This is a head-to-head with two great action cams from 2018. They’re both great values but with the video side by side it can help you decide which one will work best for you! Either way you are going to get an excellent camera – just that one will be better for some people based on how they use it. Planning to film in 1080p only? Save some money with the Firefly 8SE. 4K? SJ8 all the way.
Where to Buy
Firefly 8SE – Gearbest (International)
Design and Build Quality
Design is where the SJCam kicks butt. Nearly everything about the SJ8 Pro’s design and build feels more substantial and high quality than the 8SE. The body is rubberized and more solid, and the screen is larger and higher resolution. I instantly gravitate to the design of the SJ8, with its rounded curves, bright front screen, and USB-C port for charging. The 8SE looks more like a generic action cam in comparison.
One big advantage to the Firefly’s design is the physical buttons. Most of the time I use the touch screen to change modes and settings but whenever I have the camera inside of the waterproof case, the touch screen is inaccessible. Having the extra options means that it is easier to change settings on the fly if your hands are wet or you are in an environment where the camera cannot be taken outside of the waterproof case. I wish SJCam had that option.
In terms of video quality At 1080p, I am hard pressed to find significant differences between these two cameras. Both do an excellent job rendering detailed, vibrant video. In some situations one camera may be brighter than the other, or one may look a little more reddish but unless I had these cameras side by side I would honestly struggle to identify which video came from which camera. The quality of image stabilisation is similar as well. When it is overcast, like in this shot, the cams are almost the same. Again, in terms of the level of detail and overall video quality these two cams produce, they are almost identical but when I show some sunny shots there is more difference in how the two cams process colour.
Looking closer at the SJ8 Pro I find that it tends to be a bit cooler in colour tone, but more vivid. I also find the SJ8 has a bit more compression noise compared to the 8SE but they’re both quite good. Honestly whether you like one camera or the other will be your preference, which you will see if we take a look at the 8SE, which is definitely a bit warmer in terms of colouration when it is bright and sunny out. Level of detail is almost identical, so it’s just that minor difference in how the two cams process colour and exposure.
I will keep the side by side 4K video short because my computer can barely handle it, but suffice to say this is where the differences start to become more obvious. The Firefly 8SE is no slouch at 4K, mind you, but the lack of stabilisation means that 4K on that cam is more usable when the cam itself isn’t being moved aroundl. The SJ8 Pro on the other hand is usable in more situations because of its stabilisation.
As you can see, the SJ8 Pro 4K video is pretty darn good. Like 1080p, the 4K is vibrant and detailed. Whether the camera is mounted on my head or my handlebars, the video I am getting straight out of cam is pretty consistently great. The only criticisms I can come up with is that the camera has a lot of lens flare and in some situations the video gets a bit blocky from compression even in high video quality mode. The lens flare, not much you can do about that without extra filters, but the blocking artifacts can be somewhat mitigated by setting the video quality to its highest or installing custom firmware from GoPrawn, if you’re into hacking these cams. The SJ8 Pro also has an option for 4K at 60 frames per second, which the 8SE does not have, and provides a huge framerate bump for video smoothness.
On the other hand, the Firefly 8SE has less issues with blocking and artifacting. The 4K video looks consistently excellent, even with the lack of stabilisation. So long as the camera is mounted to something that is not bumping around, or it is on a gimbal or you have a very steady hand, the video from this camera is just great overall.
At night the stronger sensor and processor of the SJ8 Pro really comes to light with brighter video overall. Level of detail and noise is similar whether the two cams are at 4K or at 1080p and the stabilisation on both cams kinda starts to muddy up the video quality. I would suggest turning it off if you are going to be filming at night so the video doesn’t get super blurry.
Looking close up at the SJ8 Pro, video is a bit noisy and frankly not great. This is an issue with almost every budget action cam and even some of the high end cams where the cameras just can’t capture enough light to be usable.
The 8SE has a similar problem, and perhaps emphasized more so. It keeps warmer tones for low light which are not necessarily more accurate, and because the video is darker overall there is less visible noise. I think the SJ8 Pro is the cam to get if you will be filming in lower light situations between these two.
Audio quality is another win for the Firefly. SJCam has done a lot of work improving their audio quality in their recent cameras but they do pick up a ton of wind noise and the SJ8 Pro is no exception. Check it out.
(It is worth mentioning here how both cameras have an external mic option however only 8SE includes it in the box).
Just like video, still photos between these two cams are very similar. Both feature real 12 megapixel Sony sensors, so the stills end up mostly the same. My preference goes just slightly to the SJ8 because it takes photos with a little less lag.
Looking closer at the stills, the level of detail is similar too. Whether it is day or night, both cameras do an adequate job of taking super wide angle pics and it is possible to get some really cool images, although if you don’t hold the cameras still for long enough you can end up with some images like this… Blurry as heck!
Where to Buy
Firefly 8SE – Gearbest (International)
Really, it’s a tough choice between these two cameras. The SJ8 Pro is the cam to go for if you will be primarily filming in 4K because of its stabilization. It’s also the better choice if you’re going to be using the cam outside of its waterproof case most because the build quality is more substantial and the cam looks nicer overall. However if you do not plan to film in 4K I think the 8SE is the cam to stick with. It’s got those extra buttons for when the cam is in its waterproof case, better audio quality and loud confirmation beeps. Even though the build is not as good, it is no slouch when it comes to video, and quite frankly I’ve thrown it around quite a bit and it still works fine so it’s pretty easy to recommend saving a few bucks and spending that on better accessories. Either way you’ll be getting a decent camera and you can’t go wrong.