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May 17, 2014, 01:47 PM
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Mini-Review

SJ4000 Action Camera Tech Teardown


SJ 4000 Action Camera Tech Teardown

As promised, here is my teardown of the SJ4000 Action Camera. We will explore the hardware, Waterproof Case and insides of this camera.

Camera graciously provided by TMart.com for review. See it here: http://tinyurl.com/SJ4000-at-TMart

Overview:



We'll start with the box; it's nice, upscale retail packaging which definitely shows off the goods.



The back of the box lists all the usual specifications...



while this side shows a nice catalog of all the included accessories...



and this side tries to get you in the adventuresome spirit.



Here's my first look at the contents.




and closeup of the front...




and back of the camera, nestled safely inside its waterproof case. Camera comes with protective film over both front and back lens surfaces; don't forget to remove at least the one over the front lens to prevent blurry imaging.

The black dots are foam pads to keep the camera snug inside the outer case. The hardware is ALL stainless steel; the screws, the pushbuttons, the springs and even the e-clips inside which hold the pushbuttons from flying away. Nice!



Here's everything inside the box, laid out.

Starting at the top left we have: Handlebar mount, package of 4 zip ties, Micro USB charging/Data Cable.

Next row, left is 1 of several articulated joints, a tripod mount, and a mount which will allow you to mount this camera to the tripod screw hole of another camera, (useful for journaling a photo expedition), the "non-rugged" clip-on tripod/windshield mount bracket, curved baseplate for attaching to a helmet, and included Euro AC/USB charging adapter.

Next row, left is camera in waterproof case with short mounting clip attached, articulated joint, another articulated joint, belt clip that attaches to clip-on tripod/windshield mount, gooseneck mounting clip, baggie with extra double-sided foam tape and a cable tether to provide redundant attachment in case the worst happens.

Bottom row, left is baggie with Velcro and cinch-type straps for attaching to flat or round surfaces, 2nd back cover for waterproof case with slots to allow sound in (similar function to GoPro Skeleton Case), Manual in many languages, and soft polishing cloth for lens surfaces.


Features:

1080P HD @ 30FPS, 720P @ 60FPS W/Frame Doubling

FOV 170 Degrees, same in both Resolutions

Camera Lens is good quality glass Fisheye type, metal shell w/12mm thread; Alternate lenses for GoPro like the Sunex DSL377 140 Degree Lens should fit

Lens in Case is REPLACEABLE Optical Quality Polycarbonate, NOT Glass; 1.5mm Thick x 34mm Dia for those who wish to see if GoPro Hero 2 case lens will fit

LCD is 1.5" High Res 480 x 320 or 640 x 480; Very bright and clear

Built-in Speaker for reviewing videos anytime

Full-Feature Car Cam Mode

Flip Video

Video Mode, Still Camera Mode, Menu Mode, selected from front Mode/PWR button

Manual - 12 Pages repeated in multiple languages; lots of pix, but not a lot of detailed instructions

Various mounts and angle adapters; all compatible with GoPro Waterproof Case at Pivot Bolt. SJ4000 clips will snap into GoPro bases, but GoPro clips will not snap into SJ4000 Bases. See John Childs and Techmoan's Videos on Youtube for additional review material.


Specifications:


Camera Weight: 59.2 gr W/ Battery

Camera Dimensions: 59.5mm W x 41.3mm H x 24.8mm D

Waterproof Enclosure Weight: 74.89 gr

Combined : 134.10 gr

With Clip & Screw: 153.12 gr

Battery 900mah; +/- 100 min Rec time per charge

H264 MOV format: 1080P/30 = 15.3Mbits/Sec 720P/60 = 13.6Mbits/Sec : 35 min = 4.3 GB


Menu:


8 Pages, only 1 level deep, 4 items or less per page. Scroll up/down 1 item at a time w/side buttons

Highlights:

HDR (High Dynamic Range) Improves Color Saturation/Contrast in some situations

Car Mode With License # Stamp Available

Date/Time Stamp Available

Cyclic Record in 3, 5, 10 min chunks

Motion Detection


Pros :


Built-in high resolution display allows proper framing of subjects + More civilized menu = Much easier to use

High quality glass lens on Camera

Aptina AR0330 Full HD Sensor

Price to Video Quality Ratio VERY good; Excellent video, good color

Price to VALUE Ratio Also Very good; lots and lots of mounts make it almost like buying a Go-Pro Mount assortment and getting SJ4000 for Free

Serious Contender to GoPro Hero 2 HD/Hero 3 White at approx 1/2 the current price

Mini HDMI out makes video playback on big screen easy

Full-Feature Car DashCam Mode with excellent video results

All mounts work with GoPro Waterproof Camera Shell at Point where it bolts on

SJ4000 Clips will work with GoPro baseplates


Cons:


Looks like expensive GoPro, target for theft

Case Lens NOT Glass, but is Optical Quality Polycarbonate and is replaceable

Exposure seems slightly dark, but adjustable

720P @ 60FPS W/Frame Doubling not true 60FPS: this is a limitation of the NTK96650 Chipset combined with the Aptina AR0330 Sensor, hopefully they will make 720P @ 30FPS selection available in future Firmware to reduce wasted storage

Included USB Wall Charger EURO ONLY; needs 1A rated or better to charge properly. Takes forever plugged into PC USB (500ma limit). Does charge just fine in approx 2.5 hours from iPwn USB Wall Charger

Small 1.5" screen, but easier on battery than larger screen

NO VIDEO OUT WHILE RECORDING; possible fix in future FW

No Composite Video Out jack, makes adapter necessary if future FW fixes "No Video Out while Recording"

Has Speaker, but not very loud.

GoPro clips will not fit in SJ4000 baseplates


The TearDown:



Okay; now that the TL : DR crowd has their information fix, let's tear this thing apart. I'm going to start with the waterproof case; I want to see if that lens is just molded in or is it maybe replaceable. The "tap it on a tooth" test indicates it is in fact plastic.



first, we'll remove these 8 screws to undo the bezel; they're stainless too. You'll need a #00 Philips for this work.



Here's the back of the bezel; note the indexing pins to center it in place while you tighten it down. The lens IS replaceable; it stuck to the inside of this bezel until I set it down.



Here's the edge of the lens; it has a CNC cut edge consistent with optical quality plastic sheet.



The perfectly distortion-free reflection in its surface confirms it: optical quality.



The refractivity and clarity indicate polycarbonate; as does the taste if you chew on the edge a little. This lens is 1.5mm Thick x 34mm Dia; I'm curious to see if it can be replaced with the glass domed lens from the Go Pro Hero 2 Case.

Anyone who has one, I'd love it if you'd disassemble yours and measure the lens itself; please update here!



Here's the case with the lens removed; this opening is 22mm wide. Maybe a little Dremel abuse here could fit a Genuine GoPro in this case; I don't know if the pushbuttons or lens hood would line up.

Allright; time to button this beast up. Place the lens in the bezel and locate it on the case using the pins; once you make sure it's centered properly in the bezel, you can place the screws. Tighten each one down until the bottom of the head just touches the bezel, then go around the lens in a criss-cross pattern, tightening a half-turn at a time, until all screws are tight.

Now onto the camera itself!



The front cover just snaps in place; to start, we're going to remove the battery and set them aside.



Press up here with a thumb to start loosening the front cover...



and start working your way around the edges.



Now you can just lift the cover off.



Here's the inside of the front cover; see the snaps around the outside edges.



The inner cover is held on by 7 screws; you'll need a #00 Philips for these too.



Lift up the PWOER switch PCB; it's supposed to be secured by those pins



Here's the back of the inner cover; you can see the tabs which hold the lens hood in place.



Here's our first look at the guts of the camera; not much to look at really. But then again, the inside of a GoPro isn't terribly exciting, either. The battery box is held onto the main PCB by 3 screws on the other side; we'll take it off later.



Here's a closeup view of the threaded lens holder; they've got it glued down pretty good.



To separate the PCB from the case, you need to pull everything straight up out of the shell. However, the HDMI and USB ports get in the way. To release them, press outward from inside the shell like so, and then carefully push the board up with a small screwdriver inserted through the USB port hole. Press upward, not inward; it's easy to break the USB connector if you're careless.

WHATEVER YOU DO, NEVER PULL OR PUSH ON THE LENS TO REMOVE THE PCB!

Or for any other reason!

I know it looks like the perfect pull-knob; but the delicate sensor underneath the lens is bonded directly to the PCB. Any flexing of the PCB caused by stress on the lens can crack the sensor.



Work the PCB loose side-by-side a little at a time...



Stop once you get about this far; there's a ribbon cable to the LCD that you need to disconnect or you'll break the connector on the PCB.



Here's the ribbon cable that needs to be disconnected. If you're not familiar with this kind of connector and confident you can get it back together, I recommend you don't continue any further.

This one can be tricky as the cable doesn't align with the socket exactly and requires a bit of finesse to disconnect and reconnect in the confined space available. Working the locks loose requires use of a small crochet hook hook or small screwdriver; be VERY careful, these connectors are VERY delicate.



Once the ribbon cable is disconnected, the board slips right out. Now that the board is out, you can better see what the connector looks like with the locking shell in the locked position; see the tabs on each side used to undo the lock.

Pull these tabs gently towards the printing at the top edge, NOT upward away from the PCB. Note the 3 black screws that hold the battery box in place. DO NOT disturb the two silver screws which hold the lens to the board; it's best to NEVER open this up to prevent contamination of the photosensor.

While we're here, notice the micro-SD reader on the right. I can also see unoccupied component locations at U11, U12 and U19. Most of the rest of this side of the board is power supply & support circuitry for the chipset on the other side; the Macronix M2C-12G Flash chip is on the upper right.



Here's a closeup of the ribbon connector in the unlocked position; this is how you'll need it to be to get the ribbon cable in & out. To reassemble, you'll work the cable back into the connector with a tiny screwdriver, then lock it in place by pressing down on the tabs as shown in the previous photo.



To remove the battery box, we'll first need to slide the SHUTTER switch out of this slot. Here you can see a good view of the 12mm threaded assembly which holds the lens in place.

Alternate lenses like the Sunex DSL377 140 Degree Lens should fit; as with the GoPro, you'll need to heat up the lens to free it from the LockTite goopy.

Be careful not to damage the lens removing it, and before you move it, I recommend scribing a mark across the holder and threads so you can get it focused exactly the same if you need to reinstall it.



With the SHUTTER switch set aside, you can now remove the 3 black screws and take off the battery box.



Now we can see the front of the mainboard. This view shows correct placement of all the wires in case you break one loose and have to resolder it; they are pretty thin & fragile. Notice the hynix H5TQ1G63BFR 1GB DDR3 RAM Chip, and the Novatek NT96650BG Video Chip.

Directly to the right of that see an unoccupied connection header at CN4; this gives some indication as to the purpose of the missing components on the other side. It would appear they planned for wireless in this design; probably a WiFi module for remote control/remote viewing as the Hero 3 has available. Maybe we'll see that and the rumored larger LCD in the next release. Suhweet!



Here we have a closeup of the Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB connectors; notice the tiny condenser mic to the right.



Here's a view of the inside of the camera with the back of the LCD and ribbon cable.



And lastly... the LCD comes with a thin protective sheet installed; it's optical quality like a screen protector for a smartphone, so I decided to keep it there. I nipped this pulltag off with a pair of scissors to prevent lifting it up and contaminating the underside by accident.

Reassembly is pretty much the reverse order of disassembly; tighten the screws VERY gently, as the plastic they're screwed into strips out VERY easily.

Notes:

The camera will format your Micro-SD card in FAT32 file structure. This format has a 4GB maximum filesize which you can burn up in about 30-40 minutes, then it will kakk; it MAY corrupt the file when it does so. If you use your PC to format the card in exFAT w/32Kilobyte Allocation Unit size, you overcome this filesize limitation; you'll run out of battery before you fill up a 16GB card.

When I first got the camera I was unable to record video with it; it didn't like any of my old Micro-USB cards. I only had Class 2 and Class 4 cards in 2, 8 & 16GB assorted sizes; they are all a couple years old.

I've since received 3 new cheap-cheap cards from NewEgg; total with shipping for one 16GB Class 4, one 16GB Class 10 and one 32GB class 10 UHS-1 card was $29.85 to Victoria, Texas USA; they ALL Work GREAT! NewEgg is DA BOMB!

Cards I've tested successfully are :

Silicon Power Elite 32GB Micro SDHC UHS-I Card Class 10 - Model SP032GBSTHBU1V10-SP $13.99

Team Group Inc. 16GB microSDHC Flash Card CLASS 10 - Model TG016G0MC28X $6.99

Team Group Inc. 16GB microSDHC Flash Card with USB Card Reader (Red) CLASS 4 - Model TUSDH16GCL430 $5.99

I haven't actually pushed these cards to their limits; I've recorded a max of 15-20 minute of video on each card. I know we have a number of test programs out there which can flog them pretty hard but I'm a bit busy with other stuff, like writing this teardown.

Also, I'm not positive that the older cards I tested unsuccessfully are entirely incompatible; they are currently in use in various phones and tablet PCs, so I didn't want to reformat them. It's entirely possible that if I reformat in exFAT, they'll work as well; but that's a story for another update.

Alright; it's time for me to go play with my kids... they're like all over me and bored sheepless.

Peace and tailwinds, all!


mnem
Life is better understood in its component parts.
Last edited by mnemennth; May 22, 2014 at 01:21 AM.
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May 17, 2014, 02:55 PM
'FPV'er...not a "LOS'er
Vantasstic's Avatar
Need videos!!!!
May 17, 2014, 04:00 PM
I review RC Products
GBLynden's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vantasstic
Need videos!!!!
This or it is just a toy camera. Please post video for us to see what we are working with here.
May 17, 2014, 05:00 PM
AMA 1033652
mnemennth's Avatar
Thread OP
I'm sorry... right at this moment, I'm a bit busy with work. There are, however, oodles of videos shot WITH the SJ4000 all over the internet; it is actually generating quite a bit of stir on YouTube as a result.

What I'm attempting to do here is a TECHNICAL REVIEW; showing what it's got and what it doesn't. You really don't need MY videos which will just be more of the same old boring stuff.

When I have my FPV quad finished, hopefully in the next few days, I intend to shoot some side by side video with my Mobius; but I'm afraid even THAT comparison has been done many times already.

But right now I gotta work while the work's available.


mnem
* Slammed*
May 17, 2014, 05:49 PM
'FPV'er...not a "LOS'er
Vantasstic's Avatar
Ahh...okay, I was thinking the 'review' title was an overall review. I was wondering why you'd start off by tearing it apart. Now I understand.
May 19, 2014, 03:54 AM
Team Armattan
Rob2160's Avatar
Thanks for taking the time to do this tear down review. Lots of good information here.
May 29, 2014, 01:20 AM
Registered User
would drilling the case and putting a mic-in jack fit inside?

Thanks!
May 29, 2014, 01:32 PM
Registered User
Dflyer's Avatar
Nice review. I'm having trouble with the SJ4000. It worked flawless for 2 weeks and now my SJ4000 seems unable to read my SDcard. I changed out with several sdcards and every time the same problem. As soon as i push the record button i get the message "please insert card", but the card is in the slot.

Anybody kwow what i can do, or what happened ?

Grtz,
Dirk
May 30, 2014, 07:11 AM
Registered User
fede.97's Avatar
I don't own this action cam or any cam at all but since i'm planning to buy it i'd like to help you fix this issue.
Is there any way in the menu to 100% reset the camera? Have you tried formatting the sd card? If yes, try using panasonic sd formatter. I know windows has its own format utility but i used this one when ds flashcards had problems and generally it fixed them
Also, were them new sd cards class 8/10 or old ones? Do they work with your pc and have you tried a scandisk? Thanks and sorry for the pile of questions
Jun 03, 2014, 11:29 PM
AMA 1033652
mnemennth's Avatar
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dflyer
Nice review. I'm having trouble with the SJ4000. It worked flawless for 2 weeks and now my SJ4000 seems unable to read my SDcard. I changed out with several sdcards and every time the same problem. As soon as i push the record button i get the message "please insert card", but the card is in the slot.

Anybody kwow what i can do, or what happened ?

Grtz,
Dirk
The camera has a built-in Format utility, you can try that. If you re-read the Notes at the end of the review, you'll see I'm using mine with several cards formatted in exFAT. I'd DEFINITELY try that. I've been using mine for several weeks now with ZERO faults since I reformatted.

If still no joy, I suspect a failed unit; send it back while you still can.


mnem
*SD-ified*
Jun 11, 2014, 03:38 PM
Registered User
fede.97's Avatar
Hi, mnemennth, i'm curious. You look like someone with good reversing skills. Have you tried decompling any firmware for this camera?
Maybe we could change the bitrate or jpg compression
Last edited by fede.97; Jun 11, 2014 at 04:19 PM.
Jun 14, 2014, 04:03 PM
Quad and foam adept
Hermani's Avatar
Thanks for the review. Very interesting. After seeing your video I bought one to complement my Sony AS-15 for aerial shooting; it seems you just can't buy a brushless gimbal for anything *not* resembling a GoPro.
Latest blog entry: WoodQuad
Jul 04, 2014, 01:53 AM
Registered User
Thanks a lot for this detailed teardown!! I accidentally knocked my SJ4000 over yesterday and managed to put a nice chip on the front of the lens. This info will come in useful for swapping it out for another GoPro M12.
Thanks again!
Jul 18, 2014, 02:47 PM
AMA 1033652
mnemennth's Avatar
Thread OP
Sorry for not responding sooner; real life stuff has severely limited my hobby-related activities.

fede.97 -

Alas, my Kung-Fu is weak; I used to be fairly adept with COBOL and FORTRAN back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, but not exactly much use nowadays...

Hermani -

Yeah; since GoPro bit the bullet and started making an entry-level "WalMart" version, their market penetration is nearly unavoidable. They are the de-facto "Standard", even though I feel that making a digital camera of any sort without a viewfinder LCD borders on the criminally negligent.

MikusP -

If the chip is small enough that you can't see the defect in your video, you should be able to seal the edges of the chip with a drop of super-glue, then immediately soak up the excess with a folded-up paper towel. JUST a drop! Don't want to get enough to drip inside the lens; it will cloud up the insides. If it clouds the surface of the lens, you can clean it off with denatured alcohol on a soft cloth.

Good luck!


Thanks to everybody for making this teardown my most popular EVER!


mnem
*A legend in my own mind*
Jul 22, 2014, 04:42 AM
Registered User
Anyone have this problem? I cant find new this microswith
Last edited by hajdass; Jul 22, 2014 at 05:00 AM.


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