Friday, August 19, 2016

REVIEW: SJCAM S5000+ Sports Action Camera

This is going to be a no nonsense review of the SJCAM S5000+ for suitability and use for photography on your multirotor aircraft.  After my S5000+ arrived I strapped it my Vortex 250 Pro and went to the field to try it out.  Here are my initial impressions from my flight.

Camera Size
The camera is a ever so slightly larger than it's earlier predecessors.  While it is a small camera, especially without it's protective case, it must be small and lightweight for use on multirotor aircraft.  There's not that much room on a 250mm aircraft.  Once I have the camera strapped into the optional GoPro cradle there is about 1/4" between the front rotor blades and the camera.  During a hard landing the camera shifted slightly.  After repositioning the aircraft for another flight I neglected to check the camera position.  One of my blades was trapped against the camera and would not turn.  I'm lucky I didn't burn my motor out.  It's not a big problem now that I know about it but another line item for me to check on my pre-flights.

Another concern is that there is only I place to put a wrap strap to hold the camera the mount and sometimes it presses the button while in flight turning off the camera.  I missed recording several flights that day due to the camera being shutoff.  At first I thought it was a configuration feature to shutoff the camera to save battery power.  After some careful review of the options this turned out not to the case.

Finally, I had the battery door on the bottom of the camera fall off on several flights.  In all fairness, flight is a demanding environment and it's easy to pull a lot of G's in an aircraft, corning, loops, crashing, etc.  I never lost the door but it popped off and I had to put it back on.  No doubt SJCAM could make some improvements designing cameras specifically for mutirotor rotor but I think ImmersionRC could also improve it's cradle design.  The design of the camera cradle on the vortex is two vertical carbon fiber plates that fit into the top of the aircraft.  The vertical plates are stabilized by a carbon backing plate.  A piece of neoprene with adhesive on the back keeps the camera from sliding.  A slightly better design in my opinion would also include a small carbon plate across the bottom with another piece of neoprene.  The extra neoprene would keep the camera from sliding and door would not pop off the bottom.

Image Quality
Amazing!  I took a quick video while setting some PIDs on my Vortex 250 Pro.  The camera will do 4k.  However, I am mostly interested in 1080P.  I set the camera to record 1080P at 30fps which it can do very easily.  No lagging or ripping, jello lines, etc.  I'm really REALLY happy with the quality of the video.

Better Auto White Balance
Almost forgot, previously one of the problems with small cameras is that when flying into the sun many cameras will darken the entire picture to compensate for the bright sun.  The result of this balancing war is that the sun looks great while everything else in the picture is so dark it cannot be seen.  Of course this is not very practical for sharing video with your friends and family.  You don't need to worry about this with the 5000+.  The camera adjusts to the light perfectly without adjustment.  When flying into the sun the camera reduces intensity of the sun while keeping foreground and background the same.  Watching my old camera raise and lower the intensity of the screen is annoying.  This feature alone is worth the price of a new camera.

The camera goes for about $139US.  Price is outstanding.  There is some competition in the space.  I can't say how well these compare.  GoPro is definitely the gold standard for sports cameras but cameras like SJCAM are edging in.  At least with 1080P, the difference in quality between the 5000+ and the GoPro Hero 4 Black is marginal - my opinion.  Especially, if your a new pilot and crash a lot.  ;o)


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