In this SJCAM SJ8 Pro review, I will share with you as much information as possible about this action camera, what I liked and what I didn’t like and if it stands against its competitors like GoPro and the Yi action cameras.
If you have been fiddling with action cams for a decent amount of time, you must be familiar with SJCAM and its products.
It has been almost three years since SJCAM released the SJ4000 which turned out to be a game changer in the budget segment.
With premium features resembling GoPro models, the camera was well equipped to take on the best in the market at a price point few could have imagined.
Unsurprisingly, it was a massive hit among action camera enthusiasts, and SJCAM has never looked back since.
It’s only recently that SJCAM launched its new flagship – the SJ8 Pro. This is the company’s most expensive and high-end product ever, challenging the likes of GoPro Hero 6, but coming at a significantly lower cost.
For the uninitiated, the SJ8 series actually consists of three action cameras – the SJ8 Air, the SJ8 Plus and the SJ8 Pro. As can be understood from the names, the SJ8 Pro is the most premium of the lot.
With specifications rivaling those of Yi 4K+ and GoPro Hero 6 Black, this camera holds the potential to not only challenge the loyal fan base of action camera giants, but also disrupt the entire market in this segment.
But how well does it perform in reality? Let us find out.
Let’s Jump To The Review!
Product: SJCAM SJ8 Pro Action Camera
My Rating: 4.8/5
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Here are the SJCAM SJ8 Pro specs compared to the SJ8 Air and SJ8 Plus, I pulled these from the SJCAM website:
What’s in the Box
1 x Original SJCAM SJ8 Pro
1 x Original Battery (inside the camera)
1 x Waterproof Housing
1 x Quick Release Buckle
1 x Handlebar Seat post Mount
1 x Curved Adhesive Mount
1 x Flat Adhesive Mount
2 x 3M Adhesive Tape
1 x Universal 1/4″ Camera Tripod Mount
1 x Tripod Mount Adapter
1 x Cleaning Cloth
1 x Type-C Cable
Design and Build
If you are currently using a budget action camera, you may find the SJ8 Pro design to be a bit dull and unattractive.
The dimensions of 63 x 41 x 29 mm imply that this device may not fit into your previous camera’s accessories.
Considering the fact that the camera comes with most of the essential mounts and accessories, this should not be much of a problem for most customers.
SJCAM prioritizes build quality over looks, and hence comes off as a simple box of rubber-coated plastic that hardly appears like a high-end sophisticated device. It comes in three colors – black, white and pink.
The front has the camera lens which is placed higher and more towards the right than other cameras. A classic 0.96” OLED screen is present to the left of the lens along with two indicators above it.
The front screen is a pretty nifty feature that shows relevant information like shooting mode, battery life, time and resolution. There is also one microphone in the front.
The back side boasts of a nice 2.33” IPS touchscreen display that is incredibly responsive and feels as smooth as a smartphone screen.
The Right Side
The Power button lies on one side with the USB Type C port on the other. The Type C is a fairly recent feature that is only available in a handful of devices currently.
The fact that SJCAM has already started incorporating the latest technology in their cameras speaks volumes about their plans for the future.
The shutter button lies on top beside the speaker.
This camera has dual microphones – one at the front and another at the side – a premium feature that is supposed to dramatically improve the audio quality. Whether that really happens here is a question we tackle later on in this review.
At the Bottom
The micro SD card for storage of files and the battery go into the bottom compartment. This is not the best of ideas because the battery is prone to getting heated up during charging or while recording for a considerable length of time.
The close proximity of the SD card with the battery predisposes it to thermal damage all the time.
It is advisable to invest on a UHS class 3 or higher memory card since slower cards tend to lag while recording in 4K resolution.
Also, it is pertinent to mention here that spare batteries for the SJ8 Pro are not available in the market currently; so you will need to wait for the camera to recharge before resuming recording.
Video and Photo Quality
The SJ8 Pro promises 4K recording up to 60 fps, 1440p at 60 fps, 1080p at 120 fps, and 720p at 240 fps.
The selling point of this camera, of course, is the 4K recording feature. That said, the video quality at 4K is exceptional, especially when you consider the price point.
The fact that SJCAM developed this device primarily for that purpose is evident from the difference in video quality between 4K and 1080p here.
4K recording consumes a lot of battery and storage space, but if you are planning to use it sparingly, the SJ8 Pro is not the one for you.
What I Noticed in the 1080p
The 1080p bitrate on this camera is only around 18.000 Kbps whereas the bitrate shoots up to 60.000 Kbps at 4K with 30 fps and 100.000 Kbps at 4K with 60 fps. To put that into perspective, most action cameras have bitrate of around 30.000 at 1080p.
This means, the footage in 1080p is a bit disappointing and a big drop from 4K with no 2.7K available in between. Since most users are comfortable capturing videos at 1080p, this is certainly an issue.
There is no 60fps for the 1080p resolution, only 120fps, the latest firmware didn’t solve this, so hopefully the next one will.
It is also relevant to note that although the camera offers gyro stabilization, it does not work beyond 4K at 30 fps. So if you are planning to shoot at 4K with 60 fps, but you want to do away with blurring and bouncy footage, it’s best to use a gimbal for the same.
SJCAM also provide a separate gimbal called the SJ-Gimbal handheld stabilizer, this one can be used for a more advanced stabilization, kind of like cinematic recording.
The difference will be really noticeable when recording with a gimbal, you will have total control over the smoothness of the video you are shooting.
Wide Dynamic Range
The dynamic range and color saturation can be improved, but at $220, this is more than you could hope for. The SJ8 Pro is also capable of recording in Ultra mode which essentially refers to wider angled shots.
WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) imaging produces a better luminosity than the usual digital imaging, its goal is to produce luminance close to that of the human-eye. You can read more about it here.
Another unique feature in this camera is the H265 video encoding compatibility. The H265 is a fairly new technology that cuts down on file size without compromising quality.
On the flip side, it uses up more power and requires a higher processing speed on your computer.
The 12 MP image sensor performs decently while capturing photos. The images are obviously not as great as DSLRs, but good enough for a high-end action camera. It captures a high level of detail and the photos taken in low light look nice too.
The colors are generally neutral. If you are more into vibrant colors, you can always edit your photos later on.
RAW & JPG Images
The company has recently released a new raw converter for Windows PC users that allows you to convert your files easily without any hassle. The software is not available for Mac users yet, but is expected to launch soon.
8X Digital Zoom
The combination of the Ambrella processor and the Sony sensor provides sufficient power for the camera to keep a clean and crisp image even after an 8X zoom.
The SJ8 Pro is packed with dual microphones. This implies it must have a better audio quality than cameras with a single microphone.
In reality, we found the SJ8 Pro a tad bit disappointing. The sound quality is arguably fine for an action camera at this price, but with dual microphones, we were expecting a bit more.
The high frequency sounds clear, but the bass is marginally poor.
That is not an issue while recording conversations, but becomes noticeable when you are recording a live concert.
The sound quality could have been tested better with voice control had that feature been present. Overall, it’s not awesome, but it’s not too bad either.
Navigation and Controls
The touchscreen interface works perfectly in the SJ8 Pro. Once you swipe down from the main screen, you will encounter 4 quick toggles – lock screen, Wi-Fi, FPV and Remote Control.
No Remote Control Included
Keep in mind that the remote control does not come with the camera, and you will need to purchase it separately if you wish to explore this option.
Swiping up presents you with 8 different shooting modes. The settings are neatly categorized and navigation is easy with the touch-based display.
There is not much to explain here, for you will find the things you are looking for once you start playing around with the menu a bit.
The SJ8 Pro comes with a 1200mAh battery that lasts around 2 hours, of course the time depends on a couple of factors like the resolution being used, continuous or intermittent recording, etc..
If 2 hours are not enough, you can always buy extra batteries at a very cheap price.
The smartphone app for SJ8 Pro is called SJCAM Zone, it can be downloaded from the App Store and the Google Play store.
It has a simple design, much like the camera itself. It is similar to most of the apps for action cameras and does nothing extraordinary.
You are allowed to perform all the basic functions like controlling the camera from a distance, editing footage, sharing with the SJCAM community and live viewing of your recording.
Note that SJCAM continues to improve their services with firmware updates at regular intervals, the latest being the 1.2.4 update released on August 14.
With cloud streaming, I can share my photos and videos immediately to the internet and social media.
I can also do some post-production work (editing) before sharing stuff to my social media accounts, it’s very easy to use and takes me seconds to edit my photos.
The original set is camera only. It includes the camera, the charging cable, and the user manual. If you need the essential accessories, you will need to shell out an additional 20 bucks and purchase the full set.
The full set includes a waterproof case, a quick release buckle, a handlebar seat post mount, flat and curved adhesive mounts, adhesive tape, a universal ¼” camera tripod mount, a tripod mount adapter, a cleaning cloth, and a USB Type C cable.
If you have previously owned the SJ7 Star, you should know about the interchangeable touchscreen waterproof backdoor that lets you operate the device while it is still inside the waterproof case. The SJ8 Pro also comes with this accessory in the full set package.
It is always advisable to spend the extra $20 and go for the full set because it offers so much more at such a minimum price.
Even if you feel you are not going to use it now, there may come a point of time in the future when you may realize the need for these accessories but will have to buy them separately at an exorbitant price.
Comparison with Yi 4K+ and GoPro Hero 6 Black
SJCAM SJ8 Pro vs Yi 4K+
The SJCAM SJ8 Pro closely resembles the Yi 4K+ not only on paper but also in terms of the money it costs the customer.
The Yi 4K+ is only around $30 more and offers a few more features like lock ISO and voice control.
However, the Yi 4K+ does not come with accessories and you will have to spend extra on them.
The similarity decreases a bit when you compare the SJ8 Pro with the GoPro Hero 6 Black.
SJCAM SJ8 Pro vs GoPro Hero6 Black
The former is priced at $280 while the latter is around $500. On paper, the specifications are mostly identical, and the SJCAM does really well in refusing to compromise with the important features.
If you are nitpicking, you may argue that the Hero 6 Black boasts of a better video quality with a wider dynamic range, but is it worth an extra $220?
GoPro have improved their editing software over the years so much so that it is currently peerless in its usefulness, but we believe it still does not warrant paying almost twice the amount for a camera.
Here’s a video by Mayiandjay comparing the two cameras:
What I liked
This is hardly the first time that SJCAM has promised a lot and delivered in most areas while falling short in a few. The amazing 4K footage at this price is a big plus, as is the excellent touchscreen display and seamless navigation.
A lot of cameras fail to deliver in this area, but the SJ8 Pro exceeds expectations.
Also, the Wi-Fi connectivity and the app interface is as perfect as can be. Of course, SJCAM Zone is still no match for its GoPro equivalent, but it is certainly not worse than the others at this price range.
The photo quality, especially in low light conditions, is good enough to warrant a purchase. The distortion correction feature – like the gyro stabilization in videos – does a great job here.
What I didn’t Like
Among the cons, the frame rate issues and the terrible bitrate at 1080p are major red lights. Several action camera enthusiasts may steer clear of the SJ8 Pro simply because of its shortcomings in the 1080p resolution.
The audio quality is lower than expected, but we would not really single it out as a con. After all, the SJ8 does sound much better than its similarly-priced competitors.
Overall, if you are looking for the latest technology in a high-end camera that doesn’t make you poorer by more than $300, the SJ8 Pro is the one you are looking for. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely worth it!
I hope you liked my SJCAM SJ8 Pro review, what do you think of this action camera? Please let me know in the comments section below.