If you're looking for an action cam for outdoor shooting, you'll usually end up with the expensive GoPro models - but there are also cheaper alternatives such as the SJ4000 WiFi, which has some interesting features. I present this in this short hands-on test.
Full HD video with 30 FPS, WiFi support, mini-display for video preview, up to 40-metre waterproof housing - at first glance the SJ4000 WiFi many functions, which you would not otherwise find at a company in this price range with Action Cam in GoPro format would expect: good 110,- Euro must be invested for the SJ4000.
I personally use the camera more as an "always with you" camera on holiday, which can also be a bit of a hassle and doesn't get damaged with the first contact with water or dust, a smartphone is rather sensitive after all.
Scope of delivery of the SJ4000
For the money, one gets a well filled package that contains, beside the camera itself, all kinds of accessoires. The following parts are in the package of the SJ4000 Wifi:
- Waterproof housing (up to 40 meters)
- Adapter for lens thread
- Various holders, e.g. for the belt or bicycle handlebars
- A battery with 900 mAh - there are also stronger batteries at Amazon
- A suitable USB charger
Operating the SJ4000
The SJ4000 has a few buttons: an on/off switch on the front, an "OK" button on the top that also starts recording, and two buttons on the side to scroll through the menus. All these buttons are also accessible when the camera is in the waterproof housing.
The operation itself is clearly laid out, and by pressing the "OK" button the operating modes ("Video", "Photo", "Playback" and "Settings") can be changed. If WiFi is enabled, you can also control the camera easily via an app available for iOS and Android - this is handy if you have attached it to the outside of your car and want to start recording or change the operating mode to 720p60, for example. This makes it possible to create slow-motion sequences when you play the material afterwards at normal speed.
Recording with SJ4000
The most common way to record videos is to set the video to 1080p30, which is Full HD (1,920×1,080) at 30 frames per second. Recording in 1,280×720 with 60 frames per second is also supported - practical for fast movements that you want to slow down a bit afterwards. Also supported is the taking of photos, with a maximum of 16 megapixels. All this is stored on Micro-SD memory cards with a maximum of 32 Gigabyte.
With such a 32 gigabyte memory card, recordings of more than 3 hours in Full-HD are possible - but the battery only lasts a good 90 minutes. Practical: in the car, you can charge the camera while taking pictures at the cigarette port with a corresponding adapter while shooting. Therewith, one can use the SJ4000 also as Dash-Cam and depending on the colouring it is quite conspicuous. A few sample scenes cut together:
Alternatives to the SJ4000
Even though the SJ4000 offers many exciting functions and generally allows good recordings, but there are some disadvantages: there is a 60 FPS mode, but it works with "double" 30 FPS and therefore doesn't allow smooth playback at reduced speed. On Youtube there are corresponding Comparison videos with the SJ6000who don't have that problem. Whether a possible Firmware update for the SJ4000 can fix this is open - so far there is no corresponding update.
Also announced was the SJ5000, which will offer better picture quality and for example a 1080p60 mode. However, no price is known yet - only that the SJ5000 in three different versions should appear.
SJ4000 Wifi: Conclusion
For my purposes - namely to be able to record a video in the "classic" action-cam look even on the road - the camera is ideal. Due to its small size it is well suited as an "always-on" camera, even if you usually have a smartphone with you, which can also record good videos.
Other advantages: the replaceable battery and the waterproof housing - so you don't have to worry about the camera suffering even in the rain or in water. In the future I will take the camera with me when I go skiing or swimming and update the article here. Currently I am working with the SJ4000 WiFi - also because of the good price/performance ratio - quite satisfied. The only accessories I will buy are a retractable monopod and an external charger for the SJ4000 batteries. In my opinion, a GoPro Hero cannot necessarily justify the significantly higher price.
Update 11/23/2014: GoPro Alternative?
If you're looking for an action cam for Christmas, but find the GoPro models too expensive (although it is possible with the GoPro Hero for 125,- Euro a favourable entry point), the View SJ5000. The SJ5000 will be released in three versions and will be a bit more expensive than the current SJ4000, at least for the introduction, but will also have better specifications. The case remains the same, accessories from the SJ4000 will also fit the SJ5000.
Update 05.01.2015: SJ4000 firmware update
Already in September a new firmware for the SJ4000 Wifi has been released, but I have only just started to install it. The procedure is very simple: download the update file from the SJCAM website, copy it to an empty SD card and insert it into the camera that is turned off. Then connect the charger and insert the SJ4000 firmware is updated - all settings are lost, but you can't adjust that much anyway.
After the update you have to delete the *.bin file from the SD card (the easiest way is to format it with the SJ4000) and after that you can use the camera as usual. If you are not satisfied with the result, you can easily switch back to the previous version.
One of the main innovations is the ability to record images in a fixed rhythm - this then allows the creation of so-called timelapse videos, which have an exciting time-lapse effect.