How To Choose FPV Camera For Quadcopters and Drones

What drone pilots see while they are flying, are the low latency analog video from FPV cameras. To choose the best FPV camera for your multirotors, there are a few things to consider which we will discuss in this post.

Choosing FPV Camera

FPV camera is one of the most important parts of a quadcopter FPV setup. Real-time image is broadcast from the camera through a video transmitter. Regardless how good the video transmitter is, the image quality on your FPV display is only as good as your FPV camera.

I compiled the specifications of all FPV cameras for mini quad in this spreadsheet so you can compare them more closely.

For recommendation, here are the top 5 best FPV camera voted by our FPV community.

Content Index

What use FPV cameras over HD cameras?

Before we begin, it’s important to know the difference between FPV cameras and HD cameras. Those HD videos you normally see on Youtube are captured using HD cameras like the GoPro or Runcam 3, which is an additional camera pilots mount on their multirotors.

Although some of these HD cameras provide “video out” capability, which you can hook up to a video transmitter and use that for FPV. But the latency is too big (normally over 100ms) for FPV flying.

CCD and CMOS – The Types of Imaging Sensor

CCD and CMOS are two main types of imaging sensors used in FPV cameras, each has unique characteristics and advantages. Most HD digital cameras uses CMOS sensors. For FPV cameras, CCD used to be better a few years back, but not the case anymore. Here are a summary of the pros and cons, check out this post for more detail.


  • Less jello effect in footage
  • Less noisy in low light
  • Better light handling and WDR (not necessary true anymore)
  • Lower latency (no longer the case)


  • Higher resolution
  • Better colour
  • Higher frame rate
  • Consume less power
  • Generally cheaper to make

CMOS cameras can perform just as good as CCD cameras these days. It’s very important that you check example footage of the cameras before buying, see how they perform in bright daylight, low light, facing the sun and overall wide dynamic range.

Latency is just as important as image quality. CCD generally has a lower latency than the CMOS.

Wide Dynamic Range (WDR)

You probably hear the word “WDR” or Dynamic range a lot so far and still don’t know what it means, here is an example.

In this picture we have an under exposed image on the left, you can see the tree and bushes behind the sun is all dark. While on the right we have an image that is over exposed, the trees are all visible now but the sky around the sun is all blown out and white.

And this is where “Wide Dynamic Range” would shine. WDR can capture both bright and dark areas in extreme lighting conditions in the same frame. And as you can see in the middle image, the clouds in the bright sky and the trees behind the sun are all visible.

Once you understand the concept you will be able to recognize WDR capability in FPV cameras. Dynamic range is important to FPV flying as it allows you to see better when flying. One negative impact of WDR though is lower contrast in the image, sometimes it might appear as “washed out”.

NTSC and PAL – Video Encoding Format

It really isn’t a big issue whether to use PAL or NTSC nowadays, as they are both supported by most FPV equipment. NTSC is used in North America, Japan and South Korea. PAL is used in most of Europe, Australia and large parts of Africa and Asia. It’s a good idea to stick with the standard in your country. But I don’t think it would be a huge problem if you decide to use the other format.

The main different is that PAL offers better resolution, while NTSC allows more frame rate. So if you want to have good picture, PAL is good. But if you want more fluid footage, NTSC does a better job.

  • PAL: 720 x 576 @ 25fps
  • NTSC: 720 x 480 @ 30fps

For a more detail comparison, check out this post.

FPV Camera Field of View (FOV) – Lens Focal Width

When selecting a FPV camera, you usually have an option of different lens focal width, which give you different field of view (FOV). Common FPV cameras usually use 1/3″ screw-in lenses which is replaceable.

As a general guideline:

Lens Focal Length Approx. FOV
2.1mm 160° – 170°
2.3mm 145°
2.5mm 130° – 140°
2.8mm 120° – 130°
3.0mm 110° – 125°

Note that lens focal width does NOT equate to FOV. For example, a 2.8mm lens might give you 120 degree FOV on one camera, but another 2.8mm lens might give you 130 dgree on a different camera. So knowing what FOV you like is more important than knowing what focal width when you are buying a camera/lens.

The wider FOV, the more environment you can see. But it’s not always a good thing though as you will start to notice the “fish eye” effect. The objects in the middle will appear smaller and further away than it really is, and the edges of the image will appear curved and distorted. However when FOV is too small the image will appear zoomed in.

I personally find 130-140 degree more comfortable for FPV (normally 2.5mm lens).

This is a good example of different FOV (from narrower to wider).

Some cameras allows replacement lenses of different FOV and image quality. You can get these screw-in lenses and try them, instead of buying a whole new camera. For example I was experimenting different lens for the Runcam Swift.


I think it’s all down to personal preference and what type of flying you do. For instance if you tend to fly proximity or through places with lots of close obstacles, wider FOV might be better. If you fly high altitude in clear open space, narrower FOV might be better. For FPV racers, wider FOV are popular because it allows the pilot to see more when flying fast, without having to physically tilt the camera as much.

TVL – FPV Camera Resolution

TVL (TV Lines) is what manufacturers use to measure analogue FPV camera resolution. The number is based on how many alternating black and white lines can be displayed in the image horizontally. A 600TVL camera means it can display 300 black lines and 300 white lines alternately in one picture. The more TV lines, the better definition image you can get out of the camera. Commonly seen FPV cameras TVL are 380, 480, 600, 700, 800, 1200 etc.

However higher TVL or resolution comes with a price: it costs more $$ and usually comes with higher latency because of the extra image processing! 600TVL has been the most popular choice for FPV for many years now and it’s more than enough for FPV.

Furthermore, higher TVL doesn’t always give you better image due to the limitation of analog 5.8Ghz video transmission, as well as your monitor or FPV goggles. For example, 1200TVL is not going to be twice as sharp comparing to 600TVL in an analogue FPV system.


Latency of a camera can be a deciding factor if you are into drone racing or high speed flying. Imagine if you are flying at 100Km/h, a 50ms (0.05s) delay means you quad can travel 1.4m before you can react on the sticks, which could mean the difference if you hit or miss the obstacle.

Delay of a camera is often associated with the number of TVL and the image processing. Most 600TVL CCD cameras only have 20ms to 30ms of lag, such as the Runcam Swift and Foxeer HS1177. Higher TVL cameras tend to have higher delay due to more image processing. But of course it also depends on the image processing and algorithm.

Latency is not something announced by manufacturers, so I try my best to test and provide this info in this article: FPV Camera Latency Testing.

Aspect Ratio

There are 2 aspect ratio to choose from, 4:3 and 16:9. It all comes down to which ratio your FPV goggles or display supports. If you have a 4:3 camera but 16:9 display, the image will appear stretched. If you have a 16:9 camera but 4:3 display, the image will appear squashed.

FPV Camera Form Factor and Weight

Next thing to consider would be the size and shape of the camera. This determines how easily the camera can be mounted on the multirotor frame of you choice.

In the old days FPV cameras were built on a square 32x32mm PCB without any protection and they are called “Board Cameras”. Board cameras can get damaged in a crash easily, therefore later on the electronics is put inside a 26x26mm case and that became the standard of today.

2-sony-600tvl-fpv-ccd-camera-without-case foxeer-arrow-fpv-camera-hs1190-side-by-side-runcam-swift-top

A FPV cameras could weight somewhere around 10g to 30g. There are also micro FPV cameras available for micro quads which can only be 1g-5g.

Input Voltage and Wiring

The electrical connections are very simple, we usually just connect 3 cables. The red wire is the positive voltage power, black is the ground, yellow is the video signal. Sometimes you might also get an extra withe wire which is the audio (if there is a built-in microphone).

Surveilzone 600TVL 120degree Wide Angle Super Mini FPV Camera with MIC

Most cameras these days have a wide range of input voltage, e.g. 5V to 17V. This allows you to power them either from a regulated power source or directly from LiPo batteries (2S-4S). I also prefer to run a LC filter (power filter) to clean the power source for the camera, video transmitter and OSD for the best quality image possible.

IR Block VS IR Sensitive

FPV cameras might or might not offer two versions, one is IR Block and the other IR Sensitive. IR block gives you more vivid colour, while IR sensitive works better in low light condition. Most cameras only offer IR-Block as we hardly fly at night or low light.

If you mainly fly during the day, stick with IR Block which will give you much better image quality IMO. For a wider range of lighting conditions but sacrificing some quality in colour, you can consider IR sensitive.

The IR filter could be applied on the lens or it could be directly on the sensor.

Here is a more detail comparison of the two.

IR block IR sensitive fpv camera comparison

Night Cameras

IR sensitive cameras work fine at low light, but if you want to fly at night where there is very little light then you might want to consider a “Night FPV Camera”.

These are normally CMOS cameras with special algorithm that work great at extremely dark environment. For example the Night Eagle and the Owl 2.

Camera Settings Features

Some good cameras allow users to change settings using an OSD control module (on screen display). There are so many settings on these cameras, it could be overwhelming for the first time. To understand some of the useful features, take a look at this post about how I set up my Sony Super HAD 600TVL Camera.


3D FPV Cameras

There are 3D cameras designed for FPV, which consists of 2 cameras. Each of your eyes sees the image of one camera and that gives you the illusion of seeing an 3D image.

Here is the Blackbird 2 3D camera we reviewed previously.

Can I use HD cameras as FPV camera?

Some HD cameras offer “live video out” features which allows you to use them as your FPV cameras, such as the GoPro and mobius. It’s not uncommon to see people do that, in order to simplify their multicopter setup to save weight and costs.

However there are some disadvantages using HD cameras for FPV, as I have already pointed out in this post “the reasons for running a dedicated FPV camera“. To summarize:

  • Lag – there is a obvious delay, especially when recording at the same time
  • Battery dependent – You don’t have video feed if the GoPro battery dies. You can power the HD camera with external power source but it will consume large amount of current
  • Recording locks up – If for some reason the recording freezes, your might also lose video feed


Therefore I always use a dedicated FPV camera alongside with a HD recording camera. It’s also important that you don’t put the FPV camera on a gimbal, so it doesn’t mess up your orientation. You can also consider having video feed from the GoPro as well at the same time, and use a video feed switcher. You can switch between cameras with your radio transmitter, and see what the Gopro is filming.

Adding On Screen Display Data – OSD

This is a bit off the topics, but i am sure there are still people wondering what an OSD is. Basically, an OSD (on screen display) is a device that overlays text/data onto your camera footage. The video feed from the camera enters the OSD, and the OSD output goes into your video transmitter.


OSD is an useful tool to have as you can display many types of data on your FPV screen: RSSI, current, flight speed, altitude, compass heading, and distance, etc. For people like me who doesn’t fly long range, I prefer to just have time and batter voltage displayed on my OSD.

You made it!

I hope this article gave your some ideas and understanding how to choose a suitable FPV camera. Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment/question, and happy flying!

Edit History

  • Dec 2014 – Article created
  • Nov 2016 – Updated info

37 thoughts on “How To Choose FPV Camera For Quadcopters and Drones

  1. erpoyo

    Great information!
    I do actually have a questions, so I got myself a 1000TVL camera

    The image is just great but not sure if that could be considered HD. It is actually 1000 Lines right?
    The goggles I have do not support HD, they are actually 600×400 so as you mention on the article, I am loosing some quality there but just got it in case someday I want to upgrade the goggles.

    Also the camera has a screw there so though I could remove the lens but have not been able to do so.. any idea on how to do it?

  2. Tim

    Excellent info thanks, as this is not a recent article do you have a more up to date one? Keen to see if there are any better newer options, I am looking to upgrade my Wizard X220S with 800TVL to something with a better picture, I like the sound of the Predator in this article.

    Thanks again for your helpful info,

  3. Lon Ratley

    Thanks for the tutorial. We are looking for a relatively simple system with long dwell time for monitoring our hunting preserves to preclude poaching. We need real live time feedback and some sort of system that will monitor a wide field of view (largest ground area with reasonable resolution). Any suggestions?



  4. Rettro

    A current or near future technical question from a serious amateur still photographer: Are there quadcopter cameras with large image sensors (e.g. “full size” Nikon D5 is 35.9 mm X 23.9 mm)? Are there interchangeable lens or mechanical zoom, not digital zoom? Explanation of the question: The perspective of the quadcopter offers a practical perspective for “art” still shots that otherwise only could be achieved by shooting from full sized helicopter. By being able to more narrowly control the depth of field…I.e. make it more shallow…and be able to capture large image files…i.e. raw files in the 24 mb range, large artistic images would be possible. For example, a shot of a ship at sea needs a deep depth of field but a shot from about 50 ft of a raptor feeding its young in the nest needs only about 2-3 ft in focus. Too great a depth of field in that setting distracts the eye from the subject. You want only an out of focus background that supports but not distracts from the story you are trying to tell with the image.

  5. Johnathan hoehaver

    Thank you for this, I have been struggling with questions towards fpv and it’s setup for months now, finally building my second 250quad after losing my first in the woods (still). And now it’s on to finally, ohhh finally, fpv. This blog was really, very well articulated and touched on every topic I had questioned about. You’re the man.

    In conclusion, I’ve decided on 600tv , probably that Foxeer HS1177 you mentioned, I have it on paste lol my only other question would be… for the transmitter, is 600mw the obvious choice, over 200mw? Also.. is 1.??ghz better then 5.8ghz?

  6. Ben Portman

    Hi Oscar, have recently dragged out the old fossils stuff frame and rebuilt it, I’m using a runcam 2 for both recording and video (1080P @ 60fps) I’m not getting noticeable lag for my flying style (cruising about and mostly shaking alot whilst flying!)
    It maybe worth mentioning that this is an option now with runcam 2.1 firmware. I’ve connected the video lead to a Vtx, and am running the camera directly off the lipo with the battery out. There’s also a genius mod here; where they guy has used the empty battery space to fit a vtx in the runcam……If you’re not racing, this is adequate and saves space and weight.

  7. Bryan

    Hello. Under the section on FOV I think you have a mistake – lenses that come with IR filters make for better daytime visibility, but drastically reduce nighttime visibility. Most cameras have an IR filter. If the camera does not have an IR Filter, you can sometimes see really well at dusk, etc, but risk having “whiteout” during the day.

  8. Jim Eastep

    Your information is always very clear and objective.
    There are two issues I would like to see you discuss:
    1) Can you discussion the intracacies of FPV latency?
    2) If a camera has a particular actual resolution in pixels (WxH), can we expect this resolution to be accurately conveyed to the 5.8ghz receivers and DVRs? If not, how do we tell what we are actually getting?

  9. ninh bui

    I bought this Boscam All In One 7″ Inch FPV Monitor w/ 5.8ghz Receiver and Built-In Battery and Boscam TS832 32Ch 5.8Ghz 600mw Wireless Audio/Video Transmitter for FPV RC CN143 for my Fuav seraphi copter with the Firefly camera came with the copter but i not be able to connect one to another. I change every combination of dip switch seem not work…any one out there can help me ion this. i bought this two from ebay but have tuff time to reach them for help can not return neither

  10. Ivan

    There is no info of how to find correct aspect ratio camera and googles.
    I have spent a lot of time to find real camera with 16:9 aspect ratio which corresponds to my FPV googles.
    I don’t understand why most of the cameras are 4:3 aspect ratio when most of the TV, Monitors, googles are 16:9.
    Even GoPro outputs 4:3 live video and adds black bars up and down which makes impossible to use with any of 16:9 TV.

    1. digler

      Hi Ivan. The main reason you can’t get 16.9 is because analogue video is 4.3 -eg 720×576 (pal) You can “fake” 16.9 by using a camera with anamorphic pixel aspect ratio. so the end result will look great on a 16.9 screen. i would love to use one of these but haven’t seen any around. I only know about anamorphic because i do video production and thats how we got wide screen before HD came along. eg by using a mini-dv camera with the anamorphic setting – when we used this feature the picture would be squeezed/narrow (stretched in a vertical fashion) when viewing through a 4.3 screen on our cameras. we’d fix it during editing wr the image would be stretched back to normal, resulting in a widescreen image. hope this makes sense! (ps: i think buzzhobbies had a camera that did widescreen)

  11. john sutton

    Hi Oscar
    I have viewed the Inspires digital view through Headplay. It was awesome.
    I want to have that super digital clarity for my 250 racer.
    So I need a lightweight video transmitter (200 meters is minimum but more is better ) & receiver with no lag and a small high res. digital camera.
    I understand GoPro has lag which I do not wish to tolerate.
    Can I have your advice please .
    Please respond to my email address with a copy of your response when you have time.

    1. geroge

      the reason we fly analogue is because it is tolerant of interference. hd signal is either all or nothing. when signal is weak, you get no image. i don’t know about you, but when signal is weak (ie. due to lots of trees and interference) i’d rather get a really garbled image (and still be able to just barely make out enough to fly out of the woods) than see no image at all (and most definitely crash due to that same interference).

  12. Bill

    Hey thank you for the information. I just wanted to make a quick note. When you said “Some lenses can even improve the camera light sensitivity, and some come with infrared filter which enhance the ability at night.” I think you meant to say that some come “without” the filter which enhance night visibility.

  13. Prog4j

    Hi Oscar
    Thanks for the post, it’s very helpful.

    I have a questions regarding FPV cameras and transmitters.
    You say FPV cameras has at least 3 wires (positive voltage, ground and video). So, is it possible to connect any kind of FPV camera (CCD/CMOS) to any transmitter?

    I have a TX5803 transmitter and a DEVO F7 with RX corresponding video receiver (working with an iLook camera), and I want to re-use this kit (TX/RX) for a 250 racing drone by connecting a dedicated FPV camera.


    1. bill

      that was most definitely hollywood beach. My grandmother has a house about 3/4 of a mile from there… i go down every winter to get away from the NJ weather

  14. me

    Hey , just a minor point about TVL , it’s actually vertical lines displayed which is equivalent to “horizontal” resolution. The vertical resolution is fixed in the PAL / NTSC analog standard and can’t be changed. TVL is not connected in any way to 576p and 1080i or whatever which is also vertical resolution ( also called lines).
    That means if you have 600 TVL you might have higher horizontal resolution but the same vertical resolution.
    wikipedia has an (small) article on “tv lines”

  15. tombo9999

    …”most are made into a square shape of length 25mm”…
    Sorry, but i can find only 32×32 or 38×38, can you help me?

    Thanks, Luca

    1. Oscar Post author

      Hi Luca, sorry i meant 32 and 38, not 25. I have updated the post now.
      but you can find smaller camera, try searching for Sony 600TVL Mini.

      1. tombo9999

        What about this one?

        Thanks for your reply :)

  16. Louisiana Jeff

    Nice article, very helpful. There is so much more to this hobby than “grab & go fly” and you lay it out in an easy to read and understand form. It seems every article I read leads me to 2 or 3 more I am going to need to read, I like how you refer to the more detailed stuff but break it down to beginner/advanced.

  17. P-J

    Was about to buy a new Sony 800TVL camera but luckily I found a video on Youtube where they found out about the excessive lag compared to the Sony 600TVL PZ0420. Anyone know of a new generation camera with low lag or comparable to the Sony 600TVL PZ0420.

    1. Oscar Post author

      There are mix review on this one. quite a few people say there is no noticeable delay. I am getting one of this camera so will test it out myself :)

      1. Munim

        Hi Oscar ..this is a very fine article on selection of a camera..i need a suggestion from you .i am designing a vision added inertial nevigation for quadcopter which cmos camera would you prefer me for this application.

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