BetaFPV is certainly pushing the limits in the micro FPV space recently. All of their equipment seems to be getting a constant stream of updates and redesigns, reaching to become among the best of what the industry can offer. We really enjoyed their 65mm brushless Beta65 Pro in a recent review. When BetaFPV asked if we could take a look at their new 1200 TVL micro camera/VTx combo, we decided it was worth a shot.
The camera offers a 16:9 aspect ratio picture. For those that prefer this wider image, there aren’t too many other options available which a micro drone can carry. Attached to it is a very wide angle lens, perhaps about 170°. The camera assembly is a bit larger and heavier than many other whoop-class camera/VTx offerings, but certainly not the heaviest available. BetaFPV doesn’t recommend it for a brushed 65mm micro, but anything with more power (including the brushless 65mm Pro or anything 75mm and above) should work fine.
In the box is the camera pre-wired to a separate VTx board. The build quality looks good on these, and the assembly was spot-on as well. BetaFPV safeguards the wires connecting the two boards with hot glue, which will help protect the connections from breaking off. Hanging off the VTx board is a hard-soldered dipole. The dipole is heat-shrunk from tip to sleeve, which should improve its durability as well. (My much-loved AcroBee only had heat shrink on the sleeve portion of the antenna; it’s since lost its tip to metal fatigue.)
Something to watch out for: the VTx must have its V-in and V-out pins wired to work. This was done to support flight controller OSDs, so be sure you wire in the V-in and V-out ins appropriately. If you don’t have an OSD, you’ll need to solder these two pins together with a wire shunt or a solder bridge so the VTx feeds video back into itself. Otherwise, the VTx will only transmit black.
Power output on our Immersion Power Meter V2 had to be measured indirectly since there’s no physical connector to tap into. The peak indirect measurement we got was right around 50mW. This is certainly higher than the 25mW that’s advertised, but as a race organizer I’d allow it.
BetaFPV believes the standout feature of the camera is a boastful 1200TVL resolution. To be honest, I don’t know exactly how good it really is—and neither will most of its users. TVL is a measurement of horizontal resolution: like having a 1200-pixel-wide image. But most of the video systems that receive and process the images operate at a lower resolution, so this enhanced detail evaporates through that process. Many popular goggles have a display width of 800px, or even 640px. This basically means they are limited to the detail resolving level of 800 (or 640) TVL. Higher TVL values are simply wasted on these screens. If you fly with a box-style goggle, many of which have higher resolution screens, you might be able to tell the difference—but I personally find them painful to use. Still, even if you have a higher resolution screen, your picture has to survive image processing (perhaps through a DVR) and could be limited by other factors (such as using a 4:3 screen in 16:9 mode). In practice, with my normal flight goggles, I simply didn’t notice a difference in detail and clarity from the BetaFPV camera over others I’ve used.
In other respects, the picture from the camera was acceptable. It’s perfectly usable, but I wasn’t blown away. Exposure transition (dark-to-light) took about 1S, which isn’t bad but might briefly obscure details in difficult lighting. Dynamic range is fairly typical of a camera this size. The exposure is biased more positively: that is, the camera appears to resolve details in the highlights much better than other cameras, but struggles in the shadows. I didn’t notice a strong color cast in daylight; in low light the picture drifts toward red/magenta. Color saturation is pushed up pretty high. Outdoors this helps boost contrast and give a pleasing picture, but indoors (and especially in lower light) it makes colorful details garish and hard to see, especially in the reds/oranges. I’d argue that this needs some tuning, since a large part of the market will be primarily flying indoors.
Personally, I think the standout feature of the package is on the VTx. Having SmartAudio makes a huge difference in being able to easily fly with others and attend racing events. SmartAudio is a one-wire setup, and requires only a TX pin on any free UART. Even flight controllers for micro quads, like the BetaFPV F4 1S Brushless, have this available. We’ve seen a lot of micro quad canopies cover up the physical VTx change buttons, which make racing a chore; flipping through channels with a button wipes out everyone in between as you search for the option you want. When you can confirm the setting you are on and change it without touching the quad, a major headache of flying with others simply goes away. SmartAudio/Tramp Telemetry is pretty common on full-size transmitters now, but is still working its way onto micros. Without SmartAudio, it’s back to the familiar one-button short-press-channel long-press-band system. You get a string of LEDs to indicate the position, but you’ll need a frequency card to know what they are. (Related: Remote VTx setup guide)
Here are sample of images paired with a photo from the same location. The BetaFPV’s image was recorded by the Aomway Commander’s DVR, so you won’t be able to fully judge the camera’s resolution (see note above about TVL). We think they are useful, but take them with a grain of salt.
The BetaFPV 1200TVL Camera/VTx is just the latest entry that proves BetaFPV’s commitment to improving the FPV experience with micro-sized equipment. The image quality certainly has rivals, but aside from some garish color in low light there’s not a lot to complain about. It’s the ease of use that really stands out here, with SmartAudio an important tool that racing pilots really need. Especially if you prefer the 16:9 format, there are few better options for a micro-class camera. We’re excited to see where BetaFPV progresses from here in their continual quest to provide high quality products.