Chroma Drone Review – Flight-Ready with Stabilized CGO3 4K Camera and ST-10+ Transmitter
OVERVIEWThe Blade Chroma drone with stabilized CGO3 4K camera is fun… It’s really fun to operate and you could spend hours using this piece of UAV technology to have a blast with video recordings of your neighborhood or whatever natural setting you please. But then, many other 4K drones on the market are also plenty of fun to use so this metric is hardly the best to use as a solid measurement of serious performance chops. Instead, what really counts is a breakdown of how well the Chroma performs across the board in the trickier details of UAV flight and more importantly still, how well it compares to its rivals from brands like Yuneec and DJI most of all.
In this latter regard, we’d have to say that the Chroma doesn’t disappoint and in some ways really impresses with its key flight specs. However, since this drone is more on the affordable side by 4K UAV standards, a few crucial details of navigation complexity and camera recording quality are slightly forsaken in the design and operability it delivers.
This however isn’t to say that the Chroma should be discounted as a purchase choice in favor of more recognized flyers from the other major brands. The Chroma is simply a drone that comes with a tiny bit more quality-related baggage while also offering plenty of benefits given its easy disassembly for travel, its tough design and a body that’s loosely modeled after the well-made Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K quadracopter but in a smaller form factor.
THE GOODSo what’s good about the Blade Chrome 4K drone? Well, plenty as it turns out. This puppy comes with a 4K gimbal mounted camera that definitely delivers some decent footage for starters. While we prefer the video and photo recording quality of the DJI Phantom 3 and 4 drones, the Chroma’s 4K camera still records 4K video at 3840 x 2160 pixels and delivers more than enough sharpness and vibrancy for aerial survey videos and drone exploration. Furthermore, this same shooter is capable of managing Full HD video at 120fps and handles a robust amount of photo capture power, with 12 megapixel still shots, which are about the standard for most 4K drone cameras. The three-axis gimbal which stabilizes the Chroma’s camera also handles tremor in the drone itself quite well with remarkably stable video being possible under most normal flight conditions.
Next up, the Blade Chroma comes with something we were never given the pleasure of in DJI’s Phantom drones. This of course is the Chroma controller’s built-in 5.5 inch touchscreen display with an included anti-glare coating screen for viewing during bright conditions. What this means is that watching the drone’s live feed and controlling certain aspects of the Chroma’s flight maneuvers doesn’t depend on an external third party tablet or smartphone hookup as is the case with a number of other major drones and the DJI Phantom models in particular. While there is a certain small lag between camera and screen with the ST10+ controller and its display, this is quite minor and overall, the drone controller display is superb for setting up video and photo shots or giving over flight telemetry data as your Chroma zips through the sky above you.
Moving along, we love the overall physical design of the Blade Chroma drone. It’s compact, it’s relatively light at 2.87 lbs and it breaks down wonderfully for travel and storage in tight spaces. This aspect of the Chroma is particularly nice to see because it makes the drone more of an ideal field recording device than some of the other, arguably better equipped models like the Phantom or the particularly large Yuneec Typhoon. Aside from being small, or perhaps because of its small size, the Blade Chroma also manages to fly very smoothly with some very decent follow and tracking navigation abilities. What’s even more useful about this drone’s compact, light design is that it give the powerful rechargeable battery of the Chroma plenty of flight time, up to 30 minutes under ideal conditions and this is one very useful spec for aerial surveying and quite an improvement over the 18 to 22 minute flight times of some other drone’s we’ve reviewed.
Finally, we’d like to mention that we like how the Blade Chroma comes out of the box completely assembled and ready for flight. The only thing needed is to spin on the propellers quickly and this UAV is good to go as soon as the battery has been charged.
THE BADWe need to stress that the Blade Chroma drone is far from a bad piece of UAV technology. The drone itself actually delivers some superb flight specs and the moderate deficiencies it comes with have more to do with the quality of its camera technology and certain omissions in flight programming.
For starters, we didn’t like the video quality of the Chroma’s 4K gimbal mounted camera as much as we expected to. While the drone does capture some very sharp 4K footage and decent photos, rival drones like the Phantom 3 and 4 flyers in particular beat the Chrome in this regard by quite a bit. In particular, the video caught by the Chroma in 4K doesn’t look as vibrant or crystalline as we would like when displayed on a 4K UHD TV. Instead, footage caught on this little UAV is more suited for practical survey viewing on smaller display screens. In contrast, the DJI Phantom 4 in particular creates some superb high quality vibrancy with its aerial 4K recordings. The same applies to the Chroma’s photo chops. They’re not bad at 12 megapixels but even the a 12 megapixel smartphone camera from a device like the iPhone 6S takes better still photos than this the Chroma camera does. One particular complaint we have about the still images captured with the Chroma is their tendency to look somewhat washed out at times, especially in bright daylight conditions.
Moving along, the Blade Chroma lacks some of the more advanced flight features we like in flyers like the Phantom 4 or the also excellent 3DR Solo 4K-capable Drone. The Chroma is specifically incapable of managing waypoint navigation and also lacks a visual positioning system for flight assist during moments in which there is no GPS for whatever reason. Additionally, the Chroma can be a bit unstable during windy flying conditions. The high quality stabilization offered by the drone’s gimbal mount compensates for a lot of this instability but the drone itself can definitely be buffeted by wind to a greater degree than other, heavier drones.
FINAL OPINIONOverall, we definitely like the Blade Chroma drone with CGO3 stabilized 4K camera. This little flyer is very easy to use, it’s sturdily built, easy to assemble and disassemble and it delivers a very decent flight time. Deficiencies in the quality of its 4K video, photos and more complex autonomous flight features are minor issues that we don’t consider to be deal breakers considering the reasonable price of the Chroma.
• Speed: about 55 miles per hour
• Flight control system: GPS, GLONASS
• Max altitude: 1970 feet, 600 meters
• Flight time: 30 minutes but variable depending on conditions
• Battery: 6300 mAh rechargeable lithium polymer cell
• Connectivity: USB, WiFi
• Flight features: Smart, Angle, Home Modes
• Camera specs:
ResolutionVideo: 4K; 1080p at 120, 60, 50 or 48 fps
Resolution Photo: 12 MP
White Balance: Automatic
Audio: Audio recording via integrated microphone (turn on/off with app)
File Formats Photo: JPEG, DNG RAW
Recording Media: microSDHC/XC Class 10: 4 to 128 GB
Gimbal Control Angle Accuracy: ±0.02°
Video Transmitter Frequency: 5.8 GHz
Transmit Power: 500 mA (average) to 600 mA (peak) at 12 V (7.2 W maximum) Range: Up to 984.3′ / 300 m line-of-sight
Power Requirements: 7 to 14 VDC (powers from flight battery)
• Dimensions: 4.5 x 5.3 x 2.9″ / 115 x 135 x 74 mm
• Motor: 4 x 780 Kv brushless outrunner
• Weight: 6.5 oz / 185 g
• Weight: 2.87 lbs (with battery and propellers)
• Dimensions: (width, depth, height) 12.8 in x 12.8 in x 9.5 in
• Controller: Dedicated The ST-10+ controller with Android powered touch screen
DESIGNThe Chroma is a compact light drone with a physical design that’s very similar in shape to that of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 drones. Its body weighs in at just under 2.9 lbs and this is an even more impressive weight when you consider the fact that it includes the drones battery and camera mount. While this body doesn’t look exceptionally strong, it is actually remarkably robust and feels tougher still partly due to its small size. The entire frame of the Chroma is white, with white cameras and small colored flight light LEDs attached to the undersides of each propeller for signaling different types of flight status. The only real dashes of color on the drone’s body are found along the camera sphere and gimbal, where two golden brown shaded strips can be found. This same golden brown color is also found covering the individual prop motor covers on each propeller arm.
The entire Chrome drone is made out of hard white plastic and comes designed in the mostly standard form factor of most major 4K drones with a bulky central body, rigid landing gear hanging down from this body and four propeller arms extending from each corner of the drone’s upper bulk. Speaking of those propeller arms, two sets of propellers are included with the drone for each arm so you’ll have at least one spare if a given prop breaks during flight or in an accident. The propellers themselves are all white except for their axle, which is of a polished silver metallic color.
As for the battery unit of the Chroma drone, it slides into a slot at the back of the drone body, behind and above the camera gimbal. This battery unit –like the rest of the drone—is also remarkably light-weight.
SETUPRight out of the box, the Chroma 4K drone requires pretty much no setup at all. A user need only screw the propellers to each arm, charge the battery, load it into the drone and that’s it. Flight can be started right away. We should however note that the charge time for the battery right out of the box and thereafter is definitely on the lengthy side, with a full charge only being possible after about 2.5 hours. The benefit of this however is that the 6300 mAh battery then allows you to fly around for a solid 25 to 30 minutes even with video recording and live feed transmission being done with the drone.
CAMERA SPECS & HIGHLIGHTSThe Blade Chroma drone comes with an included gimbal-mounted Yuneec CGO3-GB 3-Axis stabilized 4K UHD video camera with the ability to shoot ultra HD video at 30p. This same shooter also manages 1080p video recording in a range of frame rates, with 120fps for slow motion video being possible along with 60p, 50p and 48p Full HD recording capabilities. There’s also 12 megapixel still shooting ability included in the camera, with photos being captured in either JPEG or DNG RAW formats. What we also liked about the photo/video capacity of this camera is its ability to shoot these photos while recording video footage in either 4K or HD resolutions.
Additionally, the camera comes with an integrated 5.8GHz WiFi downlink that allows it to be controlled from the Chroma’s 5.5 inch touchscreen controller display. This same downlink allows for live stream viewing of the drone’s flight recordings and for display control over resolution, ISO, shutter speed and white balance. All of these live feed controls can also be paired with an Android or iOS powered smartphone or tablet via a free mobile app download that’s available through both Google Play and the iTunes store. The ST-10+ controller comes with a mountable smartphone holder as a nice little bonus.
Other characteristics of the Chroma’s camera include a wide angle 130 degree FOV lens and a gimbal positioning accuracy of just ±0.02°. All still shots and 4K or HD video can be recorded on an installable microSD card of up to 128GB. With this slight limitation on maximum storage being the case, we’d recommend using the drone’s 4K recording sparingly, since even 3 or 4 minutes of 4K video take up more than a gigabyte of storage space.
Finally, in terms of quality, the video produced by the Yuneec CGO3 camera of the Chroma drone is not too bad but not as good as we’ve seen in other major drones on the market. 4K footage is recorded at a decently high 50Mbs bitrate and thus produces plenty of detail but not as much as what you’d get if you mounted something like a GoPro Hero 4 Black 4K camera to the underside of this little drone. Furthermore, photos have a distinctly washed out look when shot in bright sunlight and this was something we don’t like too much about the Chroma’s photographic capacity. On the other hand the manufacturer has given their drone several different color modes for photos and video in particular. These include Gorgeous mode for jacked up contrast and saturation and Natural mode, which is aimed at much greater if more bland color accuracy.
As for the 3-axis gimbal, it works remarkably well in the Chroma, creating a stable video recording even if the drone’s flight path isn’t exactly perfectly stable. Even windy conditions and erratic flight patterns won’t show in video caught with the Blade Chroma. On the other hand, video captured with this drone looks best when viewed on smaller displays due to detail issues. This applies particularly to the Chroma’s Full HD footage.
IN-FLIGHTThe Blade Chroma is one very easy to fly drone and it takes only a little bit of practice to get the basic hang of most aerial maneuvers. Autonomous flight options are slightly limited in this flyer but the essentials are still there.
With that said, the easiest and best flight option for total beginners is Smart mode, which creates a sort of virtual barrier called a “geofence” that stops the drone from flying more than 300 feet away from its user. With Smart mode, the Chroma 4K will constantly move in the direction that the right control stick on the controller is pushed relative to the position of the user regardless of how the nose of the drone is oriented. This mode is a bit boring once you start to really play with the drone but it’s a great tool for getting to know the Chroma on its first flight. We should note that this mode also relies entirely on GPS, so if you lose the signal and have no practice flying manually, it can mean a quick accident.
Then there are the drone’s two other autonomous flight modes. These consist of Follow Me and Tracking. With Follow Me, the drone uses GPS to literally follow the controller wherever it goes from a preset distance and altitude, while also keeping the same angle relative to controller (and user). Tracking mode is similar but also orients the drone camera to always face the controller (user) at the same altitude, distance and angle. Thus, Tracking mode is particularly useful for shooting a continuous video of distance movement on a race course or nature run due to its camera tracking function.
For actually flying the Chroma normally under manual conditions, the drone needs to be set to Angle mode, which will move the drone in the direction the control stick is pushed but relative to its nose orientation. Letting go of the control stick will center it and as a result the drone will sit in a hovering position, as long as GPS is fully functional. Finally, users who also want to shut GPS off completely and fly without any assistance can go into the controllers touchscreen menus and do so under the settings sub-menu. This however is not something we’d recommend for beginners unless they want to risk crashing their Chroma unit.
As an additional safety feature, the Chroma also comes with a Home mode, which depends on GPS functionality and will automatically send the drone flying back to its user for an automatic landing some 15 to 25 feet away from the controller.
We’d also like to note that getting the Chroma off the ground for its first flight is dead simple. All a user needs to do is spin on the propellers, slide in the battery (fully charged) and turn the drone on through its Android touchscreen controller. After this, the drone needs a minute or so to pick up the nearest GPS signals and then it’s good for flying. Takeoff can be done by simply pressing and holding the motor activation button on the controller while also pushing up the left stick control for vertical takeoff.
PRICEThe Chroma Flight-Ready Drone with Stabilized CGO3 4K Camera is currently retailing for the very affordable price of $699.99 on Amazon.com. Compared to the $900 or even $1200+ price tags of flyers like the DJI Phantom 4, Yuneec Typhoon Q500 or 3DR Solo drone, the Blade Chroma is very affordable for a drone with built-in 4K video recording.
• Great flight time
• Sturdy, light build
• Very good video recording capacity
• Easy to fly
• Decent autonomous flight essentials
• Great price
• mediocer photo quality
• Limited autonomous flight features
• Limited range
• 4Kvideo could be a bit better