Anyone who has built an FPV drone from scratch knows how important weight is for this type of UAV, especially when it comes to the smallest size group (Micro), where every gram counts. And, if during the selection of such basic drone components as the frame, motors, flight controller, speed controllers, FPV camera (or FPV camera), video transmitter, battery, there were no special problems due to their excessive availability on the market, then when it came to choosing camera providing high-quality shooting of the flight, the choice was sharply reduced, or completely reduced to zero.
So it was not long. The situation with the shortage in the market of lightweight camera solutions was shifted by a new niche of micro quads – cinewhoop, the first custom versions of which were equipped with lightweight GoPro action cameras (the body, buttons, display, etc. were manually separated from the factory version of GoPro). The exemplary quality of shooting and the absence of restrictions for launching predetermined the rapid popularity of such models, and with them the appearance on the market of the first hybrid FPV cameras capable of simultaneously acting as a FPV and action camera, weighing only a few grams. It would seem that “one camera does two things” could be better, but the cinematic potential of such hybrids is currently far from the potential of full-sized action cameras, which partly led the leading developers of components for FPV drones to think about a lightweight serial version of the action camera. The first such solution was recently presented by the engineers of the well-known hobby company BetaFPV in direct cooperation with the photo/video guru Insta360.
SMO 4K Camera is an ultra-light action camera specially designed for FPV drones. It has the potential of a full size action camera with a weight of only 30 grams, which allows it to be used on all size groups of UAVs, including cinewhoop, 3-4-inch and 5-inch FPV quads, as well as fixed-wing drones. Hot Pie, right? Looking ahead, we note that the first field reviews of the novelty have already shown a good result, at least deserving of the attention of users. As usual, let’s start with the key features of the first mass-produced lightweight action camera.
- Weight 30 grams
- Dimensions: 61.5 × 39.4 × 29.2 mm
- 12MP 4K camera built on a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor working in tandem with an Ambarella H22 processor
- Max. 4K video mode at 60 fps
- 120 degree 4K FOV
- Patented FlowState image stabilization technology
- HDR mode for photo/video
- Video modes Timelapse, TimeShift
- LOG mode for maximum freedom in post-production
- Bitrate 100 Mbps
- Video compression formats: H.264/H.265
- Ability to connect directly to the flight controller for remote control of the camera from the remote control
- Supported voltage range 6-27V (2S-6S)
- Built-in Bluetooth module (BLE4.0)
- Built-in Wi-Fi module (5G)
- Controlling the camera and editing footage via mob. Insta360 ONE R app
- Professional post-processing on PC with intuitive Insta360 STUDIO software
- MicroSD card slot up to 1TB
- UV filter and ND16 filter included
Lightweight action camera SMO 4K Camera is implemented by the developer in a single package, which will include:
- SMO 4K camera
- Interchangeable camera back panel without mounting bracket
- 2 × flat cables with SH1.0 connector (various lengths)
- UV filter
- ND16 filter
- 2 × spare screws for fixing the rear panel
- Screw and nut for mounting the camera in the holder
61.5 × 39.4 × 29.2mm
6-27V (2S-6S LiPo)
5G (max. distance distance 2m)
MicroSD; Speed class UHS-I V30, it is recommended to use exFAT SD cards with a memory capacity of up to 1TB
Slave. temperature range:
-20°C to 40°C
black and red
Number of effective pixels:
Field of View (FOV): 120°
35mm equivalent focal length: 16.4mm)
4000 × 3000 at 24/25/30 fps,
3840 × 2160 @ 24/25/30/60 fps
2720 × 1530 @ 24/25/30/60/100 fps
1920 × 1080 @ 24/25/30/60/120/200 fps
Main email stabilization (in-camera), professional stabilization (when post-processed using the Insta360 app or Insta360 Studio software via FlowState stabilization)
Video compression formats:
Normal, HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift
Designed for all FPV drones
The SMO 4K has been specifically designed to interface with and operate FPV drones of all sizes from micro to 3-4-5 inch quads, as well as fixed wing drones. Such a wide range of applications as a whole was achieved due to the maximum lightening of the camera to an exponential 30 grams without loss in shooting quality, which, as practice shows, is comparable to full-size top models.
The first field tests showed that SMO 4K significantly outperforms the GoPro Hero 6 action camera in terms of shooting quality and stabilization, and is incredibly close to the GoPro Hero 8, which is very significant for a $240 camera.
SMO 4K is backed by Insta360’s time-tested, patented FlowState stabilization algorithm for the smoothest shooting possible. Moreover, an additional FPV model has been added to the preset image processing models. Thanks to the new algorithm, flight frames have become clearer and more stable.
To make it as clear as possible, the SMO 4K image stabilization process is conventionally divided into two stages. Primarily, the image is stabilized by the electronic stabilization algorithms of the camera itself. Then the final stage of stabilization FlowState comes into play, which is involved in the process of post-processing the captured video when exporting a video file using the Insta360 ONE R mobile application or Insta360 STUDIO PC software. Both softwares are available for free download on the Insta360 website (detailed in the “Operation” section).
Ultrawide 4K FOV
With the SMO 4K action camera, pilots can shoot wide-angle 4K video with greater detail, smoother stabilization and improved dynamic range. 4K footage can be processed using the new advanced FOV option “FPV” available through the “Insta360 ONE R” and “Insta360 Studio” software, which automatically removes distortion from the video. Well, they polish the captured content, providing clear details at the output – 100-megabit bitrate and the encoding process with the H.265 codec.
Elimination of the jelly effect
The included ND16 filter will help prevent jello that often occurs during dynamic flight. Also, among other things, the use of a filter will protect the SMO 4K lens in case of a crash / accident. And if you’re flying indoors or at dusk, it’s best to use the UV filter that’s also included with the camera to protect the lens.
Power and management
SMO 4K voltage range varies from 6V-27V. You can power the camera from a 2S-6S LiPo battery, from which, for example, the drone is powered. To do this, the camera comes with two cables of different lengths with a SH1.0 connector (you can choose one of the two to choose from). The loop consists of four multi-colored wires, two of which will provide power to the camera “+/-“, and the other two – remote control over the camera (Play / Stop video recording) directly from the control equipment. For details on connecting and launching the SMO 4K action camera, see the Connection/Operation sections below.
Basic elements and controls
Front side of the camera
Rear side of the camera
Option number 1
If you do not plan to control the camera from the control equipment, then your connection path is the shortest. As noted above, the power range of the SMO 4K camera is from 6-27V and it can be powered directly from a 2S-6S lithium polymer battery. The wire cable included in the kit consists of four multi-colored wires, where the red wire is plus (+), soldered to the positive battery terminal (VBat +), and the black wire is minus, soldered to the negative battery terminal (GND). The remaining two wires (Yellow and Blue) remain unused and are wrapped with electrical tape. The white SH1.0 plug located on one side of the cable is connected to the camera’s power connector. The camera is now powered up and ready to go.
Option number 2
If you want to control turning the camera on and off and start and stop video recording from the control equipment, your connection path will be a little longer. In this case, the remaining two wires (Yellow and Blue) are used, where the yellow wire is responsible for controlling the start / stop of video recording, and the blue wire is for turning the camera on / off.
The Betaflight F405 flight controller was taken as an example to explain how to connect a camera and set up the control hardware to remotely control this camera. The connection diagram is shown in the figure below.
So, in order to activate the video recording control option, you need to solder the yellow wire to the TX1 pin on the flight controller. If you are using a different flight controller, other TX pads may be available instead of TX1, and these may be used for different resource assignments. You will need to adjust the configuration to match your specific flight controller.
Set up the PINIO function for the TX1 pin with the following Betaflight commands:
The following graphic shows the PINIO function setup between the remote control and the flight controller. In the Betaflight configurator, the PINIO No. 2 (in the figure below – USER2) corresponds to the AUX5 channel of the control panel.
To activate or deactivate the camera features, you will need to move the virtual slider from inactive (white area) to active (yellow area) and then back to inactive (white area).
The configuration of your flight controller and controller switch must match your equipment setup. Before setting up, make sure you know what you’re doing!
Installing a microSD card
To install a memory card into the camera slot, lift the protective cover and insert the Micro SD card with the label towards the lens, then reset the protective cover.
It is recommended to use UHS-I, V30 or higher memory cards and micro SD/TF memory cards in exFAT format. Using cards with insufficient speed may result in recording failure. The maximum Micro SD card size this camera can support is 1TB.
To turn on the camera, press the power button. The blue status light will indicate that the camera is turned on. When the camera is turned on, if you press and hold the power button (about 2 seconds), the camera will turn off, after which the blue status indicator will also turn off.
Start/Stop video recording
When the camera is on, press the record button to start recording. The status indicator will flash red. At the time of video recording, press the record button to stop recording. The status indicator will turn off. The record button is no longer active if the camera is connected to a mobile application via Wi-Fi.
The status LED indicates the operating status of the camera.
Downloading the App and Connecting to Wi-Fi
The SMO 4K and Insta360 ONE R cameras use the same mob to control. Appendix. Scan the QR code with your mobile phone or go to the App Store/Play Store and search “Insta360 ONE R” to download the app.
After downloading and successfully installing the application on your smartphone, you can proceed to pairing with the camera:
- Turn on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your smartphone.
- If the camera is off, turn it on.
- In the smartphone’s Wi-Fi settings, find the name “ONE R XXXXX” (where “X” is a random character set) in the list of caught connections, and connect to the WiFi point using the password 88888888.
- Open the app and tap on the camera icon at the bottom of the app page to go to the camera control page. A successful connection will be indicated by the live image from the camera.
After successfully connecting using the mobile app, you will be able to set up the camera, record and edit videos.
- Note: The effective Wi-Fi connection distance is 2 meters (in an area free of interference and obstacles). Since the SMO 4K camera does not have a screen, the WiFi connection process is different from Insta360 ONE R. If you are prompted “First connection requires confirmation on camera”, exit the application and go to step 3 of step 2 above.
Software download and stabilization process
The SMO 4K camera uses the same computer software as the Insta360 ONE R. Download the Insta360 STUDIO post-processing software.
A new FOV option “FPV” has been added to the Insta360 STUDIO software for post-processing video received from the air. After importing video from a memory card, select “Basic Settings” on the right, and be sure to check “Use FlowState / Use FlowState Stabilization” and select “FPV” in the FOV options.
- After an intuitive editing process, you’ll end up with detailed, smooth, high-dynamic-range video.
- Note. Please make sure your Insta360 STUDIO software is updated to 3.5.5 or later before using the new FOV option “FPV”. Currently, only four resolutions support FPV: 4K30 4:3, 4K30 16:9, 4K60 16:9, and 2.7K60 16:9.
For those who have the ability to print on a 3D printer, the developer provides access to 3 STL files, which contain all the comprehensive information for making SMO 4K camera holders for various size groups of FPV drones. The developer also draws the attention of users to the fact that the camera mount holder for 3-5 inch drones is the standard hobby holder for all GoPro format action cameras.
The BetaFPV SMO 4K Camera action camera is now available for purchase in the BetaFPV store for $239.99.
The SMO 4K Camera is definitely worthy of the attention of all hobby users who are looking for the optimal lightweight solution to retrofit an FPV drone of any size group. The contribution of both developers deserves respect, at 30 grams of weight, the camera showed an excellent result, which does not have to be proven. Of the obvious disadvantages, only one has been identified so far, this is the lack of the ability to connect to the camera via Bluetooth, but this will be fixed with the next update, which is a common occurrence today in the face of fierce competition.
Best first user reviews.
A detailed review of the SMO 4K action camera.
Comparative review of action cameras SMO 4K vs GoPro 6 vs GoPro 8.