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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

Dazzne P2

SJCAM M10+
 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Sena Prism Tube

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

            

 
« The Rollie Eggmaster Vertical Grill | Main | The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker »
Sunday
Jun092013

SJ1000 - At last...a good cheap action camera 

After years of fruitless searching and a not inconsiderable amount of money spent, I've finally found a good, cheap, 1080p waterproof action camera.

I get a lot of emails from people asking what action camera I would recommend for occasional use for paint-balling, mountain biking, etc - that costs around £50. Prior to today, my response has been that the cheapest camera I could really recommend was the Liquid Image Ego, but it costs£100.

If your budget doesn't stretch to £100 then there are very few action cameras to choose from. Perhaps the best camera from a very short shortlist is the the RD32II, but it suffers from a substandard mounting system and a non-standard video format. 

The SJ1000 changes everything. For about £60 you can buy a camera that is capable (under the right conditions) of producing video that rivals cameras costing over four times as much. I'm not suggesting that people throw away their GoPro HDHero 3 Black Edition cameras and get this instead...but if you are on a limited budget or don't see the point in spending £200+ on something you only plan on using a couple of times a year then this might well be the camera for you.

You'll have to do a bit of experimenting to get the mounting options to fit your requirements, but it's definitely worth the trouble when you see the video quality that you can get from this small camera. 

 

WANT TO BUY ONE?

Click on your Country of Choice ... US UK AUS DE NL

 

Here is a folder of downloadable sample clips

I should mention that I haven't shot many 720p60 clips...and you'll only find 1080p on the bike.

The only thing I think that I forgot to say in the video was that when using it as a car DVR there is no gap between clips (as you expect nowadays)...in fact each clip repeats the last second of the previous one just to be sure.

UPDATE - 10 June 2013 - Answering a few questions.

First some bad news - The 720p60 mode turns out to actually be 720p30 (every frame is shown twice). I should have spotted this earlier, but I had only been testing the 1080p30 mode as that's the one I use. iMovie always converts 720p60 to 720p30 so that's why I didn't notice it before...apologies for that. Here is a link to a fast moving 720p clip I shot today.

Motion Detection mode - When this is on, the camera records 10 seconds of video and then stops until it sees another movement. If a movement occurs during the 10 seconds when it's recording then the timer is reset and it records for another 10 seconds. This way if the movement doesn't stop then the camera doesn't either....hope that makes sense.

The camera should be able to be mounted the right way up in a car if the correct mounts are combined....this is demonstrated in some of the ebay auction photos. 

File Sizes: 10 Minutes of video takes up 1.2GB in 1080p or 1.07GB in 720p modes.

The case floats in water and on it's own weighs 66.7g.

The camera itself is 7cm tall, 4.5cm wide, 3 cm thick at the bottom and 3.5cm thick at the top where the lens makes it deeper.

The timestamp can be switched off. I turned it off for the Night Time Driving clips and show this option on-screen 19:57 into the video.

I think the manufacturer may be a company with the snappy name of Shenzhen Hongfeng Century Technology Co. Ltd.

BATTERY LIFE is 2hrs 15mins (Could be 2hr 30 mins or more with the screen off)

UPDATE 29 August 2013 'NEW' FIRMWARE!

I know a few people have been waiting for this - so finally here is the updated firmware that fixes the screensaver bug. If the fact that the screen didn't automatically blank out wasn't an issue to you, I'd suggest skipping this update. If you want to update the firmware, you can download the file from the Files & Drivers Page. Updating it is very easy, but just in case you are unsure...here's a quick video. Beware, if you somehow kill it, you are on your own.

Update 27 Sept 2013

Here's a link to another review of the camera by Tom Hardwick (he likes it).

Update 28/12/13.

This is a six month old review and a lot has happened since. You'll find the cases are improved, possibly the mounts too..and you now have the ability to turn the camera on when it's inside the case due to a different button arrangement. The current crop seem to have a 90º lens rather than the 140º on my camera. That means no fish-eye - but less FOV. I'm not doing any more videos about camera this but.....PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS...before posting a question that's been asked countless times before, it's the least you could do for all the kind people who have given up their time to elaborate on the features of this camera and posted their findings in the comments.  I'll give you a starter...NO IT DOESN'T DO TIMELAPSE...The way you can tell this is because there is no option for this on the screen when I go through all the menus in the camera...and it's the kind of thing I would have mentioned. I tend not to mention the things a camera doesn't do because we would be here all day....you can't clip your toenails with this camera, it can't be used as a flotation device, it won't take x-rays etc..... 

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Reader Comments (1215)

@tom hardwick - Defishr is expensive, however there is freeware alternative, for Windows users, in Virtual Dub. To that end someone has put an interesting article on the GoProUser forum:- http://goprouser.freeforums.org/correcting-barrel-fish-eye-distortion-t1065.html
Although this won't be an easy "one-click" solution, it's obviously cheaper.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBargain Bob

Hi Matt,
First of all I thank you for keeping up your good work. After your reviews on SJ1000 i finally bought this DVR and tested on my motorbike trip. In two instances the recording stopped at 30:52 and switched off itself. When i turned it on the battery symbol shows 2 bars. Prior to taking footage i charged it to its full capacity. I even tested with different speed SDHC cards but same results. I have chosen continuous recording mode. Hope you can suggest me to solve this problem. Thanks

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeaser

Maybe "Cyclic Record" doesn't work like we expect. There are 4 settings - off, 3, 5 and 10 minutes. Maybe the OFF setting just stops the camera after it reaches the limit of your microSD chip (which I assume in this case is 4GB).

I think I will switch mine to 10 minutes to try and make sure it cycles when the chip is full. The only drawback is having to join several segments together for a long video.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoginator

The camera died. While using it as a car dvr. Now I can't turn it on. When I press the power button the led turns blue on top but that is all nothing happens. No sound and no screen. I have tried to charge it from pc, power plug and car but no luck. The camere seams to be dead...
Is there a way to reset the camera?? I have tried to remove the battery and I have left it with no power for even 1 night but no luck..
This hapend after I turn the screen off. The screen saver was not working how ever if you set the screen saver to off then actually the screen saver was set to 1 sec or something like that... I prefered that then leaving the screen on because it was getting hot and it seams that the microphone was picking interferences and I assumed it was from the screen.
Any way.. I will request money back unless anyone know a way to reset this.. or to fix it somehow...
any idea?

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

I've tried to contact the manufacturers about the firmware and the power button on the waterproof case are are the replies:
1.All the firmwares of the SJ1000 are our pivate mode ,if you need it,we can post it to you with a good price.
2.We are improving ​ waterproof ​ now, and soon it will be in a ​ new and more powerful waterproof.

Apparently we have to pay for the firmwares...wait what? are they out of mind?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternando

@ Adrian.. mine went the same way, search sj1000 faulty on utube I uploaded this morning. Ebay seller is adamant its a battery problem and has offeres a replacement battery if I pay shipping. I'm waiting for 1 more reply from seller before I look to paypal for a refund. If you find a fix in the meantime, will you post here.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergillebob

@nando LOL, please ask them "WHO in the world has that kind of policy for firmware roll-out" and then tell them they should reconsider their position on this matter if they truly care about sales. It's obvious that more people would be interested in a device knowing the manufacturer offers support and firmware upgrades for it, e.g any successful electronics manufacturer - they all make firmware upgrades available for free on their website :)

@Adrian, gillebob : Let me get this right, you both have the firmware version Y130507 (like the cam in this review, with the screensaver bug), and you set the screensaver to OFF - That's when the camera died? Does it charge (red light behind the usb port)? The simptoms are exactly the same when it isn't charging? I suppose you could also try holding the power button pressed for about 10-15 seconds hoping it will reset it's settings (assuming they are the problem, not some hardware fault).

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny B

Anyone come up with a better mounting system for the inside of a car?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

I've 130615 without the screensaver bug. When its plugged to to charge or in the car as a dash cam it powers up and stuts down again straight away. Until today it was also shutting down immediately on battery, but its now it sometimes turns off straight away and sometimes stays on til I turn it off. Seller claims battery fault but I can't see that cause it was still doing it after an all night charge, and it should still work on mains/car with a poor battery.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergillebob

Mine is now doing exactly the same as this one below


Is there a setting to disable the power switch? Mine powered up when it arrived with a one second press of the power button, now it's charged it will only power up on the charger or when plugged into the PC, although when on the PC you can't do anything with it apart from switch from mass storage to pc camera.

July 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArtstu

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Done a reset ' remove and reinstall battery '

Turned on and it worked but connect to computer or mains to recharge battery it reverts to as above or sticks on 'welcome' screen

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

As I said. Mine does not power on at all. Only the blue led on top is tuned on. If I connect the power cable (USB) the led in the usb port turns red and the battery seams to be charging. I have tried all kinds of reset. I have measured the battery and it seams to be charged.. The problems to mine seams to be with the camera it self. The seller requested me send the camera back and he will send me a new one.. but he requested me to send it on unregistered... air mail... to send in a package it would cost about 35$.. In a mail envelope .. I don't know.. I will try tomorrow... but I am not sure this is safe for me... I had the same problem with another car dvr... it would not turn on just the led would light up...
Any ideas?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

@Adrian the blue LED on top signals that the camera IS powered on or recording (if it's flashing). If after you turn on the camera and the blue LED is lit try to press the OK button to record, it should start recording. If it does start recording and the LED flashes it means there's something wrong with the LCD display or the connection between it and the chip. If it doesn't do anything after you press the OK button it must be a software freeze problem. Did the problems start right after you set the screensaver to OFF or were you able to use it with that setting a few times and it died after the car ride? Should I be afraid to set the screensaver off? :)

@gillebob and Bernie: your problems seem to be software related or worse: a faulty microchip. No idea what might have set off this problem? I honestly don't think the battery is at fault...

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny B

Wonderful blog and thanks so very much for your reviews, they are enormously helpful. I am leery of buying stuff out of China, or eBay, for several reasons and I have not seen any post that deals with the issues, but if you have spoken to them, I'd be thrilled to go read up if you'd point me thereto. First, how do they handle warranty claims? Even at a bargain price, it is still turning cash into trash if the product doesn't perform for at least a full year. I know you don't test them for warranty but I wondered if you have ever tried returning any for your money back when they proved defective out of the box? Or do you just take the hit to the wallet? Yow. Next, in the case of the SJ1000, do you have to download any software from a Chinese website? You don't mention any in this case, but you do with other Chinese made cameras. Considering the, shall we say, controversial, "appropriation" of the IP of other countries by the Chinese government, what sort of nonsense could be hitching a ride into our hardware, if you know what I mean? Particularly considering the end use of recording devices. In any case, I remain intrigued but wary.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersparkylumens

Here is a link with the video describing the problem :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSyRjyf7yAw
As I said before the led does not blink at all. The screen is not just off.. The camera would make a sound when it is turned on or it would connect to pc or it would connect to hdmi.. but nothing.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

Hello,
this camera is avaiable from various ebay sellers now. There was a bit of confusion about the zoom: some of them claim it's a "4x OPTICAL zoom". But after I ask to check better they changed the description as "digital zoom". Another chinese seller told me: " We call this camera F10/s J1000. They are all the same and coming from the same factory..."

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSherin4W

I worry more of NSA and Tempora than Chinese camera!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat

Most small sport camera including GoPro/Rollei were made in China.. Find me one US/German/British/Japan made for under €100, please!
Talking is cheap! May be find another forum for your political correct!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I took the housing out diving again in a local puddle, this time with the camera. Dive time 47 minutes, maximum depth 11,8 meters. The pike was still sitting in the same spot:
http://youtu.be/uHn_X4CMIME
http://youtu.be/APZFPun_Pos

FWIW, I took a load of stills as well which I put up here: http://gerla.nl/images/sj1000/
Not too impressive, I'll admit. Most shots suffer from shoddy focus, motion blur, vignetting and my middle finger intruding into the picture. But you get an idea of how the camera performs.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArthur

After several resets and over night rest, it's working again this morning.
Just tried it out in the car with the supplied windscreen mount, wobbles more than a fiddlers elbow.
So I need something more substantial, any suggestions anyone.

Also what editing software did you use Techmoan to turn image 180 degrees?

Ta

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

I use iMovie on a Mac. Rotate is an option under the cropping menu.

July 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Ah, the Mac!

Any suggestion for windows 7?

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

No, someone else will have to answer that one....I've only used Macs for editing for years.

July 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

@ Arthur

You need strong correction filter, or big color correction in PP. Nice underwater indeed.

@ Bernie

Try Magix Video Deluxe 2013, no need for the higher version of Plus or Premium. I am using Premium, but normal is enough for me.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat

@bernie - XMedia Recode is an excellent package for Windows - and its Freeware!!
It will certinly rotate the video, vertically or horizontally and a whole lot more besides. Also excellent for changing resolution's and aspect ratios.
Try Googling it to find out more.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBargain Bob

OK peeps, some (probably boring) facts. The black one is actually a pretty metallic black.

Don't bother with class 10 cards when class 4 is way better than needed for these mov files.
Each new clip re-writes the last 25 frames (1 second) from the preceding clip. The camera's shooting 30fps which will be interpolated to 25fps by your timeline. Individual frames are therefore a mix of adjacent frames but even so, car registration plates can be clearly read in pause. No dropped frames.

The audio recorded by the pin-prick of a mic is staggingly good. I recorded some solid rock from my car radio and couldn't believe how well the (mono) replay sounded.

The camera is coded as 'Novatek model nr 96460' Firmware Y130 61311
The JPEGs are pretty sharp using camera defaults in the menu. Leave the w/bal on auto - it's far better than any of the presets though can wander somewhat.
The lens' focal length isn't given (probably in the region of 4mm). It has a very wide angle of view, easily seeing both my A pillars when stuck to the top of my car's windscreen. It is sharp corner to corner, but the barrel distortion is severe and Photoshop can only partially remove it. It works well in low light - noticeably better than my Crocolis with it's f/3.4 max aperture.

It has a fast f/1.6 maximum aperture but *everything* is shot at f/1.8. The multi-coating is very impressive indeed and you have to shoot right into the sun to get flare in your shot. The front element is very vulnerable, protruding slightly from its surrounding bezel. A micro-fibre cleaning cloth is supplied (along with the kitchen sink).

Exposures are controlled by the shutter speeds varying from 1/33rd sec up to 1/10,000th and the ISO from 50 to 900.
Don't bother with the anti-shake. The exposure bias works well, but the meta-data has the + and the - reversed. For most daytime car shooting the best results are at +2/3 stop because the sky unduly affects the overall exposure

The cable from 12v car adapter isn't long enough to be hidden up the A pillar trim (as the Crocolis camera allows) and has to go 'direct'.
Overall: I'm impressed. The accessories (18 of them) must have cost the same as the camera. It vibrates too much when stuck to the car's screen, so the tiny rubber bushes need to be removed. 25 days to reach me, £55.65. Amazing.

tom.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertom hardwick

@ Bernie. Of course you may want to flip the video, but the brackets supplied with mine allowed me to film through the car's windscreen using the glass suction cup above it and the camera the right way up.
Oh, and also don't bother to set a high figure than 5mp when shooting stills, it's meaningless.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertom hardwick

@Bernie Avidemux (free software http://bit.ly/1a8LMRC ) : Video - Filters - Rotate. I'm glad it's alive again :)

@Adrian I tried switching the screensaver off too (firmware v. Y130507) and it works as you said: the screen shuts off after half a second and turns back on at the press of a button (any button) for another half a second. The camera functions normally, and after a power off and then on again it resets to the default value (aka it will never turn off unless you power the camera off or choose screensaver OFF). It must be a hardware issue with your camera... if you are hesitating to send it back you colud open it yourself and check for disconnected/damaged parts or take it to your local electronics specialist.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny B

@Bernie .. give the camera and the car mount to a 5 year old. He will rotate the camera and you don't have to use a software. ;). If you use a software... re-compressing the video always loses quality.
Bernie take a look on the mount.. there are 2 screws .. undo those... rotate the camera grip and put the screws back.. and presto. If the camera wobbles during movement just tighten the connections between the moving parts.
@Johnny B .. yes.. I was going to use the camera with the 0,5 screen saver.. that was fine for me.. not good but good enough. But then it died... I don't know if that setting was the problem the triggered the death of it.
I have sent the camera back. It cost me 4 $.. so why not. The seller said he will send me a working one. If not.. there is also paypal claim... and ebay support. I don't think this guy wants bad publicity..

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

@Adrian
Brilliant, what a star.
With my glasses on I assumed the final bracket was riveted but with a magnifying glass aha screws.
That's what the screwdriver in the pack was for.

Thanks for the window software suggestions but Adrian has come up trumps

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

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