Saturday, 1 September 2018

Action Camera Roundup

Please note this page is a work in progress, I'll keep adding review and purchase links for each camera over the next week or so.

I review lots of Action Cameras on my YouTube Channel and am often asked for recommendations. So this page will list them all with links and notes. I will update the list as I try more cameras in the future. Sensors and chipsets for each camera are listed where available.

I mostly use Action Cameras for recording product reviews, onboard footage and hatcam recording of RC Planes, and underwater whilst scuba diving.

Generally I prefer lower contrast and lower saturated results, or at least have control over them, and prefer not to have a touch screen so I don't accidentally change settings, and like the option of an external microphone.

Check out my YouTube Playlist of all the Action Cameras I have reviewed - Action camera YouTube playlist


Top Of The Range - GoPro competitors, true 4K
Price range A$290 to A$150 (US$220 to US$120)

SJCAM SJ8 Pro
Sony IMX377
Ambarella H22 S85
Top recommendation, this is the best quality action cam I have used. 4K 60fps and Gyro stabilised 4K 30fps. 2.33" touch screen. Good audio apart from too much noise cancelling in wind. External microphone and underwater housing available.
Review video
BANGGOOD purchase link




Xioami Mijia Mini
Sony IMX317
Ambarella A12
Bigger than all other action cams with a 2.4" touch screen. Superior quality video with image stabilisation at 1080P 60fps. No external mic unfortunately.



SOOCOO S300
Sony IMX377
HiSilicon Hi3559V100
True 4k 30fps with stabilisation. 2.35" Touch screen. Blutooth remote. Sharp and saturated results but let down by significant colour fringing in the corners from the cheap lens. EIS works very well at 4k. 1080P not so good with poor sharpness unfortunately. 





GitUP F1
Sony IMX317 maybe
Ambarella A12
This is a superior quality flat-form 4k 30fps action camera. Has excellent image stabilisation at 1080 resolution and sparkling clear 4k recording. Would benefit from more subtle image adjustment options but otherwise it is amazing. Has PWM control which means it can be operated from your RC transmitter.
Review Video




True 4K Cameras based on 
Sony IMX117 sensor and Ambarella A12 chip
Price Range A$200 to A$120 (US$150 to US$90)

The cameras in this group are all very high quality with almost identical image quality. True 4K 30fps with EIS at 1080 60P. Smooth tonal gradations and natural colours. Audio can be muddy and slightly out of sync. Firmware updates may have improved this. All highly recommended. My current favourites are the Fireflys.

Foxeer Legend 3
Sony IMX117
Ambarella A12
High quality flat-form action cam with a very useful OLED screen. Some purple colour fringing in high contrast detail.
Review Video
BANGGOOD Purchase Link






SJCAM SJ7 (Touch screen) 
Great quality video, touch screen, metal housing







ThiEYE T5e 
Same great quality video with no touch screen giving lighter weight, longer battery life








Firefly 8S 170º 
Banggood 170º - https://bit.ly/2vJ3H3R

Firefly 8S 90º 
Banggood 90º - https://bit.ly/2w0RsPs

Firefly External Microphone - https://bit.ly/2B899Cn
Gearbest 170º or 90º - http://shrsl.com/140w1




Eken V8s
Pan MN34110 14MP sensor
Ambarella A12 chip
This is a true 4k 25fps action cam with full time Electronic Image Stabilisation. Smooth and natural colours and decent audio with no sync problems. Not quite as sharp as the best but still very good.
Review
GEARBEST





Mid Range
Good performers, less expensive, usually not true 4k
Price Range A$180 to A$130 (US$140 to US$90)

The cameras in this range are usually not true 4K but capable of an interpolated 4k output. That means the lower resolution video is increased by the software. Video results are sharp but often too contrasty.






SJCAM SJ6
Panasonic MN34120PA 
Novatek NT96660 chip
Best quality mid range camera with rear touch screen and front info screen. Exactly the same size as the GoPro3 but 10g heavier at 82g. Gyro image stabilisation works very well. 
Review
GEARBEST




Firefly 8
Sony IMX117 sensor
Novatek NT96660 chip
Good mid range action cam if you like lots of contrast. It uses the high end Sony IMX117 sensor but matched with the lower spec Novatek 96660 chip. That means it cant do 4k 30fps but it does have good quality audio.
Review video







SJCAM M20
Sony IMX206 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
This is the camera I use for the wide angle workbench views in all my reviews.
Much cheaper and better results than my GoPro 3+ Silver. Vibrant colours and sharp video and great still images too. Video Out for FPV, gyro image stabilization, 
Review
BANGGOOD







Elephone REXSO Explorer K
Panasonic MN34120
HiSilicon HI3559
Good image quality but focussed closer than infinity, OK for close in action. Audio not great.
Review
GEARBEST






ThiEYE V5s
OmniVision OV4689 4MPx sensor
Allwinner chipset
A unique 4K 30fps action cam with UV and polarising filters included.
Build quality and accessories are excellent. Image quality is good but I had audio problems on my iMac and firmware upgrades are limited to PC.
Review
GEARBEST







Cameras based on 
Sony IMX078 sensor and Novatek 96660 chip

There are many cameras based on this combination of sensor and chip. They all have similar video quality which is very good for the price. Can be contrasty and over sharpened, with noticeable posterisation, pink banding and compression artefacts in areas of smooth blue sky. Better than the cheapest options.





SJ5000 Elite
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Another very good 2K 12Mpx action cam. Quite contrasty results.
Review video
SJCAM



Andoer AN5000 
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Comes with an excellent storage case, heaps of accessories and spoken mode settings.
The image quality is better than you would expect for the price of the camera. Video and stills are very sharp with contrasty and saturated colours. The down side is that the cheap lens produces a lot of colour fringing and occasional pink banding in blue sky.
Review video
TOMTOP


Andoer AN300 flip screen
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Unique flip screen version of the AN5000 with the same image quality
Review video
TOMTOP




Firefly  Q6 
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Very sharp video and stills, slight pinkish hue compared to Mobius, struggles with clear blue sky in some lighting and produces a pinkish band and blue fringing. Audio quality is very good, a little lower volume than Mobius. Gyro image stabilisation works well. Cheapest decent quality flat form action cam
Review video
GEARBEST









Firefly 7S 90º lens
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Great if you want the narrower field of view. Less distortion than the full 170º fisheye cameras.
Review video
GEARBEST









4K UHD Sports cam
Sony IMX078 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
Very similar to all the above mid range cameras.



Onboard HD and FPV cameras.
Flat form, Splits and Cube


MOBIUS flat form cameras
Aptina AR0330 sensor
Novatek 96650 chip (possibly - according to dashcamtalk.com)
I love the Mobius cameras, simple cheap and great video results. Only 1080 30fps but the video looks better than most alternatives. Audio is Loud and there are lots of video adjustments available in the setup.
Beware when buying, there are many inferior fakes out there. The following links are verified sellers.

Mobius C2 is my most used onboard camera (widest FOV)
Mobius D for hatcam (narrower FOV)
Works very well with external microphone mod



Mobius Mini
Great little camera, 1080 60fps video, narrower 110º angle of view. Pefect for hatcam and onboard flight recording. Works for FPV as well. Useful for onboard smaller models that wouldn't handle the full sized Mobius with the added bonus of 60fps. WDR is not great, best for sunny days






Runcam 2
This is a popular 1080 60fps HD recording and FPV camera. FOV is not as wide as some action cams at 130º. Excellent image quality. Very low audio recording levels, good for onboard but not good for voice recording. Settings via smart phone app or FPV OSD. The big bonus is removable battery, and it's the same battery as the Runcam 3S.








Runcam 3S
Cheaper alternative to the discontinued GoPro Session. Video quality is a bit odd, with strange colours, purple fringing and extreme fisheye distortion. Limited to 1080 60fps, but that is a good resolution for most uses. Specifically designed for the mini quad market but it works well in the nose of a flying wing like the Sonic AR. Would be brilliant with a better quality lens and higher resolution.




Runcam Split
This is a unique FPV and HD recording camera designed specifically for mounting on a mini quad. The camera and processing recording board are separate and connected by a cable. It's a split version of RunCam 3 RunCam Split is a split version of RunCam 3 for FPV. Supports recording 1080P 60fps and WDR. Built-in microphone, WiFi module.
HD recording looks great. SD card mount is poorly designed.  4:3 FPV view




Runcam Split 2
Much better Runcam! This is the updated version of the Runcam Split and it's excellent. Wider input voltage - 2S to 4S, proper SD card slot, and can be operated by your transmitter via flight control board or PWM receiver. Slight vignetting and pink hue on one side, but looks good otherwise.  4:3 FPV view






Runcam Split Mini
Smaller and lighter version of the all in one HD recording and FPV camera.
Good quality 1080P 60fps HD recording. 4:3 FPV view






Foxeer Legend 1
Sony Exmor R BSI sensor
Ambarella A7LS Chip
Excellent image quality HD cam with 1080 60fps. Video-out for FPV and RC switchable shutter for video and stills. Audio is better than Runcam HD but not as clean as Mobius. Only configurable on PC (no Mac app at this stage)




Foxeer Legend 2 (now Legend 2+)
Sony Exmor R BSI sensor
This is potentially a very nice HD cam (1080 60fps) with EIS, 4k 24fps probably interpolated. Using the stock settings the video and images are a bit too saturated and contrasty for my liking but there are lots of adjustments available through the smart phone app. The app needs improvement to make settings stick but otherwise it works well. Audio levels and quality are both better than most other similar cams apart from the Mobius.


Budget Range - Less than A$100 (US$80)


Eken H9R
OmniVision OV4689 4MPx sensor
SPCA6350 chip
1080P sensor, has all the accessories including a remote control and waterproof housing, and performs surprisingly well for the money. No image stabilisation.
Review Video




ThiEYE i30+
PS5220 Sensor
SPCA 6330 Chip 
1080 30fps quality is OK. 4k 10fps is not worth using.
OK first action cam, or one for the kids, or for situations where you wouldn't want to risk an expensive camera. Results are usable but not high quality.
TOMTOP purchase link






4K 1080 sports cam
SONY IMX179 sensor
For the price the image quality is OK but there are some serious bugs. Sound recording is out of sync by about 1 second and movie files need to be converted to MOV for iMovie. Hopefully firmware updates will fix these issues.
Not recommended.
Review
TOMTOP

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Scratch-built Micro Skyhunter

3mm depron version of the wonderful little twin boom Eachine Micro Skyhunter.
Dimensions are similar to the original but with a slimmer fuselage.
1300mAH 3S battery and FPV gear.
CG best around 35mm.
The final version has a shorter nose, reinforced horizontal stab and rounded wing tips




Build video

Maiden flights

Mods Q&A and FPV

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Volantex Ranger 1600 AIR3 iNav setup

Here is how I mounted the AIR3 board in the Ranger.

The board is rotated 180º (facing the tail) making the USB port accessible (Requires board alignment - YAW 180º in iNav configurator) Mounted on a piece of corplast which jams under the wing and is taped to the ply shelf for easy removal.

I drilled a hole in the top of the body to pass the GPS cable through.

Board and servos are powered by a 5V 3A Carbonbird BEC via a power distribution cable.
FrSKY X6R receiver connects to the board by SBUS.

ESC sits on the floor to keep some distance away from the AIR3 and Rx.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Volantex Ranger 1600 AIR3 iNav

The Volantex Ranger 1600 or 757-7 is almost the perfect plane for me. The 2m version 757-8 is just as good and uses the same fuselage.

(Don't confuse this beauty for the terrible 757-4 Mini Ranger 1350mm. Review here)

The 757-7 has a tough plastic fuselage, 1600mm wingspan, no bad habits and excellent quality hardware. It's tough enough, aerobatic enough and glidey enough for my requirements.

Perfect for FPV cruising, aerial video, slope soaring and sport flying.


Currently I have mine setup with a Paris Sirius AIR3 F3 flight control board running iNav 1.7 from Carbonbird, FrSKY X8R reciever and 40A current sensor.

Initially the motor was a Turnigy Aerodrive 2836 1100kV with the stock 8 x 4 prop and 40A ESC
Now changed to an NTM Propdrive 2836 1200kV for better bearings and bolt on prop shaft.

With a 3000mAh 4S battery it cruises around on 3A with 25A flat out.

iNAV configurator CLI dump here

My preferred iNav modes

Ranger 1600 review

Ranger 1600 flights

Ranger 1600 sloping

Ranger 1600 motor mount mod

Ranger 2000

Banggood links




Sunday, 4 February 2018

My FPV gear

FPV Goggles, cameras and video transmitters.


My goggles are Aomway Commander V1
Much cheaper than FatSharks and have a decent quality 16:9 picture and DVR recording. Supplied with excellent patch and cloverleaf antennas and the diversity receivers give great range. Range of 3km on 200mW is possible in perfect conditions.


I strongly recommend trying goggles on before you buy. They must suit your vision, Inter Pupilary Distance IPD and the shape of your face. Idealy I would like a bit more IPD and focus adjustment to suit my vision and big head.

For normal reading I need +1.0 diopter glasses.

Or in the big screen format I like the Headplay SE box.
I needed to fit the included RHO narrower view lenses to see the screen clearly.
Spectacular viewing experience but limited by the lack of diversity receivers. Supplied with an add-on DVR unit




My preferred antennas are 5.8GHz Right handed circular polarised Aomway  clover leaf





They come in SMA or RP-SMA connector style,  and you need to choose the correct style to match your goggles and video transmitter. SMA antennas have a prong, RP-SMA have a hole.







My preferred Video transmitter (VTx) is the TS5823L  Eachine 200mW 40ch TS5823L 
It is compact and has a single push button to select channels and a single digit LED display.
The wires are stiff and delicate so need to be handled carefully.

There is a TS5823S version with a 5V regulator onboard, but I found this produced diagonal lines in the FPV feed.



Antenna connector is RP-SMA


Video transmitters come in a variety of power ratings.
25mW for small park flying and racing
200mW for general FPV
600mW for longer range, but be aware this will cause more interference to others. Only use if no-one else is flying FPV nearby.






VTx connection
I solder on a female servo-style connector to the Red, Black and Yellow wires for Power, Ground and Video signal. The other two wires are for Audio which I don't use.









I like a dedicated FPV camera like the Runcam Sparrow or Eagle 2 Pro. They are both swappable from 16:9 to 4:3 aspect ratio and have wide dynamic range and battery voltage displayed on screen.

It is possible to use the TV out signal from an HD camera like a Mobius or GoPro, but it is not as safe as a stand alone FPV camera.

More information on that here - Other FPV cameras 





To connect the camera to the VTx I solder on a male servo-style connector to the +V, Ground and Yellow. If the camera also has Voltage display capability I connect the Voltage sensor wire to directly to the Red +V wire so I can see the flight battery voltage on screen.












The camera and VTx can be safely powered from the 3S or 4S flight battery. I use a servo style Y lead with one end changed to a female balance plug (3S or 4S as required) for power. The Y lead provides flight battery voltage to the camera and VTx as well as passing the video signal from the camera to the VTx






For a swappable FPV rig I use heat bent PVC plastic to make up a small mount.

This compact FPV backpack can be mounted with tape or velcro on to any plane.














All of this gear is available from Banggood via the links above, and these category links
BANGGOOD website
BANGGOOD RC





Friday, 26 January 2018

Aomway Commander V1 Head tracker module

The Aomway Commander V1 FPV goggles have the option of adding a head tracker module. This means you can pan and tilt an FPV camera by moving your head around.  The head tracker module sends the head movement signals to the Taranis radio via a cable connecting the goggles to the Taranis trainer port. Then the Taranis transmits the signals to the reciever on channels 7 and 8 as TR7 and TR8, trainer inputs.
The Commander V1 Advanced version comes with the head tracker installed. I have the non advanced version so needed to buy and install the module myself.

I purchased it direct from Aomway www.aomway.com and it came with the trainer cable, ribbon cable, mounting screws and spare push buttons. They don't actually have an online shop but send an email to "Sales" to enquire about purchasing.
I also bought a replacement DVR ribbon cable to replace the cable I had previously damaged. They are quite delicate and you must be very careful not to jam the cables when reassembling the case.

Fitting the headtracker module

One screw in the nose area allows the face plate to be unclipped. Two screw underneath hold the case together. 

Open carefully and don't over stress the ribbon cables.


There is only one spare port for the headtracker to plug in - right side, middle port, and only one way it will fit on to the mounting posts. 

I removed the top cable for better access while fitting the module. 

DVR ribbon cable replacement

Here is my damaged DVR cable. 
It was jammed between components during reassembly after I opened the goggles for a peak inside.

Push the grey clamping bar to the left to release the cable

VERY carefully reassemble the goggles making sure no cables are caught between components. The DVR cable can get in the way of the SD card slot.

Video version with the head tracker working