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SJCAM M20 Action Camera – brilliant little camera is versatile and fully featured [Review]

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We get to test out a fair number of action cameras here at Ferret Towers, and most of them are … well let’s just say they’re OK. The typical camera tries hard to be a GoPro clone, but with nothing more adventurous than a cheaper price. That’s why it’s always nice to see companies which are trying to do more, like TomTom with its Bandit and now this new SJCAM M20 Action Camera product.

It’s a 2K camera, so let’s get that out of the way first. But that being said, it comes with bags of character and attention to detail which really make it stand out from the crowd. Take a look at the video below for a hands on overview, plus some sample footage.

First impressions
The camera comes in a nice package, along with a very nice accessories bundle. It’s not as extensive as the iSaw Edge we reviewed recently, but it’s still impressive nonetheless. In the box are a user guide, microUSB charge cable, and a whole bunch of mounting accessories, including a bicycle mount, sticky mounts for helmets and other adhesive options. It also comes with a full waterproof case which is tested down to 30 meters depth. And there’s even a lens cleaning cloth. Nice touch.

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In use
The first thing you notice about the M20 is how light it is. Just 74 grams in fact (according to the user guide, but 54 grams on the website, you choose). That and the unusual portrait shape make it immediately stand out. There’s good and bad about an action cam which doesn’t follow the GoPro format. For one thing you can’t use GoPro accessories, but on the plus side it gives the manufacturer a lot more options when it comes to design and features. In this case, we’re talking a nice long battery life, a neat little 1.5 inch color viewfinder screen, and a wide variety of settings and shooting modes to cover all eventualities.

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The 900 mAh battery that comes with the unit offers up to 110 minutes of record time without WiFi, but if you switch on the WiFi to use your smartphone as a remote control and viewer, that number slumps down to 60 minutes. Your call. The other main features of the camera include a microSD slot which will take up to 128 GB cards, and HDMI out in case you want to show your footage off on your television. The camera uses a Sony 16 megapixel chipset, which delivers crisp clear 2K (2880x2160P) footage.

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In fact the only thing we could see which was obviously missing is a tripod mount socket on the bottom of the camera, but that’s a small thing, and something which is not common on this type of action cam anyway. The camera can operate in a number of cool modes. It can obviously act as a standard action camera, with slow motion, on-board image stabilization, time lapse and motion sensing all built in. It can also operate as a web cam, a car dash cam, and even a security cam (with the motion sensing switched on).

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Operation is very simple. Just hit the left hand button on the top and you power up. Then hit the right hand button and start shooting. Tap again to stop. Tap the left hand button again and cycle to photographs instead of video. Tap it again (or hit the down arrow button on the side) and you move into the set up menu. Very easy, very quick.

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It’s all very self explanatory and easy to use. The 166 degree lens can be supplemented by firmware control of the point of view. So you can opt for the full wide angle view, or step down to medium, and narrow viewpoints when you’re shooting. This is a very cool feature and one which gives you much more flexibility when trying to capture the best angle and shot for a given situation.

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Conclusion
The SJCAM M20 is a very nice little action camera. With all the multiple ways you can set up the camera, and not just image quality and things like WB and ISO, but also slow motion, time lapse, loop recording, power on recording etc etc, you’re really spoilt for choice as far as getting this thing working exactly the way you want it to. And the image quality is extremely impressive. Which is important, right? So all in all, a great camera and definitely worthy of your attention if you’re in the market for an alternative to a GoPro action camera set up.

Price: $129.00

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Specifications
LCD: 1.5″ LTPS Screen
Image Sensor 16.35 Mega Pixel Sony IMX206
DSP: Novatek 96660 Chipset
Image resolution: 16 Mega Pixel (4608*3456)/ 12 Mega Pixel (4032*3024)/10 Mega Pixel(3648*2736) / 8 Mega Pixel (3264*2448)/5 Mega Pixel (2592*1944) 3 MP(2048*1536)/ 2MHD(1920*1080)/ VGA(640*480)/ 1.3MP(1280*960)
Video resolution 4K (2880*2160) @ 24fps (Interpolated), 2K (2560*1440)@ 30FPS 1080P(1920*1080)@ 60FPS, 720P (1280 x 720) @ 120FPS, WVGA @ 240fps (Slo-Mo) Default resolution Video:1080P / Picture:4032*3024
Video format(s): MP4 or MOV / Image format(s): JPG or RAW
Waterproof case: Up to 30 meters
Storage: Slot for Micro SD card up to 32 GB *Selected 64gb & 128gb Cards (Class 10)
Connections: USB 2.0,HDMI (HDMI Certified)
Battery life: up to 80 minutes (1080P)
Power: Removable 900mAh Battery
Dimensions: L*W*H: 1.58×0.903×2.124in / 40.14×37.18×48.00mm
Weight:50.5g (without batteries), 55.5g with batteries
Applications: Extreme Sports, Outdoor Sports Activities, FPV, Biking , Dashcam, Diving, Home security etc.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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