Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE – The alternative to the DJI Mavic Pro?
With the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE, the Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi Tech presents a promising drone with camera at an excellent price-performance ratio. Find out whether the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE is a serious DJI alternative and how it compares to high-end drones like the DJI Mavic Pro in our detailed article.
Processing and design
Visually, the FIMI X8 SE is strongly reminiscent of the DJI Mavic Pro or the new DJI Mavic 2. Just like the DJI drone, the FIMI X8 is a foldable drone with compact dimensions (204 x 106 x 72.6 mm when folded). The most striking difference is the all-white paint job. The controller and the other accessories, such as the LiPo and charger, are also painted in classy white.
The feel and material processing of the Xiaomi drone look very high-quality. While large parts of the casing are made of sturdy plastic, the underside of the copter has a resistant metal surface. The high-quality workmanship is also evident in the folding mechanism: The unfolding of the drone’s arms is accompanied by a rich click and signals that the outriggers are securely locked in place.
Technical data of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE
With a weight of 790 grams, the FIMI X8 SE is about 115 grams lighter than the DJI Mavic 2, but 230 grams heavier than the entry-level Xiaomi FIMI A3.
The drone is launched either by pressing a button or by simultaneously pressing down both control sticks. It then climbs about 1.5 meters upwards. The flight time specified by the manufacturer is 33 minutes (in calm conditions). This is said to be achieved by a 4,500 mAh, 11.4 V LiPo. In practice, the flight time is slightly below this value, reaching about 25 to 28 minutes, depending on wind and camera usage. Compared to other drones in this price range, this is an excellent value that is otherwise only achieved by high-end drones beyond the 1000 dollar mark.
The maximum flight altitude of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE is 547 yards (500 meters), and the range in distance is specified as up to 3.1 miles (5 kilometers). These are similar values to the DJI Phantom 4 or Mavic Pro, but they are in a completely different league in terms of price.
Since drones in many countries can only ascend to an altitude of about 400 feet (120 meters) and can only be flown “on sight”, these values should be more than sufficient for most drone pilots. However, many people will certainly be pleased with the great potential of the FIMI X8 SE.
In terms of speed, there are three different modes to choose from: Normal, Sport and Beginner. While Normal mode is mainly for taking photos and videos, Sport mode allows the drone to reach speeds of up to 40 mph (64.8 km/h or 18 m/s). In Beginner mode, both the speed and agility of the FIMI X8 SE are greatly reduced, allowing beginners to feel their way around the controls.
Another way to reduce the speed of the drone for camera shots is to use the Tripod flight mode. This mode is great for navigating tight spaces and taking detailed shots in close proximity to obstacles. In our opinion, this is an extremely helpful mode that we would like to see on other drones as well.
The Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE uses both GPS and GLONASS for accurate positioning. Thanks to the use of both positioning systems, the drone can always rely on enough satellites. Combined with the additionally installed Vision Position System (VPS), which consists of an additional small camera as well as an ultrasonic module on the underside of the FIMI X8 SE, the drone can easily maintain its position and withstand wind speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h).
Unfortunately, the Xiaomi drone does not have an obstacle detection feature like some DJI drones – even though the black cover on the front apparently has room for two additional small cameras for collision avoidance. Perhaps this feature will be implemented in a successor model.
However, the FIMI X8 SE does have another safety feature: if you let go of the remote control sticks during flight, the drone will automatically stop in place, preventing any unpleasant situations. In addition, the drone also has a Return-to-Home (RTH) function and returns to the launch position at the push of a button.
Photos & Videos: The camera of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE
The 4K camera of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE has a resolution of 12 megapixels and is mechanically stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal. The IMX378 image sensor (CMOS) from Sony, which is also used in the high-end smartphones Google Pixel and Pixel XL, has a size of 1/2.3 inch and delivers rich colors and contrasts.
Videos are recorded in HD, Full HD, 2K or 4K and saved in MP4 format. The possible frame rates vary in each case. The ISO range for video recordings is between 100 and 3200.
- 4K (3840 x 2160) @ 30 fps
- 2K (2560 x 1440) @ 60 fps
- Full HD (1920 x 1080) @ 100fps
- HD (1280 x 720) @ 200 fps
The live image from the camera is transmitted to the smartphone in HD (720p). The connection quality of the video transmission is more than sufficient for flights within sight – but we did not test whether this is also the case up to a distance of 3.1 miles (5 kilometers).
The stabilization of the video recordings by the 3-axis gimbal works excellently – even in sport mode, the recordings are almost completely free of image jerks. This once again shows the drone’s first-class build quality. If you still want to tweak the gimbal settings, you can do so in the app. There, you can calibrate the gimbal manually to achieve even better results. An included square foam piece can be put around the gimbal as transport protection.
The Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE takes photos in JPEG or DNG RAW. Post-processing on the computer is thus possible without any problems. The camera has a fixed aperture of f/2.2 and a natural field of view of 78.8°. The maximum resolution of the photos is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels (12 MP). The available ISO values range from 100 to 1600 for photos.
Besides the possibility to take photos manually at the touch of a button, there are also some smart photo modes available. For example, the Xiaomi drone offers three different panorama modes as well as a motion-lapse option.
Data is transferred at a bit rate of 100 Mbps. The material is stored in the drone on a memory card of up to 64 gigabytes.
Flight and recording modes
With the various automatic flight modes of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE, there are no limits to creativity. The intelligent flight or recording modes Waypoint, Smart Track, Orbit, Tap-fly, Dronie and Spiral are available.
Other flight modes include Cinematic Mode, Tripod, Course-Lock and SAR.
How to succeed in creative drone photography
In waypoint mode, the route to be flown and the desired video or photo recordings can be planned in advance. Thanks to GPS and GLONASS, the drone then automatically flies over the waypoints and creates the desired recordings.
The Smart Track mode is also known as Active Track or Follow Me by other manufacturers and works very well with the Xiaomi drone. Objects or people can be marked in the picture with a finger. If they move afterwards, the drone follows them automatically and always keeps them in the center of the picture (Trace submode).
It is also possible to let the drone hover on the spot while the selected object is kept in the center of the image (Lock submode). Both options work even at great distances from the drone, although here the background and contrast of the landscape can significantly affect the result.
In Orbit mode, the FIMI X8 SE independently flies around an object at a selected height, distance and speed. The camera can be fixed on the object to be orbited (Center) or remain free (Free).
In Tap-fly mode, the quadrocopter can be controlled by finger pressure on the smartphone display.
Dronie mode allows you to take selfie shots and offers two different options. Either the drone rises directly above you while the camera is pointed down, or it moves away from you on an imaginary line, gaining altitude in the process.
With the Spiral setting, the quadcopter circles an object in a spiral.
Helpful flight modes for professional camera shots
The Cinematic Mode lets the drone slow down more smoothly at the end of a tracking shot and thus ensures even smoother scrolling.
We particularly like the Tripod mode. When activated, the FIMI X8 SE can be navigated extremely precisely, as agility and speed are greatly reduced. This mode is great for detailed shots of hard-to-reach objects as well as in tight spaces.
If you activate the Course-Lock setting, this will affect the control of the copter. Often described as Headless Mode by other manufacturers, this mode allows for simplified control of the drone. Control commands to the left, right, front and rear now always lead to course changes in the respective direction, regardless of whether the front or the rear is pointing at you.
Another very interesting option for ambitious hobbyists is the Fixed-Wing mode. Due to a significant curve inclination, the feature creates the impression in videos as if they were not recorded with a drone, but with an airplane.
Last but not least, the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE has the so-called SAR mode. SAR stands for Search and Rescue and describes the drone’s ability to display the exact GPS coordinates of the drone in real time on the app’s display. This means that the quadrocopter can also be used for search and rescue operations and help locate people in distress.
The remote control
The remote control of the FIMI X8 SE weighs 370 grams, fits well in the hand and visually resembles that of the DJI Mavic Pro. The built-in 3900 mAh, 3.7 V battery is charged via microUSB. The workmanship here also looks very high-quality. In addition, various practical little things have also been thought of. For example, the two metal control sticks can be conveniently unscrewed for transport and stored in a dedicated spot in the controller.
The smartphone is not connected to the drone via Wi-Fi, but via the included cable (microUSB, USB-C, Lightning), which can be stored in a small cable channel in the holder. Communication with the drone takes place via the 5.8 GHz frequency.
Thanks to the flexible holding mechanism of the remote control, smartphones of various sizes can be attached. Up to the size of an iPad Mini, all common models should be usable without any problems.
In addition to the two obligatory control sticks, the controller has an easily accessible RTH button and two other small buttons on the front in addition to the on/off switch.
On the back of the controller, there are two easily accessible function buttons for starting and stopping video recordings and taking photos. Two assignable knobs for the gimbal tilt or for setting the exposure, for example, are also found here.
FIMI Navi App
To operate the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE, you need the FIMI Navi app, which is offered for free in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. If you want to install the app on an iPad, you have to select “supports iPhone only” in the search settings (filter) in the Apple App Store, otherwise it will not be found. Since the app has only been optimized for smartphones to date, display errors may occur when it is displayed on tablets. Nevertheless, the app should work without any problems here as well.
You can create your own account to use the app, but you do not have to. In our eyes, this is a plus point.
The FIMI Navi app runs remarkably stable, has an enormous variety of settings and operating options, and is clearly designed. During the flight, the app offers all sorts of helpful information about connection quality, battery status and important flight parameters like altitude, distance and speed.
Various settings for taking photos and videos can be adjusted via easy-to-reach buttons, and the app can also be used to calibrate the drone and gimbal.
Once again, here are the highlights of the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE at a glance:
- Foldable design
- 12 MP 4K camera
- 3-axis gimbal
- 65 km/h
- GPS + GLONASS
- 5 km range
One thing is for sure: We have rarely seen such a well-equipped drone with an excellent camera at such a low price. The Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE is therefore currently our clear price-performance tip in the range of mid- to high-end drones!
Not only is the Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE extremely well-equipped, the workmanship of all components is also extremely high quality and the look and feel are also convincing. With the FIMI X8 SE, you get a foldable drone with an outstanding gimbal camera system, which is otherwise only found in copters beyond 1000 dollars.
The quality of the video recordings is excellent, the flight behavior is impeccable, and the automatic flight and recording modes also work flawlessly. Overall, you have to look very hard to find a point of criticism or even a weak point.
Only the lack of obstacle detection and the app not being optimized for tablets could be criticized. Otherwise, we did not notice any further points of criticism. On the contrary, we were completely convinced by the foldable Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE, which is why it is currently our clear recommendation in the mid- to high-end drone segment!