After cutting my teeth on drone piloting with the hyper addictive Blade QX Nano micro quadcopter, I wanted to step up my practice flights with a mini quadcopter that would be suitable for outdoor flights but also cheap enough to crash without breaking the bank. After some browsing I came across the Syma X5C 2.4G Quadcopter, a $50 copter with a 6-axis gyro, strong wind resistance, HD camera and 2.4G transmitter.
The Syma X5C is extremely light weight with a build quality that isn’t very polished, particularly the transmitter, but it’s acceptable for a $50 quadcopter. Although it can be flown indoors, there’s enough power in the propellors to cause injury or damage if you aren’t an experienced pilot. I bought the combo package on Amazon which included some additional props, batteries, micro SD card and charger.
The Syma X5C camera is terrible and there’s really no other way to describe it. Everything from the narrow focus distance, pixelation, rolling shutter down to the color processing is bad. I immediately took it off and started to look for a lightweight camera solution that the X5C could lift. But let’s be realistic, a $50 quadcopter will not provide great aerial videography but at the very least, I could use the footage to study how to fly better.
My favorite action camera at the moment is the Polaroid Cube, a one button, cube shaped camera with a magnetic bottom. Using a velcro tie, I rigged it to the bottom. Although the Polaroid Cube is light, it’s still a lot heavier than the stock camera. Surprisingly, the X5C was able to lift the Polaroid Cube but only for about 2 minutes. The rotors couldn’t handle the extra weight and strained to keep it in the air. I knew that more could be done to shave off the grams so I did some more modding.
The Polaroid Cube is rather easy to disassemble once you take off the faceplate. After removing the body, magnet and rear cap, the Polaroid Cube became much lighter but also exposed. I definitely recommend flying the camera in conditions where the elements wouldn’t effect the open circuitry.
After the mod, I once again took it for a test flight but only got about 5 minutes worth of flight time. It was still a little too heavy so I decided to remove the prop guards. That seemed to do the trick as the Syma X5C was able to stay in the air for a full 7 minutes which is very close to it’s out of the box flight specs off one battery. You could also detach the landing gear for even longer flight times. And without a doubt, the Polaroid Cube is definitely a huge improvement over the stock camera but the stabilization is pretty much non-existent and the motors are in frame which requires some post production cropping to be useable. Again, this may not be appropriate for getting great aerial shots, instead it should be more of a way to preview your flying skills. I would highly recommend the X5C as an intermediate quadcopter to use before jumping into the upcoming DJI Phantom 3 or 3DR Solo.
Overall, I’m pleased with the performance of this budget quadcopter and it’s ability to fly the Polaroid Cube. It’s also small enough to attract very little attention and to experiment with shots you wouldn’t risk with an expensive drone. If you have any questions hit me in the comments below!