AP/AV gear basics #2 - RC Groups
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This thread is privately moderated by askman, who may elect to delete unwanted replies.
Aug 08, 2012, 12:31 AM
Destroyer of G-10
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AP/AV gear basics #2


now, you understand that there is no free lunch and you have made good assessment of where you want to go with AP/AV. I kinda went over this in TANSTAFL , but we will go more into details in setting realistic budget.

First. assess what you have. Radios, Camera, etc. most people do have some of the items that you will need, and while it may not be ideal, it will get the job done. This is especially true for cameras.

rule number1: forget DSLR. I know people love their DSLR, but until you are ready to risk several thousand bucks everytime you fly, forget it. In fact, Best place to find a good camera is probably in your drawer.

Don't think you have to have latest greatest camera. Just because you saw someone posting great video or still from such and such cam, it does not mean you need the same to get good result. For example, I've been using Panasonic Lumix GF3 as my test camera. I got it off ebay and amazon (2 of them) for bit over 300 bucks each with 14mm pancake lens. this is about same price as gopro hero, but output is far superior. This does not mean gopro is a bad cam. in its case, it is nearly indestructible and produces very much usable video. I just needed something in Nex5 class without the tariff. Nex5 with 16mm would cost almost double that and with hacked firmware, the video quality is quite good off GF3. I would say superior in some cases to Nex5. for my use, I did not want OIS. this is because I want to be able to see improvement in the system as I make changes. Good OIS is really nice to have and newer OIS really allow us to take stunning RAW video with good gimbal. most pancake lens doe not have OIS, and OIS will not stabilize ROLL, so keep that in mind.

My basic advice is this. use the camera you have. When you are learning, you will crash, and it is much less heartbreaking to destroy old used camera. and trust me, i have destroyed my share of camera over the years. (at least 1 completely and couple damaged but usable. some of the real pros will destroy lot more. all depends on risks you are willing to take to get the shot) For beginners, you can't go wrong with gopro in its case, for larger camera, Most popular camera is Nex5, and GH2. We are finding that sony RX100 is also great AV camera.


With the camera, you will need to be able to edit those great video. LOL. and yes, you can use window moviemaker to get usable result. Now, most of the better videos on web have post stab done. WMM does not have stabilization.
the next step up would be Sony Vegas movie studio. these are available in amazon for 50bucks or less. this is next step up. it does have stabilization, but not the best. Pretty good editing suite though. For best post stab, you need either Final cut pro (mac) or prodad from mercalli. Prodad is more affordable choice at 150bucks or so for stand alone. very good post stab. Still software is always in state of flux, so do a thorough research before making the choice.

Well, if you are doing video, you want to use either a quality gimbal from reputable maker or don't use gimbal at all, low end gimbal may be good enough for stills, they usually don't work for video. Basically, a stabilized gimbal buys you a level horizon. most have good vibration isolation as well, but that can be achieved without a gimbal as well. Level Horizon is sign of "pro", but it comes at high price. extra weight, extra complexities and money. To achieve good stabilization, you need high quality gimbal, good gimbal controller and good servos. Good flying skill is still important.

Always look for raw videos from users of the gimbal. I know there are lot of gimbal from chinese vendor with attractive pricing. remember that quality and support do cost, and support will either make or break your chance at success in many cases. In fact, you will find that success is in the details.

in TANSTAFL, I showed that unstabilized isolation system can do quite well. In fact, lot of early best videos were done this way. simple system with good video editing can make for dramatic result. this is why I recommend it as great learning tool without the complication of setting up the gear.

Even with quality gimbal, without good gimbal controller, you won't get good result. This area is still in state of flux. look at my past blog on controller for information on this.


with Multicopter, simple radio works fine. In fact, most popular is Turnigy 9x with FRSKY module. it is nice to have at least 6 channel, preferrably more though any simple radio will work. Most of the setting up is done inside the firmware of multicopter, so radio can be simple.. Same with airplane. Only helicopter will require more complex radio, but most are not flying helis for AP unless you are lifting heavy camera.

before we go into the the vehicle, assess your AP requirement. Assuming we have this down, we can come up with a budget.


I will concentrating on Multicopter. For beginners, I really recoomend DJI F450/F550 with Naza-M. Affordable, effective and flies well. used with simple Iso mount and gopro, you have very cheap and effecitve AP/AV . solution. this is light and durable setup that will teach you all the basics of AP/AV while giving you a platform to learn from. F550 being bigger will be bit easier to upgrade to stabilized gimbal though.

now, I am not 100% fan of DJI. The frame is bit heavy, and The weakness of F450/F550 is its motor and props. The QC on the motor is iffy and I won't use the props at all. positive of the motor is its availability and price. but be prepared to swap bad motors out. (bad motor being one with lot of vibration) Still, they are good priced, well available and naza is one of the best flight controller for this job for the money. I will have blog on vibration control, but key is good motor and prop. For prop. go with graupner 9 or 10" or Zingers if you like wood. I like wood props , but graupners are de facto standard in AP/AV in this size.

So, what is REASLISTIC BUDGET? well, depending on what you have, but if you have to buy everything,

turnigy 9x 100bucks
FRsky conversion: 80bucks


F450ARF :190
Naza-M :230
Props: 50 (graupners)

4S5000 x4 : 25C : 150

gopro2 : 320

isomount system wwith LG: 100

charger/misc; 100

$1500 for F450 with Gopro and goes up from there.

Next installment will be on multicopter and gimbals.
Last edited by askman; Aug 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM.
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