Review – Runcam Split HD/FPV Camera

Runcam has just released something pretty amazing, a brand new product – the Runcam Split HD/FPV camera. The split can be used as a FPV camera as well as for recording 1080p 60fps HD footage.

The “Split” has technically the same hardware as the discontinued Runcam 3, but it has been modified into a much more compact form factor. I have to say that the concept of the Runcam Split might be a “game changer”.

What’s special with the Runcam Split?

You can use the Runcam Split for FPV flying while recording 1080p60fps and totally replace your FPV camera.

The Split camera/lens is connected to a PCB board where the recording electronics and SD card reader are located. You can connect the Split directly to a VTX so it works just like a FPV camera.

The PCB board can be stacked on top of your FC/PDB, which means your HD camera is now full protected inside the quadcopter frame just like the rest of your electronics!

No more HD camera mounting on top of the frame! To mini quad that’s huge, not only it can save you over 70g, COG is also more centralized without having a GoPro sitting at the front of your copter.

It can do 1080p at 60fps and it carried on the WDR technology from Runcam 3. I would be very interested to see how the image quality would do with the smaller package, comparing to the previous Runcam 3 and Session 5.

Settings can be changed from FC (connected via UART serial port), or through WiFi on your smart phone with WiFi module. A pull request has already been submitted to Cleanflight and Betaflight to add this feature and even a tab in the configurator.

Runcam Split as a FPV Camera

Latency

We have tested the latency and we can confirm it’s nearly identical to the previous Runcam 3, and on par with the Runcam Eagle. There is no extra latency when recording 1080p 60fps.

To me, the 50ms latency was noticeable in racing and proximity flying in tight spaces. It was flyable but I definitely had to go slower to not crash. It’s not so much a problem though when flying in the open.

Cameras Latency (ms)
Runcam Split (idle) 51.1
Runcam Split (recording) 51.3
Eagle 45.5
Runcam 3 50.9

Settings

The FPV camera settings are shared with the HD camera, which means you can adjust them independently. So for example, if you want to your FPV feed brighter, you will need to increase exposure in your camera and it will affect your HD footage as well.

Limitation

One limitation with this idea is tight builds, where it can be difficult to fit the extra PCB on top of the flight controller (such as the Speed Addict 210, and Armattan Chameleon). Mounting pattern is another issue, where micro quads might use smaller mounting patterns such as 20mm or 16mm.

Also not all builds can provide the power/current for the camera to work, as the Split requires a 5V/650mA to operate. Assuming your FC and RX each draws 100mA, I think you will at least need a 5V/1A voltage regulator in your setup. A lot of modern PDB and FC come with onboard 5V regulators, such as the Betaflight F3 has 5V/3A which is more than enough.

With HD cameras, we can share it between different builds. But with the Split, you will need one for each build. But if the cost can come down it might make it justifiable since a FPV camera isn’t needed.

No Superview?

There is no Superview in the Split.

The reason this is not possible at the moment being the imaging sensor. To have Superview a special sensor is required, but the downside is higher latency which is bad for FPV, and incompatibility with Runcam’s WDR technology. Hopefully they can find/develop something that allows wider field of view in the future.

But the 165° FOV is still wider than the Runcam 3. The 130 degree FOV in FPV is equivalent to a 2.5mm lens.

Specifications

  • FOV Angle of Field: FPV FOV 130° / Recording FOV 165°
  • Video Resolution: 1080p60fps / 1080p30fps / 720p60fps
  • WiFi Module Support (Removable)
  • Dimensions: PCB 36*38mm (30mm mounting pattern) / Lens Module 22*20mm
  • Power – Voltage/Current: 5V / 430mA when idle, 540mA-650mA when recording
  • Weight: 21g
  • Supports WiFi configuration (wifi module is provided and removable)
  • Integrated Microphone (can be used for FPV)

It comes with these items in the box:

The Split Lens is the same width and height as the Swift Mini, smaller in length.

Here are the mounting solutions:

 

Close look at the main board:

SD Card Slot

Unlike the previous Runcam’s “push ejection” SD card slot, where you can eject the SD card by pushing the it down. To prevent accidental card ejection, they have replace it with a “door” design slot, where the card won’t pop out so easily during flight or in a crash.

We will see how well this perform in our tests. Perhaps I would put a piece of tape to further secure it. We can read the card using the Micro USB cable anyway so there is no need to take the card out.

Wifi Module and Android/iOS App

The Wifi Module costs an extra $5. It allows you to connect the camera to your smart phone and have access to all the settings etc. It’s not necessary as you can also change most of the settings through the OSD menu in FPV mode.

The good news is they are trying to work with Cleanflight and Betaflight to get the Split supported, so hopefully in the feature we can change the settings in the CF/BF configurator tab :)

The operation and settings are nearly identical to the Runcam3. Default password is 0123456789.

Installation and Testing Rig

Buttons, LED’s, and connections on the PCB.

Connection between VTX, PDB and wifi module. The Split takes 650mA current when recording (tested), and you definitely want to make sure your 5V supply is up for the job.

This is the quad I am using for the testing.

Parts:

Originally, I have a Demon Core PDB which is a known and solid PDB, the 5V is rated for 600mA. I thought I could be lazy and shared that 5V between the Split and FC/RX. BIG MISTAKE!

The FC went into random shutdown during the flight probably because it didn’t get enough current. So in the end I had to add a dedicated 5V regulator for the Split. Using this regulator gives me perfect FPV video feed, no noise at all even at rapid throttle changes. But if your FC or PDB can supply enough current for your gear that should be fine without additional regulators.

Performance Testing

Mounted the Split in my mini quad, cannot believe how compact this is. My quad can now record 1080p60fps footage and yet it only weighs at 330g. Over 80g lighter than when using a Session with a 3D printed mount.

Day time flight test

Low light flight test

Image Quality

As confirmed by Runcam, The Split and Runcam 3 are technically the same camera (same hardware), we would expect the same image quality from both cameras. And we are correct, from our tests they do look nearly identical, the colour, the sharpness, and the dynamic range.

Bit rate is also the same as the RC3, at 30Mbps at the best setting.

However, the Split shows a wider FOV due to a different lens. That’s one step closer to having “Superview” :)

FPV feed also performed acceptable during the day. The image doesn’t look as good as other dedicated FPV cameras IMO, but good enough for everyday flying. The aspect ratio 4:3 is achieved by chopping the left and right sides off, and a tiny bit on the top and bottom.

Props in view

Firstly, because the camera is mounted vertically lower compared to traditional HD cameras, the propellers are more likely to appear in the shot. Although you might not see it in your FPV feed, but due to the wider FOV in HD recording it might appear when you check the HD footage later on.

Secondly, the Split has wider FOV than the Runcam 3, making it more likely to see spinning props in the frame.

I suppose this might be more of a problem for true-X frames than long body frames like the ZMR or Alien.

I tried a different lens and it actually helped getting rid of the frame and props in the view, see detail here.

Jello

Unlike traditional HD cameras which are usually mounted with vibration damping material such as TPU mounts, image are normally pretty stable even with acceptable amount of oscillations from the quad. But because the Runcam Split camera is hard mounted in the frame, your quad has to be tuned well to prevent jello and vibrations. One solution is to “soft mount” the camera somehow.

I personally haven’t seen much jello in my footage. Runcam has confirmed they might release some sort of TPU mounts in the near future.

Conclusion – Is the Split for you?

The Split isn’t for everyone.

At the time of testing the Split, I was also testing the Eagle 2. If I don’t have to record HD, I would prefer using the Eagle 2 because of the better WDR and lower latency. So I probably wouldn’t use it for racing.

However it’s pretty amazing that it makes a lighter and more compact builds that allows 1080p HD recording. My quad flies so much better and longer without the additional weight of a HD camera.

Although the HD footage playback looks pretty good in low light, it was way too dark to fly in FPV. Perhaps you could increase exposure but it will make your HD footage noisier, so I wouldn’t recommend using this for low light flying.

FAQ (Must Read Before Using)

Getting pink/purple flashes in the video/FPV feed?

A: This is caused by a bad/loose module connection. Remove the cable that connects the lens and the main board, and reinsert it carefully.

What happens when the camera loses power during recording?

A: The video is saved automatically when power is lost, but you will lose a few seconds at the end. It’s still better than having the whole file lost or corrupted. This is useful say when you have a crash and the battery gets disconnected, and you wouldn’t miss too much of the epic action.

Can I use 16:9 for FPV?

The Split uses 4:3 aspect ratio for FPV by default, however you can change it to 16:9 in the settings, by turning off “Full Screen”.

It has a feature called “auto adaptation”, which won’t stretch or compress your image even if the screen doesn’t match the image. For example on my 4:3 screen, the 16:9 image leaves 2 black bars on top and bottom rather than compressing it like we normally see on other 16:9 cameras. But if you display that in a 16:9 screen, the black bar should disappear.

  

NTSC and PAL

PAL/NTSC encoding for FPV video can be changed in the settings.

Why settings are not saved?

Once you have changed settings, you MUST manually switch off the camera by holding down the power button in order to save it. If you just unplug power without turning the camera off first, settings will be lost.

Flash/Update Firmware

Same procedure on other Runcam HD cameras:

  • Write down your camera settings, as firmware flashing will reset all your settings
  • Download the latest firmware file (xxx.BRN)
  • Place the file on the top directory of your SD card
  • Insert SD card in the camera, and power it on
  • The camera LED should start flashing for a minute or 2, and turns off upon completion

Does the Split take GoPro lenses?

The answer is yes, it’s actually compatible with lenses from Swift/Eagle lenses. I have a spare “GoPro” Lens for the Runcam Swift, so I decided to give it a try on the Split. It’s actually the same lens used on the Swift Rotor Riot Edition.

This lens is labelled as RC25G, and it’s available on

I really like the new lens, it gives better and more neutral colour IMO, the stock lens always looks a bit green-ish. FOV seems to be the same in both HD and FPV.

More importantly, because it’s longer, it reaches out further and minimizes the chance of getting frame and props in the view. In my case obstacles are nearly gone in the footage.
(The lens is probably not perfectly focus as I just put it on with the help of my FPV goggles.)

 

34 thoughts on “Review – Runcam Split HD/FPV Camera

    1. Oscar Post author

      It’s possible, it all depends on the pilots’ reaction time… some fast pilots might notice the lag.

      Reply
  1. Arran Coote

    How easy it it to drop in as a replacement to a standard HS1177 camera? The HS1177/Runcam look to be 25mm wide and the split is only 22mm. Is there one of the supplied brackets that is intended to make this a drop in replacement?

    Reply
  2. Jeroen

    Oscar, I would really like to see the FPV image when it’s getting dark outside (close to sundown). Been flying with RC2 as FPV cams a while back, and switches all builds to Eagles because of the issues in low light situations. Unfortunately your low light video only shows the recordings.
    If you could post a video of the FPV image in these conditions, that would be highly appreciated!

    Cheers,
    Jeroen

    Reply
  3. Cal FPV

    Nice post, sorry for slightly off topic question – which frame is it in the build you put the Split on? It looks quite nice:) Thanks

    Reply
  4. Zachary Rodenbucher

    Poor Air Bot has had this out for months and months, RunCam does it as they’re the “game changer”. Wonder how the two cameras stack up

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      if they were good they would have been more known to the community. I didn’t even know about their product until you brought it up :D

      Reply
    1. Eric

      Love the tech… but… the jello will be a massive problem. The cam is light and hard to isolate. If it would be jello free i woukd buy 5 pieces in a blink of an eye

      Reply
  5. Kenniffs

    Cable connection needs redsign to take into account the fixed wing pan-tilt crowd.
    If they can make a cable that you can get up through a circular pivot point for the pan-tilt that would be great.
    Also, needs a 16:9 fpv output option for users that use that format (again, mostly fixed wing at this stage).

    Reply
    1. Zachary Rodenbucher

      Wish they used a similar cable to the Connex camera, 30 AWG silicon wire with JST SH connectors

      Reply
  6. Brad

    Hopefully this camera can record in 16:9 and still output a proper full screen 4:3 image for display on our goggles and not have black bars top and bottom… Oh and if it has an osd hopefully it’s able to be disabled…

    Reply
  7. Marcus

    i like this techno shit but i hardly hope it has a mic build in also.
    Goes definitely in my 3″ build first :-)

    Reply
  8. RADO_FPV

    nice.. I can see it initializing HD recording via switch on RC, changing settings through OSD or LUAscript just like smartaudio. The only thing I am afraid of is the latency and if there will be FPV 4:3 and 16:9 version. The best solution would be it it was switchable between aspect ratios using only middle part of the sensor for 4:3. In that case it could be a killer camera..

    Reply
  9. Neill Whiteley

    I would like to point out that you CAN use this inside a Speed Addict 210-R v2 if you run a AIO FC/PDB like the Betaflight F3, Asgard AIO, etc

    -Catalyst Machineworks

    Reply
  10. Szzz

    Oscar,

    On The diagrams there are tx and rx ports. Do you have any info that it will be possible to connect it to a uart and change the Split settings?

    Reply
  11. Shawn Schröter

    The limitation is not even that much of a real limitation in a sense that the tight build usually didn’t have a GoPro to begin with. With FC, OSD, PDB and sometimes VTX and ESC’s all being implemented in one board the newer boards will create space for a pcb like this. Anyways I’m very very excited and I’m looking forward to the HD footage and the latency

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      by tight builds, i mean frames that have a very low body, such as the Speed addict or Chameleon.

      Reply
    1. sudo robot destroy

      I was thinking the same thing, the connector looks breaky. But I’m guessing it doesn’t need to be as tough since it’ll be located inside.

      Reply
    2. Oscar Post author

      it’s hidden inside the frame i think it should be okay. It’s not that much weaker compared to the JST connector cable of our ordinary FPV camera TBH :)

      Reply
  12. Ujjwal John

    With Smart Audio already becoming popular, it would have been only good ti have LUA scripting support so that people could control Recording / Taking Still / Changing params with Stick movement or special Channel .

    The the make or break with this model would be the “Latency” which is increasingly becoming important with Racing quads.

    Reply
  13. Icepeak

    I just can’t wait to see with what similiar design they will come up with! And I hope they will make it so that it’s not impossible anymore to change battery. :-)

    Reply

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