The Parrot Anafi falls into the new category of drones small enough to fit into a backpack for hiking and good enough to capture high-quality videos of the stunning views you find out there. This drone is smaller, lighter and costs less than the Mavic Air, and it also takes 4K videos with excellent quality.
The Anafi is very small: it can fit easily into an included case that is just 10.8 x 3.5 x 3 inches — about the size of a water bottle. The controller is also small, but it doesn’t fit into this case. It folds down to just 6 x 3.7 x 3 inches. This whole combination weighs just 2 pounds, making it significantly smaller and lighter than both the Mavic Air and the GDU O2, and an impressively portable package as well.
When you get the drone ready to fly, the arms of the Anafi fold out from a hinge on the front of the body, making it look like some insect. Its spindly, thin look is very different from the lumpy curves of the Mavic Air, but it’s not unappealing.
The camera is placed on the front of the long, thin body of the Anafi, a white sphere mounted in a small, three-axis gimbal that enables it to tilt, twist and turn. It can rotate both downward and upward, so you can take images of you from below a bridge, while the drone flies underneath it — something that Mavic Air can’t offer. The gimbal feels a little fragile, but it is protected by two extensions of the case, and we observed that it remained intact despite several hard landings. A lens cap covers the camera; don’t forget to remove that before flying the drone and to replace it when you put it back in the case.
A large, 2,700-mAh lithium-ion battery is on the back of the drone body, which clips firmly into place. The included 16GB microSD card fits under the battery.
The controller is compact, well designed, fitting nicely into the hand, and offering plenty of controls that include the two standard control sticks and shoulder buttons and levers to control the gimbal angle, video and digital zoom features.
The cellphone clip flips up from the body of the controller and can hold smartphones like, Samsung Note 8 and iPhone 7 without problems. You can connect the controller to the phone with a USB cable, and a USB Type-C cable is provided. One nice touch here: when you lift the phone cradle the controller turns on and when you fold it down, the controller turns off, so it’s not possible for somebody to leave it turned on accidentally and run down the battery.
In Manual flight mode, the Anafi can move fast and can maneuver quickly. Parrot claims a top speed of about 35 mph, and that seems to be correct. It is a bit slower than the Mavic Air, which can go up to about 40 mph, but it’s plenty fast for all users but drone racers.
The Anafi comes with a number of useful automatic flight modes: SmartDronies, Cameraman, Touch & Fly, Flight Plan and Follow Me. SmartDronies mode offers a number of options for the selfie crowd. These include Tornado, in which the drone spirals around you in ever-growing circles while keeping the camera pointed at you; Boomerang, in which the drone flies out and up to a specified distance and then returns back; and Orbit and Parabola, in which the drone flies in a parabola shape, starting in front of you and ending up behind you.
In the Cameraman mode, user selects a target, and the drone keeps the camera pointing it that target, rotating the drone and tilting the camera to follow the selected object. You can use the controller to move the drone, but it will keep the camera fixed on the target.
In Touch & Fly mode, the drone flies to the location you lock on the on-screen map, with the control sticks setting the altitude and orientation. That’s a neat trick if you are trying to focus on framing the shot rather than worrying about flying the drone, but remember that the Anafi does not have the collision detection sensors like the Mavic Air, so it will quite happily fly into a building or a tree if the pilot doesn’t consider how it will reach the destination.
Flight Plan allows you to make a flight plan, which the drone follows upon request. That’s useful if you want to do a time lapse of construction work or film the same location in different seasons, for example.
Finally, in Follow Me mode, the camera automatically follows a selected object, tilting the camera and moving the drone to maintain the same distance between the drone and the subject. These tracking shots work pretty well and the camera tracks a person in changing light conditions without any issues. Again, though, there is some caution needed, as no forward collision detection sensors are added.
The Anafi also has a couple of fancy video modes: Slow Motion and Hyperlapse. The Slow Motion effect records video at 60 fps and plays it back at 30 fps, effectively halving the speed. That’s a great feature to have but nowhere near as cool as the 240 fps that devices like the iPhone8 can handle. Hyperlapse is an accelerated time effect that shoots video at a couple of frames per second and plays it back at 30 fps.
One drawback of the Anafi is its small size, because a sudden gust of wind or change of direction will produce a visible bump in the video.
One upside, however, is that the Anafi doesn’t sound noisy. While most drones, like the Mavic Air, are rather noisy, the Anafi is relatively quiet. It sounds like a group of angry bees that can’t be heard from about 20 feet away. On the other hand, the Mavic Air sounds like an angry bear, even at longer distances.
Image and Video Quality
The quality of the video captured by the Anafi is quite impressive. In both the 4K and HD modes, it has lots of natural motion and detail. Video recording is steady and has a very little evidence of camera shake or rolling shutter.
Another unusual feature is the digital zoom. You can zoom in up to 2.8x for 4K video and up to 3x for HD video. It’s a digital zoom; there is no physical zoom lens. The quality is pretty good. However, you will notice a slight softness when using the zoom at its longest settings, but the video still looks pretty good.
Parrot claims that the flight time of the Anafi is up to 25 minutes, but we observed that it lasts a few minutes short of this claim: about 20 to 22 minutes of flying. It comes with a single battery and a spare battery will cost you extra $99.
How Does It Compare?
|Specs||Parrot Anafi||DJI Mavic Air|
|Dimensions||Folded: 244x67x65mm||Folded: 168×83×49mm|
|Battery Life||25 minutes||21 minutes|
|Camera||21 MP||12 MP|
The Parrot Anafi is one of the most compact full-featured drones you will ever come across, packing into a small, water-bottle-sized package that easily fits into a backpack. And when you reach the destination, it is easy to set up and fly the drone. The Anafi has a lot of flight modes you can select to take interesting shots, and the video it captures is impressive, delivering clean, smooth result with plenty of detail.
But there are a couple of things you need to know about the Anafi. It’s a small drone, and can be easily buffeted by the wind, and lacks the object avoidance sensors, so it requires more careful piloting. These two factors mean we wouldn’t choose the Anafi over the Mavic Air, but if you are trying to find a light drone that captures excellent videos, then it is worth considering.