SJCam M20 Review
Video - Day9/10
Video - Night4/10
What I Like
- Solid daylight video, with excellent exposure and colour
- Sharp and detailed 2K and 1080p video
- Still photos have lots of detail
- Gyro stabilizer works well in daylight
- Unique design that draws attention
- Quick settings menu to change important video options on the fly
- Clear, conscience and well written user manual
What I Don\'t Like
- 1080p60 drops below 60FPS too quickly in mixed lighting resulting in jarring video
- Sound pickup is too quiet
- Gyro stops working in low light
Summary: This is my favorite SJCam I’ve tested to date, with excellent daylight recording and a unique form factor. Aside from some needed improvements with the gyro and low light recording, this is a good option for those looking for a budget action camera.
Hey, Dreki here and today I’m reviewing the SJcam M20. This is SJcam’s smallest action cam they offer, and it has a unique design compared to other action cams on the market. With very good daytime video and a nice form factor, this camera has a lot going for it. But it has similar issues with low light recording as other IMX206-based cameras.
One of the things I really like about this camera is its unique form factor. Because it looks different than most other action cams, I was asked about it by strangers. It’s a conversation starter certainly, and a number of people found it surprising to learn there’s actually decent quality cameras that are viable competitors to Go Pro. The build quality of this camera is solid with nice feeling buttons. The screen looks great straight on, but it’s hard to see from the top down. I really like the big, bright lights on the front and the top of the camera, to make it obvious it is recording, but there is no loud sound. The user interface of this camera is fairly straightforward. In particular I like how the down button acts as a quick settings menu when on the record screen – it took three clicks to change the cameras resolution, and only a few more for other important settings. I just wish the full settings were broken into groups.
Video quality during the day is great. All of the resolutions I tested have lots of detail and the color balance is solid. The camera transitions smoothly between light and dark scenes. This camera is particularly well suited to those who will be out and about in the bright sunlight, for example skate boarders and surfers. In sunlight the camera shows its best side, holding highlights quite well and maintaining good exposure even in direct sunlight. There’s no noticable banding on the blue sky. A freeze frame has lots of detail and motion is smooth. In bright daylight the gyro sensor is very effective to smooth out rough terrain and bumps. It does crop in pretty heavily, reducing the field of view by 15%, but the difference it makes it worth it for most shots.
In mixed lighting there is more difficulty. For example when riding in the forest, 1080p 60 stutters, freezes and lags as the camera quickly drops below 60 FPS. This shot highlights the problem in particular – the footage appears to change speed when transitioning between dark and light areas. Because of this issue, 1080p60 is unusable for anything but bright daylight. All of the 30 FPS settings do not have this issue. They still smear and smudge frames a bit, and inexplicably the gyro sensor becomes less effective in low light. As it gets darker, the camera does hold exposure quite a long time. At night though, the camera isn’t very bright and footage becomes unusable. These behaviors are common among cameras with this sensor/processor combination, and for me the first manufacturer who can solve the issue will have my wholehearted recommendation, because other than this low light problem this sensor is, in my opinion, the best quality budget cam.
Audio on this camera doesn’t pick up too well when it is in the case. With the case off it’s clear, but inside the case all I hear is muffled conversation. Even
Still photos from this camera are great, on par or exceeding other cameras in its class. There is a good amount of detail in daylight. Low light tends to smudge up, but I still find them usable for on screen viewing.
Battery life is good too. I found this camera was recording slightly longer than the others I was testing it with. Note that due to the odd form factor, this battery is proprietary and not interchangeable with other cameras.
Overall, SJCam has got the start to a great camera here. In the day time video is excellent, but the low light footage needs work. I gave it a 4/5 because I love the form factor and the daytime video.