Hobby Lobby FlyCamOne Micro Video Camera Review

Michael Heer reviews the new Hobby Lobby digital FlyCamOne video camera for in flight recording, and finds that by land or by air, this camera's one fun, easy to use addition to the hobby.

Splash

Introduction

In-flight video is nothing new to me. But the ease of using the FlyCamOne to capture both sound and video is new to me and a lot of fun!

My first attempt at in-flight video was using a three pound camcorder on a 110" glider at the slope. The camera was secured with masking and duct tape to the top of the glider's wing. The video worked, but it required about a twenty mile per hour breeze. Once was just about enough for that rig.

I later got a transmitting video camera. While I flew, a friend aimed a ground-based receiver that was connected to a video camera at the plane to record the picture (without sound) from the plane. It worked, but it too was a lot of hassle and with lots of video cutout when my tracking person didn't aim quite right or the plane got a little too far away or blocked the signal.

Now with the FlyCamOne, both sound and picture are possible in an aerial camera! It doesn't transmit, but rather records for later viewing on your laptop at the field or on your home computer. The unit weighs less then an ounce, recharges like an iPod from a USB connection on your computer, has some built-in flexibility in installing, and even the price is right! So let's get on with the review and see this thing work by land, by sea, and by air!


Weight:Less then an ounce, 24 grams
Length:3 3/8 inches
Width:1 3/8 inches
Thickness:1/2", 7/8" in case
Resolution:320 x 240
Records to:SD-/MMC memory card
Functions:photo camera, voice recorder, video camera w/ audio, webcam
Battery:Rechargeable 170 mAh Li-Ion
Price:$ 79.90
Manufacturer:Acme
Available From:Hobby Lobby

Kit Contents

FlyCamOne Needs:

  • Computer with USB drive to access video/pictures and recharge the battery

Other items you might need:

  • SD-/MMC memory card with at least 256 MB - records a 1/4 hour, or even better,1 GB gives almost 1 hour of video
  • Spare retaining belts (will be available as replacements from Hobby Lobby)
  • Additional Velcro pads (can be purchased from Hobby Lobby)
  • Masking and/or 3M plastic tape

Basics

There is no assembly for the FlyCamOne! One pair of Velcro pads are supplied with the camera to secure it to a vehicle. I bought a package of 12 pairs of Velcro pads at Office Depot so I could have multiple camera locations on various vehicles.

There is no radio installation or connection for the camera. This camera records internally and does not broadcast a signal from your vehicle. It can’t be activated or stopped in flight, and the video isn’t viewable during your vehicle’s operation but is recorded and can be viewed post-flight with the use of a computer. No ground-based video camera is needed or can be used with this device.

Charging/Recharging

The camera arrived in need of charging. With my computer already turned on, I simply plugged the camera into one of my computer's USB connectors with the cable that came with the camera. I turned the camera on with its side switch and the LED on the camera glowed red, indicating it was charging. About an hour and a half later, the LED was green (for a moment) and the battery was charged. (Sometimes the red LED simply goes out and no light displays when charging is complete.) In the meantime, I read the instructions and was ready to test out the camera.

Memory

The camera has a built-in memory of 6MB (Note: manual and online manual said 6MB. Acme web site said 8MB. and I did not test) which allows you to shoot stills or record audio only, but not to record video. To record video, a SD-/MMC memory card is needed. With a 256MB card, about a 1/4 hour of recording can be stored, with 1GB about an hour of recording, and the new 4 GB card allows about 4 hours of recording.

On/Standby/Ready

Turning the camera on turned out to be a two part process. First, I slid the on/off switch on the side of the camera to the on position, but nothing happened as far as I could see. The LED did not light up. By experimenting, I learned that if I held the left silver button/switch down for about five seconds and then let go, the light would come on. (The instruction manual online says that this action is required.) The camera was then turned on and ready to be activated to take a still picture, record audio, or take video with audio.

The camera is actually in “standby” mode when the side switch is in the “on” position. A five second hold of the left silver button moves the camera to the “ready” mode. If not used for 60 seconds, the camera goes back to “standby” mode automatically to save battery.

Camera Functions

The camera has three functions:

  • Still pictures - by pressing the leftmost button
  • Audio only - (For recording things like, "Note to self!") by pressing the middle silver button.
  • Digital video/audio camera - put it in“ready” mode by pressing the left button. The red LED flashes to show it is recording. To stop recording, press the left button a second time.

It can also be used as aWeb cam with the software supplied on the included mini disc.

Still Pictures

I turned the camera on, pressed the still camera button for five seconds, released it, and the green LED came on. I aimed the camera using the viewfinder and pressed and released the photo button. After I released the still photo button the camera took the photo, and the LED went from green to red and back to green and made a very soft “beep.”

The camera needs very little light to work. The Mona Lisa in the pictures below is made up of hundreds of little pictures, and the camera was able to capture that. I stored those pictures on the camera's internal memory since I didn't yet have the SD-/MMC memory card in the camera. When the camera was almost out of power, I sometimes thought I had taken a picture when I pushed on the still camera button/switch since the LED would go from green to red and back to green, but I soon learned that if I didn't hear the “beep” with the LED color change no picture had been recorded. (I only experienced this when I first got the camera and the camera was low on power).

The above pictures were taken indoors with no flash and no special lighting and the pictures were acceptable. The following three stills were taken outside in the sunlight and the results were even better.

A servo could be secured to the back of the camera to take still pictures remotely using a radio if desired. You could secure a submicro servo so that the servo arm could press down the left most button to remotely take still photos.

Audio Only Recordings

Not really a function that would see much use in the RC hobby, but fun to have. Unless you have a warrant (or a license to kill like James Bond), I don’t recommend using it to secretly record the conversations of others.

Installation

The camera’s installation depends on the vehicle. For the first action video, I used a VS Tank (review coming soon) as the camera platform, and a small Velcro piece on the tank turret was all I needed to secure the camera safely to the tank. For the helicopter sequence I used the same pieces of Velcro both with and without the camera holder. To secure the camera to an airplane, the location, how much air would hit the camera and the speed of the plane are factors to consider. For this review I only used the supplied Velcro to secure the camera to my Super Miss, but if I use the camera on a faster plane in the future or use it with more high speed aerobatics I will use 3M plastic tape to help secure the camera. The below video was shot using my normal video camera to show how the FlyCamOne was attached. All other videos in this review were shot with the FlyCamOne.

Downloads

Completion

With the camera's battery charged up and the memory card in place it was time to turn the camera on and run the RC vehicles with the installed camera. After shooting the video, it was a simple process to download the video from the camera to my computer. Once in my computer, I edited the video to a final movie, saved it and uploaded it here.

By Land, By Air, By Sea... OK, not by sea

By Land

I used RC tanks as both the camera platform (Leopard 2 A5) and as the enemy tank attacking the tank (German Tiger tank in camo) with the camera. I shot this video in the shade between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning. Early morning shade conditions are a major lighting challenge for a video camera, and I thought it did a pretty good job. I operated both tanks (rather poorly - this video was shot to demo the camera more than the tanks).

In shooting this video, I learned that the mirror had to be on the top side or the picture on the video would be upside down. I also learned that it recorded a mirror image when using the mirror holder - right was left and left was right just like when you look in the mirror.

Downloads

By Sea... not!

The instructions warn that the camera can be damaged by high humidity and not to use the camera in the rain, so clearly it is not waterproof. I originally planned to test it out on my Reef Racer but only after I completed the land and air testing. However, a close examination of the camera revealed the camera has vulnerable areas where water could easily get into the camera so I dropped my water plans. I would caution everyone to be careful with the camera if used around water since it is not designed for it, and I doubt that Hobby Lobby would replace it if damaged by water.

By Air

I thought I would see if my Blade CX 2 helicopter could handle the 24 grams of weight of the camera. I secured the camera directly to the bottom of the Blade and the Blade's battery with my own Velcro patches. The Blade handled the weight, and I shot a nice video in my backyard. But then I turned off the camera before hitting the silver button to stop the recording, and in the process I lost everything I had shot on that flight.

I learned to ALWAYS STOP the record function by hitting the silver right button before turning off the camera.

I shot several videos using the helicopter both with and without the camera holder. In the video below, you will see some wobble as I didn't quite have the camera in the perfect CG location.

Downloads

Downloads

Downloads

Battery Duration

I was able to take a dozen still pictures and shot 45 minutes of video with the camera being on for about 50 minutes total, and the camera still had some power from its initial full charge - more than sufficient for my needs.

After your photo/video shoot

Downloading

The same USB cable that charges is the same cable that you use to get pictures and video off of the camera and into the computer.

To download video to my PC, I clicked on My Computer and selected the drive with the camera attached. I clicked until I got a video frame with the first frame of the video on it. When I clicked on that frame, Windows Media Viewer opened up, and I viewed the video, and saved it in My Videos folder.

The still pictures can be viewed by the same process, but my photo program recognized the camera when it was connected and I downloaded the stills using it instead. The FlyCamOne camera did not have to be turned on to download the stills or video. It is powered through the USB cable.

Editing

Editing can be done with the software of your choice. I used Cyberlink's Producer Pro 5. I added a couple of still pictures to use for the title and then edited out of the video what I didn't want by making cuts. I added transitions as needed and then produced the final videos in a size for dial-up users and one or two for DSL and Broadband users.

Hints from a Videographer

Not even your flying buddies want to see the same plane flying over the same ground over and over, and your non-flying friends will want to see it even less so keep your final product short and interesting! You may shoot the full hour that this camera allows but to make for enjoyable viewing by others, edit your video, and only show the most interesting clips. 1-2 minute clips work well.

Shoot with good sunlight for nicer picture quality. Unless something stunning happens in a darker video, go with brighter and better lit clips when possible (this is especially true with in-flight videos). This camera did very well in normal daylight even in the early morning and evening.

Use transitions sparingly! If you have editing software that has hundreds of transitions, don't use them all in the same clip. Keep the focus on the subject matter. A few transitions make you look skilled and professional.

In real films, they shoot hours and hours of film to edit down to the final product. Last vacation I shot three hours of video and 900 stills. My final DVD had 92 stills and 24 minutes of video in the long version and 68 stills and 13 minutes in the short version. Most friends see the short version with the stills flying by and enjoy it. I don't want to bore my audience. Use the BEST and LESS is often BETTER.

Is This For a Beginner?

The camera is easy to operate and requires no attention while the pilot is actually flying the plane, so a beginner can use it safely. However, crashes and new pilot learning curves make me answer, "Almost!" The camera appears to be fairly ruggedly made, so if money is no object and you want to record those early crashes or rollovers from the point of view of the plane/vehicle then go ahead and add the camera.

Conclusion

This is a great accessory for any RC operator with a computer with a USB connection. It also allows you to share that view with friends and fellow RCGroups members. Switching from front to rear view only took a few moments on the ground and it required no attention while the plane or other vehicle was actually operating so it should not be a distraction. The price is reasonable, it is easy to operate, and it may lead to some very interesting videos. I am delighted to have it, and I look forward to using it in some of my upcoming reviews. I will be experimenting with camera angles in some future reviews, and I will use it to shoot some aerial shots of World War I dogfights for my "movie.” The FlyCamOne ia a very nice addition to our hobby. It works well and is reasonably priced.

For more information and videos please click on Acme and/or Hobby Lobby in the data box at the start of this review. There are some kite/surfing videos at the Acme site.

Pluses:

  • Small and lightweight
  • Easy to attach
  • Easy to use
  • Takes still pictures and video
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • Easy to download results
  • Focus pretty good 1-100 feet

Minuses:

  • Infinity focus could be sharper
Last edited by Angela H; Jul 06, 2007 at 06:10 AM..
Thread Tools
Jul 06, 2007, 01:39 PM
BD Flyer's Avatar
GREAT review! I enjoyed reading it and watching your videos!
Jul 06, 2007, 02:24 PM
EPP Addict
LuckyDay's Avatar
What do you think of the resolution of this cam vs. the Aiptek cams? Video quality looks better (frame rate anyway), but what about stills? Is there a way to get higher-res stills?
Jul 06, 2007, 03:18 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
A knockout review, Mike! I loved it! The CX2 video was especially cool, felt like I was watching an episode of "Land OF The Giants"

Ronnie
Last edited by dawnron1; Jul 08, 2007 at 06:12 AM.
Jul 06, 2007, 03:29 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
Dear Lucky Day:
I believe there is only the one resolution of stills available. I will personally be using this camera for video. I found the resolution of still pictures taken in the sunlight to be acceptable but not what my heavy digital still camera can do. I could improve the stills with a software program but I didn't do that for the review as I didn't want to confuse anyone.
Jul 06, 2007, 03:40 PM
MaxiR, Sniper
You mentioned editing and windows media, but what is the format the camera saves the video in?

Also, do they publish the capturing frame rate?

Thanks!
Jul 06, 2007, 03:41 PM
Ahhgh! Not ANOTHER new plane!
SoCalBobS's Avatar
If the various clips on the net can be believed, the Aiptek has better resolution but a real choppy frame rate, whereas the FCO has a smoother frame rate but less resolution. Your choice would depend on the desired application.
Jul 06, 2007, 05:02 PM
kit
kit
Registered User
see below, duplicate post
Jul 06, 2007, 05:05 PM
Registered User
It only does half the video resolution of the ST labs EDVR at a lower frame rate. Not worth it when you can get an EDVR for less.
Jul 06, 2007, 05:06 PM
kit
kit
Registered User
It saves video as .avi format on the SD card.

What Mike shows in one photo as the microphone is not accurate. The microphone is the tiny hole just below the lens.

A real drawback of the audio recording is that there is no way to play it back until you can download it to a computer.
Jul 06, 2007, 05:21 PM
Registered User
Michael Heer's Avatar
Thread OP
still pictures saved as jpegs, 640 x 480 avg size 115KB

Video saved as avi, 320x240 pixels
Jul 06, 2007, 05:39 PM
Ahhgh! Not ANOTHER new plane!
SoCalBobS's Avatar
I find the camera quite satisfactory and a good value. I would like to hear a comparison from someone who actually has used both the FCO AND an EDVR. Listed specs can be inaccurate (unbelievable, I know). Actual field results can be quite different. Wouldn't it be nice to take both cameras and have them take the same footage, i.e. put them on a plane under the same circumstances.

One major advantage I see with the FCO is the mirror/holder, which streamlines it significantly. To my knowledge, no other product provides this.
Jul 06, 2007, 07:00 PM
MaxiR, Sniper
And the memory card option... That's a nice feature. The eDVR is 128M fixed memory.
Jul 07, 2007, 10:00 AM
Registered User
I'm sold I bought one...
Jul 07, 2007, 10:49 AM
EPP Addict
LuckyDay's Avatar
640x480 is acceptable for stills for my purposes, I had thought it was 320x240 like the video. I had noticed the low frame rate of the other cam which is why I am interested in this one. Thanks for the extra info and the great review.


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