The perfect quadcopter camera?

I love my Canon mark 2 and gopro camera but it's absolutely terrible as a quadcopter camera.

The vibrations coupled with the CMOS sensor wrecks the whole image beyond repair.

Nearly all of today's cameras are made with CMOS sensors rather than the classical CCD sensor because CMOS offers better image quality and at lower power consumption... But there's a heavy cost that comes with this.

Rolling shutter.

Even with my stabilization software i can't really correct rolling shutter because the original image is distorted in the first place, thus yielding me warped stabilization that looks like an acid trip rather than beautiful aerial imagery.

CCD sensors do not have the rolling shutter because the image production process is completely different and the below video is a clear demonstration of the difference.


The only flight I had with the below optimized setting was the long shot of the yellow house.

My optimized setting- Turn autofocus in video mode off, be sure to focus on one far away object before recording... Set to scene mode, and then click on the sunset present.

If using a Mac for the upload, don't format the SD card- simply insert it in the computer and upload via final cut pro/imovie/image browser... if you copied the files over and formatted the card you can still extract the files by showing the package contents of the large avcd file and then you'll find the .mts movie file hidden away in one of the files... I used iVI for the conversion. It's $3.99

I only had to convert the files because I forgot to upload directly from the SD rather than copying the files.

The other neat features of this camera?

Panorama mode. Below is one example I snapped earlier today.

Timelaspe mode. Especially good for aerial photography.

Support for 64gb SD cards. I used my 64gb Sandisk, it took forever to fill up the card.

Now onto the bad news:

This doesn't have live out while recording. There is a supplied AV cable but as of right now the screen goes black when recording. This isn't a big deal for most people but for me I would have loved to use it as my FPV camera as well... the canon DSLR line has this ability to do this but unfortunately am supplied with harsh price tags and rolling shutter. So we'll have to wait a little longer for a new camera or a hack.

There's a ugly sensor flare when exposed directly into the sunlight. You can see the purple line in the very last shot when the sun comes into the shot. It's because of the CCD sensor and how it handles light. At the time of this writing there isn't really a solution. It's just part of the cost for ultra stabilization but to put things in perspective... I would get about 10 usable seconds on a regular flight on my 5d mark 2 and with this camera I get at least 1 minute of usable footage.

Also it claims to have 60i 1080p but I can't find the setting anywhere so if anyone knows about this please notify me but  30fps was good enough to stabilize with the CCD sensor. The original footage looked pretty shaky but since there's no rolling shutter final cut X was able to stabilize everything almost perfectly.

Finally a number of people report it not being truly waterproof... I have used it in the water a few times now and had no issues but I would suggest buying a different camera if looking to use underwater on a regular basis.

I feel like I've only touched on the iceberg of what's possible with this cheap camera.

It can't be a coincidence that this has 'quad' in its name.

I never thought I'd love a point and shoot.

My grade: A-

Pros: CCD sensor allow for crisp stabilization, 24mm leica is perfect for action sports, shockproof, gps, barometer, 1080p 30 fps, timelaspe, panorama mode, and the list goes on.

Cons: No live out during recording, 60fps is no where to be found, horrible sensor flares when exposed directly at sunlight, and the case might not be that waterproof according to some reviews.

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  • First of all- wow! There’s a wealth of information from the insightful commenters here so I’m adding some of these into the post itself. I'm unable to edit this post so I made the updates to my original post over at

    @Sandor- the Mamiya Leaf camera looks amazing but I don’t see video capture anywhere... it is sad that the big boys have not produced a high end CCD sensor system but at least RED has built in features to prevent rolling shutter.

    @Dan- My camera mount is the photohigher AV200.

    @Flying Monkey- That is a genius idea and I will try that out as soon as possible. I’ve re-posted your picture.

    @Quadrocopter- I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this did not work for me. (holding trash button down to enable live out while recording)

    @F11 Music- I’ve added the link, sorry about the formatting errors. I was copying it from my original post.

    @JackCrossFire- If you want something done, do it yourself. It sounds like you have the technical knowledge to at least start somewhere, we’re all looking for better quadrocopter cameras and overall use as well. I would throw down so much money for a high end camera without rolling shutter. It’s absolutely unacceptable that rolling shutter isn’t covered by reviewers but I’m guessing that’s because most of them are paid to write about a product they don’t really use their selves... Or they’re simply ignorant about the miracles you can pull in post without rolling shutter corrupting the image.

    @Randy- I’m glad I could help you! Right now the lumix I used is actually 5 dollars cheaper than the gopro 2. And it comes with a standard tripod screw mount so it can literally fit on any normal tripod or camera accessories... the gopro2 is neat with the simple mounting options but as you can see in the picture, I used a simple screw and nut that I bought for under a dollar at the local hardware store. Used some black foam I had lying around to isolate some vibrations but I’m going to try the earplug one soon.

    @Rory Paul- I just started recording the video before I took off, this camera can record for up to 30 minutes on one take! But it also has timelaspe mode so it can automatically snap pictures during the whole flight.

    @Jonathen- Well written and said. I agree completely and did the first two steps but did not isolate the motors. I’m happy with the results... I’ve also added your advice into the post.

    @Hai Tran- I agree that you should always remove as much vibration as possible but am I treating the symptoms rather than the problem? I don’t see it that way... I’ve tried various methods to reduce rolling shutter but have never had a full flight of usable footage. The best I ever had before the Lumix was about 30% usable footage... now with the Lumix I have about 88% usable footage. The only reason it isn’t at 100% is because of the sensor flare when it hits the sun but not because of rolling shutter. You can see my old aerial reel below which was shot on the same quadrocopter but with the canon 5d mark ii.

    I see it as treating the problem itself which is the CMOS sensor. It doesn’t capture every frame because it has a rolling shutter... With a CCD sensor it has a global shutter so every frame is captured, so there’s no existence of rolling shutter.

    I’m not saying there’s no need of vibration isolation, I’m simply saying  why not do everything that help prevent rolling shutter? An integral part of that is picking a camera that has built in prevention against rolling shutter or a global shutter like the Lumix TS4.

    As you said, the only time you get the jello effect is in 15kts of wind... well if you had the lumix you would have usable footage from that situation. What if you had to make an aggressive maneuver to avoid a bird? Why not prepare for everything?

  • Moderator

    Treating the symptom rather than the problem?  I would be focused on removing vibrations on the airframe caused by the props and motors.

    The only time I've had issues with jelly caused by vibration is when I'm flying in about 15+ kts of wind, which seems to create its on vibration.

  • @quadrocopter: Wow! Thank you very much for info on how to activate live video out on Lumix cams!

  • I have been doing a lot of research lately on AP/AV flying and this is what I have come up with:

    1) Kill the vibes at the source: Balance your props and motors.  This can do wonders

    2) Isolate the camera mount with soft mounts (used in compression generally).  Cinestar has a pretty slick setup (expensive), but there are a lot of other successful designs out there as well.   Wire isolators, same dampers used in compression and matched for the load, grommet styles.. lots of designs.

    3) Isolate motors mounts from arms.  This point is a hotly contested one since it could allow your motors to move in response to aggressive maneuvers.  Most people have had success with these, but if you do steps one and two correctly you will probably not need this. I have some AGL hobbies isolated mounts that i will be trying out soon.

    I have seen plenty of videos from different CMOS type cameras with no noticeable vibration effects using those methods.  The main issue is getting smooth stabilized video which comes from the type of gimbal, servo speed/type, gear reduction and outputs from the gimbal or flight controller.  Smooth flying also comes into play. 

    Also, a real popular camera being used successfully by the "pros" is the Sony CX760 and it's derivatives.  It has a cool lens stabilization technique that is doing wonders for smooth videos.  There are plenty of examples out there.

    Just my 2 cents :)  Your video looks great too!

  • 3D Robotics

    It has AV out but not while recording like Austin said in the post.

  • 3D Robotics

    Hi guys, the camera is a Panasonic Lumix TS4 it doesnt seem to have AV out but it does seem to have an intervalometer mode (like the gorpo) where it can take a picture every so many seconds.

  • Hey everyone,

    Thanks for all the input and comments! I don't have access to a computer until Sunday but I promise to respond to all thr comments... Also I'm sorry that I ran into several formatting errors and I can't edit it right now. (buggy) But you can see the original post, properly formatted over at
    Art of the Story
    Art of the Story | Lacrimosa | Austin Chapman, Taylor Bonin, Tommy Biglow
  • T3


    How is this camera triggered and does it have accesable AV out?

  • Developer

    It's great to see this blog post because I've been looking a lot at the camera mount code and have recently attached a GoPro to my quad and I'm not getting anything like the beautiful pictures you've shown.

    So the Lumix a little more expensive than the goPro according to eBay but perhaps worth it.  Certainly it's small so you could use a much smaller camera mount.  One nice thing about the GoPro is it does come with all kinds of mounts which make it easy to just stick it to your quad (i.e. if you don't have a stabilizing mount).

  • A CMOS could have no rolling shutter by having 1080 ADC's & a lot of onboard memory.  It would still be cheaper than making a CCD, but more expensive than an iphone camera until transistors get a lot smaller.  As in all things, consumers just don't care about rolling shutter.  Reviewers don't cover it.  It's something they just accept, like unemployment & taxes.  As long as it's fast enough & there's no breakthrough in ADC design or memory, there won't be enough demand to do it until a few more semiconductor evolutions.

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