Are you looking for an invisible 360 camera drone with DJI’s digital FPV system? I spent around 6 hours converting my analog Cine-Bird 360 camera drone to digital. Would it still fly as well? Here’s a hands-on and blunt review of StanFPV Cine-Bird HD.
Last week, I posted a review of the Cine-Bird, a 360 camera drone, and I said I was amazed by how well it flies. One of the few major concerns I had was that the video signal was not very strong and I would get breakups in the video even as little as 100 yards away with clear line of sight. I was thinking of converting it to digital, which would be less susceptible to interference, but I was worried about whether the Cine-Bird handling would suffer from the extra weight and drastic change in weight distribution, and the Cine Bird was already one of my favorite quads. After mulling it over, I decided to take the risk.
I have converted analog FPV drones to digital before and it’s not terribly hard even with my mediocre soldering skills. With the Cine-Bird though, converting to digital takes a lot more work. I managed to stumble through the process without instructions, although I often took two steps forward and one step back, having to re-do certain things in a specific order. For example, I attached the VTX antenna only to find out that the antenna wouldn’t fit through its mount and instead I had to insert the antenna through the mount first, before attaching it to the VTX unit. I also soldered the cables for the VTX unit then discovered that a couple of the cables wouldn’t reach some parts of the flight controller, so I had to re-solder it with longer cables that I salvaged from a previous project. With all the missteps and research I had to do, it ended up taking me 6 hours to convert my analog Cine-Bird to digital. Was it worth it?
The original Cine-Bird frame has no space for the DJI Air Unit or Caddx Vista, so you need to add a separate mount for the digital video, which is actually going to be mounted on the opposite side from the 360 camera for better balance.
With the Air Unit and its camera on the opposite side, it means that the Cine-Bird must be rotated 180 degrees (what was forward is now backward and vice-versa). Fortunately, this does not require re-soldering the motors. However, it requires changing the flight controller orientation and as I later found out, I had to use the CLI (command line interface) to reassign the motors’ resource IDs as well.
The battery is now going to be mounted sideways and with the battery leads mere millimeters from the props, you need to install the prop guards and ducts to avoid having the props slice your power cable. All of this translates to a lot more weight:
- Dry weight with Caddx Vista, Nebula Nano, prop guards and ducts: 281.1 grams. (Compared to 189.5 grams for analog version dry weight)
- with GoPro MAX: 439 grams
- with GoPro MAX and a 3S 1100mah battery: 547.6 grams
As it turns out, that is just too much weight.
First, on the positive side, the video was of course much better. It was far more detailed and had no interference. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only improvement.
The analog Cine-Bird flew beautifully and despite its unusual appearance, it was one of the smoothest-handling quads I had. The digital Cine-Bird on the other hand, looks even more awkward and flies worse than it looks. Without the GoPro MAX, it has terrible weight distribution, resulting in poor handling. Even with the GoPro MAX, the weight distribution is not good and worse still, it becomes even more underpowered. It seems as if I have to use more than 50% throttle just to hover.
Here’s a video of me flying the Cine Bird HD. You can see how much it is wobbling even without wind.
For what it’s worth, I tried using a 4S 600mah battery (instead of the 3S battery I used with the analog version) and it flew a little better but it was still a far cry from the analog Cine-Bird.
I would rate the analog Cine-Bird’s handling as “A” (for a 3-inch cinewhoop), whereas the digital Cine-Bird is more like a “C-.” It’s still flyable but it is not smooth at all. I dared not do even the simplest acro moves for fear of crashing and scratching my GoPro MAX. The handling is so poor that I wondered about whether I should convert it back to analog. It’s the only quad I have for which I prefer the analog version, even with the video dropouts.
The new version of the Cine-Bird now has more powerful 2203 3390kv motors designed by StanFPV (the original motors are 1505 3900kv), and I wondered whether this is why they designed new motors. But it seems like an expensive and time consuming gamble just to try if it would handle better.
Another possible experiment is to get the Rylo mount. The Rylo is 108 grams, compared to the GoPro MAX with 163 grams. That 55 gram savings could be a difference-maker for Cine Bird HD. Then again, Rylo requires a Mac for 5.7k video, so I’ll need to borrow my son’s Mac for that, which is a hassle. I know my Rylo battery is nearly dead from disuse but if I can get it to record at least 3 minutes, I’m going to try that Rylo mount. UPDATE: I charged my Rylo and yes it has recorded more than 3 minutes so I’m going to try the Rylo mount.
Meanwhile, StanFPV is again building the Cine-Bird XL version (5-inch props), which you can order preassembled. For the Cinebird OG (3-inch props like what I have), it is available only as a DIY kit. If you will get the Cinebird OG, I recommend getting the analog Crossfire version (you’ll need a transmitter that supports Crossfire). The analog Cine Bird OG is amazing – as you’ll see in an upcoming video (the one I posted is nothing in comparison). Stay tuned.