Since half of the planet is currently having weather that is forcing people indoors at the moment (not me haha!) I've reviewed some All In One (AIO) camera and VTX combos. Traditionally these have been used on tiny whoop style indoor brushed quads and smaller micro brushless quads although more and more brushless quads are using slightly heavier micro CCDs as standard.
Weight is still very much the name of the game in brushed quads as you'll struggle to get a 4:1 power to weight ratio even on the larger 8520-based brushed micros. This means CMOS-based AIO cameras are still the norm because they are so light. In this round up I've gone for some of the lightest cameras I can find and best of all, 2 include video in / video out so that no tricky wiring hacks are needed to run betaflight OSD.
Note: This is clearly not an exhaustive test, I happened to have a number of AIO camera at the same time I ordered for various micros so had a chance to compare. I though the improvements over the Eachine TX01 were impressive so thought it would be work sharing.
Clearly discussion on image quality is missing here - I found the 4 CMOS AIO camera above very similar and wouldn't be able to tell apart in a blind test. The only AIO I've picked up which is clearly inferior is the VM2751 standard on the leader which is not included in this shootout. I thought this camera/vtx was the weak point of the Leader 120 quadcopter.
For a micro brushed quad without an OSD I'd recommend the LST S2. For goodness sakes it is only $9!!! Further to that it is light, easy to change channel / band / video format and small.
For a micro brushed quad with OSD or if you are after every milligram of weight savings, get the CM275T. It is CRAZY light at 3.2g and has a very convinient video/in out so that you don't need to mod your cam just to enjoy betaflight OSD - assuming your FC supports it. I know it's at odds with what I said about brushless and ccd cameras but this will be going on my Eyas X2 rebuild going for the lightest 2" possible - targetng 35g with props. Here is my original X2 eyas build on rotorbuilds if your curious.
For a brushless quad 2s and up just get the micro swift or equivalent and the TX200 VTX. The video quality is just so superior in all but the best lighting conditions. VTX can be a little tricky with band / channel display but transmission quality is excellent and you have the ability to bump the transmission power up to 200mW.
The Beebee 66 is a micro 1s brushless powered quadcopter which is essentially a brushless Tiny Whoop. It is made by Full Speed RC, the same company that produced the highly successful Leader 120. (review here). Gearbest kindly supplied me a BNF Beebee 66 to review. I was desperately hoping for this to be the brushless answer to the tiny whoop but I'm really bummed out that it just isn't. Read on to find out why.
Adding a receiver
Since this was supplied as a BNF model, it came without a receiver. I opted to use the lightest FRSKY receiver I had on hand - an XM that I'd finally figured out how to fash with the RSSI channel 16 firmware. In most models this is a matter of soldering wires to the exposed pads on the top of the flight controller. However,since the FC and ESC are part of the structure of this quad AND the FC is flipped upside down to sit the ESC connector in a manageable location, the prop gaurd, 4 nylon nuts and the flight controller itself had to be removed before I could access the receiver solder pads. Then I needed the help of a multimeter to figure out ground, +5v and signal wires. Once soldered up with a short length of silicon wire to the receiver it was easy enough to re-assemble and tuck the XM reciever underneath the canopy behind the AIO camera/VTX. Pics below of course can explain this better:
It's not the end of the world wiring in a reciever here but can be fiddly with particularly small hardware. I'd recommend if you did buy this model that you purchase with the receiver of your choice pre-fitted.
Kept it pretty simple here. Because this is quite a different steup than I am used to I retained the stock settings on Betaflight 3.1.7 that it arrived with. All I did was set an arm switch and a mode switch for angle-horizon-air. Below are the default settings from Betaflight 3.1.7. Oh yeah, receiver had to be set up too. Like most f3 boards receiver is on UART 3.
The only other preparation was pretty straighforward. The included GNB High Voltage 1s 260mah Lipo battery was easily charged using the included USB adaptor and a micro usb cable I had on hand. Only 1 set of props was included that are press-fitted on the tiny 0705 fullspeed branded (Sunny Sky made) 0705 brushless motors. I left the VTX on the default channel for the initial flight that my Aomway Commanders (review here) picked up as 5905MHz.
Please look away if you love your Beebee 66 because it starts to get a bit ugly here. After fully charging the LiHV batteryand confirming everything was working ok I armed and found the props were fouling on the TPU canopy. Minor annoyance down to the tight tolerance in the slightly flexible TPU canopy. Easy enough to bend out of the way and I was back in action.
The first thing I noticed how loud the motors are - not in idle where they are practically silent but under any sort of load. Next as part of test with line of sight attempting a 'punchout' I could clearly see the quad dipping (pitch/roll) and twisting (yaw) under load. I'll attempt to tune this out later on and will post another review if successful. Moving on to line of sight I found the flight performance dull and uninspiring. What's worse was that after just one and a half minutes flight my battery was sagging down below 2.7v - the motors were clearly very demanding for their relatively mild output. I really wanted this quad to be a success and in fairness there is a chance I could have a less than perfect unit but my experience is my experience and I was disappointed. I do have some thoughts on how to improve though and I'll cover this in my Next Steps section below.
Comparison to a brushed micro
Please understand that these comments aren't made from isolation - I've had some experience with tiny whoops based on 7mm motors (like the JJRC H67 or Eachine E011) and although these are cheap brushed toy grade quads, they offered equivalent or better power and a flight time of 4 minutes plus on the same size battery with much smoother flight performance. A quick note that I actually tried the stock battery from the JJRC H67 (260mah non-HV) and got only 1 minute flight before it sagged below 2.7v under load. After recovery it bounced back to 3.65V but this same battery give my 4 minutes plus in my E011 FPV or santa whoop.
At this point I can't recommend this quad. The performance I experienced was poor and the flight time was unacceptable. My guess it that the brushless motors do not scale down well to 7mm, at this size the brushed motors seem to be more approprate. I'd recommend going in one of two directions:
I'm not content to leave things be with the Beebee 66 and the latest version of this model (Beebee 66 lite) has shown the direction I want to go in - removing weight. I'm skeptical of getting to the level of improvement I want but with some of the parts below I think I can replace the canopy with a simple camera holder. remove the propgaurd and TPU supports and save up to about 4g. Will this make enough difference? Not sure but will report back when I'm done. Make sure you bug me about the follow up in the comments if I'm too slow! Below are some of the weights of the components I'm interested in:
Gemfan have recently released the 2540 Flash propeller to add to their growing library of micro propellers. This time rather than sticking with their 'Hulkie' naming on the 1940 and 2040 propellers, they have gone with 'flash' from their popular 5" 5152 prop.
The design is stylistically similar to the 5152 in that it is a swooping 3 bladed propeller with a pronounced wingtip. Colours currently available as below. I like the yellow as they are easy to find!
The material feels very much the same as the gemfan 2040 Hulkies which I reviewed here but the design is much more refined and so will not make any further comparisons as design will impact performance and durability more than material.
For testing I used my Leader 120. This is a popular model and I have put 80 odd packs through this one making it a good test mule. Also, I have experimented with other props like the Gemfan 3025 alongside the stock King kong 2840 for more than one point of reference.
Since this frame will fit a 2.8 inch 2840 prop there is plenty of room on a 2.5 inch 2540 without losing too much blade area. No issue installing so will move on to flight performance.
Performance on 2s
The first thing I noticed about these props is that they were very quiet. I flew in a reserve where there were several people enjoying the sun and very few people even noticed the quad flying about. The noise made was even less than the 2840s which are already very quiet. On 2s the performance was almost on par with the 2840s. I was able to hover at around 25% throttle with a 47g 950mah 2s battery and had flat out speed close to the 2840s. Cornering (grip) felt about 90% as good as the 2840s which is the grippiest quad/prop I have - even more than my 5" racing floss 2. Balance was excellent with no increase in jello at high throttle over the 2840s which have always been well balanced for me.
Battery life was definitely superior to the 2840 props. As you'll see from my pics below I got around 6 minutes from the 950mah battery with fairly heavy throttle flights as I was in a large reserve. This is about a minute more the the king kong 2840s with similar flying and comparable times to the Gemfan 3025 (although the 3025s were slower on 2s). It was an enjoyable 6 minutes too - the quad felt tight with these on.
Performance on 3s
For 3s testing I used my Turnigy Nantoech 3s 450mah 65C batteries that weigh approximately 45g.
The performance gap between the stock 2840 and new 2540 propellers were even less pronounced than on 2s. If there was a difference in performance compared to the 2840s in top speed or cornering grip I could not tell. The advantages did remain though - 2540 propellers were again more quiet and I had a similar increase in battery life: from roughly 3 minutes of hard flying to roughly 3.5 minutes+ hard flying (see below). Lastly at higher RPM I actually had less jello than any prop I have used on this quad before. This suggests they have excellent balance.
In short I got all of the benefits I enjoyed on 2s with none of the downsides.
Oddly enough I haven't had a crash worth speaking of yet. I'll update here once I've had a view and can give more of an opnion on this.
Simply put these are now my favourite prop on both 2s and 3s for the Leader 120. I can only guess that the more modern design helps get the efficiency up over the 2840 on 2s with very nearly the same top speed and grip through corners. On 3s the gap was even less and I'd struggle to tell the difference between these and the 2840s. The only real change was that there was less noise and more flight time.
In conclusion these will be my go-to prop from now on my leader 120 on 2s or 3s. The slight downside of marginally less top speed and cornering grip is easily outweighed by the reduced noise and improved battery life. Give them a try for yourself, they are inexpensive.
Time for a cheap, high performing tiny whoop build with a twist - Christmas style. I know it is a novelty but the JJRC H67 Flying Santa Claus RC Quadcopter is actually the Eachine E011 in disguise. The E011 in my mind is the absolute best starting poing for a tiny whoop with the larger 716 motors that have absolutely no problem lifting an All In One (AIO) camera. So what make this build so special? Freakin' Santa Claus does!
The JJRC drone is in Christmas themed colours and comes with a Santa minifig. The best (and most annoying part as a parent) is the noisy sound module on board that plays a Christmas tune. As a stand alone unit this is a micro brushed quad that flies very well albeit with a small but proportional remote. Of particular note, the motors and battery are very good and will give you a genuine 5 minutes of throttle-heavy flight time. Included in this pack is:
This quad is a lot of fun but it needs more FPV! I used the LST - S2 5.8G 800TVL HD Micro CMOS FPV Camera which is tiny and weighs only 3.5g. I've built an E011 whoop before with a 5g AIO Eachine TX01 camera and it had no problem lifting that. This new LST camera will offer much better performance even the seemingly small 1.5g weight difference has a very big performance impact on these brushed whoops.
See below for pictorial instructions for mounting the camera in the spirit of Christmas. The minifig is very heavy at 4g but I couldn't leave santa out of this garish whoop so will take him off when we start taking the Christmas decorations down, weight savings will have to wait for now.
Here is a handy tip given the crappy stock reciever range. Drill a 2mm hole on the canopy as shown above and poke the antenna through it. You get over 100% more range which is absolutely necessary as this does not have a failsafe and will fly away from you if you lose signal!
In conclusion this is an absolute bargain for a basic little FPV rig. To date all of cheaper fpv ready whoops have the smaller and less powerful 6mm motors and I'm suprised that a 7mm motors FPV ready unit hasn't been released. No problem though, as you can see above building this is not difficult or expensive and much more rewarding. The set up as above flies well enough but needs quite a bit of throttle. When you decide to take the minifig, canopy and speaker out you'll find performance will increase dramatically but that can wait till after the novelty has worn off :)
If you want to use your own hobby-grade transmitter and have the full control of betaflight with acro/air mode, check out part 2: Adding the Furibee F3 Flight Controller. I'll have a link live here by 4 November.
Parts in this build:
See this page for current bargains on Gearbest for play and racing
This is part 2 of my review of the Leader 120 by Full Speed from Gearbest. For part 1 click here. As at September 2017 try code HarvestRCnew7 to get this for only $US93.99!
None of the dreaded "brown outs" here
Straight up I have had none of the reported issues of brownouts as many of the youtube reviewers found on the first version of the Leader 120. In saying that my review modelis version 2 which I has the fullspeed branded black motors. The default idle speed of which there was a lot of chatter about was set at 10% from the factory in Betaflight 3.1.7. This is very high and reducing it to my regular 3.5% caused no issues. So on to the more interesting stuff!
This is a great little flier, As I expected from hearing the motors run in betaflight they are very quiet and coupled with the well-balanced KK 2840 props it lets off very little noise in flight. Coupled with the size, this makes it much more socially acceptable to be flying in areas that aren't completed isolated. The rates are not stock either and I actually really liked them, even compared to my stock betaflight 3.2.0 settings when I flew my 5" quad immediately afterwards. There are an awful lot of micros that have poor or no tuning from the factory so was escpecially pleased when the tuning here required practically nothing for those either lacking the know-how or too lazy to do. Power is excellent on 2s and comparable to many 2" quads on the 3s - the bigger props and relatively light weight really make these motors come alive. Handling was predicatable and I felt I had good control even in heavy gusts.
The stock battery can be described as adequate. I can see the voltage alarms were set low at 3.0 warning, 2.9 critical to allow for the sag but it keeps you in the air with moderate flying for up to 4 minutes. Considering I was able to flow without esc desync, losing vtx signal or getting failsafe, this probably makes it better than 90% of included batteries out there (not kidding).
I'll have a follow up tips and tricks article soon where I look at some of the other internationally available battery options including 3s.
FPV - Camera and VTX
Ahh a chink in the armour. Hitting a sharp price point eventually means compromise and I think I've found it. Typical of All In One (AIO) cameras this handled low light on a dull day poorly even with the focus correct. Kind of makes branches jump out at you when flying under trees - that's my excuse anyway. Secondly although the VTX does well enough for 25mW, it still only does 25mW. That means that I started seeing breakup at 100-150M away or as soon as I was on the wrong side of even small trees. The good news is you can pop this on your RC car or tiny whoop (I STRONGLY recommed the Eachine E011) and upgrade this one. There is more than enough lift for the extra weight of a micro CCD camera like the Foxeer arrow micro or Runcam swift micro and a Vtx like the new one from fullspeed that is 25mW/200mW switchable to mount on the back. I'll be making such a change in the near future and reporting back in a new article in the tips and tricks section.
This model is an amazing combination of well-matched parts with good assembly and a custom tune making it compelling on paper. I'm pleased to say that this transfers into flight characteristics and power making it an option you should definitely be considering if looking at a micro in 2017. I personally think this frame size that allows for a 2.8" prop rather than 2" is much better matched to this motor size and not nearly so sensitive to weight meaning for a more robust and enjoyable flying experience. My only real gripe is the video quality where camera light handling and vtx power lets it down. It is hard to argue at this price point though and in a future article I'll be doing a budget mod to address this.
Most interestingly, I built a model from parts that was very similar to this before this model was announced. Cutting to the chase the PNP version from Gearbest was more quiet and felt more solid in the air (perhaps due to the tune/rates) than my own build. Power was similar: although noisier I think the DYS motors had an edge although for the small difference I prefered the ones in this PNP model. I preferred the adjustible power vtx on the model I built to bump up power but this is really starting to split hairs. This does have me second guessing my build vs buy strategy but I think this is testament to the well thought out component list Full Speed have chosen.
Buy the Leader 120 from Gearbest
Firstly, thank you to Gearbest for supplying this model in exchange for a full review including my observations and recommendations from having built a very similar quad from parts. I'll review here and then run a series of tip, tricks, mods depending on how it flies stock. You can find the PNP version (no receiver) here. As at September 2017 try code HarvestRCnew7
to get this for only $US93.99!
I'm going to skip the unboxing, I don't have anything to add other than the picture of all the parts included below, so straight to the good stuff.
The parts included and build quality have improved...
First off the motors are no longer and unbranded red 1104 7500kv. They are now branded SZ speed and full speed but are still rated the same. From what I can see the shaft length extending through the bell is shorter. Great idea - the only job this does is to centre the prop which the screws hold on. Less stress when trying to put tight props on (looking at you Gemfan 2035) and you don't have a 1.5mm drill bit. Below is a comparison to my DYS 1104 7500kV. You can see my review on these here
The comparisons to these motors don't stop there. Both are similar external size, and the magnets are simlarly strong - very notchy compared to the racerstar motors. From there the leader 120 motors are better. Wires are multicore, slightly thicker and much more flexible and easy to manager. On spin up in betaflight they are so quiet and smooth! Not noisy like the DYS even when they were new. In fairness the DYS are powferful so if the stock leader 120 motors get anywhere near this I'll be happy, especially given the improvements.
This flight controller and ESC is ubiquitous and first appeared on the ARFUN90. I've reviewed one in full here - in short reliable and well featured. What impressed me here was the quality of soldering and the cable managent, just so clean - see below. I wasn't going to compare my efforts but I'd already soldered in the receiver and the macro image makes me feel inadequate! From what I can see of the earlier reviews, this looks to have improved substantially.
Betaflight setup and the Flip of Death
This model shipped with the full release at the time of writing - 3.1.7 (3.2.0 still in release candidate). Interestingly along with the physical changes the software settings have been changed to address some of the brownout/flip of death issues the early reviews had. Most notable digital idle is set at 10%. Since I'll maiden this with stock settings I'll go with that and see if moving back to my standard of 3.5% is still viable. 10% is not ideal for me as you will never be able to fully chop throttle for flips and whatnot. Cool to see that they have addressed it and looking forward to seeing if this issue may have gone altogether.
I'll post some pics of the key betaflight screens for prosperity below (flip through them) but I intend to move to 3.2.0 as soon as I have completed initial flights and can confirm everything is functioning as expected.
I'm something of a lightweight jukie when it comes to miniquads, benefits include longer flights, better agility, greater crash resistance through lower intertia. See the gallery below for the various weight measures but in short 64g dry, 94g AUW ready to fly with the stock 2s 500mah battery. This include an ibus FS82 1g receiver which was not present when I too the photos.
This is a very respectable weight for a micro that swings 2.8" props as these props generate a significant amount of lift in combination with a motor of this rating.
All this and it includes my favourite beeper/led combo (reviewed here) - a beeper is a must for micro quads as you can loose them even in short grass! I can anyway.
Size comparison to other micros
This is not a big model by any stretch. The beauty of these micros - and to be clear this is still a micro - is you can fly in small areas (not indoors!) with less danger and concern to the public. They are also quick to get in the air and consumables like batteries and props are cheaper too. This model measures 120mm diagonally motor to motor and offers most of the experience of a 5" FPV quad. Picture below compare to an E011 typical tiny whoop and an 80mm EYAS x2 with 2" props
Just a guy reviewing RC Quadcopter stuff