News: Fatshark Shark Byte Digital FPV System

by Oscar

Finally, Fatshark Shark Byte digital FPV system was announced, which we all hope could challenge DJI’s monopoly – the currently most popular digital FPV system. We will take a look at the specs and features of Shark Byte in this article.

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Update (2022): Shark Byte is replaced by HDZero going forward.

FatShark ventured into HD FPV with a beta product called Byte Frost in 2019, as a reminder to everyone that they are also trying to develop an HD FPV system after DJI’s successful launch.

I personally wasn’t particularly impressed by Byte Frost as I pointed out in my post about Byte Frost, especially after I had been using the jaw dropping DJI FPV system for months at the time. But still many in the community were hyped up by Fatshark and Byte Frost, because it was the closest alternative to DJI’s.

Shark Byte is the successor of Byte Frost. There are several exciting improvements including the new receiver which is now in the form of an attachable module for your goggles along with new VTX boards and a true digital camera connection – MIPI.

Where to Buy?

You can buy the whole system as a bundle, or buy the components separately.

Bundle (VRX, VTX, Camera)

RX5.1 Video Receiver Module

Fatshark Shark Byte receiver module for FPV goggles

The Shark Byte receiver module, RX5.1 is an attachable module to Fatshark FPV Goggles. It’s weighs 80 grams, measures 105 x 21 x 39 mm.

It has two built-in patch antennas, and two SMA antenna connectors for two additional antennas (not supplied). Since the DVR in the goggles cannot record digital video, the RX5.1 has its own DVR.

TX5S.1 Video Transmitter (30×30 single board)

Fatshark Shark Byte video transmitter VTX

The RX5S.1 VTX is a single board with 32x32mm dimensions. It has 30×30 mm mounting holes. It offers selectable power levels of 25 mW, 200 mW and 500 mW.

TX5M.1 Video Transmitter (20×20 dual board)

The TX5M.1 VTX has two boards, with dimensions of 25 x 32 x 12 mm and weigh 10 grams (15.4g with the coaxial cable for connection to the camera). The mounting holes are 20×20 mm apart. It has an adjustable transmission power of 25mW, 200mW and 500mW.

RunCam Shark Byte Nano HD

Fatshark Shark Byte FPV camera

The RunCam Shark Byte Nano HD is a nano sized camera, that outputs MIPI protocol, designed specifically for the Shark Byte system. It measures 14 x 14 mm, or 19 x 19 mm with an adapter (micro size).

Foxeer Camera

What You Need To Know About Shark Byte

Here is a summary of Shark Byte’s features:

  • 720p resolution 60FPS (native 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • Supports all FPV goggles and displays with HDMI input
  • Receiver module can be attached to Fatshark FPV Goggles
  • Built-in DVR in the receiver module for retaining the highest possible video quality
  • VTX accepts 2S – 6S voltage input, with MMCX antenna connectors
  • VTX in 20×20 and 30×30 mounting patterns
  • The weight of VTX and camera combo is less than 15g

Every FPV goggle and display with an HDMI in will be compatible with Shark Byte, including all Fatshark Goggles. It should also work well with Skyzone SKY03S as they have a similar shape to the HDO2 and same mounting pattern on the fan plate. Mounting system for Orqa FPV.ONE will likely need 3D printed mounts, but thanks to the HDMI input, they should be compatible too.

Fatshark Shark Byte module on goggles

Shark Byte’s Betaflight OSD situation is pretty similar to DJI’s – not all OSD elements are supported, but they are being added constantly by Fatshark through firmware updates. A UART connection is also required to display OSD on screen over MSP protocol.

The native aspect ratio is 16:9, but it also supports 4:3 goggles such as the HDO2. However it does it by cropping the sides of the 16:9 image on the receiver side, so you can increase display panel usage at the cost of lower video resolution (from 1280x720p to 960x720p).

You can fly with people using 5.8GHz analogue system, because Shark Byte uses the same Raceband channels and since its digital, it won’t bleed over into nearby channels at reasonable power level. The frequencies used by Shark Byte are actually the same as those of the DJI in 25 Mbps mode (not in 50 Mbps). However, because the protocols used are different, the two systems are not compatible.

Unfortunately Shark Byte does not support audio currently. There is rumour that they are testing new VTX prototype with built-in mic and audio output via HDMI together with video at VRX, but we do not know when this might be available.

According to Fatshark, Shark Byte performs better indoor and in bando compared to tranditional 5.8GHz analog (less interference). But on the receiving side it is the same: if there is noise like WiFi signal on nearby frequency, the link will be degraded all the same.

The biggest advantage of Shark Byte over DJI is probably the video output over HDMI, so you can share live video to a screen or a second pair of goggles, to allow spectators watch your flying. With DJI, you have to spend an additional $600 for a controller. However, the new DJI FPV Goggles V2 *might* allow USB-C video out in the future so Fatshark won’t have that advantage for long.

It’s worth knowing that Shark Byte’s receiver module is receiving only, meaning it doesn’t transit signal like the DJI FPV goggles. That brings several benefits: there is no binding required, anyone with Shark Byte receiver can just tune into your channel and watch your video, and there is no interference when multiple pilots using Shark Byte are standing close to each other.

Shark Byte doesn’t restrict who can or cannot make camera for their system, unlike DJI, and therefore you will find compatible cameras from different familiar brands such as Runcam and Foxeer. We don’t expect Caddx to be on the list as they are partnered with DJI.

The compatible cameras have to support MIPI protocol in order to work with Shark Byte, this should be clearly stated in the product description. Talking about camera, because the camera to VTX protocol is now digital, the new camera for Shark Byte will not work with the old TX for Byte Frost. I thought I should make that clear so you don’t buy the wrong one.

Would I Buy It?

It’s cheaper than DJI overall if you already own a pair of goggles that has HDMI input. And if you don’t, it could actually be considerably more expensive, but you get to choose whichever goggles you want to use. Skyzone released a mid range goggles that I quite like – the Cobra X, it has HDMI input and is only $210.

I still feel like the DJI image quality is superior compared to Shark Byte. In fact I don’t think there is actually too much difference between Shark Byte and Byte Frost in that regard (just my impression, i don’t have the hardware for a side by side comparison).

But don’t get me wrong, Shark Byte is no doubt better than traditional analogue, and there are a number of benefits to have with Shark Byte over DJI. It’s highly subjective which system offers better image. Anyway, if you want to get into DJI, now is actually a good time because the new V2 Goggles just came out last month.

To check out Shark Byte’s true video quality, I recommend watching this great video from Joshua Bardwell.

Let me know what you think in the comment.

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ProjectX 28th August 2021 - 4:38 am

Hi Oscar, after some thought, I just purchased the shark byte on the promo deal the offering now, one problem I am facing is that there is no Mic on the camera or VTA making it impossible to get audio feedback when flying HD. I have a possible solution however I need your help to confirm if this would work. If you look at the MIPI digital cable, i would assume one of the pins / cables are for audio only, if we could trace the MIPI cable audio pin only, we could cut the MIPI cable audio cable only and connect this to an external mic while connecting the external mic to the PDB for power, the VTX would think the camera has a mic and thus deliver audio to the pilot. In theory i think it works however I dont have a pin out diagram for the MIPI cable to confirm this.

Beau Dupre 29th July 2021 - 3:09 pm

I love it. I’m a micro guy and this is lighter, cheaper, with less latency and hdmi out. It works with any hd goggle, will improve and comes without DJI BS.

Vousie 6th May 2021 - 8:55 am

HDO2 are native 4:3 resolution but they only do HDMI input in 16:9, so doesn’t that mean Shark Byte will only display in 16:9?

PeculiarHumanBiped 23rd June 2021 - 11:42 am

Unfortunately yes. I can’t switch to any 4:3 format. The option 4:3 (cut) still gives you a 16:9 image. But you need to set the camera to 4:3 otherwise the image is squeezed.
I tried to contact Fat Shark’s customer support so they can confirm that or tell me what I’m doing wrong. But I didn’t get any answer. I guess I’m not even worth a response now that they have my money.

PeculiarHumanBiped 25th June 2021 - 1:58 pm

I just wanted to add that I got a response from Fat Shark now. Well, it took 7 days and didn’t clarify anything :)
But I think it’s fair to mention that they at least gave me an answer.

Graham 20th April 2021 - 6:31 am

Can the camera be used with Caddx Vista / DJI Air Unit?

Oscar 20th April 2021 - 5:23 pm

No I don’t think they are compatible.

Ghostface 4th April 2021 - 6:28 pm

You have an error in the article. The single board vtx only goes to 200mw not 500mw.

Stef 25th February 2021 - 6:17 pm

Solved,… I have to updat the goggle unit to,

Rousseeuw 24th February 2021 - 12:29 pm

after a software update of tx5s vtx, from february the osd from betaflicht no longer works as it should, everything is displayed incorrectly.