The SJCAM SJ8 is one great looking action camera. The large 2.33-inch IPS rear-mounted touch screen displays a glorious clear live view, and with a well-finished exterior, it certainly looks the business.
Comprising of a traditional and slightly clunky waterproof housing the 30m case while old skool does the job of protecting the camera inside.
This type of case is dated but it’s good to see a soft touch back for the housing in the box. This can be swapped, with some effort, for the hard clear back so you can use the touch screen while retaining the water protection.
There’s plenty of recording options from 4K at 60fps through to 1080p at 120fps, for some decent slow motion.
The app is equally well thought out giving you easy access to the camera’s settings.
The app also enables you to control the SJ Gimbal 2 alongside the camera which is all well integrated with features such as Motionlapse.
Motionlapse video enables you to control and automate the motion of the Gimbal 2 remotely, with gimbal and camera connected by cable and enabling some impressive motion effects.
SJCAM also says there is an option through the app to cloud stream to your favourite social network from Facebook to Twitter; this appears to be uploading files rather than live streaming, however.
Likewise, as you flick through the settings and options, it appears that not all screens have been fully translated to English and some of the more exciting features in the app take a little working out if you can find them at all.
Overall SJCAM has produced an excellent camera with features that would put the SJ8 Pro right at the top of the action camera desirability list. However, issues with the app stability and non-translation of some screens and possible missing features do for the moment hold it back.
SJCAM is a powerhouse in the action camera world, and while they may not be as well known as GoPro their cameras are seen everywhere.
The SJCAM SJ8 Pro is the new flagship model and heads up the SJ8 line-up. On paper, the camera looks impressive and once out of the packaging it seems like an instant hit.
Feature wise it has it all, 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 120fps and on the back, it has a large 2.33-inch touch screen.
It can also connect to your favourite social network so you can cloud stream to all your followers. Cloud stream, however, should not be mistaken for live stream.
What makes this camera stand out is the price. A quick search online and you’ll find it for around $200 / £150 that’s not a great deal of cash for the class-leading features it packs inside.
Out of the packaging and housing and the camera instantly seems impressive, it feels good and has an excellent weight and build quality.
But, there are some signs that not everything is up to scratch. The waterproof housing is of the old style with the security lock on top. It’s not all bad, and the case itself does feel well built, but that lock makes it tricky to get to the camera when you need it.
The front lens of the housing is thankfully flat so easy to wipe off all that British winter crud.
In the box alongside the camera are a few accessories to get you started, the usual sticky pads, a touch screen back to replace the hard one already attach to the housing, a bar and tripod mount are also in the box along with a few other accessories.
Any camera with 4K at 60fps has to be worth a look, and alongside the top frame rate, you can film at 25/30 and 50fps. Drop the resolution down to 1080p, and you have 120/60/50/30/25 and 24fps, and for slow motion lovers, there’s 240fps at 720p.
This is all made possible by the Ambarella H22 S85 processor and Sony IMX377 sensor. As well as the video it’s capable of capturing 12mp stills.
Fronting the processor, sensor combination is the 170º field of view lens. To keep distortion and chromatic aberration low the lens is made up from 7 layers of glass with two layers being aspheric. The lens as with all action cameras features a fixed aperture, in this case, f/2.8.
Stills can be captured as JPEG or RAW and video as .mp4 in either h.264 or H.265.
The size and weight compare well against other action cameras measuring in at 62.5mm x 41mm x 28.8mm with a weight of 85g.
The app as you’d expect is fully featured and enables you to get a live view stream direct from the camera, review footage and update settings.
You can also connect to your favourite social network.
At a price few other action cameras come close to the specifications, so far, all good.
Build quality and handling
Starting with the case and this instantly feels dated. OK, it has the flat lens on the front which is essential in the UK, but then the rest of the case is very last generation.
The metal spring loaded buttons are quite small and squishy and proved difficult to use in cold conditions.
The housing also features a small security lock on the lever. This is one of the most annoying features of any waterproof housing and makes it near impossible to extract the camera with gloves on, or cold hands.
However, there are some positives; the hardback can be removed with a bit of effort and replaced with the special touchback that enables you to use the touch screen once in place.
As ever the housing features a standard GoPro style mount ar the base, this means it can be used with any standard GoPro accessory.
Once the camera is removed from the housing you can feel the quality SJ8 Pro; it’s solid and well made.
The battery and MicroSD Card door at the base of the camera features a metal hinge, and there’s a standard 1/4-inch thread next to it so the camera can be easily tripod mounted.
On the top of the camera are the large shutter button and the camera’s speaker, which for a camera of this size is sizable. On the side is the power button, this is single use so once pushed doesn’t need to be pushed again until you power down the camera.
Audio is captured through two small microphones one on the front and another on the side. On the side, under the mic, you’ll find the USB Type-C connector that’s used to charge, transfer and connect to the Gimbal-2 if you have one.
Switching on the camera for the first time and the layout is straightforward to understand. The live view enables you to compose the shot and then when it comes to changing the settings you can tap the option you want to change, and then the options appear.
Like the GoPro and Yi interfaces, this is fast and streamline with little if anything to complicate for general use.
The app is similarly easy to use with direct control features and a choice between the SJCAM icon style screens and the more classic approach.
Either way, it’s easy to find your way around both the app and camera. There is one issue however, some of the icon descriptions are in Chinese, thankfully the same icons are used on the in-camera interface so it doesn’t take too long to match them up.
While the general live view, remote control and option changes all work well when it comes to the more advanced cloud stream options things are not so straight forward.
After logging into a social account it quickly became apparent that the streaming meant you could upload your files after you had recorded them rather than live stream.
As with all action cameras of this design, there’s no real issue attaching or mounting it to existing GoPro style mounts.
During the test, the SJ8 Pro was used with two official GoPro bar mounts and the K-Edge under saddle mount along with the SJCAM Gimbal-2.
The housing despite features, such as the secondary lock that I’m not keen on, functioned well and the GoPro style mounts on the base enabled maximum compatibility.
Out in the field, the camera was tested on a mountain bike, and the size and features were well suited. Especially once I swapped the hardback for the touchback which enabled me to utilise the touch screen without removing the camera from the case.
While the touchback does enable direct use of the touch screen the actions of your fingers are slightly muffled, and it’s not as responsive as when used directly. However, being able to review footage without battling the small lock is a definite advantage.
Since GoPro launched Hypersmooth image stabilisation has once again become big news. The SJ8 Pro features six-axis inner stabilisation, and this worked well. Not as good as Hypersmooth but the effect on the footage was pronounced.
One thing that you do notice about the stabilised footage is some slight pixelation, but not so much that you’d notice if you weren’t looking for it.
Overall the video quality was good, but there was a real difference dependent on the setting and conditions.
I found that in all conditions the 4K 60/30fps captured excellent quality video. Colours looked slightly subdued in the test footage, but this was due to the Britsh winter more than anything. Later footage in better light was a lot more punchy.
The detail was also excellent with a good level of tonal graduation. However, when you look at the high contrast edges and despite the two aspheric lenses, there are definite signs of blue/purple chromatic aberration around the branches in the trees.
The surprise for me was when the resolution was dropped to 1080p the camera had a more significant issue with the lack of light.
Looking at footage played back, and you could see the camera struggling with detail and colour saturation at all frame rates.
However, when the camera was being used in brighter conditions, the quality of the footage at 1080p rocketed, with high levels of detail and good punchy colour.
Again there was the issue of chromatic aberration in high contrast areas.
Overall the footage was impressive especially the 4K at 60fps. The motion is smooth, and the detail, tone and colour is spot on. Drop the resolution down, and the 1080p footage struggles with low light, however, boost the light levels and again the footage instantly impresses.
For the price, few other action cameras can meet the specifications and quality of the SJCAM SJ8 Pro.
From the outset it feels like a quality camera, it’s well built and easy to use. However, some aspects don’t quite make the grade.
Starting with the housing, which although good quality features the annoying secondary lever lock.
The camera itself is excellent with only the lens causing an issue with the slight chromatic aberration in high contrast areas, but, really this level of fringing is common with action cameras and is nothing to worry too much about.
The main issues come with the app and translations. Not all menu items have been translated in the app, so a little guesswork is needed or cross-referencing between the camera and app. Usually, the camera is translated while the app isn’t.
Then there’s the social cloud stream side of things. While it’s possible to connect your social accounts and upload saved footage and images, it doesn’t seem possible to stream.
Maybe this will appear in an update soon, or I’m missing something obvious.
Overall, for the money, there’s no doubt that the SJCAM SJ8 Pro is an excellent camera. When filming in 4K the quality of the footage is excellent in all conditions.
Drop the resolution to 1080p, and it does seem to struggle a little with low light. But, in brighter conditions, the quality of Full HD footage ramps up.
Compared to other cameras in the price range and the SJ8 has more to offer and equals or betters many other cameras. Put up against the GoPro Hero 7 Black and the quality difference is instantly apparent, but then the GoPro is just over twice the price.
For more information on the SJCAM SJ8 Pro check out sjcam.com