Full size, mini, or micro? Picking a camera size comes down to the available space on your frame and desired weight. Smaller is lighter and better for racing, but higher TVL and image quality has typically only been found in larger cameras. Some frames are designed for full size cameras ands others for micro. It’s crucial you select right size so it’s correctly protected from impact, and mounted securely. You can see the three different sizes in the image below.
Field of View/ Lens Size
The field of view for a camera can be changed with different lenses. Commonly lenses are 1.8-2.8mm, ranging from very wide FOV (1.8mm) to a more narrow one (2.8mm). Something to note is that for freestyle you generally want a wider lens like a 1.8mm or 2.1mm. For racing, you may want a narrower field of view so the image is not stretched. A stretched image can distort your perception of how big the gate is.
TVL or Television Lines is a measurement of analog camera resolution. It’s a count of the horizontal lines contained in the picture – the higher the line count the better the quality. As you increase the TVL you also increase the amount of data that needs to be processed through your camera. This is called latency and higher latency can be detrimental when trying to maneuver at high speeds. Most cameras we use for FPV are 600TVL- 800TVL but can go as high as 1200TVL.
FPV cameras are either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. When choosing your camera, consider the aspect ration of your FPV goggles or screen. You match the aspect ratio of both the camera and screen. If mismatched, the image will look stretched and distorted. Many pilots have been flying years with mismatched aspect ratios, so you can absolutely still fly. Some of the newer cameras have a switchable aspect ratio and can select 16:9 or 4:3 in the camera settings.
If your flight controller doesn’t have an OSD (On Screen Display) feature, you should look at cameras that have a built-in OSD. Most FPV cameras sold today have some form of built in OSD, but most pilots prefer the customization and added detail from a software based OSD. The camera OSD will be able to monitor the basics, such as voltage, pilot name and time plugged in.
CMOS vs CCD Sensor
These are the two types of sensors found in FPV cameras. CCD sensors have a wider dynamic range that makes it perform better in extreme changes in lighting. They also use a global shutter as opposed to the rolling shutter of CMOS sensors. This makes CCD more resistant to being affected by jello. CCD is seemingly better, but through advancing tech and lower pricing CMOS is becoming more popular.
IR Blocked vs IR Sensitive
The difference between the two is that IR blocked gives you a brighter, more rich and realistic look during the day. While IR sensitive is much better in low light conditions but has a lower image quality. For most of us that fly during the day, the IR blocked cameras are the way to go. If you’re building a special rig for night time or low light flying, then an IR sensitive camera may be a good fit.
The time it takes for the image to be transmitted from your FPV camera to your screen or goggles is one of the biggest factors in choosing a camera. High quality images contain more data which takes longer to transmit. Luckily, most standard FPV cameras are within 17-24 milliseconds. This is plenty fast. Anything in this range is a good pick, and a real difference won’t be felt until you exceed 30 milliseconds.
Runcam Swift 2 – Rotor Riot Edition
The Rotor Riot Special Edition RunCam Swift 2 comes with an excellent GoPro-quality wide angle lens, giving you a really clear picture with true colors and providing a wide view with less distortion than other lenses. The Runcam Swift 2 is a great all around camera, and the RR edition comes with an upgraded lens and custom settings out of the box.
Foxeer Predator Micro v3
If you’re looking for a light and small FPV camera then the Foxeer Predator Micro is for you. At only 5.5g it weights a bit more than propeller while still offering 1000TVL image quality. The v3 has selectable aspect ratio between 16:9 and 4:3 and it supports 5-40 volts. If you get this camera don’t forget to consider that you might need special mounting brackets for some frames.
RunCam Eagle 2 Pro
The RunCam Eagle 2 Pro – Featuring an 800TVL picture with 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio option, WDR and ultra fast image processing. If you want the best image quality, then the RunCam Eagle 2 is a top choice. This camera would be right at home on a long range setup where seeing every treetop is crucial.
This full size camera from Foxeer uses a 1/3′ CMOS sensor and provides 1200TVL image. The Foxeer Falkor features Global Wide Dynamic Range which allows bright and dark objects to be more visible at the same time. The latency is roughly 33ms and it weighs in at just over 13 grams. The Falkor is for the pilot who wants the ultimate in image quality and is less concerned with latency and weight.