BlackVue SC500 POV Camera ReviewBy DSE on 2014-02-10
POV cameras are popping out of the ether these days, and a small company in Korea, previously specializing in dashboard cameras, has entered the POV fray with their small box Blackvue camera. The Blackvue closely resembles the frame of the GoPro, and that’ll be the first comparison most folks will make when looking at this camera.
Why would one look at the Blackvue SC500 (or any other competitive camera)? Price, form factor, simplicity/ease of use/setup all fall into a consideration. The Blackvue is ridiculously simple with few buttons, no menus to scroll through, and the simple modes assure perfect recordings every time.
The camera features Wifi output for monitoring, an included/detachable LCD display, and is capable of shooting 60p footage for smooth slow motion. The housing is a rubberized, non-water/weatherproof housing that mounts on a stickypad/thumbscrew system (compatible with GoPro mounting accessories).
The camera is essentially choice-free, in that it offers three shooting modes.
- 30p (standard/default 1920x1080/30p)
- Still Photo (also capable of timelapse)
- High Speed (1280 x720/120p)
Let’s start with the most important aspect of image quality.
Image quality from this camera is about what I expected it to be. It’s not “drop your jaw this is incredible” good, and it’s not really poor, either. It’s better than some of its competitors, lesser than others so I’d refer to it as “average.” The camera features a Sony Exmor imager, similar to the imager used in the Sony AS-15 cameras, and I’m a bit surprised that Pittasoft didn’t take greater advantage of the features this sensor offers. They’ve tuned the sensor to be quite dynamic, as this screengrab demonstrates.
The lens is a fixed 170 degree lens, similar to most of the competitor POV cameras. The glass is exposed, as there is no cover/protection for the lens in the housing. The lens does come with a small rubber cover that is easily lost and falls off if the camera is tipped over. It is possible to sit the camera farther back in the housing, if the LCD display is removed, thus providing some lens protection via the housing.
There are only three buttons on the camera (unless one counts the LCD power button on the LCD pack). One button powers the camera and selects the mode (Video/Still/High-Speed). One button for Wifi on/off, and the record start/stop button.
The removeable LCD pack also has its own power button.
Buttons are large, so operating the camera while wearing gloves won’t be any kind of an issue. The built in speaker provides audio for playback, and also provides status indicators when buttons are depressed. However, this speaker/audio indicator is hard to hear in a noisy airplane.
All indicators are found on the front of the camera. This is where the first weakness in the camera is found. The indicator lights are small, and difficult to read in daylight. The record light is also dim and although the streamlined look of the record indicator is sexy, it’s also difficult to see in a well-lit aircraft cabin. In the 120p test footage, you can see the camera operator squinting and covering the camera to shade it from the sun, as it was challenging to see whether the camera was recording or not.
BlackVue would do well to take a page from their competitors playbook and put a larger indicator light in their next version.
The housing is unique; a rubber “O” ring design surrounds the entire camera. The intent is to dampen vibration and provide protection against scuffs and scrapes common in the action sport environment. The housing is capable of holding only the camera, or the camera/LCD combination. The housing offers a pair of holed mounting tabs, identical to the GoPro camera mount system, and in fact, the two are compatible. This is a huge benefit to camera owners, as they have access to the full complement of GoPro mounting accessories. Smart move on the part of Pittisoft to jump on this before any of their competition has realized that when it comes to camera mounts, standardization is a good thing.
This system is not waterproof, nor even weather resistant. While I’d have no problem using it around mist, clouds, etc, I’d also be very uncomfortable in any environment where water might cover any significant portion of the camera. Pittasoft does have a waterproof housing in the works at an undisclosed price.
The camera provides a mini HDMI port for instant viewing on a monitor. This is critical for debriefs, as when one is working between loads, it is time-consuming to remove a microSD card and read from a computer or other playback system.
The camera also offers a USB port, suitable for charging or playback over a computer. Both ports are covered by a removable plastic plug. Like other small format cameras using this “feature,” I find it annoying, as it’s a small plastic part easily fumbled while wearing any kind of glove, and may easily be lost.
There is no easy way to say it; battery life is unimpressive. Out of six jumps, the battery failed on three of them, even though I disabled the LCD screen. The unit had been charged prior to each jump, and turned on to check on the ground prior to boarding the aircraft. It’s possible my unit wasn’t entirely up to speed, yet even after charging overnight, the unit couldn’t manage two jumps in a row with the LCD preview enabled. There is no indicator for battery level if the LCD display is disabled, yet the LCD preview eats most of the battery. Wifi is also a battery-killer, but fortunately, the WiFi indicator is very obvious, and unless cell/wifi preview is absolutely necessary, users would be wise to leave it off (this issue is similar with all the POV cameras, but the Blackvue seems to be a bit more wifi power-hungry than some of the others).
In speaking with the folks at Pittisoft, they indicated that they’re now shipping a firmware offering better battery life.
All in all, this is a very simple camera, easier to operate than most of the POV offerings out there due to its limited functionality. Some people are looking for easy-to-use and this camera absolutely offers “easy.” Picture quality is on par with cameras costing more, and offers a better image than some of its same-price counterparts. It’s super-fast to set up and as there are no menus to cycle through, there is virtually no chance of not knowing which mode the camera is in.
Its light weight makes it perfect for many other applications; I particularly appreciated how well it flies on a UAV drone.
The price is competitive, the camera is very easy to operate, and the build is robust. I for one, am looking forward to seeing how Pittasoft’s new camera does in the rapidly broadening POV market.
Price: 300.00 USD Available online and at some retailers now.
About The Author
DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy winning productions. Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others. - See more at: http://www.dropzone.com/about/Contributors_895.html#sthash.oSWvVDbz.dpuf
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