I get nauseous easily from watching non-stabilized video, so I never wanted to get a camcorder to record video that I know I can’t bear to watch later on. However, i now need one to record the proceedings of an upcoming indoor event. With an under S$100 budget in mind, I turn to Taobao as usual.
At the back of my mind, instead of getting a Camcorder in the traditional form factor, i was toying with the idea of getting one of those action cameras meant for sports enthusiasts that are hugely popular now, since it has the video recording capability that i need anyway, and can double as a video recording tool on a trip (it can perform a few other tricks too).
Prior to this, i know next to nothing about action cameras, except that it was made popular by GoPro. A quick search on Taobao introduced me to a popular GoPro knockoff called SJCAM. It is so popular that almost all of what is sold on Taobao are not the real SJCAM, though all of them claim to be. I think it is probably the case that SJCAM outsources the manufacturing and simply puts its branding on the OEM products. I don’t mind a single bit getting something that is not officially SJCAM branded because the price alone – at less than half that of the comparable SJCAM branded one – justifies everything.
The model i settled on getting was the SJ7000. The package that includes an extra battery, at RMB 280 (S$62), costs only RMB 15 more than the package without, definitely more worthwhile. Shipping to Singapore cost another S$9. For the “princely” sum of S$71, i’m getting what appears to be the same camera as the SJCAM X1000 which retails at US$99 (S$140), so it’s almost exactly half priced. If one is tight on budget, the non-WiFi version is available at RMB 195 (S$43). However, i thought the WiFi version makes possible some fun usage scenarios. You could use it for security surveillance – place it in some corner and monitor what’s happening remotely through WiFi. You can even mount it on a drone. For the fun factor alone, i thought it was worth paying the extra S$20. The other fun thing one can try with the SJ7000 is time lapse video recording.
Overall, I think the video quality is satisfactory. The LCD display quality is rather mediocre, which is fine, since it mostly serves the purpose of a viewfinder and also to show an index of the videos and photos captured (there is no point using this camera for photography though, your mobile phone probably performs better). For my intended purpose of recording an indoor event, with camera mounted on a tripod, there is constant image noise on those static parts of the scene (i.e. the general background), due to video compression and probably an inferior quality CMOS sensor. In the case of using the action camera while on the move, as the camera is designed to do, this wouldn’t be a problem, since the scene is constantly changing. Again, this is acceptable to me, since i wasn’t intending to record professional quality video in the first place. The audio quality turned out to be above average, a pleasant surprise.
Another important aspect about this camera is that video is shot in wide angle (i.e. fisheye), which is mostly a good thing – you can capture a lot of the scene from a very short distance, also the footage will appear to be less shaky (less nausea inducing) when you’re using it on the move. In exchange for these advantages, you’ll have to accept the distortion that comes with shooting in wide angle.
Prior to buying this camera, i read that it (as with all the SJCAM cameras) has a 4GB file size limit, due to the use of the FAT32 filesystem by default. This restricts the maximum recording time, at Full HD resolution, to about 35 minutes per file, when the 4GB file size is reached. When this happens, there will be about a one second interval before the camera starts recording a new video. I was hoping that the fix to overcome this problem, as suggested in some online sources – re-formatting the SD card into exFAT filesystem, would work, but unfortunately it does not. Unless you constantly need to record very lengthy videos of more than 30 minutes, this would not be a problem though. By the way, a Class 10 UHS-I SD Card is good enough for recording a Full HD video, and these are dirt cheap.
The WiFi functionality worked as advertised – tested on Android using an app called Youmera. The link provided (through the QR Code on the box/manual) points to a Youmera download that is broken, but you can find this app on Google Play.
All in all, I think this was a good buy and i doubt you can get better bang for buck with any other action camera.