KX171 1/3 Sony CCD Camera Module Review

July 23, 2011 20:18 | By | Add a Comment

FPV cameras have very specific requirements, they should have a good sensitivity, a reasonably wide field of view, shouldn’t draw too much power and they should react quickly to changes in lighting conditions, i.e. a camera that takes over a second to recover from a bright light means your plane/helicopter travels 30-50 meters without the pilot seeing a thing. While any CCD or CMOS camera module will give you a picture that looks okay at first glance, flying with a bad camera can really ruin your day.

So how did this camera fare? Read on to find out!

Firstpersonview.co.uk sells a variety of interesting camera modules that are specifically aimed at the FPV market, and one of the cheaper ones there is the KX171. With shipping times of 3-4 days within Europe, this is a particularly interesting store for FPV hobbyists in that region. Lo and behold, our camera modules arrived within 4 days of ordering.

The camera comes with a video/power connector cable which most FPV pilots will simply cut off and only reuse the little molex connector. The cable colors won’t surprise anyone (Black is ground, red is plus, yellow is the video signal) and the cable is very easy to solder because there are no fiberglass inlays or anything ugly of that sort that prevents soldering. The entire camera case is made of metal, with the main case being a sturdy metal mold while the back is made of a slightly thinner sheet metal. The whole thing feels very solid, if a bit heavy. It’s not going to cause problems for any but the very lightest of models, but keep this in mind when looking for a FPV camera: The KX171 is no problem for your tricopter or easystar, but a mini-swift will not like lugging this cam around.

The case comes laser-engraved with the company logo – a neat touch, and certainly adding a bit to the professional feel of this camera.

The image quality of this camera is very good. It won’t knock down the GoPro Hero HD, but considering the size of the camera it’s quite a step further from the cheaper Hobbyking modules.

The test picture as recorded by the KX171, seen through the Cinema Video Goggles

The blueish hue of this image stems from the video goggles. Below you can see comparison shots with other camera modules, from left to right the KX171, GoPro HD and an older Conrad CCD module.

The field of view is wider than that of non-FPV cameras, which is good because it means more situational awareness. At the same time the FOV is not so wide as to obliberate details. Low light performance is not very good, there are better cameras out there for flying in dark twilight – but then again this is not what this camera was built for. The performance is decent enough to fly in bad weather though.

Whatthis cam does well is exposure control: You can fly through a dark valley and enter a bright area without having to wait a second for the camera to adjust. The same is true vice-versa, and that’s a huge benefit for all the pilots who do more than “FPV hovering”. However, dynamic range is limited, so especially a bright evening sun can result in a loss of visible ground details as everything other than the sun and the sky turns black.

The lens can be exchanged with any standard 2.1mm camera lens, which you can get on goodluckbuy.com for example. It’s important to note that the IR-filter is installed inside the camera, instead of having been glued on to the rear end of the lens. This is positive because high-quality lenses usually come without IR filter, and having to glue such a filter onto a lens yourself is no fun. You can fly without the IR filter of course, if you don’t mind everything losing color and trees, grass and other plants shining bright white..

The KX171 installed in an all-in-one "FPV to go" box

The KX171 installed in an all-in-one “FPV to go” box

The price of the KX171 is around 55 Euros, for comparison the Pan/Tilt camera from HobbyKing with two servos included costs 35 Euros, both without shipping. European FPV enthusiasts might not want to look at the price alone though, because for the extra money you get not only a sturdy camera that will survive all but the most brutal crashes, it’ll also arrive at your doorstep a lot faster.

Summary

A small, sturdy FPV camera that reacts quickly to changes in ambient light level. Good field of view for FPV flying. Too heavy for tiny FPV platforms, but suitable for pretty much any other medium to large-size FPV platform. Not usable for night flying or evenings with a low, bright sun.

 

Positives

  • Fast exposure control
  • Small, sturdy case
  • all standard 2.1mm exchangeable lenses supported
  • Good Optics
  • Voltage range 5-15V

 

Negatives

  • Relatively heavy due to all-metal construction
  • Quite long
  • Low dynamic range, mediocre low light performance
  • Relatively expensive

 

Specifications

 Pixels: 510 x 492
 Horizontal Resolution: 420 TV Line
 SNR: Better than 46dB
 Gamma Characteristic: Better than 0.45 (AGC Off)
 Minimum Illumination: Day: 1.0 Night:0.05 Lux
 Lens: f: 3.6mm
 Power: 5-15 volts
 Operating Temperature: -10c to 50c
 Dimension: 35mm x 22mm x 22mm
 System: PAL
 Current draw: 170mA
 Weight: 31g

 

Source

http://www.firstpersonview.co.uk/bare-bones-cameras/kx171-13-sony-ccd-420-tv-line-camera

 

 

 

 

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

FPVCentral is a private, independent news and review site for all things related to First Person View RC model flight. Covering everything from hobby, commercial and military drones, RC models and electronics related to FPV flight, we are not sponsored by any manufacturer or affiliated with any company or project.

Leave a Reply