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Spytec SJ-3000 1080P Full HD Action Camera review

on February 24, 2014 11:00 am

SpyTec SJ-3000-01

Tiny digital action cams seem to be everywhere, from bike handlebars to snowboarder helmets.  Even if you’re not the extreme sport type, you’ll probably find a use for one at some point.  The Spytec SJ-3000 1080P Full HD Action Camera promises to rival the ubiquitous GoPro at a third of the price.

The SJ-3000  1080P Full HD Action Camera page lists the following:

  • 1080P 30 FPS HD Video & Audio Recording
  • Waterproof up to 98 Feet
  • Battery life of 80 Minutes
  • GoPro Quality Video for a Third of the Price
  • Records in Loop Recording or 12 MP Still Images
  • Includes G-Sensors
  • Can Record via Motion-Activation for Home Security Use
  • Takes up to 32 GB SD Card
  • Can be used as a Dash Camera (Start / Stop Recording)*

(* This feature appears to be listed in error.  Read comments in review below.)

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The contents come tightly packed. I could never get everything back in the box.

  • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD): 1.5LTPS (4:3)
  • Lens: 170°A+ HD wide-angle lens
  • Language Options: English / German / French / Spanish / Italian / Portuguese / Chinese Traditional / Chinese Simplified / Japanese / Russian
  • Resolution of Video Recorded: 1920*1080 / 1080*720 / 848*480 / 640*480
  • Video Format: MOV
  • Compressed Format of Video: H.264
  • Resolution of Photos: 12M / 8M / 5M
  • Storage: Micro SD
  • Shooting Mode: Single Shot / Self-timer 2s / 5s / 10s / Continuous Shooting
  • Water-Resistant Capacity of Remote Control: 10 meters
  • Operating Range of Remote: 10 meters
  • Frequency of Optical Source: 50Hz / 60Hz
  • USB Port: USB2.0
  • Power Port: 5V500MA
  • Battery Capacity: 1100MAH

SpyTec SJ-3000-04

 Here’s the official list of what you get in the box:

  • SJ3000 Action Camera
  • USB Cable
  • Wireless Remote Control
  • Water‐Proof Shell
  • Screws & Screw Tools
  • Instruction Manual
  • Shield
  • Helmet Mount
  • Helmet Belt
  • Handlebar Seatpost Mount

SpyTec SJ-3000-05a

In case you’re wondering, the SJ3000 does closely resemble the Sony line of action cams.

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Weight 70g with battery

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Weight 2.47oz with battery

Let’s take a tour around the SJ-3000.

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There are seven tiny holes under the lens.  I’m assuming this is for the mic/speaker.

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In the rear you’ll find a red-accented button that is (1) the power button, (2) record start/stop and (3) the menu “OK” button.  The hold switch locks the battery compartment in place.

SpyTec SJ-3000-08

On the bottom you’ll find a marked flap.  It reveals an HDMI port, memory card slot, and micro USB charging port.

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When open, the flap remains attached to the body.  Nice touch!

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On the side is the tiny LCD screen.  Useful for aiming at what you’re shooting.

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Battery door (where the red button is) is also attached so you won’t lose it.  The battery is rated at 1000 mAh.  I had a difficult time removing the battery.  It is very snug.

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The waterproof housing

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The included waterproof housing also looks suspiciously like the Sony, right down to the yellow base plastic.  The rear of the housing has the red button for controlling the camera.  It works, but I found it slightly difficult to engage.

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Closeup of the locking hinge

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Pointing (not prying!) at the hinge

The case does lock shut so it doesn’t accidentally pop open, but I noticed some fit issues with the hinge.  It seems slightly separated.  It still worked, regardless.

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Waterproof case on one of two adhesive mounts. One has a flat surface, the other a slightly curved base for helmets.

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If adhesives aren’t your thing, Spytec included a nice assortment of reusable hook and loop straps.

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The black thing is an adjustable angle mount with threaded mounts.

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The angle locks in place. I’m just holding the base to keep it from tipping over for the picture.

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Got handlebars? No problem. Hex wrench included.

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As before, this mount comes with a locking adjustment for angle.

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These funny bits can be used to give a snug, custom fit on your handlebar.

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The elastic mount allows LCD viewing- as long as it’s facing the right way.

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…or mount it the other way to protect the display.

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Say aah! The hinge opens up to accept the camera.

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The yellow clamp snaps into place.

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The top controls are exposed.

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Yes you can wear this on your head. Not suggested if you wish to maintain a shred of dignity in the office.

Sharp eyes will notice the Tom Bihn Ristretto bag for iPad in the background.

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The wireless remote, next to the camera

The included wireless remote is surprisingly robust.  It feels a LITTLE heftier than your car fob, and the added heft feels well-built.

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A small LED lights up when a button is pressed.

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“MADE IN CHIN”

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Yes, you can use the included strap to mount the remote on your wrist, over a jacket.

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SJ-3000 power-up screen

You’ll be greeted with a “welcome” screen on powerup, along with a chime that sounds much like the sound found in Sony’s digital cameras.

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Example of the SJ-3000 user interface.

I found the menu system to be a mixed bag.  It was nice that the SJ-3000 includes helpful icons.  Navigating sound easy enough:  Press and hold “M” to enter the menu.  Use the arrow keys to move the highlight up and down, and the red “record” button to select “OK”.

With only four buttons, you run into a few user interface issues.  If you don’t hold the “M” button, the camera toggles between video, still image, and playback modes.  (I guess “M” means Menu and Mode as well).

SpyTec SJ-3000-55

Works as a dashcam! Or does it?

I spent a lot of time tripping over myself with the menu system to find the “vehicle mounted mode”.  At the time of this writing, the SJ-3000 webpage says “Can be used as a Dash Camera (Start / Stop Recording)”.  The printed  manual (above) says so, too.

What makes dash cams unique is that they can power up and begin recording once power is turned on (car started) and then stop recording (finish writing the file) and power down once the car stops.

The SJ-3000 camera I was sent does not have this feature.  I was told the printed material is probably in error.  That’s OK.  The SJ-3000 is advertised as an ACTION CAMERA not a dash cam, so this feature, while nice, isn’t entirely necessary.

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Behold! The Cumbersome Testing Rig of Cumbersomeness

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The Cumbersome Testing Rig of Cumbersomeness mounted in car

I built a ridiculous looking mount to hold both the SJ-3000 and the $199 GoPro Hero 3 White.  I then mounted the thing in the car to shoot a short driving segment.  This would test the camera’s ability to capture near and far subjects in a variety of difficult lighting situations.

The following YouTube videos were uploaded in HD.  To view in HD, click on the little gear icon and choose up to 1080 for the full experience.

Note:  Click on each photo below to enlarge for more detail.

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Spytec SJ-3000 screen grab 1. Wider angle than the GoPro Hero 3 White.

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GoPro Hero 3 White screen grab 1. Slightly sharper. Colors are a little less neon-looking and more realistic.

In Screen Grab 1, the Sj-3000 appears to given me a case of acne on my face due to compression.  You can still make out what’s playing on the stereo, though it’s a little clearer in the GoPro still.  The Sj-3000 has a wider angle view.

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Spytec SJ-3000 screen grab 2. A bit of a struggle with harsh backlighting.

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GoPro Hero 3 White screen grab 2: Same strong backlight

In Screen Grab 2, the stereo display detail is degraded significantly.  You can still tell I’m listening to Loverboy in the GoPro screen grab.  By the way, that’s the Lukas LK-7500 dash cam mounted behind the mirror.

During my testing I did find a few interesting things.  The SJ-3000 rattles a bit inside the housing, which sounds like a penny in a bottle.  I suspect that’s what the included rubbery strips could be used for.  Also, the listed battery life out of the tiny battery is a paltry 80 min.  In testing, I managed 106 min.

Does the Spytec SJ-3000 1080p Full HD Action Camera meet or beat the GoPro at it’s own game?  You do get a slightly wider angle view in a lighter package plus an LCD screen, but at the cost of reduced battery life (vs GoPro) and slightly worse picture quality.  For half the price of even the cheapest GoPro, it does a fine job and comes with more mounting accessories plus a wireless remote, all for $99.  Not a bad deal.

SpyTec SJ-3000-54

 

Product Information

Price:$99
Manufacturer:Spytec
Requirements:
  • microSD card (not included)
Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Includes LCD display, remote and many mounting options
  • Less expensive than a GoPro
Cons:
  • Video quality not quite the same as a GoPro, but not bad either
  • A suction cup mount would have been nice

Comments

  1. 1
    marco says:

    can show how to connect the camera to the remote control?
    thanks

  2. 2
    Otiebrab says:

    Does it have the option to flip/rotate video?

    BTW, great review, thanks!

  3. 3
    Andy Chen says:

    @marco: I was lucky: the camera comes paired with the remote control out of the box.

    @Otiebrab: I could not find an option to flip or rotate video on the camera itself.

  4. 4
    marco says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHpXBTkiKtU

    REMOTE CONTROL

    It ‘SO THAT MATCH THE REMOTE CONTROL TO THE CAMERA?

  5. 5
    Andy Chen says:

    @marco: That looks like how you would pair the remote. Like I said, you don’t have to out of the box. It already comes paired.

  6. 6
    marco says:

    I think there are a lot of mistakes in the book of instructions.
    some of the menus in the book do not find them on the camera

    and the problem with the remote control can not solve it.

    I do not find the word pairing succeded ..

    I press the remote control buttons but nothing happens.

    someone wants to put video of how to use the videocamea with its remote control?
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  7. 7
    Andy Chen says:

    I agree. I also found many mistakes in the instructions. I will try the remote pairing myself, and report back soon.

  8. 8
    marco says:

    thanks..one video is better….

  9. 9
    Andy Chen says:

    @marco,

    This is a short video I made demonstrating the pairing process.

  10. 10
    marco says:

    egin to think that something is not working. I did the same thing … but it does not see the remote control …. it is as if the remote control is not associated

    you have been very kind. Thank you.

  11. 11
    marco says:

    I solved the problem. I opened the remote control. there was a part that held the battery is not soldered. solved with a piece of rubber that holds crushed.
    closed on the remote control. everything works perfectly.

    thank you very much for the help you have given me.

    greetings from italy.

  12. 12
    Andy Chen says:

    You are welcome. The red LED should light up when a button is pressed on the remote.

  13. 13
    marco says:

    it’s all right….bye

  14. 14
    Oliver says:

    It’s me or it’s no easy to find spare batteries for this camera??… :-(

    Is the SJ1000′s battery compatible?

  15. 15
    Andy Chen says:

    @ Oliver: I tried. The batteries are different.

  16. 16
    marco says:

    because it’s hard to find batteries? I easily found on ebay I bought no. 2.

  17. 17
    Dick says:

    Can anybody help me with pairing the camera with the remote? The red light on remote goes on but no pairing success appears on the camera screen.

  18. 18
    Andy Chen says:

    I’m not sure… if the red light turns on, it may be a camera issue. Can you reset the camera to default, and try again?

  19. 19
    RobG says:

    I have the same problem. Light flashes on remote but nothing happens.

    The Pairing Complete message will only appear if I hold the power button down, while pressing the remote.

    The units do not pair.

  20. 20
    Andy Chen says:

    I’d probably contact SpyTec at 877-212-7400.

  21. 21
    kelvin says:

    Underwater video recording is blur. Seems it has the same issue as sony as15. Sony came out with a flat lens cover for the housing. Does anyone know is this a flat lens cover available for SJ3000?

  22. 22
    Andy Chen says:

    I do not know of a flat cover. The Spytec page does not show one available.

  23. 23
    Dick says:

    Andy Chen says:
    March 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm
    I’m not sure… if the red light turns on, it may be a camera issue. Can you reset the camera to default, and try again?

    Tried that .Still not working. Marco,did you have same situation or your remote was dead with no LED working?

  24. 24
    RobG says:

    The remote solution is to dismantle it.

    Get a piece of foam and place it on top of the battery holder.

    Reassemble.

    For some odd reason the remote will illuminate the red light, but not send a signal unless the tab on the battery holder in the remote is flat against the base.

    A piece of foam gently pushes the battery holder down and makes the contact.

  25. 25
    Dick says:

    Thank you Rob ,you were absolutely right!

  26. 26
    Pewit says:

    I have an SJ3000 having previously had the SJ1000 but I needed the remote control facility and better waterproofing of the SJ3000, as I use it to record from the end of a pole mounted on the back of a Weta Trimaran (www.wetamarine.com).

    One major issue is that the on/off button on the outside of the waterproof case is very easy to press accidentally during transport (in a bag for example) so you get nice images of the inside of the bag.

    The solution is to insert the battery in the case the wrong way round so that the contacts aren’t connected, then turn it when you need to use the camera.

    Also the camera can rattle a little in the case if you don’t apply some of the supplied adhesive backed rubber inside to hold it firmly – making sure you don’t obscure the screen.

    The case door can be difficult to close as the tab has to be inserted in the hole at the top of the case. The trick is to hold hold the door against the camera and then use the door to push the camera body down so you can insert the tab.

    If you use the camera where it’s going to get sprayed with water, wipe the lens with a water-repellent liquid such as RainX to help prevent droplets obscuring the lens.

  27. 27
    leonidas says:

    Hello guys,may you tell if the camera fits comfort on the head?
    And can the head case rotate up-down to film streight ahead,as watch the eyes?

  28. 28
    Andy Chen says:

    It fits on the head with the band, but it does not rotate up or down.

  29. 29
    leonidas says:

    Did you have any problem with not-rotate,as you wear it on the band,or it film straight if you put across?

  30. 30
    Andy Chen says:

    You could wear the camera so you record something to your side. I don’t see why not. If you wore the headband so the camera sits directly on your forehead, you could have the camera aimed to the left, or right.

  31. 31
    leonidas says:

    yes,but at yours foto it looks to need rotate down to film as you watch!

  32. 32
    Andy Chen says:

    That is correct. Whatever you look at is what it records.

  33. 33
    jose says:

    I am not sure about to buy this sj3000 or sj4000…. Have you tried both? are there differences in video quality? thanks a lot.

  34. 34
    Andy Chen says:

    I’ve never tried the sj4000. Sorry.

  35. 35
    jose says:

    wow….. now I could see that there are two diferent models for sj3000, one is yours… in this rewiew, the another one has 3 butoms near the screen:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Diving-Full-HD-DVR-DV-SJ3000-Min-30M-Waterproof-extreme-Sport-Helmet-Action-Camera-1920-1080P/1861394178.html

    Do you know which are the differences betwen them??

  36. 36
    Andy Chen says:

    I have never seen this version. The extra buttons are new, at least to me.

  37. 37
    Rob says:

    Anyone know where to buy replacement batteries for the SJ3000 in North America? Mine now runs out after 30 minutes.

  38. 38
    Andy Chen says:

    I checked the SpyTec website and didn’t see it there. Maybe you can drop them a note at info@spytecinc.com.

  39. 39
    Juha says:

    If you can´t succeed pairing your remote control, check the battery holder.

    http://youtu.be/58kKYfaRYhw

    LED works fine, but remote control does not send any signal.. I resoldered it.

    I bought a spare battery for my camera here:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/251431657405?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

  40. 40
    Rob says:

    You can by batteries at Spytec. If they tell you know ask them to double check. It is not on the website so best bet is to call them. The batteries are $9.95.

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