Sunday, 21 October 2012

FPV - What to buy?

For this article, I'm going to just look at the basic items needed to get started in FPV and make a few recommendations on items to purchase and a list of retailers that I've dealt with that have provided good service. Hopefully you will have already read my previous article FPV Basics and will already know which frequency you are going to use. The recommendations in this article are for putting together a quality system on a budget and in my next article I will talk about some upgrades that you could make in the future.


If you already own a camera such as a GoPro then you can use this as your FPV camera and save a bit of expense. If not or you want to go for a dedicated FPV camera, then there is one really great camera that I can highly recommend. Not only that, but the vendor provides excellent customer service! The camera is the PZ0420, which is a 600 TV line super HAD CCD camera with WDR from It comes with a controller so that you can set it up just how you want using the built in on screen display (OSD) and is available with a choice of lenses in 2.8mm, 3.6mm or 6mm.

Transmitter and Receiver

I think that it's best to buy these as a pair, so at least you know that they will be compatible with each other. As there are 4 different frequencies, I will make recommendations for each frequency, but make sure that you check that the channels are legal to use in your country before purchasing as on some transmitters only 1 or 2 channels may be legal in your country.


Sticking with my mantra that anything over 500mW is too much for FPV, I'm going to recommend the 500mW transmitter and the 900MHz receiver with Comtech tuner from DPCAV. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere where this frequency is legal to use and isn't saturated by mobile telecoms, then it will give you great range even with the stock antennas. Transmitter & Receiver 


Choosing a transmitter for this frequency band can be tricky as many of them transmit on illegal frequencies. Civilian aircraft DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) uses frequencies between 962MHz and 1213MHz, so make sure that you don't transmit on these frequencies!!! One of the most popular transmitters for this frequency is the Fox 800 and there are many threads about this on various FPV forums, but again I'm going to recommend something below 500mW. For USA customers then I highly recommend as not only will you get great service, but he has transmitters that have the 2 legal frequencies available in the U.S. For all other international buyers, then this 400mW transmitter from is a great set. Don't forget the low pass filter if you want to use it with a 2.4GHz radio system!


When it comes to 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz, there are 2 options, you can either go with airwave based systems such as those from ImmersionRC or with SkyRF based systems, which are more popular due to their price. If in the future you think that you might purchase other ImmersionRC products such as the very popular EZ-OSD or you want to use the built-in receiver in Fatshark goggles, then it makes sense to go for an airwave based system. The 500mW transmitter from ImmersionRC has been designed from the ground up by dedicated FPV flyers and is designed to be plug and play with other ImmersionRC products. Combined with  the DUO2400 receiver this is a great package, however it is a little bit expensive. ImmersionRC also do lower power transmitters for those wanting to stay within the legal power limits.

The other, much cheaper option, is this 500mW system which is available from many different retailers and is what I personally use. It's very easy to set up and on totally stock antennas I've gone over 2Km with a crystal clear picture. See my Lazy EZ* FPV article for the very simple installation that works great.


As I mentioned for the 2.4GHz, it comes down to a choice on your future plans as to whether or not to go for an airwave or skyRF system. This is the one time that I will break my rule, by recommending a transmitter over 500mW, the ImmersionRC 600mW transmitter along with the ImmersionRC DUO5800 diversity receiver. As with the 2.4GHz system from ImmersionRC, it's not cheap, but is really good quality equipment.

I believe that the distance record @5.8GHz was done using a 200mW SkyRF system, together with a circular polarised antenna system. The SkyRF receiver has a little bit more sensitivity than the ImmersionRC receiver, which is why it can achieve good range even at the lower power output of the transmitter. This combinations is available from most FPV retailers and is great value for money. This is sometimes sold with a couple of different receivers, make sure you get the RC305 receiver that looks like the one in the picture below and not the RC805 with the digital display as it has some design flaws.

Don't forget that you really need to use circular polarised antennas with 5.8GHz!!!

Video Display

You're either going to be someone who prefers goggles or someone who prefers a screen and this will affect your choice for this crucial part of the FPV system. My personal preference is for video goggles as I feel that it gives a more immersive flying experience and certainly from the reaction of people that try the goggles when I'm flying, it's always difficult to wrestle them back off them, whereas people tend to get bored after a couple of minutes watching the screen.

Fatshark make a range of goggles specifically designed for FPV and no matter which ones you choose, you almost certainly won't be disappointed. For the most immersive experience choose the Base model as it has the largest Field of View (FOV) and for the clearest, sharpest picture try the Predator goggles that have a built in 5.8GHz receiver and even a built in head tracker that will allow you to control a pan & tilt mechanism for the camera.

Choosing a good screen is very difficult as you need to find a good balance between size, luminosity, portability and price and importantly no blue/black screen! In my opinion, anything under 7" is too small to use for FPV and 10"+ is way better. If you're in the USA then you might be able to pick up a 10" Haier screen for as little as $40. For international pilots then The Foxtech M800 is a very nice monitor with good resolution and great brightness for use outdoors and comes with a sun hood for outdoor use.

What Else?
All of the items that I discussed are good quality equipment that you shouldn't need to upgrade as you progress with FPV and add more equipment to your setup. From here you can add things such as Antenna trackers, On Screen Displays (OSD), Long Range Radio Systems (LRS) and autopilot systems. In my next article I will look at what is on the market to take your FPV experience to the next level and in the next article after that I will look at a Blow the Budget system using some of the very best FPV equipment that money can buy.

1 comment:

  1. The goggles do remind me of something from the movie Predator. It really is incredible the types of products are being produced to support pilot services.