Parrot is no stranger to small drones.
Its Bebop series is one of our top picks for casual flyers who don't need a high-powered model with pro features.
Its latest effort, the Anafi ($699.99), is smaller than the Bebop 2, but also much more capable.
It sports real gimbal stabilization, 4K video, and innovative additions like HDR video capture, a camera that can tilt upward, and Hyperlapse (moving time lapse).
We like it a lot, especially for travelers who don't want to be bothered to pack yet another battery charger, putting it right up there with the DJI Mavic Air in the world of compact, 4K-capable drones.
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The Most Portable Drone?
The Parrot Anafi seems like it was designed from the ground up with world travel in mind.
It's one of the smallest drones we've seen with a real 4K camera and gimbal stabilization.
It measures 2.5 by 2.6 by 9.6 inches (HWD) folded, and 2.5 by 6.9 by 9.4 inches with its arms out and ready to fly.
It's not just a small drone, it's also pretty light.
It weighs just 11.3 ounces—heavy enough to require FAA registration, but not to the point where it will add to much weight to your bag.
The materials used in its construction play a big part in its size.
Parrot has used a mix of lightweight plastic and carbon fiber.
Even the propellers are noticeably smaller and of lighter-weight material than other drones in this class.
I think the Anafi feels a little flimsy, despite the use of carbon fiber in its design.
The hinges that hold the arms in place don't feel as solid as I'd like them to.
That said, I don't think the Anafi is in danger of falling apart—you just want to make sure to put it in the included zippered carrying case when it's not in use.
The basic safety features are included.
The Anafi has a GPS and will automatically return to its takeoff point if it loses connection with the remote control.
There are downward sensors to help it stay steady when hovering, but it doesn't have any sort of obstacle detection system, so you have to be careful when piloting.
The case is very nice.
It's skinny and ovular, matching the elongated design of the folded Anafi.
It holds the drone perfectly, and is rigid enough that you can toss it into your backpack or camera bag without worry.
In addition to the standard kit, Parrot also sells the Anafi Extended.
It's priced at $799, and includes two extra batteries, a few extra sets of propellers, a dedicated carrying case, and a two-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud's Photoshop/Lightroom plan or its Premiere Pro plan.
The Extended case is a small shoulder bag, covered in gray cloth with a bit of a heather pattern.
It reminds me of the material that Peak Design uses for its backpacks and bags.
The Extended case has room for the remote control too.
If you buy the standard edition you'll need to find space for it.
The remote is gray plastic, about the same size a Nintendo Switch or Xbox controller, and like the aircraft battery, charges via USB-C.
Parrot calls it the Skycontroller 3, and it's definitely a lot smaller and more reasonable than the first-generation Skycontroller that was sold with the first Bebop drone.
See How We Test Drones
The remote is comfortable to hold and fairly minimalist in design.
It has the expected control sticks—the left to adjust altitude and yaw, the right to move in a direction along the x-axis.
There's no power switch—instead the remote turns on when you flip up the integrated smartphone clip.
It's big enough to hold an iPhone 8 Plus, although I did have to take the phone out of its case to get it to sit properly.
The remote has a USB-A port to plug your smartphone in, as well as a USB-C port for charging.
The Return-to-Home and Take Off/Landing buttons are revealed at the center when the phone clip extends.
Aside from that, the only controls of note are the shoulder buttons and rocker controls.
They adjust the camera tilt and zoom.
The microSD memory card slot is located underneath the battery.
A 16GB card is included, good enough for about 20 minutes of 4K video storage.
It's the style that requires you to place the card carefully against bare metal contacts and secure it with a tiny metal clip.
I ran into one issue during testing in which a card formatted in the drone wouldn't mount as a drive on my iMac.
I was able to transfer video to my phone using the Parrot FreeFlight app.
The issue was a one-off—after applying a firmware update and reformatting the card, it works fine.
Make sure you update the Anafi's firmware before you start using it.
Battery life is very good.
Parrot advertises 25 minutes of flight per charge.
Typically those figures are a bit inflated—based on hovering in place rather than the more typical maneuvers you'll make with a drone.
But my test flights netted flight times very close to Parrot's claims.
The battery charges via a USB-C port.
It requires about 2.5 hours to charge using a standard AC adapter, but you can shave an hour off by using a high-speed model.
Parrot includes a cable with the Anafi, but you need to bring your own AC adapter—if you have a modern flagship smartphone, it most likely comes with an adapter that supports high-speed charging.
4K and HDR
The Anafi is, at its heart, a camera—just one with propellers instead of a tripod socket.
The front-mounted camera is stabilized using a mechanical gimbal.
The result is aerial footage that is silky smooth, even when making turns or changes in altitude.
It can tilt to face all the way down, but also can point upward.
This is a rarity for drones, and allows you to capture some angles that others can't manage.
You'll need to download a smartphone app to take full advantage of the Anafi's camera features.
Parrot FreeFlight 6 is a free download for Android and iOS.
The app gives you a view from the Anafi's lens, lets you change frame rate and resolution settings, and also shows a map of where you're flying—helpful if you're trying to grab video or a photo of a specific landmark.
The video feed is smooth and of high quality.
I had no problem seeing what the drone's camera was seeing from my comfortable spot on the ground.
I experienced no issues with communication—the Anafi delivered a solid signal to the remote when the drone was within visual range, even in a suburban area rife with home Wi-Fi networks.
As for the actual video quality, you can record at 4K UHD, 2.7K, or 1080p.
I opted for 4K at 24fps, but you can push the frame rate to 30fps if you prefer, or up to 60fps at 1080p.
For stills, the Anafi shoots in JPG or Raw format at 21MP resolution.
Despite packing more pixels than a phone or other drones in this price range, the Anafi's camera sensor is the same 1/2.3-inch size you find in others.
Image quality is most certainly smartphone level, although that's no longer a stigma.
The Anafi sets itself apart from others by offering HDR capture for both video and stills.
It's very handy on days when you want to shoot with a bit lower contrast.
Shadow detail opens up and highlights aren't quite as bright.
You don't want to turn it on all the time, but it's a helpful tool for videographers who want video that's ready to be shared without extensive color grading.
Of course, if you're a pro and want to take the time to grade footage yourself, it's an option.
You'll need to turn off the HDR function and dive into video settings, but in addition to the standard Natural profile, the Anafi records video with a flat, low-contrast look in its P-Log profile setting, ideal for grading.
If you don't want to fuss with color correction, or simply don't have the right video editing software to do it, the Natural profile can be tuned to adjust sharpening, contrast, and color saturation.
In addition to standard video, the Anafi shoots in Hyperlapse—moving time lapse—with 15, 30, 60, 120, and 240x speeds available.
Of course, you'll need a long flight to get a dramatic Hyperlapse at the top settings.
You can also shoot half-speed slow-motion at 1080p—the Anafi app allows you to shoot with the video already slowed down, or roll standard speed at 60fps so you can slow down as needed when editing.
Regardless of video mode, the drone doesn't record sound.
I added some royalty-free music to our sample reel, but aside from that, the only edits are simple cuts from scene to scene.
The Anafi offers zoom, but not the optical variety.
Its lens supports digital zoom, the first drone to do so.
It has 3x power, covering a 26-78mm angle of view for video and 23-69mm for stills.
Parrot bills it as lossless in quality, but that's only true for 1080p recording where it has 2.8x power before losing quality.
At 4K the video starts to degrade as you zoom, but it still looks pretty good through about the 2x setting.
At 3x you can really notice the cropping—detail drops and grain increases.
For 1080p shooters, the FreeFlight app allows you to limit the zoom to the lossless range.
But there's no way to set a zoom limit with 4K.
You can take care to manually cap your zooms to 2x, but I'd love for zoom limit to be something you can set in the app, just so I would have one less thing to distract me from safe flying.
It's possible to pull off the dolly zoom effect—either zooming in while pulling away from your subject, or vice versa—with the Anafi.
Hitchcock made the shot famous in Vertigo.
The drone sports an automated dolly zoom effect—along with some others, including perfectly circular orbits—but it's pretty easy to pull off manually too.
You might also be looking at the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom when shopping—it offers similar image and video quality, but has an optical zoom lens rather than a digital one, so you can zoom in on 4K footage without losing anything.
Price is a concern, though.
At $1,249, the Mavic 2 Zoom isn't exactly twice the cost of the Anafi, but it's not far off.
Image quality is as good as you'd expect from a flagship smartphone.
To get better images out of a compact drone you need to move up to one with a larger sensor, which is a more costly proposition.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has a sensor that's four times as large, but with roughly the same level of pixels as the Anafi's.
It will net crisper photos, and can also get good results at twilight, but it's a lot more expensive—$1,500.
You can shoot in Raw DNG format to get the most flexibility out of photos.
But, as with P-Log video, Raw images need some work before they're ready to share.
If you prefer easy sharing, JPG capture is an option.
The Anafi supports HDR image capture, but is a bit short on other fancy imaging modes.
Panoramic stitching is coming later this month via a free software update, however.
The Take-Anywhere Drone
We've seen small drones before, but there have been some caveats.
The DJI Spark is tiny and can be charged via USB, but its video tops out at 1080p.
The DJI Mavic Air is even easier to transport than the Spark thanks to a folding design that makes it easier to stow, but requires you to bring an external battery charger and power cord to top off its battery.
The Anafi gets all the travel considerations right.
It's small, it includes a very practical and protective carrying case, and it doesn't require its own proprietary charger.
You can grab the drone and remote, a USB-C cable and an AC adapter, and you're ready to hop a flight to an exotic locale in order to capture some aerial footage of your own.
There are certainly things missing from the Anafi.
An obstacle avoidance system is one.
No, they're not perfect, but they can certainly prevent accidents.
If that's a concern, think about spending an extra $100 on the Mavic Air, which is the Anafi's closest counterpart in terms of price and design.
There are some things the Mavic does better than the Anafi, but the opposite is true as well.
The Anafi is an excellent performer in its own right, and includes features you don't get from the Mavic—digital zoom, HDR video, and Hyperlapse to name a few.
Both the Anafi and the Air are examples of what a compact, 4K drone can do.
It's up to you whether you value the digital zoom, extended gimbal tilt, and USB charging offered by the Anafi, or the Mavic Air's automated obstacle avoidance and other exclusive features.
The Bottom Line
The Parrot Anafi puts all emphasis on size—the small, folding drone is ideal for travel, thanks to 4K video capture, a small airframe, and USB charging.