Spytec SJ-3000 1080P Full HD Action Camera review

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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

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 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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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
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