I remember the time when I got into this drone hobby; I had to purchase parts for my QAV250 frame. I was browsing through Banggood.com in “FPV system parts” looking at a bunch of different fpv camera listed from 15$ to 50$. I did not know at that time how important an fpv camera is until I bought one and struggled to see where I am flying. Purchasing a good fpv camera is very important for your ability to fly. This FPV camera review is going to simple. It answers the most important questions which may get into your mind when buying an FPV camera.
Here is how to choose the best FPV camera for your quadcopter:
FPV Camera Review - BIG Idea #1 - Wide Dynamic Range
I will first talk about WDR which stands for Wide Dynamic Range; this fancy term means how well the camera adjusts to different light patterns. Say for example you are flying during a sunset, where some places are dark from the shadows and some areas are bright from the sunset. A camera without WDR will struggle to see anything that’s dark and will only focus on the image that is the brightest. This is a problem because as you can already predict, it creates a silhouette when the light source is behind the object. Look at the image below for an example.
As a baseline, usually the cheaper fpv cameras do not have this feature where as expensive ones like the RunCam PZ0420M have D-WDR, although do check the specifications in the listing for other cameras. A mid-priced camera like the one I mentioned has what is called D-WDR which stands for Digital Wide Dynamic Range. D-WDR needs to rely on the chip to process the image. This is the most popular option for most people. Here is a simple expression I made:
FPV Camera Review - BIG Idea #2 - What Lens to Choose?
Now that you have an fpv camera, you are then asked to pick a lens. Picking a lens is by far the most debatable and solely rely on personal preference. I prefer to fly with a camera lens that is similar to a human’s eye but has a slightly larger field of view to see my surroundings. This would be a 2.8mm 120 FOV fpv camera. If you are a beginner, do choose this specification as this will feel like you are “in the cockpit”. Do not ever pick a narrow field of view lens.
Why? When you have a narrow field of view, it causes you to miss out on your surroundings and every stick movement will make your fpv experience feel like an earthquake; try running while wearing binoculars, similar experience.
FPV Camera Review - BIG Idea #3- Infrared Blocked or Infrared Sensitive?
What are the benefits of infrared blocked and IR sensitive cameras?
Okay well let me explain, what does it mean to have IR blocked. To block infrared light, it needs to have a filter in between the lens and the camera sensor. This only allows visible light to pass through and blocks out IR light, which is exactly how the human eyes see. The benefit of having IR blocked is when you fly during the daytime; all the colors will look the same as if you took a picture with a camera. However, the downside having IR blocked is that you are blocking off part of the ray spectrum, which narrows down your visibility.
This is why IR sensitive is good if you are flying in really dark places as the ray spectrum is from infrared light and visible light. However, the downside of this is that, when flying during the daytime, colors becomes a bit messed up. I previously had an IR sensitive camera which turns all the colors pink and white during the daytime, however, I could still see where I was flying during the late evening.
FPV Camera Review - BIG Idea #4-Size Matters:
You can purchase many different sizes for all different sizes of quadcopters. You would not want a standard size fpv camera on an 110mm size quadcopter build. All the fpv camera work the same but because smaller the size, the fewer features can be crammed into the dimensions. Don’t expect to find a pico camera with WDR or adjustable settings.
FPV Camera Review - BIG Idea #5 - FPV Camera Resolutions:
You may have already seen different terms like “600TVL” or “800 TVL,” this simply just means the resolution of the image like 720p or 1080p. There is always balance in things, the higher “TVL” means greater detail, the only two drawbacks to this is higher latency. Many professional drone racers prefer to have resolutions that are no more above 600 TVL because every millisecond is a major delay response time for them.
I fly with 600TVL because I am in no need of having “HD analog footage” because I have a XiaoMi YI action camera on board to record it separately. I have flown with both GoPro AV out and with an analog fpv camera before, and I can say that the GoPro does AV out at a much higher resolution, but I could feel there is about ¼ of a second delay in between when I move the sticks to when I see it. The GoPro was installed on my Phantom 1 as the quadcopter is pretty slow compared to my QAV250. Therefore, the video response rate did not matter.
* It is also highly recommended to use an fpv camera instead of an action cam recorder because sometimes the camera does crash or run out of battery and you may lose your quadcopter. Also, note that there is a limit to how high the resolution can be transmitted through an analog video transmitter.
There are more details that I can talk about but, these five topics is what I believe are the most important to have an enjoyable flying experience for the first time FPV'ers.