- Aug 20, 2013
There has been a revolution in action and sport cameras over the last couple years with car owners installing dash-cams as a measure of added insurance protection, and for good reason. But for sports/action use, does it pay to pay, or is brand loyalty the discerning factor? There’s no denying that Gopro has the market share and an almost religious following, but there’s other alternatives for filming your adventure; whether biker, surfer or climber. We’ve got our hands on 3 popular choices: The GoPro Hero 4 silver, Drift Ghost-S and a GoPro lookalike, the SJCAM SJ 4000. All Wi-Fi compatible.
Time for Teletubbies! Action cameras of course have multiple uses, but being an auto site we’ll focus on use for car and motorcycles.
The Drift is a quite a sleek design in comparison to its counterparts which are box shaped in comparison, albeit small. Positioning is smooth and easy with its rotating lens which pretty much gives you the flexibility to mount it anywhere. On the helmet it fits nice, neatly and flush to the side with its simple clamp and mounting pad. It can be top mounted with similar fashion. Should you wish to mount it on the bike/motorcycle frame or bars, the optional clamp is a quick and easy job due to its rotating lens. No need for elbow joints to get a level picture, and the LCD screen adds to the ease. Any professional camera mount will also accommodate the Drift. It can easily be used as a dash-cam with its standard cam mount and DVR setup, and with nearly 3 hrs recording time, there’s no need to constantly check if the device is running low. The GoPro and SJ4000 both require clamping plates to mount in the car (included with SJ 4000). As for the GP you can buy a dedicated suction cup but this requires it to be left in its case or to find a similar open housing clamp to the SJ 4000.
The GoPro and SJ 4000 are very similar in many ways. Cheekily, you can use the GoPro mounts for the SJ which we’d recommend as the those supplied with the SJ4000 broke within minutes. From a distance you’d think it was a GoPro, and that was clearly the intention of SJCAM when they made this action camera. However, both SJ4000 and GoPro are cumbersome in comparison to the Drift when mounting. If mounting to the top of the helmet - and assuming you don’t mind looking like Tinky Winky or Po - will look marginally better than mounting to the side which requires scaffolding! In truth, both the GP and SJ look awful when mounted to a helmet, but clearly, that hasn’t bothered many users. Both have LCD screens for easy setup.
Don’t Judge a Book! If sharpness and angle is a priority, you will buy the GoPro. But the difference between it and the other two is extremely small. If you want to produce super slow motion pictures, the GoPro will fare better here too. In a brief test of cars passing by in a stationary mounting position, the GoPro was the sharpest when we paused the image to read a number plate followed by the SJ 4000 and the Drift which was quite hard to read.
The SJ 4000 is equally as good as the GoPro in particular environments. If filming from a stationary position, it is extremely difficult to decide on a winner, although the SJ4000 is artificially blue. However, in our opinion the Drift has a more natural picture. Large green road signs appear green as they should, rather than blue which the SJ 4000 seems to produce, and overly bright with the GoPro. While filming trees blowing in the wind with a range of textures such as shadows, again the Drift was much more natural and appeared the same as though looking with the eye. The SJ4000 produce an exaggerated blue while the GoPro was a little washed out and bright in the sky.
When mounted to a motorcycle the differences are abundantly clear. We mounted all 3 to the rear of our motorcycle and while Drift remains clear and well-focused, the SJ 4000 and GoPro suffered terribly with vibration due to its bracket flexing over bumps making it difficult to focus on objects you were pulling away from. If you have engine bars and mount your camera to catch front wheel action all 3 suffer from a little Jello effect, the SJ 4000 suffers the most. Mounted to a helmet or used in the car the SJ 4000 is excellent as both body and car absorb vibrations much better, and in this environment it is very hard to pick faults with all three. Out of the box both the GoPro and Drift offered better overall image putting sharpness to one side. However, with a good video editing software such as Power Director, they’re all on par when mounted in vibration free situations.
Sounds Like You’ve got Wind! All 3 action cameras were tested in their out-of-the-box mode for this review. The GoPro’s built in mic is truly excellent in our opinion. Mounted to the top of the helmet the GP picks the exhaust note clearly with little wind noise. Admittedly, it was mounted in its case with open-back door. The mic is also sensitive enough to pick the rider’s voice while on the move slowly or commentary in the car. Slightly less sensitive but still very good is the SJ 4000 also helped along with its case. The Drift however is dreadful, but a little unfair as the mic is in direct contact with the wind and doesn’t require a case for general use. But wind noise literally saturates any other sounds around. That being said, connecting a mic is another story. The Drift comes complete with a standard 3.5mm jack and neatly connects to the rear. This of course will improve the sound with limited wind noise. Both GoPro and SJ 4000 require a USB to Jack adapter and requires a modification to the protective case or the purchase of a specific case with side mounting slots which adds to the ridiculous look when mounted on a helmet.
Durability and Life When it comes to strength and build, there is no comparison, the Drift wins hands down. Our Drift has done more than 30,000km over the year in various conditions including 4x4 off road, rain and dirt. Dropped 20ft from a tree, kicked and dropped from a motorbike at speed having left it on the gas tank. There are few surface marks but no damage other than that. The GoPro Hero 4 was purchased a month after its release in Thailand, has done little other than the odd rear motorcycle action and already shows signs of wear by rubbing in the case. The SJ only a month old from this review has suffered the same marks. Drop these two cameras from a few feet and it’s bye-bye! The Drift is also leaps ahead with battery life lasting nearly 3 hours. 3+ depending on settings. One thing is for sure with the Drift Ghost – S, is that your journey will have ended, or you will have stopped for a break before the battery has expired. The same can’t be said for the GoPro with a measly 1hr if you’re lucky. A battery pack life extender is available. The SJ 4000 lasts about 30 mins more than the GoPro.
Is it Worth It? When we say worth it we are referring to the cameras price, durability and mounting options straight from the box and its accessories Any GoPro owner reading this will probably want to burn us for witchcraft! But compared to the SJ 4000 it offers nothing more in terms of its intended purpose. Whether to film your adventure, whatever that may be, recording for insurance purpose or your holiday moments. Battery life is better and it’s nearly 5x cheaper! It’s that obvious, but we live in a world of denial and assume that paying more means more. The Drift is different in many ways. While comparable in price the GoPro, it comes with a remote as standard, battery life lasts ages and it is as strong as a tank. Picture quality is better, only letting itself down in sharpness and angle. This thing will take a hammering and probably outlive numerous SJ 4000 or GoPro for that matter. But the real question of course is would we buy another of these cameras? The answer is an emphatic yes, so long as it’s an SJ 4000 or Drift! Farangmoto Result: