Snapchat Maker’s Pixy Selfie Drone is fun (for a few minutes)

Snapchat Maker’s Pixy Selfie Drone is fun (for a few minutes)

The new, modern solution to capturing a group outing is to levitate a palm-sized yellow drone called Pixy in front of you and do it automatically. This cute little mechanical photographer can not only hover you, but also orbit you, follow you and expand the landscape while recording the memories. I tried Pixy to see how it works – and if it’s as cool as it seems.

There are some notable limitations that should be addressed immediately. The drone can only fly about 5 minutes on a single charge. The image quality can be very good or bad depending on the lighting conditions. But much like Instagram originally found a way to make grainy smartphone images scrollable through the use of filters, Pixy overcame its hurdles by allowing everyone to capture moments like never before.

Pixy simplifies drone photography to the point where you just turn it on, turn a dial, and then let it fly by itself. But does it actually provide enough to be useful?

TL;DR

advantages:

  • Easy to handle
  • Small, almost pocketable
  • Easy editing via Snapchat

Disadvantages:

  • Very short battery life
  • The image quality is acceptable, but not outstanding

Buy from Snap.

How does Pixie work?

To launch Pixy, use the wheel to select flight mode, then press the single button.
TYLER HAYES

Unlike other drones used for logistics or racing, Pixy is designed to use its camera only. That’s it. There is no controller to fly the drone. There’s not even a trigger to tell Pixy when to start and stop recording. Its only focus is on automatically recording videos.

It might sound narrow, but this is the kind of product I’ve wanted for a while – and suppose others would want one too. Why? Because when I first flew a drone almost a decade ago, I recorded myself flying it into a tree and falling into a car. Most people understand the appeal of drones, but even now maintaining, lugging around, and operating them is work.

That is not the case here. Within 5 minutes of taking it out of the box, Pixy was flying around as a personal videographer. To launch it, turn the dial to select the flight style and press the single button while holding Pixy in the palm of your hand. Forward-facing lights indicate when recording begins. To master it again, just hold up your palm and it should recognize it and land in your hand.

Is Pixy a good camera drone?

snap pixy
Pixy can hover in front of you, orbit you, follow you, or retreat to reveal a scene.
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As a product, Pixy works very well. I would actually argue that Pixy works so well that it makes all of its shortcomings extremely obvious. The most worrying aspect is the battery life of the product. Flight time per battery is measured in minutes you can count on one hand.

Once you start using it, you won’t want to stop, but any battery will tire quickly. When Pixy has had enough, it will levitate to the ground instead of returning to your hand, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in a safe place or have a fresh battery. I saw this when I let it fly from a second floor balcony. It took off and hovered for a moment before spinning to the ground. It wasn’t damaged and it had no real marks to show.

There is a five-dot battery indicator on the bottom of the drone, and plugging and unplugging a battery into the slot is easy enough. However, it gets annoying to be constantly juggling identical batteries. Especially if you’re hoping to be ready for just the right magical moment.

Snap sells extra batteries, and you probably shouldn’t buy this product if you don’t want to buy the extra power. There is a dual battery charger that is included and can charge two batteries at once for $49.99. If you don’t buy that, you’ll have to charge one battery at a time in the Pixy itself. Note that extra batteries add to the overall cost – although not excessively.

Pixy image and video quality

snap pixy
In “Reveal” flight mode, Pixy expands the view to reveal the landscape around you. (This GIF has been scaled down and should not be taken as an example of Pixy’s video resolution.)
TYLER HAYES

The Pixy’s other shortcoming, aside from its battery life, is its image and video quality — especially stills. Each of the different modes can be adjusted in the settings to record only videos or pictures and videos. However, since the pictures are so candid, I didn’t see any that I wanted to save. I’ve relied on using the device to take videos instead of pictures.

Pixy records videos with a resolution of 2.7K at up to 30 frames per second. It has a 12-megapixel camera that can produce some solid videos, but your results really depend on the light and weather conditions. If his camera is staring at the sun, he probably won’t be able to overcome this obstacle. Windy weather will also disrupt his flights.

Almost all the videos I recorded were more than watchable. Some of them even looked very beautiful. There were some where people’s faces were covered with dark shadows and the results were unfortunate.

The drone has 16GB of storage on board and can store around 100 videos or 1,000 images. In practice, this means you can swap out the battery about 20 times before needing to clear the memory.

snap pixy
Each battery provides Pixy with approximately 5 minutes of flight time.
TYLER HAYES

additional comments

  • Pixy uses the Snapchat app to transfer photos and videos, which can also be automatically added to your phone’s photo library.
  • With Snapchat, you can crop videos, add music, add text, and do other editing tasks with minimal effort.
  • Pixy is not waterproof.
  • The drone comes with a lanyard to wear around your neck. It’s decent, but I probably would have preferred a small, cheap case instead.
  • Pixy does not record audio. You’d probably only hear the sound of the propellers anyway, so that’s understandable.

Should you buy Pixy from Snap?

snap pixy
Hold out your hand and Pixy should come back to you and land on your palm.
TYLER HAYES

Pixy is less of a drone and more of a personal photographer. It really answers the question of why the average consumer would want a drone: for selfie pics and videos.

Without a professional need, I’m not sure there’s any good, lasting benefit to buying a drone for most consumers. I’ve tried drones countless times and they always sit unused. The same goes for other people I know. After a few weeks of curiosity, the excuses to turn it on have run out, and it’s only used once or twice a year.

It’s debatable whether the limited battery life and so-so images are worth the price for all consumers, but regardless, Pixy can still be considered a success for people looking to add a dose of whimsicality to their memories. As long as Snap keeps its foot on the pedal, the second generation of this product will be exponentially better. From the looks of it, Pixy feels like a fun, groundbreaking product that showcases the future of consumer photography.

Shop at Snap from $229.99.

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