The SJCAM SJ20 stands as the flagship action camera from the Chinese manufacturer SJCAM. Positioned within SJCAM’s “Professional Action Cameras” lineup, it appears targeted at individuals seeking high-quality footage of dynamic activities. SJCAM promotes the SJ20 as a “breakthrough in motion capture technology,” claiming it provides an unparalleled blend of advanced features. While these assertions are substantial, they remain somewhat vague.
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If one were to take SJCAM’s promotional language seriously and consider the SJ20 as a “professional” action camera, it would inevitably be compared to the current top contenders in the market: the GoPro Hero12 Black and DJI Osmo Action 4. However, in reality, the SJ20 does not hold up as a “professional” action camera, and its specifications and pricing reflect a different category. Priced at nearly $230, the SJ20 competes with the aging yet impressive GoPro Hero10 Black, which outperforms it in every aspect.
To put it succinctly, the SJCAM SJ20 is not a commendable action camera, lacking redeeming features and proving to be a questionable investment. If, despite this assessment, you remain determined to consider it, our comprehensive SJCAM SJ20 review provides further insights.
SJCAM SJ20 REVIEW: PRICE & AVAILABILITY
The SJCAM SJ20 is priced at $229 in the U.S. and £179 in the U.K. In the U.K., the £179 cost is notably competitive against offerings from more prominent competitors. However, in the U.S., the SJ20’s pricing positions it just $20 below the GoPro Hero10 Black, our preferred action camera from 2022.
Priced at $249, the SJ20 is offered as a ‘Pro’ kit, inclusive of a battery grip that claims to provide up to 8 hours of battery life. However, for our testing, we only had access to the basic kit priced at $229, which includes a smaller external battery.
The standard kit includes two distinct housings—a waterproof case—and various mounts, providing users with multiple mounting options right out of the box. All mounts use a standard fork mount, ensuring affordability for additional accessories. Interestingly, SJCAM even provides a knuckle duster mount for those intrigued by unconventional documentation needs.
SJCAM SJ20 REVIEW: DESIGN & CONTROLS
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The SJ20 distinguishes itself with its dual lenses, marking it as the world’s first action camera to incorporate this feature, as claimed by SJCAM. One lens is designed for daytime use, featuring a maximum f/2 aperture, while the other is optimized for nighttime scenarios with a wider f/1.3 aperture. The broader aperture allows more light to reach the sensor, resulting in a brighter picture. According to SJCAM, this dual-lens setup positions the SJ20 as a top performer in low-light conditions.
Equipped with a front selfie screen and a larger rear touchscreen, the camera aims to cater to vloggers. However, both screens exhibit low quality and often lack responsiveness to touch, frequently necessitating multiple taps for desired actions.
Physically, the action camera has a substantial build, especially with the supplementary battery, measuring 2.7 x 2.1 x 1.2 inches and weighing a moderate 5 ounces.
The external design of the SJ20 is perplexing. A single hatch covers both the SD slot and the USB-C port, yet it is completely obstructed by the additional battery. This means that to access the memory card, connect an accessory, or charge the device, you must first remove the external battery, which can be quite frustrating. Furthermore, when attempting to charge the external battery (a process that can only be done through the device), you are forced to remove the battery you wish to charge in order to insert the cable.
Regarding the menu interface, SJCAM’s design is functional albeit unattractive. However, it proves relatively straightforward to navigate and offers a diverse range of settings for customization. I found it notably more user-friendly to switch from the default “Classic” UI skin to the “SJCAM” option.
The build quality of the SJ20 is satisfactory. While it lacks a premium feel, it doesn’t give the impression of being excessively cheap or hollow. Nevertheless, there is a discernible resemblance to the generic quality associated with certain unnamed Amazon brands, leaving some uncertainty about its long-term durability.
Waterproofing is limited to a depth of only 16 feet, which is approximately half the depth capacity of current flagship models, including the older GoPro Hero10 Black. While comparisons in in-case tests are not our usual practice due to the variety of cases available with different waterproofing levels, it’s worth noting that the SJ20 includes a waterproof case that extends its underwater capability to 130 feet. In comparison, the GoPro waterproof case can reach nearly 200 feet, albeit as an additional purchase.
Review of Image Stabilization in the SJCAM SJ20
The image stabilization on the SJCAM SJ20 is not the most subpar I’ve encountered; currently, that distinction goes to the Akaso Brave 8. During my testing on my motorcycle along uneven British country lanes, the SJ20 exhibited a somewhat shaky but generally acceptable performance. The camera effectively absorbed most of the bumps, resulting in relatively smooth footage, as evident in the video below.
SJCAM SJ20 REVIEW: VIDEO PERFORMANCE
The video performance of the SJCAM SJ20 is disappointingly subpar. Despite being a budget brand, the obtained results fell short of expectations.
Exposure metering proves inaccurate, struggling to handle bright daytime conditions, resulting in blown-out skies and overly dark shadows. Colors appear dull and unappealing. Despite the claimed breakthrough optics of the SJ20, the footage lacks sharpness, exhibiting unsightly flares and optical distortions when exposed to sunlight. Overall, the recordings convey a quality more reminiscent of dash cam footage than that of a purported ‘professional’ action camera.
The SJ20 lacks the capability to record 4K footage beyond 30p (although 60p is available at lower resolutions), potentially causing fast-paced videos to appear choppy. In the same price range, the GoPro Hero10 Black provides the option of 5.3K/60p recording.
SJCAM SJ20 REVIEW: BATTERY LIFE
The internal microphone of the SJCAM SJ20 is the most unsatisfactory microphone I’ve encountered. As evident in the motorcycling footage, the audio is tinny, muted, and overall unpleasant to listen to. Additionally, there are noticeable fluctuations in volume, contributing to an inconsistent audio experience.
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