I bought a Yuneec Q500 4K drone for filming last week. Finally got to take it out to try it out last night. I was amazed how easy and stable the drone flew. The CGO3 camera performed beyond expectation.
The CGO3 4K Camera
It was pretty much dark out by the time I got to the field and had the drone set up to fly. The CGO3 camera performed reasonably well in low light condition, there are grains in the footages but at a manageable level and should be able to remove with a noise filter in most editing software.
The camera's wide angle lens is better suited for filming purposes than that of the GoPro. The distortion-corrected image looks cinematic and more natural than that of the GoPro.
The image is however not quite as sharp as the GoPro, there are some blur towards the edges of the frame, making the footage seem "dreamy".
Besides the "dreamy" image, the drone and its CGO3 gimbal did a marvelous job at stabilizing the footage. The end result is smooth video clips that look cinematic without even trying.
The drone performed as expected in various modes including the "Follow-me" and "Watch-me" modes. It is not an agile quadcopter, but a very smooth and stable filming platform.
The "Home" mode works and would bring the quadcopter to where the transmitter is and land the quadcopter within 8 meters of the transmitter. This is similar to the "Return-to-launch" function seen on most FPV airplanes and copters nowadays, except that it returns to the current transmitter location instead of where the drone was launched. In the case of the transmitter signal loss, the Q500 would return to the last known location of the transmitter. The Q500 defaults to an altitude of at least 10 meters during homing, so if the copter was below 10-meters it would climb to 10-meters first before flying back towards the transmitter, otherwise it should hold the altitude it was already at. Upon reaching within 8 meters of the transmitter, the Q500 lands itself.
It does seem to be a bit bouncy near the ground, so you may have to chop the power (by pressing the red button for 2 seconds) a bit early in case the copter bounces off uneven ground and tips over.
There is a speed slider on the controller which controls how fast the copter reacts to stick inputs. When put in "Turtle" mode, the copter is capable of very fine incremental panning and lateral movements, and is very well suited for filming. In "Rabbit" mode, the inputs are faster but nowhere close to many other drones on the market today.
The package I bought came with a nice aluminum case with 2 sets of batteries, chargers, 2 sets of props, and the transmitter. They whole thing packs and unpacks within minute and is a nice package for hauling around with you to film sets.
Not for FPV?
The transmitter's live FPV has a small delay of maybe half a second, so this drone is not ideal for FPV flying. The drone is also bigger than the similar DJI Phantom 3 or the Blade Chroma. The Q500 is designed for filming, and it does a damn good job at it.
One thing to note is that the Q500 has a built-in data base of major airports, it would not allow you to fly near those airports and this function cannot be bypassed. There are also limits to the maximum height and distance you can fly the Q500, but they can be changed using the computer interface program that is also used to update the Q500 firmware.
Battery Life / Flight Time
Below are the test footages from the CGO3 camera during the maiden test flights, in near dark environment. It is also snowing a little bit at the time. I was able to get over 17 minutes of flying around the field before the first battery warming. In most filming situations I think you would be able to get a little over 20 minutes. The batteries that came with the Q500 indicate they are 5400 mAh 3s lipo. After the test flight, I put the batteries on my own lipo charger, and all 3 cells show 3.77V.
Verdict: you cannot go wrong with the Yuneec Q500 4K if you are looking for a drone for filming in a quiet open outdoor setting . However it is not designed to perform in windy condition or where there is limited GPS coverage.