Holy Stone F181G drone fisheye camera lens: Filming and shooting skate videos

In this post, I am going to talk about enhancing and amplifying the fisheye effect on photos or videos taken with the Holy Stone F181G quadcopter in the context of filming skate videos with a drone. This approach should work with most other camera-equipped drones as well. It is worth noting the camera that ships with the HolyStone F-181G applies a moderate fish eye effect out of the box (especially at close range).

My first thought about enhancing fish eye was “do it in post” - or, capture content with the F181G camera and use software to enhance the fisheye effect. I did not want to spend much money to achieve this so Adobe products were out of the question. I stumbled across Kdenlive (an open-source video editor) which showed promise but after some experimentation, I was unable to achieve the result I was looking for.

I ultimately opted for a “hardware” solution and procured a sub-$5 detachable lens that the F181G can carry. The lens is marketed for smartphones but it works on drones and quadcopters as well. Thus far, this setup has accomplished exactly what I had hoped for.

The lens and installation

I procured a 2 in 1 Magnetic Detachable Wide Angle+Macro Lens phone for Cell Phone Universal from eBay. Any lens of this type would work. It just needs to be small, lightweight, and have a magnetic ring attachment mechanism. Use your imagination - several effects can be achieved with these low-cost add-on lenses. Just a note, clip-on lenses do not work for this application (the F181G anyway) - your usage may vary though.

Magnetic ring for custom lens mounting is super glued to the F181G camera Custom lens mounted to F181G camera using the magnetic ring

The self-adhesive backing on the magnetic ring did not play well with the grooves surrounding the stock camera lens on the Holystone F181G. To ensure security, I super glued the magnetic ring to the camera to augment the adhesive. Now, the lens is easily installed and removed from the camera on the Holystone F181G (and it looks pretty good too).

Example photos

These sample photos (showcasing the effect of the custom lens on the drone) were taken at Lafayette Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lafayette Park is a little known, minimalist street skatepark in North East Albuquerque. The park is ~2800 square feet (~260 square meters) on a circular pad and consists of a kicker (ramp), picnic table, rail, and a fun box.

Side view of the fun box at Lafayette Park in Albuquerque, captured with the Holystone F181G stock camera lens Side view of the fun box at Lafayette Park in Albuquerque, captured with the Holystone F181G custom / fisheye camera lens

The first image was captured with the standard Holystone F181G camera lens. The second image was captured with the custom lens attached to the drone. Note the change in effect with the custom lens mounted.

Alternate view of the fun box at Lafayette Park in Albuquerque, captured with the Holystone F181G stock camera lens Alternate view of the fun box at Lafayette Park in Albuquerque, captured with the Holystone F181G custom / fisheye camera lens

Similarly to the above, here is another view of the fun box with the stock lens (first) and the custom lens (second).

Example videos

Here are examples of motion shots (drone in action) both with and without the custom lens. As you can see, I am filming the “invisible skater” kick flipping into a 50-50 and grinding the rail.

I am very fond of the effect generated by the custom lens. It adds a retro “skate video” feel.

Impact on flight and recording time

The fisheye lens adds 0.3 Oz (~9 grams) to the F181G and shifts the center of gravity. The drone still flies well and remains maneuverable. To my surprise, there is negligible impact on battery life; flight and recording time are close to the same with or without the lens attached.