Controlling the FC40 Camera from your mobile

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The FC40 is a keychain type camera that is being sold with the Phantom 1 that can be controlled via a iPhone or Android app with FPV capability. Now FPV is nothing new, it means First Person View, so like the critter cam, you can strap it to your dog or pet Moose and have them wander around giving you an idea where they are going. Don’t expect this to be long distance though. It has a limited range of around the ballpark of 100m.

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picture quality isn’t great but this is a cloudy day

In flight, you probably are able to get far more distance since you are down on the ground but put this camera around tall buildings and you will see it fail. As a GoPro competitor, the FC40 offers real value for money on the cheap. Think of it as a toy, which you can rough up but it is not waterproof or for that matter shielded from everyday grime and mud use since the ports, and buttons are totally exposed.

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Edited image, warming it up with WB controls

The 720p output should not be an issue since the majority of you guys don’t even mind downloading 720p porn. So why should this be an issue? The quality of the video however isn’t great. The FC40 may have a 30 frame rate but that doesn’t quite translate to better video quality. It is smooth when you move around but when it goes too fast, the 30fps capture isn’t going to hold up. For high-speed recording, you need 60fps and that’s a GoPro device. There is a slight lag when you hit the capture controls on your smartphone or iDevice so it’s not really for fast action responses. the FPV video feed is low resolution so things don’t look as sharp or bright but the actual recorded footage stored on the microSD card is much better once you download it. Remember to use microSDs that are below Class 10, Apparently there are some problems when you insert a Class 10 card into it. When it gets a card it can’t access, the FC40 will freeze up on you, refusing to work and connect to any device for FPV. Even though the settings menu does allow you to format the card, it is hardly useful. Once the camera freezes up, you won’t get pass the WIFI connection phase so it’s totally useless.

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The other thing with the FC40 camera is that it comes with its own holder which is very user unfriendly for the use. It also protects the camera from everyday exposure to use. Furthermore the FC40’s indicator lights are very dim (probably to save on battery life) so in bright light, you’re not sure if you have turned it on and running. For about US$80, you can’t expect too much from a camera like this. The GoPro Hero3 has a WIFI operating distance of 150 meters and for that price, I doubt it will be a huge draw unless of course you want better image quality. Trusted that the GoPro cameras offer far better overall imaging and video and is more robust than the FC40, I think you have to draw the line on what your imaging and video goals are before you decide on this. For home users on a budget, the FC40 is probably a fairly good compromise.

The FC40’s WIFI signals can’t be boosted. It is pretty much made that way but you have the option of investing in a GoPRO Hero 3 and with a optional signal booster for FPV and capture control. What’s more, you can get a stablizing gimbal for the GoPRO for less than US$100 for mounting on the Phantom but that’s another story. The FC40 is a compromise.

But in use, both the iOS and Android app suffer from the same problems, if you have too many applications opened in the background, chances are you won’t be able to run the FC40 app. All images are in JPG. There is no White Balance settings for the camera or for that matter, RAW file saving. This is after all, a 2 megapixel camera and images are at best, very subjective depending on the weather. WIFI transferring of photos and videos are supported within the app but the Android app only supports transfer to device storage and not external storage. Before you run off to record, please do remember to sync the time stamp on the camera with your smart device. That’s the only way to set the time on the FC40.

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Importing the images from your FC40 camera to your iDevice or Android is simple, just tap o the image and it will be transferred via WIFI and you can connect the camera via a cable to your PC to do this as well. Generally speaking, the operations were smooth and the only time when the camera acts up is when you lose the line of sight of the device. Signals aren’t strong enough to penetrate through walls so even if you use this as a critter cam, you need to stay within the line of sight of the camera.

The image quality of the FC40 camera is probably idea for sharing on social media. Making that jump to selling stock video footage would be a tad too ambitious.

1) Image sensor: HD 720p/30fps
2) Resolution: 1280*720
3) Lens: Aperture f/2.2
4) FOV: 100 degree wide angle
5) Focal range: Minimum distance of 25cm
6) Wireless: IEEE 802.11 b/g compliance
7) Wireless mode: Direct mode
8) Mobile Wi-Fi video size: WQVGA
9) Storage: Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC up to 64GB
10) Battery: Built-in 700 mAh Li-ion battery

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21 comments

  1. Amy · July 18, 2014

    Loving our FC40. We flew for a while without concern for taking video just to get familiar. When we tried to put in a micro-sd card, it won’t seat. We have many devices with cards, and this one feels like something is amiss in the internals. The card just flops around sideways in the insertion, like there’s nothing “guiding” it, or those guides are not properly installed. If you finesse it to feel like it’s working, it will only go in about half way, and will not go in any further. Of course, you need it flush for installation in the case.
    What are we missing? Suggestions? We purchased recently via Amazon, so if this doesn’t sound familiar to anyone, I’ll work with the company for a replacement of the camera. But wanted to see if there’s something we’re missing, first!

    • benardquek · July 21, 2014

      Hi Amy, this is strange as it might be a problem with the unit. All devices that accept storage cards have a rail that allows only one way in. I think you have to turn the unit in for a warranty claim.

    • benardquek · July 21, 2014

      Amy,
      I think you better return the camera as I am very sure it is defective. All cameras that accept storage cards have built in rails to guide and secure the card and it should not flop around. Furthermore, the FC40 has a few quirks but none are as bad as what you have described.

      • mike · October 4, 2014

        I am having the same problem. Did you ever get it fixed or find out what the problem was?

        Thanks

      • benardquek · October 7, 2014

        On iOS8, I haven’t tried. I think I am going to put my FPV money on the new GoPRo 4

    • Ron · November 5, 2014

      Amy…turn the card upside down. Should then seat properly. Seems the card slot is improperly oriented on the inside. Hope this solves problem.

  2. Curt · August 16, 2014

    I cant take a picture at the same time as I am videoing….am I doing something wrong or is that just the design?

    • benardquek · August 18, 2014

      There are reported problems with the camera. The first batch I had didn’t take class 10 storage but the later ones did. So try returning it for a new one. It’s better this way than to try fixing it.

  3. Gerrymc · September 20, 2014

    Where does the video go? I have successfully downloaded video to iPhone but when I look for it in phone it is not there. And ideas ?

    • benardquek · September 21, 2014

      Camera roll. Sometimes the app can be buggy and not perform the functions once it runs out of RAM. Close all background apps and try again.

  4. Philip Levin · November 17, 2014

    Hi, Bernard. Lots of people in the online community wonder where you found the “2 megapixel” spec for the FC40 OEM camera. DJI deliberately avoids stating a megapixel spec, while another blog states that it’s 5 megapixels. I’d love to know the correct spec!

    • benardquek · November 18, 2014

      The original FC40 was based on this model. So if there was any upgrades since the last version to a 5 megapixel camera would be DJI’s decision. I tested the 2nd generation model and gave it up to my brother thereafter and was a 1.3 megapixel model. Technically, DJI could upgrade it to a 5 megapixel sensor with only 720p video capability but you have to ask them directly for verification. Since then I have been looking into several other cameras including the SJ4000 which has a WIFI enabled model.

    • benardquek · December 9, 2014

      Hey Phil,
      Sorry for the confusion, tested the video which at 720p is only 1.3 megapixel and searched for similar type wifi capable cameras on the web. The camera still images are 5 megapixel in size but these could be interpolated. Quality wise, it is the same as those 2 megapixel cameras from China found on Aliexpress or ebay. I suspect this was the main reason DJI didn’t want to mention the specs. I had the second generation model. I can’t speak for the newer versions.

      • plevin2012 · December 9, 2014

        Thanks for the info Bernard. It certainly does look like a ringer for the FC40 camera. You’re probably correct as to why DJI doesn’t publish the specs. Mine is also a recent model; it’s nothing fancy, but takes OK snaps and video. It’s helped immensely by the Walkera G-2D gimbal I just added.

  5. plevin2012 · December 9, 2014

    Bernard, on the topic of the Walkera gimbal, I learned a few things during the installation that I’d like to share.

    The clearest explanation I found of the installation of a gimbal on an FC40 and the NAZA calibration process was in “How to Fit Gimbal Tilt Control Lever to Phantom Transmitter Controller TX”, a video by Marionville Hobbies (UK) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f33X7N7MiE

    I used this procedure to install a Walkera G-2D gimbal on my FC40 and calibrate the tilt lever. I first tried a cheap-o ebay gimbal, which was much heavier, but couldn’t get it to work.

    Prior to the G-2D installation, I was trying to imagine how the control lever’s tiny arc of adjustment would translate to the gimbal’s full range of motion. Of course, once you understand how NAZA calibration works, the answer is obvious. But for NAZA noobies who are trying to learn what to anticipate, I’d like to offer a few pointers.

    1) Prior to calibration in NAZA, my gimbal pointed straight up and did not respond to the lever at all, as described in many forums. You MUST calibrate the gimbal in NAZA before it will function at all.

    2) After you have completed the calibration procedure, NAZA sees the lever’s limited range of physical motion as the FULL RANGE of the gimbal. So, after you calibrate and click “Finish”, moving the lever from side to side will move the gimbal through its full range of motion.

    3) The “Center” setting on the Gimbal screen has no effect in my installation. But I was able to set the gimbal’s center position by returning to the calibration screen, recalibrating, and then moving the cursor one unit (or as needed) in the required direction before clicking “Finish”.

    4) After calibration, the upper and lower limits of travel can be set by trial and error in the gimbal window without disturbing the calibration. Roll position is set on the gimbal itself using the V1 control.

    5) The few instruction videos I found for using the OEM FC40 camera on a gimbal mentioned the need to match the weight of the GoPro3 for which most gimbals are made. A GoPro3 weighs 78g, while the OEM camera weighs only 38g. Using Velcro, I wrapped 3 AAA batteries in a triangular bundle and attached them to the right side of the bracket (facing the front of the FC40), with the camera flush with it on the left and hanging off slightly. At a little more than 30g, the batteries provided an almost perfect balance (without using the G-2D’s counterweight). The gimbal now works great!

    I’d have attached a picture of the setup, but I don’t see a way to upload one!

    • benardquek · December 10, 2014

      Thanks for your insights. Gimme a link and I will credit you in a blogpost I am just starting on tumblr, It’s on aerial photography drones and I just want to carry news on the latest toys to capture video and stills. I am still building the content after splitting my photography blog to cover droning activity. The blog is dronetribe.tumblr.com. Not ready for prime time but building it as we speak.

      • plevin2012 · December 10, 2014

        I’m a “noobie” myself, Benard – still finding my way under the hood with NAZA and other flight controllers. I’m an IT/PC/solder monkey guy, so I feel like a kid in a candy shop, My first experimental video is nothing special – at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmw1UZBDTHg&feature=youtu.be. I can’t wait to do another with the balanced 9 in. carbon fiber props and a new Walkera gimbal I just added. But I DON’T like cold weather (I’m from Miami) so I’ll have to wait for a “warm-ish” winter day to do another shoot. I plan on moving to a warmer climate this year, and think I can see a custom-built quad in my future!

      • benardquek · December 11, 2014

        That sounds good to me. Moving to warmer climates do help. But do share with me your experiences when flying in cold weather. This is very interesting as LiPOs tend to get hot when used and does the cooler weather balances things out? I live in the tropics in Malaysia, pretty much Miami style weather here all year round except maybe for the monsoon season. That said, I have never flown a quad in cold weather and would love to try it out.

  6. plevin2012 · December 11, 2014

    Well. maybe I’ll give it a try when it gets really cold, and let you know how it goes! But it’s just nasty at the moment – not terribly cold.

  7. Richard Todd · January 4, 2016

    I am flying mine in Reno in the winter. It does fine in calm weather not windy.

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