It took me some time to join the HD FPV community. I have been following the progress since the first DJI HD system has been released in late 2019. At this point I was interested in the tech, but generally the product was not for me: the air-unit was simply too big for my micro needs.
Then the Caddx Vista came around. I was hesitant - will Caddx be the only company licensed by DJI? Will they have better QC in place than with their regular products? What is Fatshark going to do - is their HD system going to be better?
Time went by and the cams got smaller, but still - Caddx was the only player in the DJI ecosystem. Fatsharks solution did not really convince me. So I thought to myself: Well, if this is not going to change, then why not commit now. But at this point (end of 2020, beginning of 2021) first rumors about a V2 of the goggles were surfacing. So it made no sense for me to jump in now with the new version on the horizon. Then finally - March 2021 the DJI HD Goggle V2 dropped.
Since the goggles are on the expensive spectrum I wanted to buy it locally just to have better support, in case something was wrong with the goggles also I could declare it as a business expense and save some on taxes.
For the past months I have been checking my local vendors for the V2 goggles and the Nebula Pro (or an RTF quad with the Nebula Pro) in stock, but this did not happen. Beginning of July 2021, I did not want to wait any longer and ordered the DJI FPV HD V2 goggles and a GEPRC Phantom HD with a Caddx Nebula cam.
The following musings and first impressions are based on the V2 of the DJI FPV goggles, a 2.5” HD toothpick styled copter and the Caddx Nebula cam (which is considered to be one of the worst options for the HD system) with a Caddx Vista air-unit.
Lets start with the good things - basically the main selling points for me.
Image Quality & Range
This one is pretty obvious - the image quality. No matter how many videos you have seen, you will be blown away the first time you put the DJI HD goggles on yourself - even with the worst cam available for the system, the image is still way better than anything you are used to from analog.
If you combine this with the insane range of the system, it is just unreal. I am now about 100 packs into the system and it still blows me away and baffles me how the image can be so good, even though you are far away and have multiple walls or even complete houses between you and the quad.
There is basically no break-up. When in focus mode, the sides of the image start to degrade in quality before you lose details in the center of the image. I have not yet managed to fly the quad to the end of the video range.
Per default the image is encoded with 25Mbit, but this can be cranked up to 50Mbit for extra details, in exchange for bandwidth: Instead of 8 channels there are only two channels that can be used in 50MBit mode at the same time. So max two pilots are able to fly at the same time with 50MBit mode enabled.
Build quality & User Interface
The build quality is top notch, everything fits together perfectly, everything is smooth, there are no gaps where they should not be. The navigation of the menu is clear and simple - a Joystick to move through the menus, you press it to confirm, another button to bring you back to the previous menu.
Two buttons on the side allow you to switch channels. A record button is in place to manually start recording. If you have your air-unit or Caddx Vista wired up to a UART of the flight-controller, the recording will start and stop automatically when you arm and disarm the quad - this is a very cool feature in my opinion which you can disable if you do not like it.
AV (Audio-Video) In
The AV in is a big deal for everyone who wants to use their analog quads with the DJI googles. If you have a RapidFire module - or any other fatshark style receiver module - you can get an adapter to mount it on your DJI goggles and simply feed the output into the DJI goggles.
You will not be able to set it up through the googles though, so you need to keep in mind that the module has to be set up through it’s own display.
You can use the goggles DVR to record the analog video.
This is a feature that the community initially asked for and DJI delivered and improved on it. Initially the latency was pretty high, but has been fixed during on of the first updates for the V1 goggles. I personally do not notice any higher latency compared to my analog goggles.
In this section I will describe issues that bother me, but which I can live with or that can be fixed by using 3rd party accessories.
When first trying the goggles on I was a bit disappointed by the fit. Light is leaking from the sides and from the bottom. Obviously the fit will be different for everyone, but it was annoying for me. I say “was” because that only seems to be an issue on the “bench” when out flying I don’t realize it - at least I don’t as long as I don’t think about it.
I wish DJI would have included different foam pieces or foam shims to help their users adjust their goggles to have a perfect fit.
I am not entirely sure what they were thinking with the head-strap - it works, but it is really bad. There is absolutely no need for it to be mounted at three points and it isn’t really properly holding the goggles in place - also you cannot “park” them properly on your forehead. The strap generally seems rather lose.
I swapped the DJI head-strap for the one that came with my analog goggles and then picked up an Ethix strap just so I could use both goggles without having to swap the strap all the time. There are 3d printable parts to help you mount a “classical” strap to your DJI goggles. But there are also dedicated after market straps that will directly fit the DJI goggles without any 3d printed parts.
When looking for a strap, make sure to get one with 25mm mounting loops, the strap itself can be 40mm wide - but that is up to personal preference - I prefer the wider ones.
For a product in this price range I would expect it to come with a full set of accessories, and I consider a carrying case to be part of it. DJI gives you a bag in which you can store your goggles, but you will have to take off the antennas to do so - this is cumbersome.
I picked up a case for less than 20$ and it is perfect: fits the goggles with the antennas mounted and even has some space to store cables, analog module, battery or whatever else you need.
I wish DJI would have included such a protective carrying case from the get go. This way I can throw the goggles into my backpack without having to be paranoid for them getting scratched.
The latency depends on the camera used and on a couple of settings. With the Caddx Nebula the average latency is around 32ms - there is also no “Low Latency” mode with this cam.
When coming from analog, you will notice the difference - at least I did. That being said, the latency is not as bad as you might know from “analog HD combo cams” like the Caddx Turtle or Runcam Split.
You will get used to it. I’d say it took me about 20 packs to get to a point where I don’t really notice the latency anymore.
I am talking about the worst case scenario here - literally every other cam available right now for the DJI FPV system has a “Low Latency” mode which improves things greatly, also a higher frame-rate of 120fps in comparison to the 60fps of the Caddx Nebula.
Missing OSD Elements
From the five OSD elements that I use from Betaflight on every single build:
- Average Cell voltage
- Timer 2 (Arm time)
- Throttle position
- Link Quality
Only one is supported: Average cell voltage.
Link Quality can be hacked in by transmitting it from the controller and displaying it instead of RSSi. This is probably something I will do, although I am using Crossfire on my HD rigs, I still want to be able to see the quality of my link and not simply rely on Crossfire not fail-saving.
But the other ones are not so trivial. Emu flight and iNav have a hack in place to display Warnings instead of the craft name - Betaflight does not. The warnings are essential for me and the reason why I was not sure if this should be in the “Bad” or “Ugly” section, but since this can be fixed in the future, I decided to put it in “Bad”.
Betaflight implemented a feature to expose all the OSD elements via MSP - this feature will get release with Betaflight 4.3.0 and we can hope that DJI will implement this, so we might see a solution for this issue within 2021.
The DJI goggles themselves also have an OSD and they show Flight time, but it resets every time you arm and disarm, so it’s not really a replacement for the Betaflight OSD element that show the total Arm time.
Also the DJI OSD is not flexible, you can only enable or disable it, but you can’t move the components around or only enable specific ones - I wish this would be improved on too - but I honestly don’t care for the DJI OSD, except for the video strength indicator if the rest of the Betaflight OSD elements is properly integrated.
Here a couple of things that I consider “ugly” and do not like at all. Those are things that will most likely never be “fixed”, because those issues are by design or company policy
You need to activate googles and air unit online. For this you need a DJI account and an extra piece of software which is only supported on Windows and Mac.
This makes things super tedious. I really hate activation processes like this. I would recommend you make a throw away E-Mail address for this and fill in some fake data, otherwise each piece of registered equipment can be tracked back to you. This might not be a problem at first glance, but imagine you sell one of your quads with an air-unit that is registered to your name. The new owner might do something stupid with it - like for example: crash on a highway. Police finds the quad - asks DJI to whom the air-unit is registered to and “Boom” - you are fucked.
From what I understand, the main reason for this activation process is to lock the air unit to its regulatory domain. If you activate it from within the EU, the output power will be locked to 25mW. This can be circumvented by using a VPN during activation, but you can also “fix” this later by copying some files to the air-unit and changing the regulatory domain this way.
I assume this has legal reasons to be in place, but I doubt that having an account is really necessary. I wish one could skip the account creation the same way it is possible with the TBS agent for example.
Although neither the air-unit nor the googles communicate with the internet during operation or geo-restrict you in any way, I would still prefer the activation to be anonymous, it just leaves a bitter taste and I don’t feel that I “own” the hardware.
Flying with others
Flying with others is a problem - especially if they are flying analog gear. You need to make sure to space the channels out correctly, and even then it is a gamble. I would recommend you to take turns when you are mixing analog with digital. Let the analog crowd fly a pack and then the digital.
In 50MBit mode you will also only be able to fly with one other pilot who is also using the DJI HD FPV system in 50MBit mode, you two will then basically hog the whole bandwidth in the 5.8GHz spectrum.
There is no real solution for this other than being careful or convincing your flying buddies to also switch to the DJI system, which will probably be a problem.
Returning to Analog
This is not really a problem of the system itself, but you will be so spoiled from the HD image that returning to analog will be no fun. It might even lead to you upgrading your analog system to get the most out of it, so that the switch is not too painful. I am right now considering to get a RapidFire Module to improve my analog video feed and exclusively use the DJI Goggles, even with my analog models.
I was - and still am - blown away by the DJI HD FPV system, my friends can’t hear me raving about it anymore. Sure it is not perfect, but although all of its shortcomings - the image quality and range make it absolutely worth it - just an awesome experience.
Should you buy the DJI HD FPV system?
If you are already thinking about it - YES! Don’t waste your time waiting for something else, I can pretty much guarantee you, that you will love it. There is only a couple of reasons why you would not want to get it:
- You are exclusively racing: You are a top tier racing pilot and you need to have the lowest possible latency
- You only fly whoops: If you only fly whoops, there is no reason to switch. It will probably take at least another iteration for the air-unit to get to a point where it is small enough to be fitted on something like a 75mm, 2S whoop. I can’t really imagine that 1S HD whoops will be a thing anytime soon.
- You hate fun and don’t like a nice and clear HD FPV image
- You don’t like DJI as a brand: I am not entirely sure why people generally hate on DJI, but yeah - if you don’t like the brand, don’t get the system, but then you are probably not reading this anyway
Chris is a Vienna based software developer. In his spare time he enjoys reviewing tech gear, ripping quads of all sizes and making stuff.
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