The Runcam 4 is an affordable HD camera capable of recording 4K videos. In this review, we are going to find out about the new features, and how it compares to the previous Runcam 3S in terms of image quality.
Update (April 2019): Runcam 5 has been released.
Check out our HD cameras buyer’s guide to learn more about HD cameras for mini quads.
Where to Buy?
What’s New in the Runcam 4?
Well, the biggest selling point of the Runcam 4 would be the 4K 30FPF and 2.7K 60FPS recording capability, making this the highest resolution camera Runcam has ever made.
It’s true that most top FPV pilots are still uploading 1080p videos, what’s the point of 2.7K and 4K?
2.7K and 4K recording are picking up in popularity in the FPV community, mostly because Youtube preserves image quality and detail better for videos of higher resolutions than 1080p.
The other advantage is that you have a lot more room to play with the footage in post editing. You can zoom in and manipulate the footage without losing too much detail, or making it look blurry. (if you are uploading it in lower resolution.)
At the beginning, I was told the Runcam 4 is primarily designed for RC planes and wings, due to the more aerodynamic shape compared to the Runcam 3S. But there is nothing stops you from using it on racing drones, though it can be tricky to mount on a mini quad.
When I look at the image quality, it feels very different from the Runcam 3S and Split V2 series, possibly due to the different sensor / image processor.
I would say the video looks better than I expected, I still think the default can be tweaked to look even better, such as white balance, contrast, brightness etc.
In the box, you will find two velcro straps, an AV-out cable, an instruction manual, and the Runcam 4 camera.
Here is a quick size comparison between the Runcam 3S, GoPro Session, Runcam 4, and GoPro Hero 7 Black.
Closer Look at the Runcam 4 Camera
The Runcam 4 has the similar long, rectangular shape to the previous Runcam 2.
However, it actually has a slightly bigger form factor than the Runcam 2, measures 40 x 22.2 x 61.2mm (with lens, 72.2mm). Therefore the 3D printed mounts designed for the Runcam 2 are incompatible with the Runcam 4.
There are only two buttons on the camera, both located on top – a shutter/power button, and a mode/wifi button. The operation is similar to any previous cameras from Runcam, so the transition would be seamless if you owned one in the past.
There is a 4-bar battery level indicator on the side, a really nice addition. When the camera is powered off, press the shutter button briefly, turns on the indicator to show you the battery level without turning the camera on.
When it comes to the color of the shell, frankly I am a bit disappointed to see it’s in black.
Firstly, it’s really hard to find it if you lost it in grass. In fact, I lost one in my first maiden flight and never found it again :(
Secondly, it will get very hot in the summer, especially when exposed to the sun. I do hope they will do other colors when it’s out: silver or the “classic orange”, or even white would be nice.
On the back of the camera, you will find a micro USB port for charging and connecting to your computer, and a micro HDMI port.
It’s good to know that the Runcam 4 still has AV output, which means you can use it as your FPV camera in your RC model. Or connect it to a camera switcher so you can check what you are recording occasionally.
Simply plug in the provided cable to the micro USB port, and the yellow wire is the video out signal. You can power the camera with 5V while recording, so you won’t run out of battery.
I haven’t tested the video out latency yet as it takes a lot of time to do, I am not sure how many people would be interested in this. If you are, let me know.
Removing the door at the rear, reveals the removable battery, and SD card slot.
The Runcam 4 uses the exact same battery from the previous Runcam 3S camera – an 1S 850mAh Li-Ion battery.
Battery life is noticeably shorter when recording at 4K than 1080p, perhaps it uses more power to handle the greater amount of data. Here is how long the battery lasts:
- 4K – 62 mins
- 1080p – 87 mins
Spec & Other Features
Here are the specifications of the Runcam 4:
- 4K 30 FPS
- 2.7K 30/60 FPS
- 1080p 30/60/100 FPS
- 720p 100/200 FPS
- AV Video Out
- Removable battery – 1S 850mAh Li-Ion
- Dimension: 40 x 22.2 x 61.2mm (with lens, 72.2mm)
- Weight: 57g
- Takes Micro SD card up to 64GB
- Built-in WiFi for connecting to your phone to change camera settings, see live preview, start/stop recording, and playback footage
Here is the manual for future reference:
Image Quality Testing
File related info:
- File Format: MP4
- Video Bit-Rate: 65925kbps
- File Size: For a 3-minute 4K video, file size is around 1.4GB
Here is some 4K foorage from the Rucnam 4. It was raw footage, uploaded straight from the camera to Youtube, so it wasn’t edited at all.
All settings on the camera are default.
Audio is still bad on a mini quad…
But the image quality is actually pretty decent, it resembles the style from the GoPro, very contrasty, and warm in color temperature. It’s quite a contrast from its predecessors, the Runcam 3 and 3S, both have slightly more neutral colors.
Here is a side by side comparison with the Runcam 3S.
You can see the Runcam 4 has narrower horizontal FOV, but wider vertical FOV. This seems to result in less distortion to the edges of the image (less fish-eye). The image is just more pleasant to look it. Do you think this a step forward in achieving Superview?
One thing that is missing is the “Wide Dynamic Range” setting (WDR), and you can clearly see the difference from the following comparison with the Runcam 3S. The sky is blown out in the 4, and you can’t see any detail from the tree trunk anymore.
But is that really that bad? Arguably it looks more natural and realistic in my opinion. I guess it’s all subjective and personal preference. Maybe the WDR feature is too processor intensive to run in 4K that’s why they removed it.
Not quite yet concluded since this is just a testing sample. There are still a thing or two to fix, but it’s promising from the video quality so far :) I am hoping they can price this as cheap as the Runcam 3S, that would make it a really good option for 4K videos :)
- Nov 2018 – Post created as soon as I heard about the release of the new camera
- Jan 2019 – I received a prototype to test, posted sample footage, and technical detail of the camera