SJCam M20 Action Camera
This was my first time using an action camera. I decided to buy one to see what all of the fuss was about. I am generally more interested in photography than filming, but in this day and age having both skill sets can come in quite handy.
As it was my first purchase of an action camera, I didn't want to spend stupid amounts on one, so I went for a budget (but quite well known) brand which is SJCam. I had read several good reviews about the brand so I decided to see what all of the fuss was about and settled for the SJCam M20 for its compact size, decent filming capability and tonnes of accessories that came with it.
As you can see by the image above, you get loads of different accessories with the M20. These include attachments so you can stick the action cam almost anywhere. The M20 (and most of the SJCam range) come with a waterproof housing, which is great if you love exploring the sea and chasing fishies, and also if the weather turns bad as it will protect the action camera from water damage of a rainy day. You can also get a selfie stick type thing, which comes with a WiFi remote. I never actually used this for selfies, but it is good if you want a high up perspective of your surroundings, like if you are in a crowded area.
Getting to grips with the controls and the settings can be a bit of a pain. There was a few times that, for some unknown reason, my settings reverted back to the factory ones - meaning that the film quality was a bit rubbish and the time/date stamp was on the videos I shot. As well as this, my buttons area really sensitive when pressed in to go to a shooting setting I wish to use (timelapse, slowmo etc) and sometimes it can take a few presses to get onto the menu I wish to stay on.
The 4k isnt actually 4k at all either, it is produced by interpolation - I don't know the technical jargon for why not but I found this on the internet stating what 4k interpolation actually is :
Interpolation (inferring new data by extracting from known elements) algorithm, and tells pixels what to do based on what those surrounding it are displaying, and then duplicating them. The software will apply an algorithm (usually Bicubic) that generates extra pixels based upon adjacent pixels.
In addition to this, many manufacturers apply sharpening software to market their products, thereby reducing pixelation or softening, often tampering with contrasts to make an image look more vivid. It makes their upscaled videos better than their competitors
Because of this, I just stuck to 2K filming, because I was away in Croatia and didnt want to come back home and find that all my footage was crap, because I didn't know what the hell it all meant and I didnt take a laptop with me to see the quality of the footage!
Anyway - enough with all the technical jargon, lets have a look at the footage produced from the M20...
The video above gives you a sense of what the camera actually takes and the post editing. I have found that a lot of sites don't show the 'before' of their videos - much like any photographer, but I wanted to give you an honest look at what the video ACTUALLY looks like, because if you aren't big on editing it's nicer to know what you're getting, rather than being disappointed when your videos don't turn out like the ones you see on the internet.
I didn't do much to get the post editing look, I tweaked the contrast, sharpness and saturation - this is simply because I don't know much about video editing software, and also because I was using a trail version of Photoshop Premier so only had a few days to go through all the video I took.
Next up is looking at the slow motion option (video above) in the settings on the M20. I had a few plays on this setting whilst out and about, but mostly used it when I visited the waterfalls in Bosnia, as I thought a good tester of it would be loads of flowing water. I have to admit, the quality isn't amazing, but this could be due to all the silt and stuff that was in the water and sticking to the waterproof housing, but it did the job and is a very smooth video playback. I didn't get the camera for this setting though, so not all is lost.
My favorite setting on the M20 is Time-lapse mode. The video above shows how good it is when used like this. I made myself a cheap Rotating Time Lapse Pan stabilizer out of an egg timer and used some of the accessories from the M20 box to make a secure holding on it. I did quite a few time lapse videos of Dubrovnik and the surrounding areas on my little adventure. The video quality is great, the time lapse is always smooth and well... for me, this makes the M20 a bit of a keeper just for this mode alone. The only downside is that the quality is dramatically reduced at night - to the point that it doesn't look good at all; it could have just been the settings were wrong when I tried it, but it was a little disappointing to have a crappy pixalated time-lapse on a potentially really good video.
Finally we will have a quick look at the photograph quality of the M20. For me it isn't good enough, ye I guess its alright for internet needs, like websites, blogs etc, but when I zoomed in on the images, you can tell that the quality of the image isn't at all fantastic. But I guess its handy if you want some quick snaps in or near water and can't afford a DSLR Camera housing - like I did when I was in the sea or at the waterfalls. Decide for yourself from the images above (you must remember - the waterfall one is blurry from all the mud and silt that was sloshing around near the waterfall and I had no way to clean the housing).
Overall, for the cost of about £100, this is not a bad action camera at all. It is a good choice for a beginner in the world of action cameras, as it won't break the bank and will help you decide if you want to fully get into the action camera filming world. It's no top end GoPro, and you're not going to get outstanding cinema style quality videos out of this, but I would definitely recommend it as a hobby/first time action cam. Its small enough to throw in your bag, and the mass of accessories that come in the box will give you more options on how to use the camera.
One recommendation that I do have is to buy extra batteries for your SJCam. They are only a couple of quid extra and it will save you from getting really pissed off when you are in the middle of filming some cool stuff and your one and only battery dies.
Below are the tech specs for the SJCam M20 if you prefer a nice bullet point list to help you decide if it's the action cam for you :
16 MP IMX206 sensor
Novatek 96660 chip
166 degree adjustable FOV for wide, normal and narrow
Built-in gyrometer, anti-shake
Feature micro HDMI and micro USB as well as WiFi
1.5 inch live view LCD display
Video resolution: 4K 24fps, 2K 30fps, 1080P 60fps / 30fps, 720P 120fps / 60fps / 30fps, VGA 240fps
Image resolution: 16M (4608 x 3456), 12M (4032 x 3024), 10M (3648 x 2736), 8M (3264 x 2448), 5M (2592 x 1944), 3M (2048 x 1536), 2MHD, VGA (640 x 480), 1.3M (1280 x 960)
Battery: 3.8V 900mAh
Charging time: 3 hours
Working time: 65min (WiFi on) / 75min (WiFi off)
M20 is a 2.5K action camera. 4K is supported via Interpolation.
Below are some links to the SJCam action camera range so you can take a look at the specs and reviews to see if an SJCam is right for you. Also a few video editing software sites that might interest you if you are, or want to be, a video master (unlike myself who will probably always be a video novice!)