At just US$369, the upcoming Hubsan Zino offers a spec sheet that gives DJI's Mavic Air a run for its money at less than half the price. The Zino rocks a 4K, 30 FPS, gimbal-stabilized wide-angle camera, and its automated features include a visual track and follow mode.

The drone business must be one of the toughest consumer markets to compete in. This technology has advanced so quickly, and products have iterated in such short life cycles that it feels like consumer camera drones have been around forever. They haven't. DJI's very first Phantom drone is only a little over 5 years old.

And DJI has unmistakably been the market leader in the segment, consistently a step ahead of the game on the back of tightly integrated drones like the Mavic 2 Pro that offer next-level functionality with a super-solid user interface.

That doesn't mean other companies – particularly out of China – aren't nipping at the big dog's heels, though. And the name Hubsan might have some very pleasant memories behind it for the many of us who learned our quadcopter chops on the tiny, cheap Hubsan X4. We had a few among us in the New Atlas office back in the day, and I fondly remember racing them in and out of cubicles, under tables and landing them on people's heads.

So it's with some fondness we note that Hubsan is seeking to take a swing at the hottest segment in consumer drones right now: the folding portable camera drones, epitomized by DJI's Mavic series.

The Hubsan Zino weighs in at 700 grams (24.7 oz), which is somewhere between the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro 2. It offers a maximum flight time of 23 minutes, a top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) flat out, and comes with its own compact controller, to which you can clip your smartphone for FPV vision.

Transmission distance is only around 1 kilometer (0.62 miles), but it's fair to say that'll cover the majority of shots under most circumstances. The top DJI gear now transmits seven times farther than that under ideal conditions, but frankly flying these things much beyond your line of sight is an incredibly scary thing to do with your thousand-dollar drone.

The camera is a 4K gimballed unit with a decently wide aperture of F2.2, and a view angle of 89 degrees, a touch wider than the Mavic Air. Max resolution is 3,840 x 2,160 at 30 frames per second, and the specs don't tell us how large a photo it'll take, or whether it handles higher frame rates at lower resolutions like most of these gadgets do.

The Zino is GPS-stabilized, and offers pre-programmed waypoint navigation. It'll also do those circling shots of a "point of interest," as well as visual tracking and following, in which you can point out an object on screen, and have the drone fly around keeping it in the field of vision.

The fact that Hubsan points out it has an "altitude hold mode" betrays its hobbyist roots, because pretty much everyone that flies a camera drone nowadays expects it to hold its altitude. But it'll do most of what you'd expect in terms of returning to home if there are connection issues, automatic takeoff and landing management and a "headless" flight mode that lets you fly the drone without worrying about orientation.

It's fair to expect, given the marketing materials, that the user interfaces and instruction manuals will all be written in poorly-translated Chinese-to-English, and that the overall experience won't be as butter-smooth as it is with DJI gear. But on the other hand, Hubsan has put some time into making some really nice boxes for the Zino, and at the end of the day you're talking about something that's about half the price of a Mavic Air. Heck, it's even several hundred dollars cheaper than the last Mavic clone we tested, the GDU 02.

At US$369 – a pre-order limited offer directly from Hubsan – the Zino appears to offer Mavic Air-level functionality at sub-Spark prices. When it hits the wider market, it'll sell for the same $399 as the Spark. Either way, if Hubsan can pull this one off, it'll be the first 4K camera we've seen on a drone at this kind of price point, and well worth a look. Check out a video below.

Source: Hubsan

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