Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma with CGO3 4K Camera Review

The Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma with CGO3 4K Camera is one of the readily available drones on the market today. This quadcopter model comes with a 4K video camera and promises to provide 30 minutes of flight time. It does almost live up to that promise, we clocked in about 28 minutes of flight time and the 4K footage was almost perfect.

DESIGN

As you may have noticed already, the Chroma shares some similarities with the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K. They both use the same CGO3 4K camera and gimbal and they are both controlled by the ST10+ remote control. However, the Chroma is finished in white and it’s a little smaller than the Q500. The power switch is also located on the top for easy access, and the GPS module is located on a hinge that must be raised before flight. Although we’re not sure why it’s on a hinge and must be raised, we can only assume it’s to increase the signal strength.

The drone measures 9.5 by 15.7 by 15.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.9 pounds. It comes with a compact and easy to carry box with a handle, which you can actually use to transport the aircraft. However, if you’re a traveler, you may want to consider investing in a dedicated backpack or case.

 

 

As I mentioned before, the ST10+ remote is identical to the one that comes with the Yuneec Q500 and Typhoon G. It’s finished in white plastic and uses a rechargeable battery that uses a micro USB port for power. There’s also an integrated Android touch screen and the standard flight controls.

A red button turns the motors on and off, with dual joysticks to control flight. Moving the right stick will move the aircraft forward, backward, right, and left. The left stick is used to increase altitude when you move it forward, and pulling it back will lower the drone toward the ground. Moving it right or left adjusts yaw, spinning the aircraft around on its axis. The lever on the left side of the remote changes the tilt of the camera and the right lever is used to set the maximum air speed. We found we were able to fly at 25mph when using the GPS stabilization.

The LCD screen is 5.5 inches in size and the resolution is 480p. We noticed that the screen is bright enough to see when you’re in direct sunlight. It also ships with a hood, which can be used to increase visibility in bright light. It attaches using suction cups, which can be tricky at times, but it’s very effective one you figure it out.

IN FLIGHT

The Chroma features some automated flight capability and is stabilized by GPS during flight. Therefore, you’ll have to make sure the remote control and the drone have satellite lock before you take flight. You’ll find the Chroma’s satellite status on the left side of the display screen and the remotes on the top. The ST10+ does take some time to connect, so it’s best to start with that first.

After take-off, we found that the Chroma does a fine job staying in one place on its own. But, we did notice some drift at lower altitudes, so be sure to pay attention and keep your hands on the controls. In compliance with FAA guidelines, the Chromas is limited to flying at a maximum height of 400 feet and you can fly as far as 650 feet away from the launch point. If you’re a more experienced pilot, you can use the ChromaGUI software to adjust the geofence to as much as 8,200 feet if you desire.

During our tests, we were able to fly as far as 2,000 feet before we noticed any signal weakness. In a suburban environment with obstacles, trees, and buildings, we were about to fly about 1,300 feet before we received a weak video signal warning. Those are pretty good numbers, considering the Phantom 3 Professional is rated at 2,500 feet in open space and 1,350 in the suburbs.

It’s possible to set the Chroma to its Smart mode for automated flight or use the manual flight modes. Tracking and Follow Me are supported, which both follow the ST10+ remote. Follow Me controls the drone only, and the Tracking feature makes sure the camera is also pointed at the remote control. When you switch to Smart mode, it also changes the way the drone responds to controls. Therefore, even if the nose is facing you, pulling back on the right stick will bring the aircraft closer to its launch point and pushing it forward will move it away. The ST10+ also features a dedicated switch that will cause the Chroma to start flying toward its launch point if communication is lost.

Using the Yuneec Typhoon Wizard as an alternative control to the ST10+ is possible. You have the ability to set it to a distance that’s within the Wizard’s 656-foot operating range to keep the drone close. However, we only recommend the Wizard when using Tracking and Follow Me modes at close distances. The inability to be able to see the aircraft’s distance from home and the orientation of the aircraft make this controller unsafe to use during long distance flights.

Horizon Hobby says that the you’ll get 30 minutes of flight time, but we found that we actually got about 28 minutes. Once the battery got to a critical level, the aircraft automatically landed itself. Extra batteries will cost you about $120. One thing to mention, the charger has vents on it for cooling purposes and we noticed it does get hot, so be sure not to block the vents while in use. A full recharge takes about 2 hours.

VIDEO & IMAGE QUALITY

The CGO3 camera captures video at up to 4K quality, which makes it better than some drones that are limited to 1080p. Using the default settings, the 4K CGO3 footage did show occasional evidence of oversharpening, which gives the footage a bit of an unnatural look.

The colors are very good when the white balance is turned on. However, we’ve notice it is a little inconsistent also. Setting the white balance manually is possible once you change the camera settings to Pro mode. If you’re into color correcting video, you can change the output profile to Raw. Keep in mind, it’s not actually true Raw, rather it’s a flat color profile.

The flat profile will show video that is low in contrast and colors that aren’t as saturated as they should be. The intention is to give you flexibility to apply correction when using software like Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Final Cut Pro to edit footage. The only downside to using this profile is the edges of the frame sometimes appear blurrier than they do when we used the default profile. This is due to the lack of oversharpening.

The camera can be set to record in 1080p at frame rates up to 120fps. The ability to shoot at such a high frame rate gives you the option of slowing the footage down to a quarter-speed with smooth playback. This is a great feature for videographers who are into capturing scenes in slow motion.

The default setting for HPG images is 16:9 aspect ratio at 8-megapixel resolution. Switching over to Pro mode enables the Raw DNG image capture. When shooting using Raw, you’ll get 12-megapixel images with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

CONCLUSIONS

The Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma is a great drone that offers a good operating ranges, stable flight, and a high-quality integrated camera that records in 4K. The ST10+ remote control with the integrated display is more elegant to use compared to the DJI Phantom remote, which requires you to use a phone or tablet to act as the display. The automated flight modes also make the Chroma a great option for people looking for an alternative to the DJI Phantom models.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

AIRCRAFT
Approximate Flight Time: 30 minutes
Completion Level: Ready-to-Fly
Control Link: 2.4GHz,2.4GHz
Flying Weight: 45.9 oz (1.3kg)
Height: 9.50 in (242mm)
Length: 12.8 in (325mm)
Motor Type: 4 × 780Kv Brushless Outrunner
Motor to Motor Distance: 15.7 in (400mm)
Prop Diameter: 10.0 in (253mm)
Rotor Type: Quadcopter
Satellite Navigation System: GLONASS,GPS
Video Link: 5.8GHz
Video Link Range: 1,970 ft (600m)
Weight: 45.9 oz (1.3 kg)
Width: 12.8 in (325mm)

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