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So who's doing this reviewing then?

Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.

I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.

For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.

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In the Pipeline

Here's just a little bit of what's to come on this site...

RC explained: Demystifying terms such as PCM, PPM dual conversion, single conversion, full-range etc., this feature will explain it all.

Cheap Chinese Engines: Just how good are those cheap Chinese glow and gas engines that sell for half the price of their "brand-name" equivalent? I put several to the test.

Build your own radio gear?: Back in the old days, building your own RC gear was not uncommon and now the arrival of 2.4GHz has made it practical again.

 

Review: The FatShark FPV Video Goggles

LOOKING GOOD

Dated: 19 Jan 2011


A successful FPV setup is only as good as the weakest link and when it comes to getting a "pilot's-eye view" of the world, you simply must have reliable video glasses that deliver a bright, crisp, well-focused image.

There are now a wide range of video glasses on the market but in recent times, the FatShark product has made a name for itself and, as a result, is more or less the defacto standard for this application.

Let's see what you get and how they stack up...

What's in the box?

The FatSharks come in a plain brown cardboard box, the only clue as to their contents being the cuddly little FatShark logo.

Inside the box you'll find a soft foam plastic insert that protects the contents very well against the effects of shipping. Nestled within that foam are the glasses, a black draw-string pouch, a single page of instructions, a collection of cables and some spare foam plastic strips with adhesive backing which are to replace the fitted ones when they wear or get torn.

Hang on to that draw-string bag too -- you'll need it, as I explain later.

Quality of construction

Although the plastic moldings don't look particularly precise, the product appears to be of good quality construction and strong enough to withstand the inevitable knocks and bangs that it will encounter.

The elastic strap seems good enough although I have a feeling that the thin foam plastic strips which seal the light out around your eyes and add to the comfort of the glasses will not last too long. That's probably why you get a spare pair.

Connecting your FatSharks up

The FatSharks connect to the rest of the world via a small multi-pin square connector that plugs into the side of the glasses. Out of this plug come both the power, video and audio leads which must then be connected to your video receiver and battery.

When it comes to powering the system, a 2-cell lipo or lithium-ion battery will do the trick nicely. I opted for some of the same low-cost Li-Ion cells used in the $8 DIY battery mod for the FlySky 9X transmitter. I keep several 2S packs of these cells laying around because they're incredibly useful for all sorts of things.

The video connectors are of the standard RCA type, so will plug straight into most video receivers without the need for an adapter or gender-changer. I didn't bother with the audio connections because I don't have a microphone or other audio source on my FPV model.

The leads are of ample length and seem reasonable quality.

Do they work?

Yes, they work and, compared to some cheaper glasses I've seen, they work very well.

The FatShark image is sharp and clear with excellent brilliance and contrast.

The field of view is also one of the largest on the market -- the effect of which is to give you a much bigger image than on the cheaper glasses. In effect, you get a bigger virtual-screen, rather than a little screen surrounded by a lot of black.

The 640x480 resolution is also more than adequate for reading the various numbers and graphics created by the common onscreen displays used when flying FPV.

One thing I really like about the FatSharks is that they have adjustments to cope with the fact that we all have a different interpupillary distance (IPD) -- that's the distance between your eyes. By adjusting the two small sliders on the front of the FatSharks, you can ensure that the images seen by each individual eye overlap perfectly, thus producing a single, sharp picture and making viewing far less tiring.

Brightness and contrast is adjustable via a little knob and there are switches which allow selection of the video source etc. These are all easily operated while wearing the glasses.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Generally speaking, there's a lot to like about the FatSharks and not much to complain about.

Unlike many cheaper brands of video glasses, these are very good at handling a noisy video signal of the type you're likely to encounter when flying FPV. Many cheaper glasses will respond to a noisy/snowy signal by simply displaying a blank blue-screen -- leaving the pilot flying totally blind, sometimes for several seconds even after the signal quality has been restored.

Those users who require corrective eyewear will be pleased to know that they can buy various additional lenses that will allow them to use the FatSharks without their prescription glasses. In fact, this is essential, since it's not practical to wear regular glasses while using the FatSharks.

One thing I'm not so keen on is the color of the FatSharks... Being black, they heat up very quickly in warm conditions, actually becoming uncomfortably hot within a few short minutes. I think white might be a far better choice for a device that will doubtless get much use during the long hot summer months.

And speaking of sunlight -- the instructions make it very clear that you must never leave the FatSharks in the sun facing in such a way that direct sunlight can shine through the lenses and be focused onto the LCD screens inside. To do this will result in almost instant damage to those LCDs -- not good. This however, is a common limitation with all LCD-based glasses and not a problem specific to the FatSharks. Remember that handy little drawstring bag I spoke about -- get used to using it. Unfortunately though, it is also black and gets hot in direct sunlight.

Pro's:

  • Excellent picture quality
  • IPD adjustment
  • Comfortable and not fatiguing to use
  • Comes with a nice little drawstring bag
  • Good quality cables of adequate length
  • Easy to follow instructions
  • Corrective lenses available
  • Won't blue-screen when viewing a noisy signal

Cons:

  • Black is not a good color for summer
  • Little foam strips seem fragile
  • Not cheap
  • Can be damaged in strong light if not handled properly
  • Product: FatShark Video Glasses
  • Purchased from: HobbyKing
  • Website: http://www.gowiththeshark.com
  • Price: around US$230 for the basic glasses
  • Overall rating: 4.5/5

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The Blog

Updated: 20 Sep 2012
Here's a blog that will keep you informed just what's going on behind the scenes at RC Model Reviews and also tells you a little more about myself.

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