So I have been wanting a GoPro for quite a while and have come close to splurging a time or two. However, I have been intrigued and enticed by the many GoPro “killers” and alternatives out on the market. I have considered Mobius cams many times as well but just haven’t pulled the trigger. However, a couple of days ago, I decided to purchase an SJCAM SJ4000 camera from B&H photo after spying one for roughly $74 which really is an awesome deal. Take a look at the link here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1073567-REG/sjcam_sj4000s_sj4000_action_camera_silver.html . This is for the non-wifi version in case you are wondering. However, I didn’t mind not having the non-wifi version as I am going to be sneakernetting my videos from the micro SD card any way.
For my purposes, most of what I will be using the camera for is RC video of my planes or onboard FPV video on the plane itself. I have read others write the same concerns about putting a $400-500 camera on a plane which can get risky. If something happens to my $74 camera, while distressing, it wouldn’t make me quite as upset as losing a $500 camera.
First Impressions and potential concerns
One of the first things I really like about the SJ4000 among all the other GoPro alternatives is that it essentially is the same size as the GoPro camera, so all the clips and accessories for the most part work with this camera. Since there are tons of GoPro accessories out there on the net, to me it is a selling point to have all those accessories fit my GoPro knockoff.
What I also really like about this camera is the LCD screen on the back of the camera which lets you see what you are recording or taking pictures of. This is one of the features many GoPro owners have wanted to see and now have with the 4 Silver edition. There is the app for GoPro, however, sometimes it is just easier to be able to see on a convenient screen what you are capturing without apps or other accessories.
There are some negatives about buying a GoPro knockoff like the SJ4000 compared to the real GoPro brand. One of the frustrating things I ran into right at the start after unboxing and wanting to upgrade to the latest firmware is figuring out which firmware is the latest and from what source it needs to be downloaded. It turns out there are many imitation SJ4000 cameras out there as well as supposed SJ5000 cameras that are nothing more than cheap imitation SJ4000 cameras. Also, it turns out there are older and newer versions of the “real” SJ4000 which makes firmware determination even more difficult. From what I have found no one really has a great way to identify which PCB version you have besides, flashing the newest firmware available and seeing if it “whitescreens” your SJ4000 after installing. Then you have to basically “reflash” back to an older firmware.
If you Google SJ4000 official firmware or official site, you really don’t get a good feeling about the sites returned in your query as many are vendors selling the SJ4000 or that have certain versions of firmware available. Another interesting tidbit is that the older firmware actually has V02 in the firmware version whereas supposedly the newest firmware is listed as “V01”? Talk about confusing and un-reassuring. I will keep you guys posted on this front if I have firm answers to any of the question marks that I still have about this. My current V01 firmware that seems to be working well right now that I have flashed is listed as 2014-0929 firmware V01.
The best thing I would recommend anyone do is search great forums like RC Groups and the SJ4000 owners thread to get really great real world feedback and recommendations from others who own the camera.
So far the performance of this camera has met my expectations. The camera is sturdy, the buttons seem to work well, besides a delayed reaction from the Power On/Off/Mode button taking a while to react between menus. The video quality for me is fairly good for this price. My 1080P videos to me look clean and smooth as I would expect.
However, there are some downsides to the performance I would like to mention – The low light performance of this camera is horrible. If I take video in low light conditions, the video is very grainly and not very clear. It is amazing what the amount of light does for this camera. Good lighting and the camera footage looks really good.
I will mention though that I have not played around much with the exposure, ISO and other settings, so there may be settings that I have not really implemented as of yet that will drastically improve low light performance. From what I have read others have said about their footage however, this seems to be a trait of this camera.
All in all, I am pleased with this camera purchase. I want to emphasize this camera is NOT a GoPro killer or even equal, however, it does the job and if you want to spend a fraction of the cost of a GoPro and get good quality 1080P HD footage in good lighting, this may be the camera for you. I personally think it will work well in my RC videos getting footage of products and some flight footage as well. Plus if you would like to have a GoPro-“esque” camera on your plane and then at some point have a real GoPro for ground footage and other situations, you don’t have to buy (2) GoPros as I believe this little camera give you great performance and video for a small investment. Having the peace of mind that you aren’t putting your expensive GoPro or other camera in harm’s way really makes the case for me.