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Parrot Anafi folding 4K HDR drone flies for 25 minutes, arrives in July for $699

Small, quiet and with a big feature set, the Anafi might just steal away some sales from industry leader DJI.

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Parrot's new Anafi camera drone folds down to the size of an umbrella.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Seeing Parrot's new camera drone for the first time, it's tough not to be excited about the possibilities.

The Anafi, named after a small Greek island, is a slender folding drone and an all-new design for the company. It's a distant relative to Parrot's first phone-controlled quadcopter, the AR.Drone, that debuted at CES 2010. Some of the underlying technical DNA is shared, but everything else here is new. And while it might not have the spectacle of hand-gesture controls or obstacle avoidance features of industry leader DJI's latest, it has some cool tech of its own.

Unfolded it looks a bit like a dragonfly making it clear Parrot didn't just make a folding version of the company's Bebop 2. Save for some underlying tech, it's entirely new. It's also not a clone of DJI's folding drones like the ones I saw so much of at CES 2018

Now playing: Watch this: Parrot's Anafi is your new fold-up-and-go 4K drone
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Even the camera breaks from the company's past models. Parrot finally jumped to a 4K-resolution camera stabilized by a mechanical gimbal. All of its past models relied on digital processing for stabilization and "tilting" the camera up and down. It worked, sure, but it didn't do image quality any favors.

The Anafi's camera can record in 4K Cinema or 4K UHD in HDR, which should result in better shadow and highlight details. It's mounted on a two-axis motorized stabilizer that can tilt 180 degrees, letting you shoot straight down and straight up.

While the stabilizer handles roll and tilt, Parrot is also taking advantage of the camera's high-res sensor to back up the gimbal with electronic stabilization for roll, tilt and pan. You'll also be able to use its extra resolution for a lossless 2.8x or 1.4x digital zoom when recording in full HD and 4K, respectively.

Key camera specs

  • 1/2.4-inch 21-megapixel sensor 
  • f2.4 23mm lens (26mm for video)
  • ISO 100 to 3200
  • 1 to 1/10,000 shutter speed (electronic)
  • 4K Cinema (4,096x2,160) at 24fps; 4K UHD (3,840x2,160) at 24/25/30fps; FHD (1,920x1,080) 24/25/30/48/50/60fps 
  • 100Mbps max bit rate
  • Raw (DNG) and P-Log post-production formats

Ready in seconds

Folded, the Anafi fits neatly in a slim case that's roughly the size of a compact umbrella or water bottle and weighs only 320 grams (11.3 ounces). There are no tricks to setting it up: Just flip out the arms and give the power button on the battery a quick press. 

The controller sets up nearly as fast, and the redesigned FreeFlight 6 control app puts all the important camera settings at the bottom of your device's display within reach of your thumbs when your hands are on the sticks. The controller has a video transmission range of about 2.4 miles (4 kilometers).

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The controller's device holder flips up, putting the screen above the controls.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Again, you won't find obstacle avoidance and you can't fly it with hand gestures, but there is advanced visual tracking that will keep the drone on moving subjects and access to slow-motion and hyperlapse modes as well as automated cinematic landscape and selfie shots.

Parrot says the battery, which now has a power meter on it, will get you up to 25 minutes of flight. But that's probably not taking advantage of its top speed of 34 mph (55 kph). Both it and the controller charge by USB-C and the camera records to a microSD card, coming with a 16GB one included. Plus, it's one of the quietest drones at its size.

The Parrot Anafi will sell for a competitive $699 when it arrives in July. That converts to about AU$915 and £520. Although I haven't seen video straight from the drone yet, the feature set and design are solid and if the experience is as good or better than the Bebop 2, we might finally have a worthy alternative option to DJI's Spark and Mavic Air.

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