Review: DarwinFPV CineApe35 – The Best Value 3.5″ Cinewhoop in 2024?

by Oscar
Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop

I’ve always been impressed with DarwinFPV’s ability to deliver high-performing drones at such affordable prices. Their latest offering, the DarwinFPV CineApe35, is a budget-friendly 3.5-inch cinewhoop that stands out in the market for its value. Despite its competitive price tag, it doesn’t cut corners on features or ease of use. Could this model earn the title of the best value cinewhoop in 2024? Yet, it’s not without its shortcomings. I’ll delve into the details in this review to see if it’s the right choice for you.

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Learn more about Cinewhoop in this buyer’s guide: https://oscarliang.com/cinewhoop/

Where to Buy?

Get the DarwinFPV CineApe35 from AliExpress: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DBNPBCD

The CineApe35 is available in both 4S and 6S versions. I am reviewing the 6S version. The main different is just in the motor KV. The choice depends on what batteries you already have – if you already have a bunch of 4S batteries, then get the 4S version; however if you don’t have any batteries yet, then I’d recommend going 6S. Why? See this post: https://oscarliang.com/6s-mini-quad-racing-drone/

The CineApe35 arrived with the following accessories: manual, stickers, spare screws, extra landing foam pads, zip ties, and even foam for protecting the prop guards, which is a nice touch for indoor flying.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Unbox Accessories

Specifications

Here’s the official specifications:

  • Frame Type: Ture-X
  • Wheelbase: 151.5mm
  • Arm thickness: 3.5mm
  • AIO: DarwinFPV F411 3-6S 45A ELRS AIO
  • Receiver: Integrated SPI ELRS 2.4GHz
  • GPS: DarwinFPV GM8 GPS
  • Motor:
    • 4S Version: 2006-3400KV
    • 6S Version: 2006-2030KV
  • Propeller: GEMFAN D90S-3

Comparison between different versions:

Model CineApe35 Analog BNF CineApe35 Wasp BNF CineApe35 O3 BNF
Camera Caddx ANT Camera Wasp Nano Camera DJI O3 Camera
VTX DarwinFPV VT5804 1W RunCam Link (Vista) DJI O3 AIR UNIT
Max Range 3km 4km 10km
Battery Life No Load:
7 mins (with 4S 1500mah 110C battery)
9.5 mins (with6S 1300mah 110C battery)Load GoPro8:
5.5 mins(with 4S 1500mah 110C battery)
7 mins (with 6S 1300mah 110C battery)
Maximum horizontal flight speed 110km/h
Payload 900g
Dimensions (without the propellers ) 213x213x82mm 213x213x74mm 213x213x125mm
Weight 278.2±5g 290.8±5g 309.3±5g
Recommended battery 4S Version: 4S 1300-1500mah 110C XT60

6S Version: 6S 1300-1500mah 110C XT60

Size comparison to the BetaFPV Pavo35:

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Compare Pavo35

Design and Build Quality

The CineApe35 features a classic cinewhoop design. Its carbon fibre plate with inverted motors and prop guards attached to standoffs is a common design in cinewhoops. The layout is similar to other Cinewhoops like the Pavo35, but the CineApe35 feels exceptionally sturdy and well-built for its price range.

The drone’s build quality feels sturdy, with a 3.5mm thick carbon plate and durable plastic prop guards, ensuring commendable crash resistance.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Side

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Bottom

However, it’s not without its flaws. The GoPro mount was incompatible with the GoPro Hero 11 due to misaligned screw holes. For my tests, I resorted to using a zip tie for attaching the GoPro in my review, though a better designed 3D printed GoPro mount would be ideal.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Gopro Hero Mount

Unlike most of its more expensive counterparts, such as the Speedybee Bee35 and Pavo35, the CineApe35 does not come with RGB LED strips. Personally I don’t really mind, as I typically tend not to put LEDs on my drones to minimize weight.

Components

This drone is equipped with the DarwinFPV F411 45A AIO flight controller with a built-in SPI ELRS receiver. The USB-C port, conveniently located on the top plate and protected by a rubber cover, speaks to the design’s user-centric approach.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Usb Port

The AIO flight controller features a 25.5×25.5mm mounting pattern and is covered in waterproofing material, offering protection from water splashes or damp conditions. However this could impact its heat handling ability and it would be interesting to see how it holds up in the summer.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Esc Fc Waterproof

The motors are 2006 2030KV, the propellers are Gemfan D90S-3 triblade.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Motor Propeller

The CineApe35 comes equipped with a Caddx Ant camera and DarwinFPV’s TX805P VTX, a budget-friendly choice that aligns with the overall affordability of the drone.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Fpv Camera

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Vtx Bottom Plate

The addition of GPS is a remarkable feature for a budget-friendly drone. Although its placement might be questionable—potentially obstructed by a mounted GoPro, it’s a thoughtful design. Considering that even pricier 3.5″ cinewhoops often lack GPS, its inclusion here is commendable. That said, GPS didn’t work out of the box and required additional configuration for Rescue mode to work.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Top

One disappointment would be the VTX and RX antennas – the RX is a simple monopole antenna while the VTX antenna is a simple dipole antenna. While these antennas work fine in close proximity in line of sight, they don’t provide the best range and penetration behind obstacles. If these are your priority you should consider upgrading them.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Rx Vtx Antenna Mount

Flight Performance

Out of the box, the CineApe35 came with Betaflight default PIDs.

https://youtu.be/5LwPM-rtDPE

My initial flights were impressively smooth. There were no noticeable oscillations or jello, suggesting a well design, clean build. The 1W VTX combined with ExpressLRS receiver provided excellent range and signal penetration. I experienced no image breakup within a 500-meter line of sight, and I’m confident it could go a lot further (only if the park was larger).

The CineApe35 handled well, offering stable and controlled flights that are ideal for cinematic shots.

On a 6S 1100mAh LiPo battery without a GoPro, the drone achieved around 10 minutes of flight time—a remarkable efficiency for a Cinewhoop. Hovered around 28% throttle, it’s nimble and powerful enough for freestyle flying when not carrying additional weight.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Gopro Lipo Battery

Mounting a GoPro Hero 11, the flight time was reduced to 6-7 minutes. The drone was slightly front-heavy even when shifting the battery all the way to the rear, that impacted stability a little bit especially when it’s windy. Nevertheless, it delivered smooth flying experience, and with image stabilization, the footage from the GoPro was smooth and stable.

Note that the current sensor appeared to be inaccurate and required calibration; it overestimated the “mAh consumed” by approximately 40% (reporting 1500mAh for a 1100mAh pack).

How to Setup

The included manual, both in Chinese and English, provides comprehensive guidance, covering details like binding the receiver and flight configurations.

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop Manual

The Cineape35 is shipped with Betaflight firmware version BF4.42.

The FC target is DARWINF4SX1280HD.

You can find the original CLI dump here.

It has a built-in ExpressLRS SPI receiver – SPI meaning, to update its receiver firmware, you have to update Betaflight firmware as well. It already comes with ELRS V3 firmware, so if your transmitter module has ELRS V3 as well, there’s no firmware update needed.

To bind the receiver, enter the bind phrase in the Betaflight receiver tab, or use the “Bind receiver” button to initiate bind mode.

For my first flight, I changed the following settings:

  • In the Configuration tab, I adjusted the Arming Angle to 180 degrees.
  • In the Modes tab, I configured switches for arm and angle modes.

The VTX SmartAudio was already set up and working as expected.

Final Thoughts: Is the CineApe35 the Right Choice?

DarwinFPV impressed again with the CineApe35. Its flight performance is stellar, particularly considering its affordable price point. It’s a strong candidate for those looking for a budget-friendly cinewhoop style FPV drone.

Get the DarwinFPV CineApe35 from AliExpress: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DBNPBCD

Darwinfpv Cineape35 Cinewhoop

With its robust build, user-friendly features, onboard GPS, and capability to carry a full-sized GoPro, it stands as a compelling option for anyone in need of a cheap and reliable Cinewhoop. For $200, it’s hard to find any significant faults with this drone, making it a strong contender in the budget FPV market.

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5 comments

AMDEH 14th February 2024 - 8:51 am

Did you notice the Vtx version advertised is 1W version, and they gave us the 800mw version. I did texted Darwinfpv about this, they said their worker accidentally put wrong label :) They said it is the 1W version on the unit. If u check vtx settings in betaflight and the CLI file, it is for the 1W version. Need someone expert to double check about this wether it is 800mw or 1W version.

Reply
Jiggy 4th February 2024 - 5:48 pm

Thanks for your review! Wondering if you can attach a simple LED cob light around the drone. Could you use the uart 5v power to make it light up? Thanks again.

Reply
Oscar 5th February 2024 - 4:34 pm

Depending on the power requirement of the LED lights you want to use, an external voltage regulatory might be ideal (powered directly from LiPo battery) to reduce stress on the FC BEC.

Reply
Amdeh 4th February 2024 - 3:31 pm

Oscar please make a pid tuning on cineape35. And share with us.

Reply
Oscar 5th February 2024 - 4:32 pm

I will try when I have time, thanks for the comment.

Reply