[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]
SJCAM SJ7 Star Snap Verdict
One of a new generation of action cameras the SJCAM comes packed with the latest generation of processor and sensor instantly proving it’s pedigree. Metal body, robust design and large clear screen offer a great deal but it’s the image quality that really makes this camera and excellent choice.
For SJCAM SJ7 Star
- GoPro-matching resolution
- Incredible price
- Bright clear screen
Against SJCAM SJ7 Star
- Old style waterproof housing
- Camera gets hot
- Some of the included mounts are a little thin
SJCAM are one of the big action camera manufacturers with a huge selection of cameras. Above all it’s image quality that has really set them apart from other manufacturers.
SJCAM have consistently pushed the boundaries by balancing components and price. A few years ago I looked at the SJCAM SJ5000X, an excellent camera especially when it came to the quality of the footage.
However for a camera that blew most others out of the water when it camera to video, it has a few issues with usability and a tricky to clean case.
The SJCAM SJ7 is all new and I’ll admit that the spec’s of this small new camera are certainly exciting. The Ambarella processor coupled with the Sony sensor always prove a good mix so here packed inside a stunning metal outer it all looks to be coming together.
However the boost in built quality of the camera build is in slight contrast to the older styled waterproof housings.
The spec’s and build of this camera put it in direct firing line against the fantastic Yi 4K, GoPro Hero4 Black and Black Hawk 4K.
I’ve emitted the GoPro Hero5 Black and Garmin Virb Ultra 30 as I’m yet to see anything in that league of quality and use.
SJCAM SJ7 Star Specifications
- Sensor: Sony IMX117 16 MP
- Chipset: Ambarella A12S75
- Video resolutions: 4K@30fps, 2k@60fps, 1080p@120fps, 1080p@30fps, 720p@200fps, 720p@60fps, 720p@30fps
- Max Bitrate: 60Mbps
- Photo: 16MP
- Field of View: 166°
- Modes: Capture Mode, Self-Timer, Burst mode, Record, Video Lapse, Photo Lapse, FPV mode
- Features: WIFI, 2.0″LCD Touch Screen, Gyro Stabilisation
- Ports: Mini USB, Micro HDMI Out, MicroSD card slot
- Memory: MicroSD up to 128GB
- Battery life: 120mins
- Dimensions: 60×41×30mm / 2.3×1.6×1.1″
- Weight: 74g / 2.6oz
SJCAM SJ7 Star in the box
- SJCAM SJ7 Star
- Waterproof Housing
- Mounts: Quick Release Buckle, Handlebar Seat post mount, Curved adhesive mounts, Flat adhesive mounts, 3-Way Pivot Arm mount, Frame mount, Quick release clip for frame, Vertical Quick Release J-Hook buckle, Univeral 1/4″ Camera Tripod mount, Tripod Mount adapter
- Cleaning cloth
- MiniUSB-USB Cable
It’s very easy to get swayed by specifications, especially 4K resolutions. The SJCAM SJ7 Star certain peaks more than a touch of interest on this front with GoPro Hero5 Black matching native 4k at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps.
The camera has a native resolution of 12 million pixels.
An interesting highlight is the camera has a maximum recording bitrate of 60mbs, that’s extremely high for an action camera and should provide the ability to capture plenty of detail.
The 4K is full 4K and not interpolated like so many other action cameras. Resolutions are the big hit headline feature however there’s far more to an action camera than the size of the footage that it produces.
Before we leave resolutions and frame rate behind it’s worth mentioning that these are made possible by the Ambarella A12S75 processor. The A9 and A12 processors have really pushed image quality and the A12S is the processor we recently saw in the excellent THIEYE T5e.
This processor is matched with the Sony IMX117 Sensor this is the one commonly thought to be used by GoPro.
Having a great sensor and processor combo is only the beginning of the story and if you don’t match these with a great lens then any quality gains can be quickly lost.
The camera features a typical fish-eye perspective on the world with a 166º field of view. As ever the camera shoots stills as well as video at 16 million pixels and all footage and images can be viewed on the large 2” LCD touch screen.
WiFi is of course included and there is gyro stabilization built in.
Small in size big in features
Dimension wise it’s a close match to the GoPro Hero4 Black at 60×24.7c 41mm, so it will fit and work with many accessories such as the Feiyu G5 stabilizer and the camera itself weighs in at just 74g without the waterproof housing.
On the side is the mini USB port, HDMI out and MicroSD card slot, these are flush to the body with no protective covering without the housing.
The camera is powered by a 1050mAh battery which will provide between an hour and two hours of use dependent on the use.
As well as the usual video and photo modes there are also low light, slow motion, motion detection, white balance, Sharpness, Color and Loop recording amongst others.
The camera also arrives well stocked with a variety of accessories including a handle bar mount, sticky mounts and tripod adapter ensuring you can get started from the outset.
Theres also a cage and touch screen back for the housing which both proved useful during the test.
[nextpage title=”Build & Handling” ]
SJCAM SJ7 Star Build Quality & Handling
When the SJCAM SJ7 arrived I have to admit a certain amount of excitement, the specs all added up, the resolutions looked amazing and it has a decent screen and the option for plenty of accessories.
Opening the box and dropping the camera out and I have to admit a little dismay to find an older style waterproof housing, this features a bolt-on lens and lever clasp with lock encasing the camera.
A closer look and I did start to feel a little happier about the design but not a great deal. The lens on the front is designed so that the front element can be swapped out if needed, although you’ll probably find it easier just to buy a complete new case.
The design of the lens is at least relatively flat, but after testing, even at the height of the British summer, dirt, mud and other grub all collected around the lens. The third button, shutter, is on top and surrounded by the lever clasp, this lock is positioned in such a way that it in some situations it actually made it quite difficult to access.
The quality of the case is in stark contrast to the design and although I’m not a fan of this waterproof housing I have to say I do at least trust it to protect the camera underwater and when out on a ride.
Along with the housing there are also a series of mounts in the box and these all worked well and are of a decent quality. The standard quick release base is quite a bit thinner than the GoPro equivalent, but strength and usage wise it did the job perfectly.
A gem inside the housing
Waterproof housing aside, dropping the camera out you notice a stark difference between the camera and housing.
The aluminium casing gives the camera an instant feeling of quality, while the feel of the buttons and the door that opens to reveal the battery compartment is robust.
On top of the camera you have the shutter button and this illuminates with a blue ring when the camera is active. Tap record and the light flashes to show that recording has started, all a really nice touch.
On the front are two buttons: the first is the power and second the settings. Again simple layout and easy to use to navigate options and change settings using the big screen.
Out of the case, however, there’s no need to use the buttons as all options and settings can be reached by using the touch screen.
The sensitivity of the screen isn’t the most reactive that I’ve seen but this to be honest is good and the for once even when stopping on a ride slightly sweaty fingers still enabled easy navigation and option selection.
The menu systems are clear and easy to navigate and feel so far removed from the old carousel menu systems that were common with action camera only a short time ago.
The touchscreen is excellent out of the case, but then this camera also has two other options, Wifi app and watch.
Remote control with the slick app
The app gives you full access and to all the cameras settings and also has some interesting additional features. These include connection to the large SJCAM community and the ability to login to all the major social networks to share your footage and images.
You can also register an account with SJCAM and get involved with liking and commenting on other SJCAM users footage. The community is really nicely layout out and seems to be thriving with users across the globe.
Into the app itself and the control of the camera is really straight forward. The design of the app is one up on much of the competition with a fluid live view that works through the resolutions.
During the test period using an iPhone 6 there was some break up of the live view stream but it didn’t drop out.
Clear live view through the App
The live view itself has just under a second delay so it is noticeable but really not so much that I’d worry.
Another option for controlling the camera is through the watch accessory, this is an additional purchase but offers an easy five button control over the camera. I used this a couple of times during the test and the operation is exceptionally easy enabling you to take picture, shoot in burst mode, take video, power on and off and connect the WiFi.
Overall in use the camera is excellent although there is a big difference between using the camera in and out of the waterproof housing.
In the housing the camera is OK to use, a little tricky to navigate through the settings and the design of the lever clasp that keeps the case closed makes it tricky to reach the shutter button, and is incredibly fiddly to remove. It does however keep the camera well protected.
Out of the case and the camera is an absolute joy to use, only rivaled by the Yi 4K and GoPro Hero5 Black.
[nextpage title=”Performance” ]
SJCAM SJ7 Star Performance
The SJCAM SJ7 Start produces video quality that is good – but with specs that put it up against the GoPro Hero4 Black the SJCAM SJ7 Star needs to have exceptional video quality.
During the test most footage shot was at either 4k at 30fp or 1080p at 120, 60 and 30fps. At these resolutions and frame rates you can really get a good idea of how the camera handles dynamic range, colour, tone, detail and of course motion.
Dynamic range is alway a tricky one for action cameras, as the camera only has a small sensor and it has to battle with the difference in light and contrast across a huge scene, not only that it’s often having to do that at speed so unlike normal video cameras it has to process and adapt to change quickly.
The SJCAM SJ7 Star did a good job at both 4K and 1080p when shooting at 30fps. 4K footage showed plenty of crisp detail and there is a good amount of shadow and highlight detail captured.
At the lower frame rates overall image quality is good with some signs of chromatic aberration around high contrast edges such as trees to sky but generally across the image it is handled pretty well.
Riding into the sun did create a little more flare than expected and although it’s an effect that can add dramatic effect to the shots I usually like to make that choice myself.
Colour throughout is good, although in bright contrasty condition the camera tends to add a little more warmth than is needed. But this is purely isolated to high contrast situations.
Overall colour is natural with a touch of added saturation to really make the colours stand out.
Quality video at 4K resolution
At 4K and 1080p 30fps there is a good level of detail in the video, the tonal graduation of detail in static shots is superb.
As the frame rate increases you do start to see the level of detail reduce but it still manages to hold it’s own producing a good quality picture.
There’s no doubt that the SJCAM SJ7 Star is capable of capturing good quality footage and with a sensor and processor combo that should really challenge the GoPro it should really be producing the same if not better quality.
However the GoPro still excels, it may be similar hardware but the video from the GoPro is just that touch cleaner with a grainy look in lower light compared with slight pixelation from the SJCAM.
Motion is always the real clincher when it comes to action camera quality and again the visuals are good at 1080p 30fps, with a visible reduction at 60fps and again at 120fps. Still usable footage but as the frame rate climbs the footage loses the crisp detail of lower frame rates.
Again comparing footage against that of the GoPro Hero4 Black and the motion just doesn’t quite have the smoothness again there’s that slight pixelation of footage when compared to the GoPro.
Overall the video quality is good and competes well against many of the competitors but not quite the more expensive GoPro.
[nextpage title=”Verdict” ]
SJCAM SJ7 Star Verdict
I like the SJCAM SJ7. From the outset it feels like a quality piece of kit despite the case.
I don’t like cases with bolt-on style lenses. In the UK they get muddy and then it’s difficult to get them clean. The case really isn’t bad, but the issue with cleaning still remains and I’m still not taken with this style of case.
The lever lock is another issue and again it’s fiddly to use; however, the case is well made and that bolt-on lens did slightly grow on me, not enough to like it but I can tolerate it. Unlike the lever lock.
The camera on the other hand is a complete contrast, it’s nicely design and the metal build gives it a real quality feel. The large buttons, big 2” touch screen and general features really make it a nice package.
The camera is definitely easy to use and the touch screen responsiveness makes it easy to make selections and navigate. The touch screen only works inside the case unlike the Garmin Virb Ultra 30.
The camera also packs in features I haven’t covered in the review which I really liked, such as the ability to easily attach an external power source.
If you’re not satisfied with the SJCAM SJ7 Star as an action camera then it also has a dash cam mode.
When it comes to using the camera out on the trial the camera performed excellently with the direct controls being easy to understand and use.
Connection to the app is always quick and although there’s a slight delay for the live view the connection always proved robust.
It’s all about video quality
Video quality is what these camera are really about and the SJCAM SJ7 Star produces great quality video that does stand out. It’s good but not as good as the GoPro.
The 4K footage resolves plenty of detail, and the colours are well saturated.
Drop the resolution to 1080p and 30fps and again there’s plenty of colour and tone, even increasing the framerate to 60 the camera still produces good quality footage.
At 120fps the footage shows a lack of detail, but this is the same issue when you look at the GoPro’s 120fps footage as well.
What the big difference is between the two is some type of image smoothing that just helps to really push the GoPro’s footage beyond that of the SJCAM.
Taking everything into account the SJCAM SJ7 Star is a good camera at a decent price. The touch screen ease of use and decent quality footage are all major plus points so if you’re looking for good solid performer then the SJCAM SJ7 will do the job.
Should I buy a SJCAM SJ7 Star?
The SJCAM SJ7 Star has a host of features that really make it excel and stand out in a crowded market. The large 2-inch touch screen, ease of use and mass of resolution and frame rate options will appeal to anyone looking for a solid action camera for a variety of sports and activities. It’s also a great one for families with plenty of additional features to keep everyone occupied.