TEST: Sunlytech ALPHAcam 4K, the Zerotech Dobby Killer ?

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INTRODUCTION

The Sunlytech ALPHAcam is a new lightweight selfie drone able to shoot video up to 4K@30 resolution. It’s a direct competitor of the zerotech Dobby. Like the Dobby, the ALPHAcam integrates also EIS for 1080p@30fps The trick is to reduce the full 4K video resolution to remove external undesired mouvements. This ALPHAcam can’t be really seen as a DJI spark killer in the sense that actually EIS technology can’t correct all the type of mouvemenents than a classic gimbal can. The ALPHAcam uses a 2000mAh LiPo and advertized flight times are promised to be around 20min so far better than the Dobby. Let’s check this new bundle.

BOX CONTENT

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+ 1 x Sunlytech ALPHAcam
+ 2 x 2S 2000mAh LiPo
+ 1 x Charger
+ 4 x Spare props (2 CW, 2 CCW)
+ 4 x Prop guard
+ 1 x USB to microUSB cable
+ 1 x Screwdriver
+ 1 x Wrench remover tool
+ 1 x Instruction manual (English)

Very nice transportation bag for a total weight about 500g. So super easy to carry inside a bag

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Everything is well packed even prop guards

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The charger with a USB to a small 3mm DC connector. At the extremity of the DC connector a small light. Solid green when no battery or a full charged battery is plugged, steady red when charging.

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OVERVIEW

Here is the list of the official technical parameters. The stabiluzation outdoors is done by a GPS/Glonass module. Stabilization can be done also with visual sensors, i.e. to be more precise by a small camera and IR sensor. For the dobby, we have a ultrasonic sensor instread of the IR. For the camera part, a 13mpx Sony sensor with a 90 degrees FOV lens is here. In term of resolution, the ALPHAcam is able to shoot videos in 4K but without stabilization. For the 1080p resolution, actually the EIS is automatically turned on. Like the dobby, the control and the FPV link is done by WiFi using either the 2.4G or the 5.8G bands. Be aware, actually only the android app is available.

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The android APK must be downloaded here: https://www.sunlytech.com/support/download and manually installed in your android system (from 4.3.3).

Be aware, the device by default works in 5.8G WiFi band. I found that most of devices, especially european ones… won’t be able to see the machine in the WiFi scanning.

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You will have to turn it into the 2.4G band: First power the machine by pressing more than 3s the front silver button. Wait the second ESC music than short press three time quick the same silver button. If everything is ok, the machine will reboot. The default WPA2 password is “sunlytech”

In comparaison with the zerotech dobby, both machine have similar size when the Dobby is unfolded. We have a general X- design with soft and bumped shape on top. Remind me a bit the JJRC 1000A. Both machine have the same type of brushless motor with 14mm of diameter probably some 1103 or 1104 motors.

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Neither foldable props for the ALPHAcam but they are much more larger. No doubt, it will be much more powerfull and probably will extend flight time.

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-FRONT VIEW
No possibility the set the lens orientation angle for the ALPHAcam. The angle is fixed to something around -22.5 degrees. It means, you will need to fly higher to point your target… and it will be harder to shoot a landscape while moving forward. What’s a pity. Clearly the ALPHAtech is clearly oriented “Selfiedrone”.

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-SIDE VIEW
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Each propguard must be clipsed on the motor’s pod. Be aware, I found the clipsing system of each propguard is very thing and fragile. You can easily break it while clipsing (happened to me).

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A microUSB port is here on the right side to download recorded photos/videos. Maybe also to install a (rescue) firmware ?

-REAR VIEW
Two seris of 3 pins battery connector can be found at the entry of the battery tray.

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-UPPER VIEW
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-BOTTOM VIEW
Install in the front dark section, the small VGA camera and IR sensor for the visual positionning.

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At each exterminity of arm, a piece of rubber plays the role of landing skid.

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-WEIGHT

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140g standalone

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and only 225g with the battery installed.. so just a fraction of grams more heavier than the zerotech dobby.

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Motors and props

No specificic mark on the brushless motor, probably some 1103 or 1104 type. They offer a 5mm shaft section.

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5mm shaft section

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LiPo

Proprietary battery announced to be a 2S 2000mAh LiPo. A strange remark, the nominal voltage is indicated to be 7.6V instead of 7.4V for a classic LiPo. Two batteries are given in the bundle. Are they really some LiPo of LiHv ?

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Any battery level status light available 🙁 …. Just the central DC connector.

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Camera module

As mentioned erlier no possibility to set the lens orientation….A nominal 90 degrees of FOV. Since the the EIS reduces the FPV, maybe an initial 120 degrees would have been a better choice since this machine will be mainly used with EIS.

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A raw 1080p@30fps with EIOS sample

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and a raw 4K@30fps sample (no EIS available)

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UNBOXING, ANALYSIS AND DEMO FLIGHT

In the interface a lot of options are directly available. For example, you can switch between a “classic” quadcopter control or into a selfie drone mode. You can also switch outdoor between visual or GPS positionning. Indoors, only the visual will be avaialbe. Generally, for the GPS, battery, microSD card status, when it’s green everything is ok. Turn to yellow with low values then in red. For the battery level, I woud prefer more to read a pourcetage.

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For the first take off, with visual positionning, the machine hovers perfectly.. First remark is much much more quiet than the zerotech dobby. Clearly the controls are much more responsive too …especially the yaw control. Maybe too much for a beginner. In GPS mode, I observed some drift… You need absoluptly to perform a compass and gyro/Accelero calibrations to have steady hovering.

In 4K, the recorded video are sharp and precise a good new for a such compact sensor. At 30fps, no miracle with fast transitions… Of course without EIS even in calm Wind conditions, the video will be shaky. With 1080p mode, the EIS is automatically turned on as soon as the recording start. It’s reducing a lot the FOV, IMHO abount 60degrees. You will need to perfectly center the object. In the other hand, the EIS works very well …. at least in calm Wind condition….. With strong Wind, it’s complete different storry… Maybe the MCU is not powerfull eanough to correct such fast mouvements, but the video can be blurry

Here is the complet video how to install and use the appz. In general, I like it but it’s far to be a perfect polished software. A lot of thing must be added/updated.

One thinh annoying for example. If you need to land manually, the motor don’t stop despite keeping the throttle virtual sticj low. You need to action a landing procedure. Generally to run an action, you need to move a slider to the right. In practice, I don’t find this way super easy. I would prefer a simple button.

In the air, with GPS positionning the machine hovers steady. Except when once the GPS reception lost some satellites and the machine started to shift/drift. In general, it’s super fast to fix satellites (< 30s). The FPV link with the 2.4G frequency is about 0.3s. Maybe it's faster in 5.8G but I coudn't test it. The machine can fly relatively fast, in fast, it's much faster the the zerotech of the J.me for example. Probably to sensitive for a beginner IMHO especially in tiny spaces.. No problem of broken WiFi link within a radius of 50m and since the machine it's small it's hard to see it beyond this distance. Really in moderate Wind, the EIS works is impressive, far Superior to the zerodobby. Recorded videos are nice.. Recorded files are annouced to be at 30fps but I had problem to synchroize them with some other 30fps sources. Like Q101, after 7-8min of flight, I had some "Temperarture alarm" msg from the interface..... and if you continue fo fly in such condition,s the videos will be spoiled with artefacts. IMHO, the battery is warming too much and transmit heat to all the rest of the system. It means you will have to land and cool the machine ..... If 20min of flight were promised they can't be continuously actually. I don't know if a firmware can fix that.... I am doubtfull. In practice, With the same battery I was able to flight about between 14min up to 16min. Finally in the current Apzz and firmware, all smart flight modes are not yet here.... No follow me, mission planning, orbit mode, selfie flight mode... It should come relatively soon... We hope too.

CONCLUSIONS

On the paper the ALPHAcam is the zerotech killer and from first early resuts we can have from the current appz/firmware release, the EIS results in calm Wind conditions are impressive… almost jello and vibrations free… but not (yet) reaching results of the DJI spark. The machine is silent and comes in a very nice and transportable packaging. It’s superlight also. Anyway, to be really enthousiast, the ALPHAcam need urgently to solve the “temperature alarm” problem. I am not sure a GPS will be able solve that… I hope at least. Al modern smart flght mode are currently missing too. Generally some minor détails need to be solved too mainly in the Appz interface. If they managed to fix fast all mentionned problems, it will be definitively a Zerotech Dobby Killer.

PROS

+ 225g smart selfie 4K drone
+ EIS more efficient than the Zerotech Dobby
+ Silent machine
+ > 16min of flight time
+ Nice Interface
+ Spare battery
+ Nice transportation bag

CONS

HEAT TEMPERATURE ALERT AFTER 7-8MIN OF FLIGHT TIME
– No possibility to set the lens orientation (fixed to ~ -22.5 deg)
– No advanced flight modes currently implemented
– Too fast yaw rate
– 5.8G WiFi not visible with all devices
– No iOS app yet
– Fragile prop guard clip
– Motors don’t stop after a manual landing (need to press the landing button to stop them)

This quadcopter have been courtesy provided by Banggood in order to make a fair and not biased review. I would like to thank them for this attitude.
You can find it actually for 325USD at https://www.banggood.com/Alpha-CAM-WiFi-FPV-Mini-Flexible-Selfie-Drone-With-4K-HD-Camera-GPS-RC-Quadcopter-p-1143358.html

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