Once of the first things you will notice is that the lens rotates so you won't need a mirror anymore to record straight ahead or straight down.
|Video resolution:||640 x 480 (25 frames per second)|
|Photo resolution:||1280 x 1024|
|Recording modes:||Video recording, still photos, spy video, webcam, built-in microphone|
|Memory:||SD card of your choice (not included)|
|Battery:||Built-in 220mAh LiPo|
|Connection:||USB port for transferring images and charging camera; pin connector for remote photo trigger|
Needless to say, aerial photography and videography has come a long way in the past few years. But a camera barely bigger than my little finger, barely heavier than a AA battery and able to record as much footage as your tiny SD card is willing to hold? Well, who'd've thunk it?
The folks at Acme (an actual company, not the one from the RoadRunner and the Coyote) have been thinking about it apparently. Last year this German company released the FlyCamOne, which fellow author Michael Heer reviewed here, and now they're back at it with a new-and-improved version.
In itself, the philosophy of the FlyCamOne V2 remains the same: A tiny gadget with the capability of recording video and shooting photos. However, this new release includes some new features, the most exciting being higher resolution photos and video.
I have to admit it: If I saw the FlyCamOne V2 sitting on a shelf, I would be quite tempted to just grab it and take it to the checkout counter right away. It comes in an attractive package that showcases the small size of the camera, and it has "buy me now!" appeal all over it.
Upon opening the box, you'll find the camera with some protective film over the lens and LCD screen (a nice touch to prevent early scratches), a camera mount (more on that later), a USB cable for transferring the files as well as charging the camera, some velcro strips and a small servo arm so you can rotate the camera in-flight. There's also a small string that you can attach the camera to (KeychainCamOne, anyone?).
There's little that needs to be done in order to get the camera on your moving object of choice other than attaching some velcro to the camera mount (and some more to the camera itself should you wish to) and some to the plane wing/fuselage, bottom of helicopter, top of car or wherever you please.
The camera mount itself is not necessary. You may notice that it has some pin connectors which are used to both power the camera externally and remotely trigger the camera. Acme, however, does not carry such product yet, and the few connectors available right now are homemade gadgets. As of publication date, I did not know of any third-party manufacturers of such a product.
One thing you can add relatively easily is the option to move the camera lens in-flight by simply using a servo connected to an open channel. Just hook that servo arm to it, connect it to, say, your gear channel, and you're in business. You're just one switch-flip away from taking off while the video records your forward flight and then, when you're at a comfortable altitude, switch over to record straight down footage. I find it to be a rather cool tool that doesn't require much equipment, yet it could take your videos to that next level.
Using the FlyCamOne could not be easier, but remember to put the card in since the camera doesn't have any built-in memory. Just slide it in, though you might need to push it in with a small screwdriver or other small object. Once you hear a click, you know you're good to go.
Make sure the camera is charged. Itís super easy: hook it up up to your computer via the USB port and let it do its thing.
Turn it on by sliding the On/Off switch, then press the shutter button that's right above the switch. An 0-looking symbol will appear on the screen. Hit the menu button above, and scroll through the different modes. Once you find the one you want to use, hit the shutter button, and you're on (or you just took a picture). Hit it again, and you're off. Simple enough.
The FlyCamOne is not just a lean, mean, RC ready machine. Let's take a look at the software behind this piece of hardware.
These two mini tutorials will show you how the menu works as well as how to set up your FlyCamOne so the lens angle can be changed in flight .
For the purposes of this review, I decided to strap the camera on two of my favorite aircraft: My beloved GWS E-Starter (a gentle flier with a knack for mild aerobatics yet still quite stable in the air) and the ESky Co-Comanche from Hobby-Lobby, a fun indoor helicopter that I also have reviewed. The former would allow me to check out the outdoor possibilities the FlyCamOne V2 offers, while the latter would allow me to see how it performs in low light situations.
I also dusted off my Team Associated It's-So-Old-I-Can't-Even-Remember-The-Name off-road buggy which had been in a bin for some years now so I could test the camera on terra firma.
The camera is quite a plug-and-play gizmo, and the only thing you need to worry about when attaching it to a plane is to make sure you do so near the center of gravity. The FlyCamOne V2 is quite light, but that doesn't mean it won't be move your CG back or forth if you just plop it wherever you wish. I put a piece of velcro right on the CG on the wing.
You don't necessarily need to use the camera mount for the FlyCamOne V2 unless you want to use the Rotate In Flight feature, where you will have it connected to a servo.
I did use the mount for this plane, so it was just a matter of slapping velcro against velcro, and I was ready to go. I flew with both the video pointing straight ahead and straight down. Iíll let the video do the talking; a picture is worth a thousand words, and at 25 frames per second... well, you get the idea.
Now, as far as performance goes, it's up to your plane and the power setup. As for my E-Starter, I did not notice much of a difference. There was a bit of drag, but beyond that it was the usual pleasant flying characteristics.
Quality-wise, the video is quite crisp. The larger screen resolution is much appreciated, and it makes a difference. Color quality is quite good as well; what you see on the screen is pretty much what you could see with your own two eyes. If you point the lens toward the sun, it will look like a black/red dot surrounded by a white glow, but the colors are quite true. And switching from one lighting condition to another (i.e., light to shade) is quite quick.
The only downside I found was a clear lag in the sound recording. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the sound is at times more than a second behind the video. Hopefully a firmware update will take care of this problem soon.
This video was shot at the former Berry Middle School in Hoover, AL, one of my regular flying sites.
In order to test the camera with lighter and less powerful aircraft and in low-light conditions, I chose the ESky Co-Comanche, and I flew it in my garage.
Now, when it comes to attaching the camera to such a small plane, you might want to start improvising. For starters, you most-definitely want to keep it right on the CG. Here, smaller adjustments back and forth will make much more of a difference.
My solution was to strap it right onto the battery, which I knew was right on the CG. A couple of straps of Velcro on each side, and I was in business.
How did it fly? Not so well. It was quite the struggle to get the Co-Comanche up in the air, and hovering was a full-throttle struggle. Needless to say, the battery didn't last nearly as long as it would normally last, and I could hardly gain any altitude.
The video wasnít bad though it was a bit grainy as I expected it to be. It's dark, but it does its job. I did have the lights off so I could test in the most extreme of conditions, and it stood up to the challenge OK. If you were going to use it indoors, you would likely do so with lights on in the first place, and the quality would undoubtedly be better.
Unless you're truly planning on going off-road (read: wild jumps and such), there's really no need to get your camera right on the car or truck's CG. It really won't make much of a difference.
Just like with the Co-Comanche, my method of choice for securing the camera was a piece of Velcro right on the body, to which I attached the camera, sans camera mount. The camera was technically attached upside down, and the video would therefore be recorded (you guessed it) upside down. No worries though, we'll get to that point in a bit.
How about the performance? Well, the car's performance is a whole other story (old car, old batteries, you get the point), but when it comes to the camera's performance, it was quite good.
As with the outdoor flight on the E-Starter, the colors were quite vivid and the video quality was quite good. Make sure you don't attach it near any parts that could accidentally turn the camera on or off.
The Team Associated buggy goes on an explorer's trip around the backyard and surrounding undeveloped lots ó so brace yourself.
Only itís not. Sorry. The FlyCamOne V2 is in no way sealed, and the innards could get quickly fried if they got wet. So, I didn't put this camera anywhere near water ó and neither should you if you want it to survive.
At 1280 x 1024, the FlyCamOne offers a decent resolution for its size. Don't expect to be able to blow the pictures from your latest RC escapade to a mural-size print, but it's still a decent size for such a tiny gadget.
Taking pictures is as point-and-shoot as you can imagine: scroll to PR, aim and hit the shutter button. Voila, you took a picture! And, at the tune of less than 200kB per file, you'll be tired of taking photos by the time your memory card is full (and getting a 1Gb SD card is dirt-cheap these days).
So, let's allow the photos to do the talking from now on, shall we? And, for the record, these pictures have not been digitally altered in any way. What you see is what I got.
Did you get some fine flying footage? And some fun photos? They won't do you much good if they're stuck in that little SD card, now will they? Let's move them over to your computer then.
The quickest and easiest way to go about doing so is to skip the USB cable altogether and just drop the card into a card reader and let that do its job. That way you won't have to go through the camera menus until you hit PC and then hook up the camera to the computer and so on and so forth. Since the camera doesn't appear to be USB 2.0, transfer rate is rather slow.
But don't lose that USB cable just yet... you're going to need it to charge the FlyCamOne V2's built-in lithium battery.
Either way you choose to go, you should see your card or camera pop up as a removable storage device once you connect either the camera or the card reader, and you can grab the files from there and take them to your video and photo editing programs of choice.
REJOICE, MAC USERS, REJOICE!: If you're like me and use a Mac, you're in luck, for the FlyCamOne V2 is fully recognized by OS X if you choose to use the USB cable. Turn it on to the PC setting, hit the Shutter button, and you're in business. Mine showed up right on the desktop, with all the files ready to be picked up and moved over to the desktop. Should you experience any problems, the simplest solution is to just stick the card on a SD card reader.
The only thing you might need to do to your videos, depending on how you shot them, is to rotate them. Remember how the FlyCamOne was upside down on my buggy? Fear not, for it's an easy fix. Windows Movie Maker will allow you to turn them right side up, and both the latest version of iMovie and QuickTime Pro will take care of that seamlessly as well.
What you do with those files is truly up to you. A word (or three) to the wise: Edit, edit, edit! Not many people want to watch a 15-minute video of a plane traveling through scenery that won't change much, so get the most interesting frames and showcase them. Do some introductions, some transitions, some nice endings but when it comes down to it, less can often be more. Keep it short and sweet, and viewers will appreciate it.
Can aerial photography get any easier than this? Probably not; hit record and you're on.
Can there be better quality? Not unless your plane can haul an full-size HD camera and you have thousands of dollars in disposable income.
Can it get more fun? Hardly.
If you're looking into getting into aerial photography on a budget, and you want to use your camera on a variety of planes, this is a must-consider item. Some of the features may sound a bit too odd for our hobby, but the resolution and fool-proof inprovements that the FlyCamOne V2 has to offer make it a serious contender in this ever-expanding field.
This gadget can be upgraded via firmware releases, so the sky's the limit (OK, now that was a bad pun!) for new features that could be automatically implemented with just a download (and bugs that could be fixed, too). And the fact that the camera could be remotely triggered without much more than some sort of switch and wires is a nice touch (hopefully someone will release that soon).
Overall, it's fun to use, quite versatile and performs just as advertised ó you can't go wrong with that combination.
I don't think I have ever responded to a review before but this review was one of the best and most in-depth reviews I have read on here. With your wide range of platforms, you went above and beyond just reviewing this flycam attached to a plane. Even though I don't do AP, I still found this review a very accurate and informative one.You covered all the bases and then some. Great job! Dave
Thanks so much for the kind words, I really appreciate them! I hope you enjoyed reading the review as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I thought it would be fun doing the video tutorials ó with plug-and-play gizmos, it can sometimes be a challenge to do something out of the ordinary.
I wasn't up an AP kind of guy until I reviewed this camera, but it's growing on me now. This is a nice (and affordable) way to get into it.
Does it say anything when you hook it up to the USB port? Is it at least recognized by your computer?
Also, do you have the SD card in there already?
I'm charging it as I type, so I'll double-check in a bit and see what's up. Do this in the meantime, however: Turn in on, then press the middle button , then press the top button (M). See if that does anything...
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