It’s time to hand over to my husband again for a review of the SJCam SJ4000 which we recently purchased for our family, this is not a product we have been given to review.
I love the idea of a GoPro, the design, the durability, the features but mostly I love the marketing, it’s an amazing example of lifestyle marketing, buy a GoPro and you can film yourself surfing, diving, climbing into volcanos and jumping out of helicopters to ski down a mountain.
The only problem is that I don’t really do any of those things and I because I don’t really do any of those things, I could never really justify the purchase of a GoPro.
I know that last year, GoPro launched an entry-level camera at a slightly more justifiable £109.99 but I felt that the compromises made to achieve the price point (no wi-fi, built-in battery and you can’t remove it from the waterproof housing) reduced the camera’s appeal to me, so thought I’d wait until I had suitable justification to buy a higher spec’d one.
A couple of week’s ago, I was reading lifehacker’s roundup of the five best action cameras when I noticed the SJCAM SJ4000 which at $99/£66 seemed like something I could use and not worry too much about it getting lost, stolen or eaten by one of my children. So I set about buying one.
Beware of the clones
The SJCAM SJ4000 is a very popular clone of the GoPro, so popular in fact, it’s attracted it’s own clones and there are numerous cameras of differing (frequently lesser) quality all selling under the SJ4000 name but there are several suppliers of genuine SJ4000s that deliver to the UK.
The SJ4000 comes with a good collection of mounts to get you started, included with in the box with the camera and battery are;
1 x Waterproof Housing
1 x Quick Release Buckle
1 x Housing Backdoor with Holes
1 x Handlebar Seatpost Pole Mount
1 x Curved Adhesive Mount
1 x Flat Adhesive Mount
1 x 3-Way Pivot Arm Mount
2 x 3M Adhesive Tape
1 x Frame Mount
1 x Quick Release Clip for The Frame
1 x Vertical Quick Release J-Hook Buckle
1 x Universal 1/4″ Camera Tripod Mount
1 x Tripod Mount Adapter
1 x Bandage Set
1 x Stainless Steel Safety Tether
4 x Nylon Cable Ties
1 x Cleaning Cloth
1 x USB Cable
1 x Power Adapter
The camera feels solid and well made, as do the mounts although the battery case is a little hard to open, on the front of the camera is the on/off/menu button, on the top is the record / stop / select button. on the right hand side is the up and down buttons, pressing the up button turns on the camera’s wi-fi and shows a screen with the access point name and password. On the left hand side of the camera is the MicroSD slot, micro-usb and micro HDMI ports.
Overall, This is a great little camera for the money, the included mounts mean that, as long as you have a microSD card ready, you can get started filming interesting stuff straight away. The LCD screen on the back is decent enough and lets you frame your shots, cutting out after a few minutes to save power but after a few day’s use you get a good enough understanding of where to point the camera without having to use the screen, so I’m not sure about the long-term benefits of the screen.
The video quality is great in good light, reducing in quality when the light fades or you start videoing indoors, nighttime footage is pretty poor quality but you can still make out what you’re trying to film. The auto exposure isn’t the fastest and the camera sometimes take’s a while to correct itself when the light changes and in most cases the video white balance seems to be a little cool and on the blue side.
The camera has a time-lapse function which takes 1 frame of footage every 3, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds, results from this are very good.
Video is recorded at 1080p (full HD) @ 30 frames per second by default and can be set to 720p @ 30 or 60fps (which isn’t a true 60 frames per second, rather than record 60 unique frames per second, it each frame twice, so it’s more like 30fps x2)
When inside the waterproof case; sound is practically non-existent with the camera’s microphone only picking up knocks and vibrations affecting the case itself, there’s no easy way to add an external microphone, so take into account if you’re considering buying this camera but since all GoPro style videos have a banging techno soundtrack this shouldn’t be an issue, right?
The firmware on the camera isn’t the greatest and it took me a while to understand how to navigate the menu structure and change the settings but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to fiddle then the default 1080p@30 fps should be fine for you.
The Wi-Fi built into the camera acts as a wireless access point that you can connect your Android phone / tablet or iPhone / iPad to, then you can use the SJCAM app to act as a remote screen for the camera, start and stop recoding, alter settings and transfer video from the camera to your phone.
Battery life is fairly disappointing with the camera only running for a couple of hours using the supplied battery, fortunately it is removable and additional batteries can be bought pretty cheaper from all the usual places.
The supplied mounts are useful and the SJCAM uses the same mounting method as the GoPro, so there’s many additional mounting options available, I picked up a carry case and a party bag of mounts for about £25, allowing me to strap the camera to my wrist, my chest or mount it to my head (which I’m not sure I can do in public).
For £67, I knew that I’d be making some compromises over a more expensive GoPro and I strongly feel that the positives of this camera more than outweigh the negatives, but when looking at cheaper alternatives to popular devices you always need to do your homework and know exactly what those compromises are otherwise you run the risk of being disappointed.
I’m very happy with the camera and it will suit our family nicely and will allow us to record holidays, bike rides and all the kind of things that you’d worry about exposing your phone or video camera to.
Although if I ever jump out of a helicopter and ski down a mountain, I’m definitely buying a GoPro.