I received my Connex ProSight high definition FPV kit a few weeks ago and have been hard at work testing it out since! If you remember from my original article on ProSight, I was really excited about the prospects of a bi-directional, low latency, high-bandwidth data link between myself and my miniquad. HD video is the obvious first start for this link, and Connex has delivered it with the ProSight.

In the Box

connex prosight boxTrue to the era of unboxing videos, the ProSight came in some really nice packaging. Included in the box is:

  1. The downlink receiver that you plug your goggles into.
  2. The video transmitter that flies with your quad.
  3. The HD video camera along with the wiring to plug into the transmitter.
  4. The T-antenna along with some long wiring and the connectors to hook into the transmitter.
  5. An HDMI cable with a micro-HDMI end that you can plug into your Fat Sharks.
  6. Cabling: both a power cable and a cable that plugs into the telemetry port on your MultiWii-style flight controller.
  7. Hardware to mount the camera in two ways: a hard mount and a soft mount that uses the typical rubber dampeners. Hardware for attaching the antenna is also included.
  8. A quick start guide. The full manual is not included but can be downloaded from Connex’s website.

Altogether I was very pleased with the thoroughness of this kit. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll need to buy anything extra to get your Pro Sight installed.

Functional Overview

Before I get into the review of the ProSight, I wanted to go over some details on how it actually works, for those who are not acquainted with it.

tripod

The ground station set-up. Back to using a tripod..

The ProSight hooks into your goggles via an HDMI cable. The receiver end needs its own power supply, from 2S to 4S. This means you should be able to share power with most goggles on the market. The receiver has some buttons on the side which allows you to program the camera (to go into high quality or high performance modes) and the OSD. This indicates that the ProSight system has bi-directional communication – not only does the drone send video down to the receiver, the receiver also sends data (currently only settings) back up to the drone. Awesome! I hope they give us more options to use this feature in the future.

On the drone side, the video transmitter hooks directly into your battery power. It does not need to be connected to anything else on your quad. It includes a built-in configurable OSD that is applied to the video feed. By default, this OSD also shows the ProSight link strength and a flight timer. If the ProSight is hooked up to a telemetry output from the Flight Controller, it can also display battery capacity (if a current sensor is installed), heading (if GPS is available) and a more accurate “armed time” figure.

There are two different modes that the camera can operate in: high performance mode and high quality. High quality (HQ) mode is the one you’ve already seen in all the promotional videos. It outputs 720p video at 60 frames per second. The downside is that the latency in this mode is noticeable and definitely higher than that of analog video. High Performance (HP) mode, on the other hand, kicks the quality of the video down but reduces latency in the process.

The system operates on the 5.8GHz band, just like most analog video systems. As such, it has the same limitations of those systems – you really can’t fly behind large buildings or lots of trees without significant signal degradation. It should, however, be able to co-exist with analog video transmission on the band – meaning you should be able to take your ProSight-equipped quad to the next race without affecting other racers or have them affect you.

For those considering purchasing the ProSight, I went ahead and collected some measurements of the various components so you can do some planning. These are pictured below. As an alternative, Connex has graciously uploaded CAD files which should give you exact measurements of all the parts that can be found here.

IMG_1474 IMG_1473 IMG_1471 IMG_1469 IMG_1467 IMG_1465 IMG_1462 IMG_1460 IMG_1459 IMG_1456 IMG_1455 IMG_1453

Review

Ergonomics

Upon removing all the individual components of the ProSight, I had a few first impressions:

  • The receiver unit is actually a lot smaller than I expected it to be.
  • The flight transmitter is a pretty big component. There is no way this will fit in anything except the ZMR or Alien-style quads with a long central body unless you are comfortable mounting it under your battery.
  • The camera is remarkably similar to the analog board cameras we are already using with analog video. It’s actually smaller and lighter than most of them!
prosightquad

Here’s my initial install on an Alien-style frame.

I opted to install my ProSight in my Alien-style frame. The transmitter just barely fits in between the central standoffs in the body of the frame. If I didn’t know any better I would say they designed the ProSight for this very slot. The most difficult aspect of the install is figuring out how to sandwich the transmitter into the frame body while leaving room for the flight controller.You’re going to want 10mm or more of vertical clearance to squeeze the ProSight transmitter in. If you don’t have that space, order some really low profile standoffs for the FC or get some longer aluminum standoffs to raise your frame’s top plate up higher.

The antenna is not as egregious as some people are making it out to be. Yes it’s big – but I’m not convinced its aerodynamic profile is any worse than the big honkin’ cloverleaf’s alot of us fly around with. It consists of a hard plastic upper body and a medium-soft rubber lower part. It easily bends near the rubber part so I have no doubt that it’ll survive your average upside-down crash. Some people have had some issues with it going into their props though (see “durability” below).

Camera installation was easy. It has little screws on the side that install just like an HS1177. As I said earlier, the camera is actually smaller and lighter than an HS1177 – a nice surprise.

The receiver unit has a built in tripod mounting screw hole that will work with pretty much every tripod out there. It also comes with a nice plastic case that it can clip in and out of. I have some cool ideas for mounting this clip case onto my HeadPlay goggles so that I can fly without having to bring my tripod to the field. More on that in a future article.

Weight

analog_weight prosight_weight

As you can see, the ProSight gear you’ll need to actually fly weighs about 1.1oz more than your average analog FPV set-up. For comparison, this is roughly equivalent to adding 300mAh to your battery – so going from a 1300mAh to a 1600mAh pack. It’s also comparable to adding a Mobius camera to your frame. Definitely a pretty big deal.

Video Performance
High Quality Mode

I started out flying the ProSight with my Fat Shark Dominator V3s in HQ mode. The first liftoff was a sublime experience. After capturing so much HD camera footage for videos, I’ve grown used to what flying looks like in HD – and this is just a natural extension of that. As I explored around with my quad I started getting more excited – I could see! Trees I normally wouldn’t touch I could now fly under because I could see every little twig and branch, even from a hundred feet out. I also noticed that the static and banding that you get in Analog video feeds when you fly close to the ground or near obstacles was missing. The video was a constant, clean picture. Very impressive. Here’s a good example of what it looks like:

Thanks to ThatHPI Guy for this video.

In HQ mode the video latency was noticeable. In terms of how it affected my flying – I would say it is comparable to going back to PPM for remote control from SBus. If you don’t notice that delay, you might not notice this delay either. I also noticed occasional video jello from the camera. This is the effect where bands of the video stretch and compress up and down the frame. It is an effect caused by the scanning nature of CMOS cameras interacting with high frequency vibrations. Connex suggests you mount the camera using the rubber isolators they packaged with their quad, but I opted for a hard mount because I absolutely hate dealing with isolators. This might be something I can tune out or use different props for; I am still experimenting with that. Still, after living with jello-immune CCD cameras for so long, it’s a little bit disappointing that I have to worry about this again.

I noticed as I passed between trees that were far out, the picture quality would immediately drop to a very fuzzy picture and the signal strength bars on the OSD would go from 3 to 1 bar very quickly. I never had a full signal loss, but I did experience this low-quality cut out several times. Nothing I couldn’t fly through but it is a little disappointing more warning isn’t given as you approach the limits of signal clarity.

High Performance Mode

After flying a battery pack in HQ mode, I decided to try out “high performance” mode. I put a new battery in the quad and switched the mode from the ProSight receiver. The Video TX rebooted and within 30 seconds I was good to go. Very slick. With the Dominator V3 goggles, which have a maximum display resolution of 800×480, the difference was only slightly noticeable. There was some blocking and the image wasn’t as crisp.

I immediately noticed the latency difference once I was flying – it’s stunningly good. Tests have shown it to have about half of the latency of HQ mode and just about equivalent to the delay you get from an analog video system. I actually felt like it was better than the analog system’s I am used to, but that may just be me trying to justify the expense. You would have no problem racing or doing acro with this video feed. The video jello is still present, but oddly it isn’t as prevalent as in HQ mode. Overall I’m super impressed with this mode – it really shows the potential of a digital link and with the Dominator v3, the video quality is excellent.

HeadPlay HD Goggles

Next I got out my HeadPlay HD goggles. These support a full 720p display so I was interested to see what the quality difference was. I changed the battery on the quad and turned on HQ mode on the ProSight. I was immediately taken away by how immersive and high quality the video link is. It truly feels like you are flying in a VR environment. The glee quickly went away when I lifted off – for some reason the video latency was significantly worse with the HeadPlay goggles. Switching to high performance mode netted the same results – very noticeable latency where there was almost none with the Fat Sharks.

I would say the latency in HP mode with the Head Plays was about as bad as the latency in HQ mode on the Fat Sharks. The HQ latency on the HeadPlay goggles was nearly unflyable. I had a really hard time flying near trees or obstacles with confidence and it even made me a bit queasy. This issue must be come from how the HeadPlay controller board does HDMI processing to the screen. Understandable because these goggles were really never developed to do FPV via the HDMI port – it was added as a way to watch movies and such. This really sucks because the picture quality on the big immersive screen of the HeadPlay is nothing short of astounding.  Hopefully some other big goggles with Fresnel lenses will not have this problem.

Note: I have been told by the HeadPlay designers that the HDMI latency has been significantly reduced with a recent firmware update to the HeadPlay goggles – to bring them more in line with the Fat Shark goggles. If you are using this system with Head Plays, I strongly recommend you look into getting that update. RangeVideo sells cables to perform the update. Here is a link to the firmware.

Once I put the ProSight in HP mode, the latency was much more bearable. Unfortunately with the HeadPlay’s bigger screen, the difference in video quality was much more noticeable. It looked like watching standard def TV on an HD screen – lots of blocks and smearing. The resolution is still better than analog video for sure, and it has none of the lines, static or drop outs that analog video has, but it is not nearly as good as HQ mode. Here is a really good example of how high performance mode looks (make sure you turn on HD playback otherwise you’ll get video quality problems caused by YouTube and not the ProSight feed):

Thanks to RMRC for this video. It’s also a fantastic demonstration of how the ProSight handles challenging RF environments and shows how unreliable the signal strength indicator is.

Durability

The ProSight system got a lot of criticism for durability from long before it was even released. People are particularly concerned with damaging parts that cost many times that of our analog systems. It’s a bit too early to make any definitive conclusions on the durability of the system, but we are starting to see how it holds up to crashes as more people fly with it.

broken_camera

The lens popped out of my camera after a crash into some concrete. You cannot buy replacement lenses.

First off is the issue I had. After about a week of flying with the ProSight, I was cruising around in my front yard. I did a flip too low and tumbled the quadcopter on my concrete driveway. No big deal – I do this all the time. Except the prosight camera’s lens must have been sticking out slightly further than my old analog camera. The outer glass part of the lens was torn out and cracked in the process.

Now this is mostly user error – I should have checked the clearance of the camera to the ground in the case of a nose dive. I’m sure any camera, ProSight or not, would have taken similar damage so no fault to Connex there. The problem I have, though, is that Connex does not sell ProSight camera lenses separately from the camera – a $139 part! Fortunately, you can buy HS1177 lens’ for cheap on Amazon and they screw into the Connex camera without any difficulty. You do have to apply a IR filter on the new lens, though.

broken_antenna

An RCGroups user’s broken Antenna mount. Credit: ptecli on RCGroups

The other issue that has come up in the community is the antenna mount getting chopped up by the props. Several guys on RCGroups have had this happen now, and antennas are sold out across most of the popular vendors. More importantly, Connex does not sell the antenna frame (the big T with the rubber base and hard plastic top) – just the antenna elements themselves.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression – the Connex guys clearly designed this system with durability in mind and it shows. I’ve crashed my ProSight equipped quad many times with no problems whatsoever. These parts and stocking issues are also pretty typical of any new product on the market. I remember not waiting months for replacement ESCs for my Vortex and screens for my HeadPlay HD goggles. It’s just something to keep in mind if you buy the system – you are an early adopter and spare parts are limited. Hopefully these issues will go away as time passes.

 

Summary

The Good:

  • HD video with extremely low latency.
  • Built in OSD that shows battery voltage and flight timer and can hook into flight controller telemetry port.
  • Well thought out software configuration package.
  • Crystal clear video all the way to low signal reception.
  • Great multipath resistance. Flying low is no problem.
  • Kit comes with everything you need to install your ProSight. The system hooks directly into your battery power and works independently otherwise.
  • Fantastic range with no restrictions.

The Bad:

  • Price.
  • HQ mode is not really “zero latency” as promised – or even as low as most analog systems.
  • Lack of replacement part granularity (e.g. you can buy a replacement camera but not a lens, or a replacement antenna but not just the mast).
  • Replacement part stock problems right now.
  • Video transmitter and antenna are pretty big and won’t fit in the lightest (and most competitive) racing quads.
  • Extra weight further removes this from being really competitive.
  • OSD signal strength indicator is not very reliable.
  • You have to bring a tripod to the field to mount the receiver.
  • 5 antennas on the receiver means if you want to upgrade to directional antennas it’s going to cost a pretty penny.
  • CMOS camera does what all CMOS cameras do – jello and bad lighting transitions.

Overall, this system is amazing. It’s plug and play and truly delivers on an HD FPV experience. I don’t know how realistic it is to hope that this technology gets downsized and cheaper over the coming years – but I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed. I want this to be the system I pack away in my drone backpack and hike up mountains to fly with. I want it to be what I take to the races. I want to do some cliff diving with it without sweating bullets because so much money is on the line. Right now the price, weight and size are the big factors holding me back from using the ProSight for those activities. For these reasons, I only want to only use it in parks I’m familiar with, flying pretty conservatively on a pig of a quadcopter. And it’s awesome. Oh, so awesome. For casual fliers or early adopters who don’t already have it – you should pick one up. For the general public, it may be worth waiting a few months to see what else comes around. Either way, you’re going to want to experience this.

Help Us Out!

Did this article convince you to go forward with a ProSight purchase? If so, please consider buying it from Amazon using this link. It’ll send a few dollars our way and doesn’t cost you a dime – Connex vigorously defends their MSRP so it’s unlikely you’ll find a better price. Thanks!

Coming Up

My initial time with the ProSight has been a bit frustrating as I have been battling with the temperamental gyro in the DTFc flight controller I installed at the same time. I currently have a new FC on order to replace it. Once that’s done, I should be able to start bringing my ProSight equipped quad to races and doing some real acro with it to see how it stands up. Keep checking back on the site for a few more articles we have planned further reviewing the system, such as:

  • A build article showing how you can hook up your ProSight alongside a typical build.
  • How the ProSight performs in tandem with many analog video transmitters also flying.
  • Test of the range of the ProSight in comparison to some typical analog video receivers on the market.

This really is an exciting step for the FPV hobby in general, and miniquads in particular. We hope you enjoy riding the wave with us!

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