End of road trip report

Discussion in 'SJ7 Star' started by RBEmerson, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. RBEmerson

    RBEmerson Humbled by events

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    We just ended a four week road trip in our VW Vanagon (Philadelphia PA to Key West FL) A failing starter motor's bendix gear knifed the trip, ending it two weeks early. Pulling previous trip-related posts together... (applies to 1080@60 fps)
    • Using the SJ7 in its "motorcycle" case, as a dash cam, allowed the camera to heat up to absurdly high temperatures. Singed fingers aside, heat kills electronics. Absurdly high temperatures can only accelerate reaching end-of-life for the camera.
    • Used as a dash cam mounted in the open frame, the camera "only" reached "sorta hot" to "hot" temps (subjective readings, of course)
    • V1.20 crashed with a "pull the battery crash". I went back to V1.15, but didn't shoot much video with it; thank the shortened trip. I also saw the "flickering screen" effect with V1.21 (changed later to .20 and finally .15) but it cleared itself. No idea why it cleared up - magic?
    • All of the video, shot with 1080p@60, is inverted (upright camera mount wasn't an option).
    • EIS did a good job of coping with bumpy roads and vehicle motion (VW Vanagons are prone to "nodding" - motion in the pitch axis - when stopping and starting).
    • Either heat or extended charging while using an external power source caused a battery to swell to "almost didn't come out" size. This is both an annoyance and a high-risk issue. The best way to set a lithium battery on fire is to short it externally or internally. Swelling compresses the battery structure which can cause a short.
    • Using the camera solely on external power, without a battery is an annoyance but survivable.
    Overall, the results are essentially the same reported from my week-long motorcycle trip in July '17. On that trip, the camera ran from the start to end of the day's riding. On this trip, after shooting a day of looped dash cam video, it shot video only for "looks interesting" scenes. The biggest differences in the experience, in order of importance, are:
    1. Overheating using the motorcycle case and battery swelling
    2. Having to operate without a battery after a battery failed (swelling)
    3. Two firmware crashes
    After the "absurdly hot" episode, I decided to use a GP Hero 5 Black instead. That was an expensive learning experience. Using the SJ7, out of its case, proved to be tenable. Anyone want a deal on a slightly used GP Hero 5?
     
  2. RBEmerson

    RBEmerson Humbled by events

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    Here's the explanation of how Hero 5 and SJ7 video compare. The images aren't "two cameras, one screen" comparisons. NTL I think they spell out the differences quite well.

    Hero 5 Black frame capture:
    [​IMG]

    There are two significant problems here. The grass lacks any detail. The road becomes just a panel of grey, with no detail (tar strips, etc.). (Near Homestead, Florida)

    Hero 5 frame capture:
    [​IMG]

    The same problems as before plus pixelation of the closer part of the paving ("chip and tar" paving). The sign on the bolder is not clear. The white area in the lower right is my wife's road map sitting on the top of the dashboard. (Entrance to Everglades National Park - southern Florida)

    SJ7 frame capture:
    [​IMG]
    There are still problems with resolving the grass cleanly, and there's still some pixelation in the roadway. Overall, however, the image is much cleaner. (Everglades National Park)

    SJ7 frame capture:
    [​IMG]
    The problems are about the same as before. The sign isn't very clear, but the lettering is smaller. (Everglades National Park)

    SJ7 frame capture:
    [​IMG]
    Even with somewhat reduced light, similar to the Hero 5 frames, the resolution and pixelation problems are present. (Everglades National Park)

    Overall, the Hero 5 Black imagery is inferior to the SJ7. While both cameras show, as should be expected, artifacts from the conversion from light hitting the sensor to the file on the SD. The SJ7 processing is more effective.

    About the user interface and features. The Hero 5 has voice commands, WiFi, and GPS as well as motion sensors. The SJ7 has WiFi. Voice commands, IMNSHO, are a nice trick. The SJCam wrist remote does a better job of starting and stopping the camera. GPS and motion sensors have some benefits: "where was I when XYZ happened, how fast was I going, and was I upside down". All of this can be added to a video. or not - user's choice. What the motion sensor does that's a big help, is keep the image right side up, even if the camera is dangling down from an overhead mount.

    The Hero 5 and SJ7 menu options are roughly the same. Stepping around in the Hero 5 menus strikes me as a bit complicated. The good news is using the menus isn't needed for daily use. The same is true for the SJ7. This time the menu's fairly simple but with a long list, and no way to jump quickly from one setting to another.

    The mounting hardware (tripod mounts, helmet mounts, etc.) are interchangeable. Which is a good thing. At least one camera maker (Sena) has their own mounting system. Going from the Sena system to the GoPro system is possible but not simple. Hurray for using a common standard mounting system.

    The Hero 5 doesn't need to operate in a case to be used in "hostile" conditions. Sort of... When relying on battery power, the camera is sealed tight and can be taken snorkeling without a case. Using external power means the accessory door must be open. To use the camera in the mounting frame, the door has to come off. GoPro says the camera is no longer waterproof with the door off (surprise!). Looking at the USB Type C connector and the accessory connector, I suspect rain or dust won't get into the camera, even with the door off. I haven't tested this. If you ride in the rain with a Hero 5 and the door open, tell us how well the camera worked, eh.

    The SJ7 is simply not ready for a hostile environment unless it's in a case. It's easy to look inside of the camera by peering through the SD slot. And the mic opening isn't watertight, either. Aside from fair-weather rides with little dust, the SJ7 isn't going to do well outside of its case.

    Heat and heat dissipation. The Hero 5 wins here and wins by an enormous margin. In use without case, the camera becomes only a bit more than "warm" but not by much. My guess is the case is somewhere between 100 and 110F. I don't have a case for the Hero 5, and a case won't allow external power anyway. For that reason, I don't know how hot the camera might be when used as a dashcam on a sunny day.

    The SJ7's heat management is, IMNSHO, only a hair short of unacceptable. As I've reported before, the camera can hit very hot temperatures without sitting in a case. In a case, it's hot enough to cause at least 1st degree burns.

    Which camera wins? A camera's main job is to capture images, and present them accurately. The SJ7 does this job well. The processing needs to be improved, but what's currently produced is very good. The Hero 5 imagery is not equal to the SJ7's. As the samples show, it's definitely inferior to the SJ7's.

    However, the SJ7's heat problems cannot be ignored. Even if the camera isn't a risk for the user, the high heat will shorten components' life. I've experienced two batteries' failure when they swelled to the point of almost be impossible to extract from the camera.

    There is no clear winner. The choice of which camera should be used comes down to choosing "good images, awful heat" or "safe to handle but mediocre imagery". Good luck sorting out that problem.
     

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