SJCAM M10 Review Introduction
SJCAM is a Chinese based maker of budget sport cameras. Their earlier models, such as the SJ4000 (approx. $110), are low priced copies of the GoPro rectangular style which have gotten very good reviews. The SJCAM M10 ($100 w/accessories, $70 bare) is a newer cube shaped model which we assume contains many of the same innards as the SJ4000 model. This First Look and Review will focus mostly on the use of this camera for aerial photography and video.
Before we delve deeper into the features and performance, it must be said that if you are shopping for a camera which like a GoPro but at 1/3 of the cost…you are not going to get it with any of the action cameras in the $100 category. Even an older model of GoPro such as the Hero2 will be superior to this category. BUT, if you are looking for a camera with a vast array of features, a color LCD screen and the ability to easily switch to a dashboard cam, etc. – then read on.
Size, Weight, Specs and Accessories
The SJCAM M10 is cube shaped – although not as small as it might appear in the ads and marketing material. The dimensions are given as 48.1 by 43.3 by 43.4mm, which is a bit smaller than a 2″ square (with the included bracket you can figure it as 2″).
In terms of weight, we found the bare camera with the battery and a MicroSD card to weigh 67 grams. Proper mounting of the camera to a quadcopter requires use of the included slip-in bracket as well as a small adapter so it will fit into GoPro type 3-Tab mountings you may already have on your quad. This brings the total weight up to about 98 grams – still lighter than most any similar cameras which includes an LCD screen. The Mobius Sport Camera, which we compare with the SJ M10 in this article, weighs in at less than 50 grams with the same mounting (38 grams bare).
The basic specs as claimed by the Manufacturer are shown in the image below:
Keeping it simple, the camera is capable of HD video at 1080P (1920*1080 ) at 30FPS and 720P (1280*720) at 60FPS or 30FPS. The maker also claims still photographs at up to 12MP, although I have my doubts about this being a true resolution (may be up-sampled – read on). The SJCAM M10 has a number of menus and settings which allow for most any function that a user would want. Motion detection, cycle recording (dash cam), timers and much more are readily available as are quality and other adjustments (see our upcoming video for demonstration).
In terms of included accessories, the full package includes just about everything you need. A lower cost model is sold without the waterproof case and accessory bundle – this model would do fine for those who are only going to use the M10 on a quadcopter, kite or other flying apparatus. The picture below shows the included accessories.
Mounting the SJCAM M10 for Flight Testing
I used the included bracket to mount the camera to my existing GoPro style anti-vibration mount – as shown. Underneath the M10, I mounted a Mobius Camera so that I could take some comparison shots at the same time.
Still Photo Mode – Comparison of SJCAM M10 and Mobius
The first series of still shots were taken at about 1PM on a day which started out sunny and then turned cloudy. It was not bright, but there was plenty of light for any camera. In fact, conditions such as this are often ideal for photographs as there is no blowout due to reflection and bright sun/shadows, etc.
Here is one example of cropped still photos from both cameras:
To my eye, the Mobius photo, even though only 3MP, is more accurate – look at the gutter and the pattern of the patio to compare. This photo pair was taken at relatively close range – the next pair is much longer distance:
Clicking on the pics above once or twice should bring them up in full resolution (M10 was downsized to the Mobius size for proper comparison) for you to study. A careful look shows some advantages to each camera – the SJCAM depicts the green trees in a less blurry fashion, but the colors and general features are more clear on the Mobius (see the village area in the upper left of the photo, etc.).
Here is a crop of a house and driveway from both photos – no clear winner here. For now I’m going to have to call the still pictures a draw (at best), although I am going to take more when the sun is out to see if any major differences show up.
I ran a couple tests for video – comparing the M10 against the Mobius Sport camera and a GoPro Hero2. The results are posted on Vimeo:
Each person has different eyes, but to mine even the older GoPro is far superior to the SJ Cam. The M10 seems to really crank up the exposure (light) and the blues. In some cases, like those very cloudy scenes, this can make the videos look better. I’ll leave the reader to be the final judge.
Note that the SJ M10 is functionally identical to the SJ 4000 – and a number of sample videos are reviews are available for that camera. The difference between the two cameras is mostly in the cube vs. rectangle form factor.
The SJ400 has many imitators – clones! If you want a real SJ4000, do your homework and make sure of the actual manufacturer (SJCAM) and not just the model number.
This Amazon link appears to be the true (SJCAM) model of the SJ4000
First, it’s hard to argue with the price and the included accessories. The camera is available for as little as $90 – here is one Amazon link – and sometimes even less when sold without the full accessory pack (drone flyers may not need all the options).
It’s safe to say you don’t want this camera for taking still photographs. It does not provide the advertises resolution (12MP), but instead enlarges a much smaller picture to simulate a bigger one.
As far as video, it seems that many users are impressed with the output. Certainly it is hard to beat in the range of $90 or so. However, it does not – as come claim – compete with any of the GoPro models. It is an inexpensive camera and you generally get what you pay for.
In summary, this camera is a good value IF you want a sports camera without paying the GoPro or Sony (or other upscale models) prices. However, price aside, it is not a impressive camera. The resulting videos will be fine for sharing with friends and family, but don’t expect your youtube or vimeo channel to become the next blockbuster based on the output of the SJCAM M10.
It would be great if SJCAM and similar companies spent just a bit more money on their sensors and lenses and less on the pile of accessories. Even $10 more spent in the factory would result in a much better camera – one that I’d gladly pay $130 for (as opposed to the $90 or so this sells for). But, alas, low prices seem to be the desire of many…and this package definitely delivers.
I won’t be keeping this camera in my pile…because my ancient GoPro Hero2 and others outperform it. But I can definitely see the appeal for hobbyists and others who may not mind losing a less expensive camera when and if their drones fly away or land in a lake.