SJCAM C300 Review – A budget action camera with a unique build
Action cameras were all the craze in the 2010s as companies like GoPro and DJI started making high-quality, strong build 4k cameras accessible to the general public. However, even though they were accessible, their products were and have since been priced at a premium.
So unless you were a camera enthusiast willing to spend upwards of $500, you likely wouldn’t have a portable, waterproof camera for your adventures that your phone or digital camera were too big or too fragile for. So I was curious to see what SJCAM is offering with their $159 C300 model (pocket version without the extended battery is $139).
|SJCAM C300||Buy Here|
Design & Build Quality
The build quality is in line with what you’d expect for a cheap action camera. It’s mostly plastic and you’ll notice that it doesn’t feel particularly sturdy despite its purpose being for action footage. The display size is 1.3”, and there are two of those screens, one on the front and rear, when you’ve connected the external battery of the camera. For how small the screen is, I was pleasantly surprised with the responsiveness of the touchscreen. At first glance, there’s a nice weight and form factor with its size. It feels good in the hand with the external battery and fits easily in the pocket. The Lens FOV is extra wide- providing 154° of coverage and even offers 60 seconds of pre-record footage like some of the top of the line action cameras. It takes a MicroSD card (up to 128 GB) and is charged and can be connected to a laptop with a USB-C cable.
Questionable Footage Quality
Unfortunately, that’s really where the positives end. When I went to test out the camera, I was disappointed to learn that it has mediocre image stabilization, the color in video recording seems soft and flat, and generally seemed like it could use more contrast and saturation.
The default camera view is very wide lensed and pictures/videos have a heavy fishbowl effect, which can have positives and negatives depending on whether you’re using this camera for action sports or as a small portable camera.
Here are two pictures of the same backyard with the SJCAM 300 – one at an angle so you can see the full effect. I found myself not liking the default camera settings and playing around with the settings until I found something that looked brighter and had more color. Unfortunately, I never found an aspect ratio setting I really liked that removed that fishbowl effect.
Moreover, the camera definitely struggles in lower light conditions, quickly becoming pixelated. There are basic settings you can adjust in the menu, but since the screen is so small, you’re not likely to find professional adjustments like shutter speed.
Comparison with Competitors
If you’re looking to buy this product, you should know that the video quality is not going to be up to the standard of DJI or GoPro, which are a few levels above this, but considering that the price of the SJCAM300 is less than half of those, it may not be a fair comparison.
However, part of the reason it’s in the same category of those higher level cameras is because of the manufacturer’s claims. The manufacturer claims that it’s a 4k action camera, but the image sensor is a 5 megapixel sensor. In order to produce 4k footage, you’d need to have a 8MP sensor. That means this camera records in “fake” 4k – not actually producing 4k footage like the top of the line competitors I mentioned earlier. The image sensor is made by Sony, but it appears to be a dashcam-grade image sensor. In fact, this camera has a dashcam mode, in which you can use the external accessories to set this up as a dashcam in your car.
However, the battery life of the main battery lasts around ~2.5-3 hours minutes while the extended battery pack provides up to 6 hour of running time- so this likely isn’t a good option for your car unless you plan on removing the camera to charge it often.
Odd Design Choices
That’s because the accessories that come with the camera are built to fit the camera in it’s “pocket edition” (without the additional extended battery). For example, this camera body is not waterproof without the additional waterproof case that can only be used on the main camera body without the extra battery pack.
However, without the additional battery pack attached, the camera ends up being practically the same as the previous version of this camera, the C200- which seems like a major design flaw. In addition, the main battery can only be charged when connected to the camera body, so that means if you plan on switching from the extended battery back to the main battery for, let’s say, using the waterproof case, you have to stop using the camera to let the main battery charge.
Audio Quality and Single Button Design
In terms of audio, the internal microphone definitely struggles to pick up audio clearly. When recording a conversation, I noted that audio pickup was distorted and only picked up extremely close audio. That’s because the microphone is on the side of the camera facing the recorder as opposed to the side that the camera is facing. So you’ll notice much worse audio on the side of whatever you’re recording. That coupled with the fact that this camera only records video vertically, makes an awkward recording experience when you’re trying to use the single physical button.
This single button design is flawed since the button protrudes slightly and I noticed that the camera would accidentally turn on in my pocket sometimes.
You can also use this camera as a webcam when connected to a laptop. You can also remotely control the camera (or even livestream) using the Wi-Fi support on the SJCAM app, but the app is so glitchy that it doesn’t add much functionality. In fact, I found it easier to adjust settings on the camera’s small screen than on the app.
Ultimately, this camera seems to be designed to be a mix of an action camera and a dashcam while succeeding at neither. Its design seems inspired by the DJI pocket series but doesn’t have the image quality or stabilization of that product. This could be a good buy for someone who is looking for a cheap action camera, but they should realize what they’re getting is not going to be as advanced or well built as a DJI or GoPro product. If you choose to buy this camera, I would recommend paying an extra $20 for the extended battery.
|SJCAM C300||Buy Here|