When flying with my quadcopter and GoPro, I set the camera to automatically take photos at certain intervals. This is great when trying to capture photos and flying line of sight, as the camera is just shooting all the time. I ran into a problem with not being able to do this with my big hexacopter and Sony NEX5-T camera. There is no auto shoot or time lapse mode for the NEX camera.
I did some research online and found the Flytron sLED v2 Sony RC Shutter. This is a small infrared device with servo plugs which plug directly into the aircraft’s radio receiver. The sLED v2 allows the operator to remotely trigger photo taking, or turn on/off video recording. Fantastic. Both can be done in-flight.
A free channel on the transmitter and receiver is needed to set up the sLED. The channel should be assigned to a three position switch. The middle position is no action, while on my setup flipping the switch up triggers a photo shot and flipping the switch to the bottom position turns on video recording.
The sLED unit needs to be able to get its infrared signal to the infrared sensor on the NEX camera. I wanted to be able to put the sLED on and take it off as needed, so a simple bit of velcro on the camera and the sLED made that easy.
I learned that leaving the switch on the transmitter in the up or down position, sends a constant signal. So leaving the switch up on my setup results in constant photo taking. The constant photo taking is not as fast as I would like, at about 8-10 seconds per shot. Leaving the switch in the down position results in a start/stop video of about one second, every 8-10 seconds. For video, leaving the switch down is not useful.
One experiment I have yet to try is a custom setup on my transmitter which would simulate flipping the photo switch every X seconds. More to come on that.
The sLED v2 Sony RC Shutter unit was perhaps the most useful $15 I’ve spent to date on my large multirotor.
It is nice to be able to shoot video and take photos via the sLED. Part of the flight can be for video and part for stills without having to land the aircraft and reconfigure the camera.
I just made my first flights with the new GoPro Hero3+ Black edition. My first videos and photos were very disappointing. The fisheye lens effect I was hoping to get rid of was still there, and it looked worse.
I dug into the manual for the GoPro Hero3+ Black and excitedly found that some capture settings could be customized. There are settings for super-wide, medium and narrow width with regards to video or still images. My excitement was squashed as soon as I looked at what I captured in those settings. The distortion is still there, but the width is cropped so the worst distortion is simply cut out.
I’ve read in several forums online (namely here and here) that the 3+ Black model may have some focus problems. It seems that the unit is focused well on short distances of a few feet, but long distances are out of focus. This is obviously bad for aerial photography and video. All of the data I capture will be from far more than the 2-3 feet the Black is best focused on.
I have more research to do and heard that GoPro was replacing units within a certain serial number range which have the problem. I have yet to check my serial number, or closely look at my images to see if they’re out of focus or not.
The video quality and colors seem better than the old GoPro. Also, the new image capture is a 12 megapixel file, instead of a 5 megapixel.
One other GREAT thing is that there’s a setting in which the camera can simultaneously capture video AND still images. I can set the camera to capture HD video, and take a photo ever 1, 5, 10, 30 60 seconds.
I have yet to determine if the image quality is different when capturing video at the same time versus straight image mode.
Right Side Upside Down
My current mount, which isn’t a gimbal, is setup for hanging the GoPro from the quadcopter. I can use the waterproof case for the Hero3+ Black to hang it and it works great. But, the camera is upside down. I’d already figured that I would have to rotate my photos and videos 180 degrees until I found that the new GoPro has an “upside down” mode. Problem solved!
And a great byproduct of mounting the Hero3+ Black in the waterproof case is that the wind noise is gone. Of course the video still has the sound of the motors/props, but it is not the horridly distorted sound of wind blowing out the crappy onboard mic.
Lens Distortion – Possible Solution
In analyzing the images I found that some of the lens distortion was extreme and some not. The extreme cases were situations where the angle of the camera was such that the horizon was being captured by the top of the lens, where there is a large amount of fisheye effect. The fisheye effect is more severe toward the outer edges of the lens. The images which were acceptable to my eye were those in which the horizon was in the center of the lens, which is where the least amount of distortion is.
The conclusion based on the findings above, is that I’m happy with video or images which are captured when the horizon or crucial data is hitting the center of the image frame. Therefore, the angle the camera is at during capture is crucial.
The problems with the camera angle situation are that the quadcopter pitches when it is flying. It does not stay level. The higher the throttle, the more of a pitched angle the copter is in. And the copter can be pitched at an angle when it is hovering, if there is a wind which the copter is fighting against.
The solution to all of this camera angle and copter pitch? Installing a gimbal (device which keeps camera at a set level) and making sure it is set to the proper angle.
I now have a gimbal and will be installing/testing it soon.