Factors to consider when choosing a multi-rotor FPV drone camera

The FPV drone Camera in your multirotor is the key component that allows you to enjoy that ‘First Person View’. It makes sense to take some time and ensure that you choose the camera that will best suit the type of multirotor that you own, and flying that you would like to do.

There are 5 main points to consider when choosing a camera for your multirotor:

Size
Aspect ratio
Sensor Type
Lens Field of View
Additional Features

The following article will attempt to cover these main points, and provide a simple guideline that can be used to help you find the correct camera, so that you get the most enjoyment out of seeing the view from your multirotor first hand.

FPV drone Camera Size
One of the first things you will notice when shopping for cameras is that they come in various sizes. FPV originally started with pilots using PCB board cameras repurposed from security cameras, these already had an industry standardised size and multirotor frames were designed accordingly. Eventually people realised that having all the electrical components exposed was an unnecessary risk and simple cases were created to house the PCB board cameras. These became commonly known as a HS1177 style camera, named after the board camera that was most commonly used inside. The HS1177 style camera is roughly 28mm square and is still a very common size format. Many of the most popular cameras from the main manufacturers continue to be made in this size, and accordingly, many frames are designed to accept this size camera. It is a common feature for the camera mounting points to be built right into the frame. Due to the overall size of the HS1177 style camera, it is most commonly found in multirotors with a blade diameter of 5” or more.

As multirotor technology has progressed, components have become smaller and lighter, and this has filtered through to cameras. Manufacturers have created new smaller variants.

Naming conventions for the more compact cameras can vary a bit between manufacturers and websites, but most commonly the sizing in descending order goes: HS1177, Mini, Micro, Nano/AIO.

The Mini camera is roughly 21mm square and uses the same lenses and sensors as its larger counterpart, the hs1177 style FPV drone Camera. This mini size camera has been less commonly adopted by frame designers mainly due to the odd width and minimal size and weight difference.

The Micro camera is roughly 19mm square and most commonly has a bare PCB with a moulded front cover that allows the lens to be mounted. While on paper this seems like a step backward in camera technology, this was a large advance for the multirotor industry. For the first time, a FPV camera with a good quality sensor and impressive light handling could be weighed in singular digits. Up until the micro camera was released, smaller cameras typically suffered from poor light handling, that made it difficult to fly in changing light conditions. Arguably the view from the multirotor is the most critical feature, and this limited most FPV enthusiasts to multirotors that were large enough to house a typical HS1177 camera. The arrival of the micro camera has assisted a huge explosion in the popularity of micro multirotors. Now the micro pilots do not have to put up with sub-standard video quality.

As the camera name suggests the Micro camera is most often found in ‘Micro’ multirotors with blade diameters of 3” or less.

The Nano/AIO cameras vary in shape and size more than any other standard of FPV camera. They are most commonly found in very small indoor multirotors like the hugely popular Tiny Whoop type machines.

Nano/AIO cameras have gone largely unchanged in both size and performance since they were introduced, Typically the Nano camera is a press fit sensor cover/lens assembly over a PCB mounted sensor that is usually around 12mm square.

In AIO cameras the name is an acronym for ‘All in One’. As the name suggests, an all in one camera usually contains all the required components for video transmission (Camera/VTX) in one compact unit. Again, sizes vary more in these cameras than any other size standard in FPV but the most common are rectangular in appearance/layout with external dimensions of around 20mm wide, 13mm high, and 6-10mm thick (not including lens).

Usually the size camera required will be dictated by the frame that you wish to fly, make sure to pay attention to what the frame designer/manufacturer recommends, and make sure that you buy a camera that is compatible. Usually you can adapt a smaller camera to fit in a larger frame, but it is often impossible to fit a larger camera into a frame designed for a smaller camera.

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