To fully utilize the Pilotfly H1+ 3-axis stabilizer you really have to invest some effort in learning its features as well as its support software. And, in the process you have to read between the lines and take care not to break anything. As I delved into my H1+ I discovered that it’s all too easy to make a change that can end up disabling your device. My failure to heed the warning below led to a week of downtime with my H1+.
The problem I experienced was an inability of my H1+ to start up and level out normally. The roll and yaw axes worked just fine but the camera would pitch up slowly until the lens was pointing straight up (at the sky) and continue on until it was pointing back at me. At first, I thought the problem might be that it needed to be recalibrated so I calibrated both the accelerometer and the gyroscope but it made no difference.
A Plethora of Parameters
Next, I tried adjusting parameters in the SimpleBGC software. I found three different sets of parameters for my specific camera and lens (GH4/12-35mm) on the PilotFly Facebook page and in the documentation. I was surprised to find that the Basic parameters shown in the July Facebook post were quite different from those shown in the April post. I was also surprised to see that the July parameters were quite different from those currently in my unit (which were the factory default values). But since my unit had become unusable I figured I had nothing to lose. I tried one set of recommended parameters and then another and finally, the third set. Unfortunately, none made any difference.
Continued Drift in the Pitch Axis
After my initial attempts to fix my H1+ the camera continued to drift up and back on the pitch axis at startup. I very carefully rebalanced the camera on the stabilizer but that didn’t help either. I fiddled with every parameter that seemed like it might matter in the SimpleBGC software but got nowhere. The fact that nothing I did made any difference made be begin to wonder if there was a hardware failure in the unit. I contacted Pilotfly tech support and it took a few days but eventually they pinpointed the problem.
The problem was the Initial Angle parameter which had somehow gotten set to a non-zero value. Simply resetting it to 0 fixed the problem. I was back in business.
From what I could tell from the brief reply from Pilotfly tech support this might have happened when I was testing the various flying modes offered by the H1+. Here are the relevant sentences from their email:
The value will be changed when you using the Swap RC Pitch – Roll
Activating this function again swaps channels back, and saves roll position in static memory.
Pilotfly Operating Modes
Like many things surrounding the H1+ this may sound cryptic. I’ll tell you what I think it means. But first, I have to back up and mention the stabilizer’s various operating modes.
These operating modes describe the behavior of the stabilizer in response to motion in the three axes. By default, the stabilizer will lock movement in one or more axes while following movement (smoothly) in the other axes. Depending on the particular camera movement you’re trying to achieve one of these modes is likely to provide just what you need.
However, this list of the various modes may be different from the way your H1+ is actually configured. At this point, I can’t say for sure whether the first three matched my factory settings but I know for sure that my unit was different from #4.
In one of his videos Dave Dugdale mentioned a problem he’d had and the workaround he found. There’s an up/down switch on the H1+ that, by default, allows you to tilt the camera up or down. But what Dave needed was the ability to control the roll axis rather than the pitch axis. He found a way to do that by programming operating mode #4 to swap the pitch and roll axes. This feature was apparently deemed useful by Pilotfly and incorporated into the factory configuration by the time my unit was shipped. I had tried out that feature and, based on the comments by Pilotfly tech support (see above) it was apparently responsible for setting that initial angle parameter to a non-zero value.
Back up Your Settings!
This example shows how easy it is to make a change that can render an H1+ useless. At the point where my problem began I don’t think I had even changed any parameters with SimpleBGC. I’m not sure about that but, in any case, it would be wise to back up your default factory parameters using SimpleBGC as soon as possible after receiving your H1+. It doesn’t seem to me that this should be necessary. The device should come with a factory reset option built in.
This episode also showed me how the H1+ is, in many ways, a DIY experience. Dave Dugdale alludes to this in the video I mentioned above. If you want a turnkey out-of-the-box experience you might do better with the CAME-TV Single which he also reviews in that video.
If you do choose the H1+ you need to be prepared to tinker with the settings. You have to read the available documentation very carefully and, in some cases, you have to read between the lines and figure things out on your own. The 13-page PDF provided by Pilotfly provides a lot of information but you really have to study it in order to understand it and to avoid missing anything. Information on how to use the Pilotfly H1+ is also scattered across a wide range of sources including some of Pilotfly’s own videos as well as many other videos created by individual users. There’s also the BaseCam Electronics SimpleBGC software which comes with its own terse manual. And there’s both a PC/Mac/Linux (Java) version as well as an Android version.
I found myself spending hours watching and rewatching videos in an attempt to glean any tidbit of information that might help me understand things. Thanks to Dave Dugdale’s video I was aware of that before I made my purchase. Now, through all this experimentation I feel like I’ve gained a basic grounding in my device. Now, I’m ready to get out and start shooting!