REVIEW: BitEye FF-A00T3 FPV/DVR Combo
A company named BitEye just released an FPV camera with built-in DVR that weighs 25g and sports some interesting features. I was lucky enough to snag one from the first production batch for review.
The BitEye FF-A00T3 is an FPV Camera with built-in DVR capable of recording at 1080p 30fps. Now a lot of small cameras can do that (808 keychain camera, Mobius action cam, RunCam, etc.) and a lot of those cameras can be used as FPV cameras, however the problem is latency. Those cameras usually have a delay of ~150ms when recording, and while that’s acceptable for slow flying such as fixed wing FPV, it can cause problems with high-speed flight where quick reactions are key such as FPV quadcopter racing. Biteye promises latency of ~60ms with this unit while recording in HD… that’s a big deal.
If BitEye can deliver on the promise of a low-weight high-quality Camera/DVR combo, this could be an excellent option on smaller builds for those carrying a Mobius/Runcam or even a full GoPro on their multirotors.
Here’s the specs:
- Product: FPV Camera
- Model: FF-A00T3
- Camera size: 32*32*35mm
- Vibration absorber size: 60*33*17mm
- Overall weight: 25g
- Input: 5 – 15V, 1A
- Field of view: 155°
- Focal length: 1m
- Video resolution: 1080p (1,920×1,080)
- Video format: FLV (I’m getting explanation on this ASAP)
- Supports microSD card up to 32G, use class 10 card or faster for the best experience.
- 1080p 30FPS Full HD video recording and real-time viewing 2 in 1.
- Easy to use, power it on and it will start recording.
- Light-weight and robust, it can be mounted on an FPV aircraft easily.
- Low-delay real-time analog video signal output.
- Video protection, unexpected power-off will not damage video files which have been taken.
- Automatic video brightness adjustment to ambient lighting levels.
- Clear video recording in dark environment.
- Vibration absorber makes the videos more stable.
- Wide input voltage range from 5V to 15V.
- Camera + Vibration absorber – 1PCS
- Video cable – 1PCS
- User manual – 1PCS
- Cable tie – 3PCS
- M2×4 screw – 3PCS
- M2×4+3 copper column – 4PCS
The FF-A00T3 consists of a vibration isolation unit and the camera/DVR combo unit, which you can take apart by removing the copper columns between them.
M2 screws, M2 copper columns and cable ties are included in the package to facilitate the installation of device. For example, you can install two screws on the diagonal to mount the device as shown below.
The camera/DVR unit itself is comprised of two boards. When installing the camera, make note that the small microphone is on the bottom right so that the image orientation is correct. The manufacturer states that remote control, debug, and voltage detection features are coming in a future firmware release. The voltage detection would be a very welcome addition indeed for those wanting a very simple, clean build as you could forego a separate OSD entirely. When the voltage dropped to a user-specified level a message would be displayed on the live feed, warning you that it is time to land.
The manufacturer was kind enough to provide a link to the software and an updated manual here.
There are some interesting features supported with this camera, as shown in the configuration software. Most of the options are pretty standard. Video scaling is for configuring wide-angle vs. 4:3. Video option lets you choose resolution and frame rate.
It’s nice to see a 720p/60FPS option in there. I’m interested in seeing how well the 720p/30fps “anti-shake” mode works out. Record option lets you choose to either stop recording when the memory card is full, or begin overwriting older footage. Image option controls brightness and contrast. Now in the audio options we see an interesting feature.
The camera has a built-in microphone to record the ambient audio, or you can mute it. MTV mode is something else entirely. You can upload music to the SD card and the camera will automatically add that audio to your video in real-time when recording. Useful? Probably not unless you can’t be bothered to add music elsewhere, but an interesting feature nonetheless.
Another interesting and possibly very useful feature is the watermark:
You can enter text or upload a 200×40 pixel image and the camera will overlay it onto the recorded video. That’s actually not a bad idea, and I could definitely see myself making use of that.
The camera arrived in a bubble-wrap envelope. Inside was a cute little box wrapped with the BitEye logo.
Come on, that’s adorable. Compared to how a lot of overseas companies package FPV gear, this is good branding. Inside, the first thing you’ll notice is a tiny, simple manual. The BitEye rep I spoke with warned me about how basic it is and assured me they are working to improve it. To be fair, I think it was acceptable for now and was happily surprised to see it is written in clear English. The manual for my Turnigy 9x was a nightmare, this little guide is more than acceptable.
In the box you’ll find the camera mounted to the vibration isolation unit, some zip-ties, cables, and a few standoffs with screws. The camera sports a larger lens than I expected, but bigger lens = more light, so I’m fine with that.
Compared to a GoPro lens it is about the same, with an overall slightly smaller footprint. Weight-wise, however, this unit only weighs about 25 grams whereas the GoPro Hero 3+ Silver weighs about 70 grams. 45 grams may not seem like a lot, but every bit counts when extending the flight time of your aircraft, not to mention lift.
The build quality seems good. It is lightweight, but the soldering and components look sound. The addition of a lens cover is nice, and the included connectivity cable fits snugly into place. Note that the other ends of the cable are bare, so you will need to solder your required ends as needed.
One problem I can see here is the placement of the SD card. Even without the unit being mounted in a frame, it can be difficult getting the MicroSD card in and out of the unit. Careful build planning will be required if you want to be able to access the memory card, as there is no other way to transfer videos at this time. After speaking with the manufacturer, they have plans to release a custom USB cable for this purpose.
So now we know what features and specs the camera promises, but how well does it work?”
Ok, here we go! As excited as I was to test this puppy out, there were issues with the unit I received. For one, the lens is glued in place so the focus cannot be adjusted. I did not have a problem with the focus as-is however, as it seems to have no problem providing a clear image of things regardless of distance. No, the problem I had was there appeared to be glue inside the lens.
In all fairness this can happen from time to time, and this particular camera was from an early run. Quality Control makes mistakes, especially this early in the game. Heck, even my first GoPro had lens issues. Thankfully the manufacturer is being very helpful and is making it right by replacing the camera.
Blobby glue aside, the tests will continue…
After connecting the camera to my video transmitter and powering it on, the first thing I noticed was the boot time. Once the unit has power it takes 3-4 seconds before you get a picture. Not an issue really, but something that may surprise you if you’ve only ever used board cams. The actual video quality is good. I did notice a lower frame rate than expected, especially when compared to a standalone board camera. The manufacturer states the live feed is 30FPS, but this looked closer to 24-25 FPS. I set my video options to NTSC, so I should be getting 30FPS but this does not seem to be the case. I will be sure to confirm this in my upcoming video review. Most pilots may not mind 25-30FPS, but if you’re looking to put this in a race I can see that being an issue.
Moving from light to dark areas, the camera transitioned well. I don’t have it mounted on a frame yet, but I walked it from outside to inside my home, even under my son’s bunk bed, and I had full, clear video the whole time.
I’ll tell you though – they nailed the latency! I’m no pro pilot, but there was no noticeable delay in the live feed, even when recording at 1080p/30fps. Unless you have super-human abilities I would wager you won’t be able to detect it either.
As soon as the unit receives power and boots up it starts recording at your chosen quality. It seems odd that the DVR records in FLV format (Flash Video!), but the reason for it is understandable. The FLV file container is built around streaming data, so it can handle a sudden loss of power during recording much better than, say, MP4. The problem with FLV is that very little supports it any more. Luckily they are using h.264 video codec and aac audio, so you can use a tool like ffmpeg to quickly and easily repackage the video files as compliant mp4’s. A super easy way to handle this is to create a .bat file with the following code:
ffmpeg -i %1 -c copy -copyts %1.mp4
Name it something like convert.bat and save it in the save folder as ffmpeg.exe (included with the configuration tool), then just drag your FLV files onto the .bat file! This will run the command and create an .mp4 file with the same filename as the original .flv without re-encoding and losing quality.
1080p @ 30fps recordings look very good, on par with a Mobius. Of course this isn’t a GoPro, but if you don’t mind a slight loss in quality in lieu of weight savings it’s a good option. 720p @ 60fps was solid as well, but stay away from the anti-shake mode! It’s obvious the camera tries to stabilize the incoming video footage, but in its current state it does not work well at all.
The watermark feature works well, and is pretty useful. You can enter text and adjust font size, or upload an image for use. I didn’t test the image feature, but the text was very clean on the recorded video.
At $70, the BitEye FF-A00T3 FPV and DVR combo is a pretty good deal. The FF-A00T3 sports some really cool features for an FPV camera at a price point you don’t always see in this hobby. Sure there are some hokey (possibly useless) features, but that just adds character. The camera and built in DVR can match a Mobius in terms of video quality, while saving on overall weight and build complexity. The FPV feed quality is good and latency so small that I doubt anyone would be able to notice it at all, but the lower frame rate may be an issue for high-speed racing pilots. The size of the lens and camera components could be an issue on smaller builds, but if you’ve got a roomy frame the vibration isolation is a good add. My biggest issue with the unit is accessing the SD card once installed on a frame, but if you’re aware of the positioning you can install it in such a way that it wont be as much of an issue.
If BitEye makes good on the voltage sensor update, this could be a hard camera to beat for the beginner to intermediate pilots! If they can fix the FPV frame rate, this could be a game changer.
Video review coming soon!