directly from the manufacturer’s application and thus benefit from all the fun effects that have made the firm so successful with the youngest. But it is also possible to send the sequences directly to a competing social network or to retrieve them on your smartphone, without a watermark.
Relative image quality
Let’s talk a bit about image quality now. You are not unaware that Digital we are quite fussy about this subject. Pixy has two photo sensors. The first, located below, is only used for in-flight navigation, while the second is used for capturing videos and photos. It is 12 megapixels and has optics opening at f/2.4. We do not know the exact focal length, but it is an ultra wide-angle (less than 20 mm) displaying some distortions.
Videos are captured in 2.7K and 30 fps in 16:9 format. If the result observed on smartphone – and passed through the mill of social network algorithms – is acceptable, when we analyze the files, photo or video from our test scene on a larger screen, the magic crumbles. The level of detail is really low, the colorimetry is not there and compared to a modern entry-level smartphone, such as Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, it’s even more embarrassing.
In low light, the result is even more disappointing. Snapchat’s drone is not cut out for night photos or videos. It does not have the software processing which makes it possible to catch up with the images taken when the light runs out. The captured videos are difficult to use. It will therefore be necessary to reserve the use of the drone for very well-lit situations. In addition, the videos, as we explained, are recorded in 16:9 format and in landscape. To use them in a story Or other real, you will have to crop the image to portrait or square format, and therefore lose even more quality. Notable positive point, the flight stability of the device. Except in strong winds, it stays level, which makes it possible to obtain very correct sequences from this point of view.
A concept to refine
As you will have understood, this Snapchat Pixy drone leaves us skeptical. On the one hand, it is a fun object rather well thought out and super easy to use. But on the other hand, it consumes its battery faster than a Sega Game Gear and having to recharge it very regularly harms the feeling of fun, as does the impossibility of flying it outside of a few rare spots. Exporting and editing video is smooth and fluid, Snapchat wanting to make it as easy as possible for us. It’s a gadget, an interesting toy, but we can assume that sooner or later it should end its life at the bottom of a drawer… alongside your selfie stick. It remains to be seen if Snapchat will release a version two with, at least, better battery life.