Best FPV Camera Review : The Best FPV Camera For Your Quadcopter

If you're buying an FPV camera for your quad copter, you would want to remember that the vast majority of these cameras on the market today are designed for use with home security systems and the like.

You most likely will be buying a camera that is primarily designed for surveillance, but luckily, they could for aerial filming as well as they are small and are designed to work well in low ambient light conditions.

What's more - they are really simple to hookup. Most have three wires for output - one each for power, ground and video. There are also a few that have a microphone and these have an additional output wire foraudio. Just about every FPV camera is designed to work with 6V to 15V DC current, which means you can use these with 2S (7.4V), 3S (11.1 V) or 4S (14.8 V) Lithium Polymer batteries without any voltageregulation.

camera

weight

video resolution

price

For Professionals

best FPV camera

GoPro Hero4 Black

152 g (with housing)

4K @ 30fps

best FPV camera for quadcopter

GoPro Hero4  Silver

147 g (with housing)

4K @ 15fps

Intermediate Level

best FPV camera for your quadcopter

GoPro Hero StarterBundle

181.5 g

1080p @ 30fps

best quadcopter camera

Spektrum VA1100 Ultra Micro FPV camera

10 g

320 x 240

For Beginners

quadcopter FPV camera

SummitLink Sony 700TVL

52 g

700 TVL

quadcopter camera

Andoer Mini HD 700TVL

98 g

700 TVL

best drone FPV camera

Eachine 700TVL 1/3 Cmos FPV

18 g

700 TVL

quadcopter drone FPV camera

SC2000 RunCam PZ0420M-L28-R

12 g

700 TVL

drone first person view camera

Crazepony® FPV CMOS 800TVL

9 g

800 TVL


GoPro HERO4 BLACK 4K Action Camera

Best FPV Camera

GoPro Hero4 Black

This is without question the best money can buy right now. You can shoot 4k video at 30 fps and 1080p at a whopping 120 fps. The video is super smooth - even when you are shooting scenes that are really fast moving. This is the #1 choice for professional videographers. It records at 60Mbps - which is truly impressive. And it allows you to capture 12MP photos at 30fps.

If you truly want the best of the best, this is what you should choose. There's nothing better on the market right now.

But all of this takes a toll on the battery. If you will be shooting 4K at 30 fps and have the Wi-Fi on, don't expect the battery to last for much more than a minute. If you want the batteries to last for more than just a couple of minutes, you will need to turn Wi-Fi off, have the battery BacPac and shoot at 720p.

What we like ...

  • The video is the best in class. Nothing else can shoot 4k at 30fps.
  • And there are a lot of mounting options available as well. And it can shoot 1080p at 120 frames a sec.

What we don't like ...

  • This beast of a camera is a battery guzzler. The batteries drain really fast. It does not allow you to use older batteries.
  • It is not waterproof - so it does need housing.

The bottom line

If image quality is what is of paramount importance to you, this is the camera you should be using with your drone. Nothing else can match the GoPro Hero4 Black.

Performance

Battery Life

Image Quality

Price


GoPro Hero4 Silver

GoPro Hero4 Silver FPV Camera

GoPro Hero4 Silver

While you cannot use this to shoot 4K, it allows you to shoot 2.7K at 30fps and capture at 1080p at 60fps or 720p at 120fps. This comes with a touch screen display you can use to control the camera, adjust settings and view footage. And you can capture 12MP images at 30fps - which is certainly nothing to sneer at.

2.7K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps is still more than good enough for most people - and a lot, lot better than what most other quadcopter cameras are capable of.

What's kind of strange is it does not come with a memory card. You will need to buy the memory card separately.

What we like ...

  • This is a great value for money. The video quality is excellent, ideal for beginners or even professionals.
  • The touch screen makes using this cam a real joy.

What we don't like ...

  • If you will be shooting at 2.7K or even 1080p, the batteries will drain pretty fast - in less than 3 minutes. You cannot use old batteries that you may have lying around.
  • And the camera is not waterproof.

The bottom line

This is a really good buy for the money. It has almost everything one could as for in a quadcopter camera. The video quality is great, comes with a separate waterproof housing and has a touch screen that makes using it a breeze.

If you have used the GoPro Hero3, you can't but love the improvements and new features in the Hero4 Silver.

Performance

Battery Life

Image Quality

Price


GoPro HERO Starter Bundle

GoPro Hero Starter Bundle

This is ideal for someone who's just getting started with aerial photography and wants a taste of the GoPro experience.

This very reasonably priced camera weighs a little over 110 grams and can record 1080p video at 30fps or 720p at 60 fps - which most certainly isn't bad by any standard. You should not be comparing this one with either the Hero4 Black or Hero4 Silver because this is aimed at a different market segment - not professionals but those who are just getting started.

That said, this little camera has some impressive features that the other models lack - it is waterproof and comes permanently encased in a rugged housing that can take quite a bit of abuse. So if you happen to crash your drone, the camera might survive intact.

But if the housing gets damaged, there's little you can do as you will not be able to pull the camera out of it. You will also need to be careful with the lens. If the lens gets scratched for some reason, you will not be able to fix it.

It does not have a GoPro accessory port - so you can't use Wi-Fi or plug in a spare battery.

What we like ...

  • The GoPro Hero Starter is good value for the money, and is meant for those who are just getting started. The video quality is good. 
  • The camera is permanently mounted in a rugged, waterproof housing. So it might not get damaged even if you happen to crash your drone.

What we don't like ...

  • It has no Wi-Fi, and you cannot have a spare battery on-board as it does not have a GoPro accessory port.
  • It does not have a touchscreen either.

The bottom line

This is a good camera for the money, more so if you are just getting started. The video quality is good, the camera is waterproof and can take a lot of wear and tear.

Performance

Battery Life

Image Quality

Price


SummitLink® SONY 700 TVL FPV Ultra Low Light Mini Camera

SummitLink Sony

The SummitLink Sony 700 TVL Can capture video at 700 TVL (analog camera). Good for beginners, but certainly not for professionals. This camera is excellent for filming in very low light conditions. The package comes with two lenses - a 3.6 mm lens that's preinstalled, and another 2.8 mm wide angle lens that is better suited for wide angle viewing.

What's more - this camera is very quick to adapt to changes in lighting conditions - a feature that makes it very well suited for FPV flying.

But don't expect to be able to shoot 4K or even 1080p video with this. The resolution is around 700p. If you are looking for a good, entry level micro FPV camera that's very well suited for filming in near complete darkness then this will be the camera that's best suited for you.

What we like ...

  • The SummitLInk is good value for money if you are looking for a entry level FPV camera. It's performance in very low light conditions is excellent.
  • It adapts to changes in lighting conditions extremely fast. It comes with multiple lenses and can shoot ideo at around 700p.

What we don't like ...

  • You can't compare this with GoPro. It can't shoot video at 1080p.
  • You cannot connect this camera to your PC or laptop via USB.

The bottom line

If you are just starting out with FPV flying, this is a good camera for you. It can shoot in very low light conditions, adapts to changing lighting conditions very fast and the resolution is reasonably good.

Performance

Battery Life

Image Quality

Price


It's critical that you buy the best FPV camera your budget will allow you to if you are serious about the hobby. You might have a really good video transmitter and FPV goggles, but it will not matterif your camera is not good enough. The image quality will suffer if your camera is not of high quality.

The Ultimate FPV Camera Buying Guide

Choosing the best FPV camera for your drone ...

To choose the right kind of camera, there are two decisions you need to make -

Imaging Device

Either CMOS or CCD : In general, you should choose a CCD camera. CCD is short for charged coupling device, while CMOS is short for complementary metal oxide semiconductor.

CCD cameras perform well under very low and very high light levels. A CCD camera will allow you to see clearly even when it is pointed at the sun, and in very low light conditions as well - something that isnot possible with CMOS cameras.

  • Jello Effect

This is something you will want to be aware of if you are serious about aerial photography. CMOS cameras do not capture entire images in one shot - instead, the camera captures images by rapidly scanning either from left to right or from top to bottom. This is alright when you are stationary and the scene you are trying to capture is stationary as well - like when you are using your tripod mounted camera to photograph a lily in full bloom.

But when the camera is mounted on a quadcopter, it's an entirely different scenario. The camera will be in motion, and objects on the ground may be moving as well. This results in a wobbly image.

The jello effect can be very significantly reduced by using CCD cameras as they capture the whole image in a single shot instead of scanning. More so with the latest CCD cameras that can capture images at 120frames per second. The faster the camera is, the less jello you will have in the images.

While CCD cameras tend to be a bit bigger, consume more battery and are more expensive than CMOS type cameras, they perform a lot better under very low light conditions under less likely to output wobbly images.

While you'd likely want to use a camera with a very low weight on your quad copter, the output of these devices is much better than CMOS cameras. You definitely want to buy a small CCD type camera.

In addition to this, you will also want to balance the propellers and motors and make sure the mounting surface of the hub is true as otherwise, the image will be wobbly because of the vibrations passed onto the camera through the frame of the quadcopter.

Using the appropriate camera settings is of vital importance as well, but you can do this with some trial and error.

Video Encoding Type

  • PAL or NTSC

To put it simply, if you happen to live in North America, you'd want to use NTSC. And if you live in Europe, you'd want to use PAL.

PAL offers slightly higher resolution but lower frames per second (720 x 576 @25fps).

 NTSC has a better frame rate but slightly lesser resolution (720x480 @ 30fps)In addition to these two primary factors, here are a few more things you would want to consider.

Size

The majority of the CCD cameras used today are 30mm square - or 1/3" square cameras.

They typically use Sony's 1/3" CCD chip. You'll be able to use various 12mm lenses to change the field of view.

Field of View (or Angle of View) and

Focal Length

The best focal length (F-stop) for your FPV camera is a hotly debated topic, and the answer you get will depend on who you ask.

Experts who know their flying area like the back of their hand tend to use lenses with higher focal lengths and smaller FOV (field of view), while those who are relatively inexperienced and tend to fly closer to the ground will use lenses with lower focal lengths and higher FOV.

  • Relation between FOV and focal length

A lens with a higher focal length will result in images that are more natural, but tend to have a lower field of view. Focal length alters the perspective.

With a lens of very short focal length, field of view can be high but perspective distortion increases as well. The image does not look natural and these lenses will have what's termed the 'fish eye effect'.

Objects at the edges appear curly and those in the center appear small. Lens of smaller focal lengths, while having a good field of view, also produce a visual distortion.

Essentially, this is what you would want to remember:

  • Low focal length lenses (low F stop) offer more peripheral vision (or more FOV), but less clear and more distorted images. Objects may be closer than they appear - something you will want to note if you are notvery skilled and tend to fly slow.
  • High focal length lenses (high F stop) offer less peripheral vision (or lower FOV) but clearer, less distorted images.

So the focal length you would want to use would depend on:

  • Your skill level : If you are highly skilled, you would want to use a lens with a higher focal length - 3.6mm, 4mm or even 6mm. Lens with longer focal lengths provide images that are a lot more natural andfree of distortion. But at the same time, your field of view will also be smaller. If you are not very skilled, you will be more likely to bump into obstacles if you use, say a 6mm lens.
  • How well you know the area you are flying in : If you want to use lens with a focal length of 4 mm or higher, it's imperative that you know the area you are flying in extremely well. One advantage of lenswith low focal lengths is that they allow you to see objects you might not see with a lens of higher focal length.

So while a 2.5 mm lens may not give you the clearest images, it will allow you to easily maneuver around obstacles you would have never spotted with a 6 mm lens.

One rule of thumb : If you are flying in a area that you are not familiar with - or one that has lots of potential obstacles, use a lower focal length lens.

  • Altitude : If you are flying at a high altitude, far above trees or buildings, you would want to use a lens with high focal length - at least 4 mm to 6 mm.

On the other hand, if you are flying at a low altitude with lots of obstacles like trees and buildings, use a low focal length lens - 2.5 mm to 2.8 mm.

  • Your personal preference : Some people love the clarity of a 6 mm lens, while others can't do without the wider perspective a 2.8 or a 3.5 mm lens would offer. So many a time, the choice just boils down to individual taste.

Here's a list of commonly used lenses and their FOVs

Ideally, you would want to have the option to test several lenses with your camera and see what serves your purpose best.

And if you can, it would be best to have two cameras on your quadcopter - one for peripheral view and one for distortion free images. You could install a video switch enjoy the best of both worlds.

  • Infrared Filters : Not everyone would need this. But then there are those who try to map lost cities with aerial, infrared photography - or those who want to fly in very low light conditions just for fun. Folks likethese would want to have infrared filters on their cameras.

A real thermal imaging camera would be very expensive. Instead, you could try replacing your camera lens with one that has an IR filter - like those used in security systems.

You will certainly not be able to see the entire infrared spectra, but then there's always a trade-off between cost and quality. You could say this is pseudo IR photography, but it's good enough if you are just out to have some fun.

Camera Resolution

The resolution of these cameras is measured in TVL - short for TV lines of resolution. While you'd want to get a camera with at least 500 TVL, the least resolution should be at least 380TVL. You would also want to remember that even with a very high resolution camera, the actual live footage you will be seeing while the quad copter is in flight can appear blurred because it is transmitted wirelessly.

If you're going to be using FPV goggles, you'd want to choose a camera with really good resolution - around 700 TVL. This way, the video you see will be at least "good enough". No matter what you choose, you cannot expect to see HD quality video. 

Camera Mounts

Unless you're looking for a pan and tilt camera mount, you'll want to check out this video for ideas about how to build your own camera mount for your quad copter...

But if you are willing to settle for a fixed camera, you can even fix it with gel tape. That's probably the quickest way to build your own camera mount. You'd want to make sure that you will be able to access the buttons on the camera while designing your own mount.

One problem you might have fixing the camera is that you'll have to decide on the mounting angle beforehand. If you mount the camera such that it is always looking forward, you will not be able to look right below the quad copter. If that bothers you, you should use a pan and tilt mount.

Pan and tilt mounts are not expensive and are readily available. But you would want to make sure you have two spare channels on your radio before buying such a mount.

If you're just starting out, a pan and tilt mount will not be necessary. A fixed camera would be good enough. Only when your very comfortable flying the UAV would you want to consider a pan and tilt mount.Because only when you are well versed with the controls will you be able to do the more complicated stuff.

On Screen Display

Beginners most certainly do not need on screen display. When you're just starting out, you'll be struggling to keep the craft in the air.

If you are just getting started with quads, you would not care about details like flight speed, distance from home,vertical speed indicator and more that an on-screen display would give you. That stuff most probably will not make much sense to you and all you care about is not crashing.

But once you're very comfortable flying the quad copter, you most certainly will want an on-screen display.

Here's what an on-screen display will look like...

With a OSD, you'll be able to readily see information like a strength of the GPS signal, flight speed, compass heading, attitude, distance from home, flight time, battery voltage and much more.

All of this does make your flying experience a lot richer and more similar to what a pilot would see in the cockpit.

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