It's been over a year since I reviewed the Mobius Action Camera. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Mobius, this camera emerged in 2013 as a smaller, lighter, and cheaper alternative to GoPro models of the time…with only slightly lower performance specs. Adding a Mobius (well, two actually) to my camera bag drastically broadened my ability to shoot onboard video with my RC models. Thanks in large part to its $80 price tag and good performance, the Mobius gained wide acceptance in the rough-and-tumble world of quad racing…where cameras take a beating. The Mobius has also been embraced around the world as a dash camera, helmet camera, and all-around "whatever" camera.
Time and technology march inexorably forward and the Mobius has now been joined by other cameras with a similar form factor and price point, but improved performance. One of those cameras is the Foxeer Legend 1. While the Mobius tops out with 1080P video at 30 frames per second (FPS) or 720P at 60 FPS, the Legend offers those resolutions at doubled frame rates. Foxeer's little camera is also capable of 1296P resolution at 30 FPS and 16MP (4608 x 3456) stills. While those are impressive specs, image quality and ease of use are also important factors. Let's take a look at how the Legend stacks up.
What's in the Box
When I purchased my Legend, black was the only color available. Now they can also be had in orange, red, and green. These new colors should make the camera much easier to find when a mishap sends it sailing off to parts unknown. I've already had to tromp through a plowed field to find mine after the airplane it was riding broke up in flight. I eventually found the camera, but it sure would have been nicer to look for an orange needle in a haystack rather than a black one.
The Legend measures 74mm x 36mm x 17mm and weighs 50 grams. It has a built-in 850mAh Li-Po battery that is charged through a mini-USB port. A micro-HDMI port is provided if you want to connect to a monitor for live video feed. Playback of files through the camera is not an option. The camera accepts micro-SD memory cards up to 64GB.
Up front is a relatively large F2.5 lens that provides a 166-degree field of view (120-degrees in the horizontal plane). The lens is the leading edge of the camera, so it's just begging for scratches. I'm sure it won't be long before lens protectors are available through aftermarket firms and the 3D printing community.
In addition to battery charging, the camera's mini-USB port is also used to transfer files, update settings via a software interface, and provide a secondary A/V-out source. A USB plug with pigtails and connectors is provided to interface the Legend with an FPV video transmitter. It also includes a plug that allows you to power the camera indefinitely with a 5-volt power source. A third plug mates the camera with your radio receiver to start/stop video and photos remotely via your RC transmitter.
Many HD cameras offer an A/V-out feed. However, latency in the system often makes them impractical to use as a solitary camera for FPV. That's why fast-moving platforms such as FPV racing quads typically use two cameras. A low-resolution analog camera provides the video signal to the pilot's goggles with the low-latency required. A separate HD-capable camera is used to record the action from on board.
Independent testers have measured the video signal latency of the Legend at less than 100 milliseconds. That's actually pretty good, but still not quite low enough for most pilots to comfortably weave a speedy quad racer through obstacles. Additionally, cameras like the Legend with CMOS image sensors, are comparatively slow to adjust to changing light conditions compared to CCD cameras. With all that said, I have used the Legend for FPV on a moderately fast fixed-wing model and I didn't have any issues dealing with the latency or changing light.
The Legend does not include any mounting hardware, but that isn't much of a detriment. I added self-adhesive Velcro to the bottom side of the camera body. That alone is sufficient for many low-impact mounting locations. I also modified a GoPro mounting base by lopping off one of the ribs in the pivot joint and adding a flat top plate with Velcro. I place the Legend on the top plate and wrap it with a Velcro strap for extra security. This allows me to use any of my various GoPro mounting options with the Legend.
Using the Legend
Two buttons are used to control the Legend. One button switches the camera on and off with long presses. Short presses allow you to select any of three recording modes. Mode 1 is 1296P or 1080P video. Mode 2 is 720P video. Mode 3 is still photos, including time lapse. The interface program allows you to assign the specific resolution, frame rate, and time lapse intervals for each mode. The camera's other button is used to start and stop recording.
In addition to the settings mentioned above, the interface program also allows other common adjustments such as ISO, white balance, NTSC/PAL, etc. Although this program looks much like the software interface for the Mobius, it isn't as refined and intuitive. With a little experimenting, I was able to sort through it.
It seems that firmware updates for the Legend are being released on a biweekly basis. There has been a recent update to the interface software as well. The flurry of updates makes me wonder if the camera was released before it was fully tested and ready. I'm currently using v1.4 of the firmware and not experiencing any problems. I'll consider updating once things stabilize a bit.
So far, I've used the Legend on a couple of different airplane models and in my car as a dash camera. I haven't done any serious shooting with it yet-- only some experimenting. In general, I think that the picture quality is good, with no focus issues. I've noticed that the rest of the image goes dark when the camera is pointed at the sun. But that is likely a byproduct of using the automatic white balance setting, and is common among action cameras.
The Legend does not appear to be any more or less susceptible to vibration-induced rolling shutter effect (i.e. jello distortion) than my other cameras. It's a good idea to balance your props anyway. For that matter, you should endeavor to minimize vibration whether you have a camera on board or not.
I encountered one issue with the included A/V output cable. I wasn't getting any video signal from the camera. I traced the problem to a pin on the USB plug that was touching the frame. The plastic housing around the plug is removable, so it wasn't very difficult to get at the pins and insulate the errant connection with a strip of Kapton tape. Now the cable works fine. Subsequent research has revealed that numerous Legend owners have encountered this problem.
Different cameras process captured media in different ways. For example, a Mobius and Legend recording in the same conditions will likely create videos that vary in terms of color and clarity. In many cases, the true measure of which footage is better boils down to subjective opinions. So, I'll just say that I'm happy with the quality of the footage I've captured with the Legend so far. I've compiled a short collection of varied clips, so you can decide for yourself.
The main selling point of the Legend is its ability to record at high frame rates.
The main selling point of the Legend is its ability to record at high frame rates. That begs the question "Is a faster frame rate always better?" The simple answer to that question is "No". A more detailed answer would require analysis of what you're using the camera for. If you're using it to capture fast, dynamic action, then yes, a higher frame rate may result in smoother footage. If you're shooting something less dynamic, however, an elevated frame rate may just spawn unnecessarily large files with no perceived quality boost.
When watching raw video files captured aboard one of my fixed-wing airplanes, I can't tell any difference between 1080P@30 FPS and 1080P@60 FPS at 1:1 playback speed. I only detect differences when I watch in slow motion…which can be an important consideration for those who use slo-mo effects in their videos. I can definitely tell a difference when comparing 720P@60 FPS and 720P@120 FPS. That's because my laptop stutters and chokes when trying to play the raw 120 FPS files. It handles them fine in my video editor though.
Although YouTube now allows you to upload and view videos at 60 FPS, I still render my videos at 30 FPS. I just find the files easier to work with. After viewing some samples that were captured in 60 and 120 FPS and then rendered at 30 FPS, my untrained eye can't tell any difference in smoothness between the two at 1:1 speed. So if you're not taking advantage of the slow-motion effects afforded by high frame rates, there may not be a noticeable benefit.
My initial impression of the Foxeer Legend 1 is positive. While I may not always use the 60 FPS and 120 FPS recording options, it's nice to have them available for those situations where high frame rates are beneficial. It's also convenient to have an HD camera with low enough latency to be used for both recording and FPV downlink.
I appreciate that Foxeer included an A/V-out cable, but it was irritating to have to troubleshoot and repair it. The fluid state of the firmware also causes a raised eyebrow. Despite those issues, the camera has performed as advertised thus far. I'll be using it a lot in the coming months to give it a thorough shake down. You'll hear from me if I encounter any significant breakthroughs or problems.