Sunday, July 22, 2012

Camera Test: HD Wing Camera II

Recently HobbyKing released a new version of the Wing Cam, which I had previously tested as Kramnikopter's on-board camera. The original 720p Wing Cam suffered from the rolling shutter problem that a lot of the small on-board cameras have, where the video gets all wavy due to vibrations. But, with good shock mounting it worked okay. And it's cheap. You would not be terribly upset if you crashed one of these.

The new HD Wing Cam II is more expensive, at about $90, but it has a full HD sensor with the same resolution and frame rate options as the GoPro HD Hero 2, which is $300. This includes 1080p at 30fps and my favorite, 720p at 60fps. It also has the advantage of being lighter than the GoPro and it has a 120º field-of-view lens instead of the GoPro's 170º ultra-fish-eye.

The real question, then, is video quality. I bought one to test and made a quick mount for it using some spare GoPro hardware:

This mount is now interchangeable with the GoPro mount and has one geometric advantage: It can point straight downward. I still haven't gotten around to making longer landing gear, so for the time being the plan is still to take off and land on the cameras...

To get a fair comparison, I used the same Talon Quad frame with the same shock mounting for both cameras. They were shot within minutes of each other, so the lighting was about the same for both. I also tried to point at roughly the same things, but it was windy so I just kinda flew around the field.

Overall, the GoPro HD Hero 2 is the clear winner in terms of video quality. It seems to be less affected by vibration, which may just be a side-effect of its much larger mass. But it also has much better exposure control. With the HD Wing Cam II, the exposure changes too much as it goes from looking at >50% sky to looking at >50% ground. The GoPro had spot metering off (the default) in the video, and it does a better job of setting the exposure.

Random though: Somebody should make a firmware mod that does 720p 60fps with alternating exposures that can be later combined into 720p 30fps HDR video.

I can still see using the HD Wing Cam II for some things. It would be great for pointing straight downward, where it wouldn't have the exposure problems it has when looking at the horizon. The less-wide FOV is nice. (The GoPro's "narrow" FOV options are not good - they're very noisy.) The Wing Cam is also cheaper and lighter by a lot, which is important if you want to use a small quad frame and not worry too much about crashing. Overall, the price:performance and weight:performance ratios are about the same for the original Wing Cam, the HD Wing Cam II, and the GoPro.


  1. Nice,

    was it filmed with the camera upside down & flipped in software or is it a fw bug that the datestamp is swapped.


  2. I guess the answer to that question depends on your definition of upside down. :P

    I did flip it in software, though.