Now that I have basically one of each of the Runcam lineup, I’ve gone all technical and done an apples to apples review. The original ‘Sky’ cam features the Sony Super HAD II 1/3″ sensor, and Runcam claims 650TVL resolution. The Sky2 features the Sony EFFIO-V 1/3″ sensor, and Runcam claims 800TVL resolution. And although it’s a bit of a different animal, I also compare the new Runcam HD camera/recorder, since a lot of people like to use this type of device for both recording and FPV.
The original Sky cam, as well as the slightly updated version, is in an enclosure, and is smaller than standard size board cams. The case is metal so it’s a little heavy, but personally I think this makes it more durable. The camera comes with a 4 wire cable which
breaks out to a 4 way joystick and button controller, composite video on BNC connector, and DC in on a barrel jack. I saved this cable so I could access the menus in the future. For FPV use, they give you a second cable for connecting to your video transmitter.
The Sky2 is a full size board cam without any enclosure. There are a lot more wires and connectors coming out the back, which I am guessing are for the joystick button controller. It’s too bad they didn’t mux in all those signals like the Sky 1. I guess if I need to get back into the menus on the field, I’ll have to figure out where all the original connectors went in. Not a big deal really.
The RuncamHD is basically a clone of the popular Mobius cam. It’s a 1080p action cam that also has a composite video output. It has an internal battery, so it can run standalone, but will also take external power in, and output video on a dual purpose mini-USB connector. They also include cables to allow direct connection to some video transmitters.
All of the cams suffer from some level of barrel distortion. Many action cam manufacturers like GoPro will correct for this in software. But with the board and FPV cams, the fact that they ave interchangeable lenses makes this difficult because it gets worse as you go wider.
Before I make all the FPV cam manufacturers sound like a bunch of liars, let me just say that I understand the specs race. None of these cameras can actually achieve the TVL rating they claim. What they do is pass down the spec by the sensor manufacturer, and call it good. The reality is that because of the way standard def composite video works, the way modern flat panel TVs work, not to mention other devices people put in between like video transmitters and receivers, it’s impossible to ever achieve these specs.
The TVL number means TeleVision Lines. This number refers to the maximum number of vertical lines that can be resolved using a standard resolution chart, which I happen to have. The resolution chart has gradually finer lines which are marked. I didn’t mess with focus on any of the cams. The distance to target was around 18″ for all. All of the cams were direct connected to a Toshiba 27″ LCD on the composite input. This is also a limitation because a digital TV will digitally sample the analog video signal, and scale it internally. If the sample frequency is too low, you loose resolution. They only way to see more would be with an analog TV set. I haven’t had one of those in years, so we have to make due.
The Sky 1 cam is now updated in a silver enclosure, which looks like it may be plastic now. This may help in the weight dept. Overall it’s a good camera, but the color rendition could use some help. It’s price is $30.99. I got in on the original launch price of $19.99, so I really got my money’s worth on that one.
The Sky 2 appears to have a much better sensor, and for $34.99, it’s definitely worth the extra $4. I think the world would be better served with an enclosed product though. Typical FPV’ers are going to put these cameras were no naked electronics should go, so a bare board could be a liability.
This really isn’t a complete review of the Runcam HD and it’s HD recording capabilities. For this article, I’m just comparing it’s composite video output and how suitable it is for FPV. In that context, it’s not good. Although the color was great, the resolution is a more important factor for FPV. I would even throw away color completely to get more resolution, if I could. Another factor I didn’t discuss because it does not apply to the Sky and Sky 2, is the lag on the output on the HD model. Since the Runcam HD is a HD recorder, the composite output is coming out of a processor IC that has the image at least 3 or 4 frames behind real time. I didn’t measure it but I would estimate it to be 100-200mS lag. HOWEVER, at $49.99, it’s a great HD recorder, and has GoPro like images at 1080p30 or 720p60.
So my bottom line is, out of the three cameras, the Sky 2 is the best FPV camera, picture quality, and price. Here’s a link to get yours: http://www.runcam.com/