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If this will be your first time ordering from Banggood, you should know a few things.

HD CAMERAS

LIGHT WEIGHT FULL QUALITY
BETAFPV SMO 4K

Purchase at GetFPV
Purchase at RaceDayQuads
Purchase at BetaFPV

FPV pilots looking to save weight have started gutting their GoPros, removing the main board and lens element from the case and calling them “naked GoPros”. The result is a full-fledged GoPro that weighs only about 30 grams. But what if you don’t want to tear your expensive GoPro apart?

Enter Insta360 and BetaFPV, answering our prayers with a Naked Style action cam specifically meant for FPV pilots. It comes in at only 30 grams, and boasts full 4k wide angle video recording. In addition, you get the Insta360 tools to edit, stabilize, and clean up the video.

The Smo4k comes in well under something like a Hero9 Black, and lines up more closely with the price of a Hero 7 Black at the time of writing this. The image quality of the Smo4k is not as good as a GoPro, but many pilots consider it good enough for their purposes. Durability is also less than a full-fat action cam, but that’s the price of lower weight. If you always wanted a Naked GoPro but wished somebody else would do the “naked” conversion for you, the Insta360 Smo4k is the one you’ll buy.

BEST ALL ROUND 360 CAM
INSTA360 ONE R “TWIN”

Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Best Buy

The Insta360 One R does something really audacious: it splits the camera into three modular parts: the screen/control, the lens, and the battery. The “twin edition” kit includes a 4k wide-angle lens and a 360° lens module. When you consider that the GoPro Max costs about the same price as the Insta360 One R “twin”, it’s almost like getting two for the price of one. In addition, the Insta’s modular nature means you can replace only the part that broke when something breaks.

None of this would matter if the Insta360 One R was a bad camera. But it’s a really good camera. The image quality is excellent. Despite the fact that it’s modular, it’s still tough in a crash. It’s waterproof to 5 meters (not sure how they pulled that off with exposed connectors).

Like most 360 cams today, the 360 One R comes with a smartphone app to edit the 360 footage. You can zoom, pan, and tilt the “virtual” camera all around the 360° scene and then export the results to a standard video file. However, only newer phones may be able to run the app, and slow phones, or ones without lots of storage, may struggle. Insta360 also has a really good PC-based app that’s just the right balance of simple vs. powerful.

When it comes to action cameras alone, GoPro has nothing to fear from Insta360 just yet. The Insta’s image quality is not quite as good as GoPro’s, especially when you consider the huge amount of control (ISO, shutter, color, etc) that GoPro gives you over the footage. And the Insta’s interface is not as polished as GoPro’s. But if you’re in the market for a 360° cam, the Insta more than holds its own against the GoPro Max. And with the Insta, you’re basically getting a 4k action camera “for free”.

TOP OF THE LINE
GOPRO HERO9

Purchase at Amazon

It seems like every time GoPro releases a new Hero, it gets a little further from what I think FPV pilots want. The Hero9 adds a “selfie” screen to the front–just one more thing to break in a crash. It’s 32 grams heavier than the 8, which was about 10 grams heavier than the 7. On the positive side, it has 5k resolution which allows for image stabilization without the additional crop-in that previous cameras suffered. And the image stabilization works better than ever before, including dedicated integration with ReelSteady Go, which is now owned by GoPro. I do like that they brought back the removable lens guard.

The Hero 9 is an awesome camera for vloggers, handheld shooting with stabilization, and for cinematic FPV pilots who can stand the weight and who need the image quality. But in my opinion it’s too large and heavy for freestyle bashers and casual cruisers. As long as the 7 stays available on the refurbished market, that’s where I’m staying for the time being.

TOP OF THE LINE
GOPRO HERO8 BLACK

Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Best Buy

The Hero8 Black has higher resolution, better image quality, and higher framerates than the Hero7. Cinematic FPV pilots will love the new HyperSmooth Boost image stabilization, which gives even desktop apps like ReelSteady a run for their money. However, HyperSmooth Boost doesn’t work at the same time as SuperView, so freestyle pilots who are thinking of cheating will have to choose between one or the other. This is also the first GoPro where I felt that 4k FPV footage was actually better than 2.7k, although the size of the files still puts me off from shooting 4k too often. The Hero8 also has selectable configuration profiles, which makes switching between different shooting situations easier. For example, you could have one profile for handheld shooting and one for FPV, and switch between them easily.

Like I discussed in the Hero7 description, I dislike the Hero8 for FPV, due to its internal lens protector and its additional weight. As soon as you scratch the front lens protector, the entire camera is basically a total loss. (Okay that’s not entirely true. Some FPV pilots bust out the protector and then run the naked lens until it breaks too.) Tempered glass screen protectors are an absolute must for this camera. In addition, the internal lens makes mounting filters on the camera harder, although this problem can be solved with the creative application of a 3D printer.

The only reason I would run a Hero8 on an FPV quad would be if I absolutely needed Hypersmooth Boost or the improved 4k footage, such as for a Cinewhoop shot that I didn’t want to stabilize in post. Any application where I had a high chance of crashing the quad and damaging the camera, I would just be too scared of damaging the Hero8, even if I did have insurance.

TOP OF THE LINE
GOPRO HERO7 BLACK

Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Best Buy

The Hero7 Black is not the newest or the “best” GoPro you can buy today. But it’s still my “top of the line” for FPV because of several changes that GoPro made with the Hero 8. The Hero7 has a removable lens protector, which is easy to replace if it’s damaged, and easy to swap filters on and off the camera. It’s also a little bit smaller and lighter than the 8. Finally, it’s significantly cheaper, since it’s no longer the flagship of the line.

Compared to the Session, the Hero7 offers higher framerates at higher resolutions and allows the use of Superview at higher resolutions too. It’s also got better image quality at 4k, although I still don’t consider 2.7k or 1080 to be the optimal resolution for fast motion on this camera. The Hero7 has a screen on the back for “no-smartphone-required” configuration in the field, and you can also playback your recordings or check framing. However, a typical freestyle pilot is basically guaranteed to break the screen sooner rather than later, so I’m really on the fence as to whether it’s an advantage or not.

The Hero7 is about 50 grams heavier than the Session, which significantly affects the handling of most freestyle quads. The place where it really excels is in smooth, cinematic flying (less likelihood of crashing and the additional weight matters less) but lots of freestyle pilots have moved on from the Session and run the Hero7 as their primary camera.

CHEAPEST WORTH HAVING
RUNCAM 5 ORANGE

Purchase at RaceDayQuads
Purchase at GetFPV
Purchase at Amazon

The RunCam 5 Orange is one of the few budget-oriented action cameras to really satisfy me with its image quality. It’s not up to GoPro’s standards, but contrast and dynamic range are decent, and most importantly, it hasn’t got the hyper-saturated colors that many cheaper action cameras have. Colors are natural. There’s even a “Flat” color profile for those who color-grade in post.

Supported resolutions include 4k30, 2.7k60, and 1080p120.

The Runcam 5 Orange doesn’t use Bluetooth or WiFi to configure itself. Its smartphone app generates QR codes that you hold in front of the camera’s lens to configure it. In one sense, this is simpler than a WiFi-based app, which can often be buggy. On the other hand, it’s impossible to get an image preview except to record footage then remove the SD card from the camera and playback the video. Live image preview isn’t possible.

The Runcam 5 Orange fits into 3D printed mounts sized for the Hero 5 Session, so there should be plenty of options for mounting it to your quad. It’s about 55 grams, so it’s not going to add much weight either.

The “EIS” image stabilization in the Orange didn’t work well in my test, and I don’t consider it worth using. Flight audio is also basically useless due to wind noise. Nevertheless, at a price of about $100, the Runcam 5 Orange is a good value even if the EIS feature was left out.

ND FILTERS

Have you ever noticed that flights at the end of the day look the best? It’s not just because the sun is going down into the “golden hour”. In bright daylight, the shutter speed of the camera produces an overly-sharp, “stuttery” image. When there’s less light, the camera’s shutter speed goes down, and the moving image becomes a tiny bit blurry. This provides a pleasant softness and sense of speed that professional videographers and pro FPV pilots seek out.

But you can’t always shoot during the “golden hour”. That’s where ND filters come in. ND filters reduce the amount of light going into the lens, allowing for pleasantly soft images with just the right amount of motion blur, even when the sun is high in the sky.

ND filters for action cameras have traditionally come in two styles. The first is a stick-on film, basically like window tint. This is difficult to apply without bubbles and has terrible optical quality, but it’s cheap. The second is pro-grade optical filters. These are really expensive (like $30 per filter) and so when they break in a crash, it really hurts.

Camera Butter ND filters are the best balance between quality and price. They are made of optical glass, so they’ve got great image quality. They attach to the lens using a sticky “gasket” so they’re easy to apply and replace. And they’re less than $10 each, so it won’t hurt as much when they break.

FPV RACING LAP TIMERS

IMMERSIONRC LAPRF
PERSONAL RACE TIMING SYSTEM

Purchase at Orqa FPV

If you’re serious about racing, you need to time your laps. And there’s no easier way to do it than the ImmersionRC LapRF Personal Race Timing System. This is the same technology as is used at professional races, slimmed down for the individual pilot. It detects the signal of your video transmitter passing by the sensor, meaning no additional hardware is needed on your drone. An iPhone and Android app manages the system and reports results with audio callouts while you fly.

One limitation of the system is that it loses precision as you add more pilots in the air. Practically speaking, you can easily track one or two pilots with a single LapRF system, but more than that may result in missed laps. Another limitation is that it connects to the phone via Bluetooth, so the pilot must be located within about 20-30 feet of the timing gate, or the Bluetooth link will be lost. (Some people install an external antenna on the LapRF to increase this range.)

The LapRF system is a little expensive compared to some open-source DIY options, but it’s the simplest and easiest way to get started timing your laps.

The link above goes to ImmersionRC’s official distributor, the OrqaFPV store. Most other regional stores seem to have stopped stocking the LapRF. You can often find it listed on eBay as well. ImmersionRC continues to manufacture the LapRF in small quantities, but development of the app seems to have stopped.