A few weeks ago the folks at http://www.gearbest.com/ contacted me to see if I would review a few products. Once it was made clear I was free to give an honest review I agreed. Also as a bonus they agreed to a discount for SotP members for a period after the review was posted.
The first thing I have been sent for review is the SJ4000 Wifi Action Cam, see here http://www.gearbest.com/action-cameras/pp_77096.html These clearly started as a GoPro copy, however, they have developed a strong following and have begun to develop in their own right. So much so that you now get clones of the SJ4000. The SJ does have some features the GoPro does not, like Motion Detection and they had a screen before the GoPro, also they come with way more accessories. However I am getting ahead of myself.
I was going to use the camera for a few weeks before posting the review but as the clock is ticking on the discount I am doing the review fairly quickly and will come back with more details as I test the camera more.
First off you can see the specs from the link above so I won't repeat them all here. A couple of things worth clarifying. It will record in full 1080 HD at 30 frames a second. The 60 frames a second at 720 is a waste of time as it just copies each of the frames to double up from 30 to 60, so stick with the 30 fps setting.
Also this is only a 3 megapixel sensor so ignore all the photo resolutions above this. They are just interpolated up and wasting memory space and processing power. This lower resolution sensor may actually help with low light recording and picture taking as each photosite will be larger than a higher resolution sensor of the same dimensions.
So what do you get. This is how it arrives.
And this is what is inside.
There are various mounts and brackets for fitting the camera to pretty much anything. There are also different cases for the camera for allowing better sound recording or the one that makes it fully waterproof. I have built up a similar set of OEM mountings for my GoPro and probably spent about a third of the price of this camera in doing so.
It is also worth mentioning these mountings are almost all compatible with the GoPro. I say almost all as while the SJ4000 will fit in all GoPro and aftermarket mountings the GoPro original buckles will not fit in the two baseplates supplied with this camera. Not an issue unless you are going to mix and match this camera with a GoPro.
Lets take a closer look at the camera. First in the waterproof housing.
And out of the housing.
Before you start using the camera you need to add a Micro SD card and charge up the battery. While the camera is charging you can use the camera and look at the settings. This brings me to the first topic I want to cover.
Ease of Use
Bare in mind through all of this the only previous experience I have of Action Cameras is using a GoPro Hero 4 Silver which costs 5 times the SJ4000 WiFi. This is worth remembering when I say the ease of using the SJ4000 menu for settings etc is way better than the GoPro. My GoPro does have a touch screen that makes things easier but using the physical buttons is a pain in the bum. The SJ4000 is logically set out and easy to navigate by comparison.
My only slight complaint is that so far I have not found where to change the default setting that the camera turns on with. It defaults to video but perversely I prefer photo to be the default. It does remember all the settings you have for resolution etc but if you are taking pictures and power it off. It will be in video mode when you turn it on. It is easy to switch onto photo mode but you do need to remember to do so.
Wifi / App
I have only tested this with the Iphone IOS app but understand the Android app to be similar in form and function. Again from a connection point of view I found this more reliable and quicker to connect than the GoPro. The lag on the feed from the camera seems less too. That said there have been a couple of times when it has frozen for a few seconds before picking the feed up again. You can change settings on the camera and start, stop recording, picture taking all from within the app. You can also transfer pictures and video straight to your phone from the app. Handy for some quick editing or posting to your favourite canoe forum
There is a non WiFi version of the SJ4000 which is functionally identical to this model except there is no WifI and so no connection to the phone apps.
Well the quality of the build of the camera is not quite up to the standard of the GoPro but the example I have is perfectly functional and not badly made. The quality of the cases and accessories is all good with everything looking as if it will take plenty of abuse. I certainly have no concerns about the waterproofness of the case.
Photo quality? At this point it looks good to me. It is 3 megapixel which sounds bad these days but is really good enough for any normal sized printing and allows loads of scope for cropping for online use.
Here is the first photo I took just in the kitchen. This, as with all the pictures, is full frame but resized and compressed by Photobucket.
And another example in my office this morning
And from lunchtime when I nicked out to Glasgow Green to sit in the sun and have a coffee, as well as to play with the camera.
Video quality seems good. You do not get the high frame rates available with the GoPro but for normal use this is not an issue for me. As soon as the battery was charged I took some very random footage in the garden and loaded it up last night. Again YouTube will have compressed this. It looked clean and bright on my monitor. As I use the camera more I will revisit this. Anyway the test footage.
Uses and Value for Money
I've combined these two as it is the range of uses that makes this such good value for money. Without discount this is currently £65.60 including postage from http://www.gearbest.com/ although you may have VAT on this when it comes into the country. It is worth mentioning this to Gearbest when ordering
For this investment you get a capable waterproof video and stills camera. Using the motion detection setting you can rig it as a trail cam for day and twilight use. The same function can be used as a security function. You can take time lapse photos.
The possibilities are near endless. Before I got my GoPro I was not sure about action cameras and if they were worth having. Since getting it I am quite the convert and at this price it is not a huge investment to see if it works for you too.
There is a tendency to keep going for the really high resolution, fast paced cameras but ironically as the resolution of photos has increased the required resolution for use has dropped. In my case 99.9% of my pictures are for online use probably no more than 800 pixels wide (compared to the 2048 pixels wide this camera is taking). Yes you can crop more with more pixels but you could just get closer too and with this wide angle lens you need to be close anyway. With video 100% of my use is YouTube or FaceBook and once they have finished compressing the film I'm not going to be able to tell if this was footage from the SJ4000 or the GoPro unless i it slowed down footage that I shot at a high frame rate. I knew this when I bought my GoPro but I was splashing out for the seamless way it deals with doing time lapse movies but have since found that it is easier to just film and then speed up the film.
So in return for doing the review I received a discount code to be used for members if they want to buy one of these cameras. The discount code is SJ4000 and should bring the price down by about 15% ish. It seems to vary a little with the exchange rate. The discount code is valid till the 10th June 2015 so a little under 2 months from now.
As mentioned I will be testing the camera further and will report back with any further thoughts. In the meantime I'd be interested to hear how others have got on with these cameras and any tips they can give.
See post 11 below for details of the discount on the higher spec SJ5000 Plus