Published on April 14th, 2014 | by Greg
BlackVue Sport’s Unusual Action Camera: Quality With Compromises
When a product category becomes popular, it attracts immediate attention from other entrepreneurs and companies that have connected businesses. Take Bluetooth wireless speakers as an example: anyone who makes speakers looked into making a model or two. The same is the case for action/sports cameras- they’re a growing business, so anyone with experience in digital imaging can take a shot and potentially make a splash.
BlackVue, from Korean company Pittasoft, makes a wide range of dash cameras. And they’ve launched a new line, BlackVue Sport, with their first action camera, the SC500. They have an immediately distinctive look- different from the barrel type, and closer to the box-style. Many that we’ve recently seen have lacked a screen for playback and live viewing, but the SC500 has one- with a cool difference, in that it is removable! It doesn’t come with a waterproof case, but they do have one available. And the included accessories include a wide range of mounts, with a frame that attaches to the camera and allows easy mounting to helmets. Like most others, you can do time lapse capturing as well as burst shots for still images.
But the BlackVue Sports SC500 stands out thanks to some truly excellent optics, even in low light conditions, using a Sony EXMOR 12 megapixel sensor that can achieve up to 1080 video at 60 frames per second. Video is captured with a wide angle image- 157 degrees is pretty broad. And you’ll either like the framing- which is great for capturing sports and use on a helmet- or wish for something a little less fisheye. Weighing only 77 grams (without the accessories, and without the LCD), it’s a truly featherweight camera, but lacks any stabilization, so be ready to need some post-production if you’re planning on using while moving much. Unlike most other cameras we’ve seen, it can even be pushed up to 120 fps, at 720p, which is pretty fantastic. And the image quality is solid, with nice color balance and only some slight distortion around the edges and some general softness.
Like several other action cameras that we’ve seen recently, you can use a smartphone app to control and view footage, connecting over wifi. We did see some technical issues though- the camera would lock up on occasion and we’d have to restart (by removing the battery, typically). It rarely happened while grabbing footage, but it’s still an annoyance, especially if you’re in the middle of the action. We liked the buttons and controls- there isn’t a remote, but they are large enough to use while you have gloves on. Storage is handled via microSD cards, and the SC500 supports up to 32GB models. There is an HDMI output, though no cable included, and both ports are hidden behind a removable cover. Unfortunately, there is nothing attaching the cover to the camera, so it’s easily lost or misplaced. The same is, oddly, true of the lens cap- a nice inclusion left out of many action cameras, but this one was relatively useless as well since it would slip off of the camera if tilted. Finally, our only other major issue was battery life- we like to see several hours, allowing you to use it easily while out skiing. But this rechargeable battery only offers about two hours of total use, though more if you drop the wifi and LCD.
One other catch is that this unit doesn’t appear widely available- we weren’t able to find it for sale online or in stores just yet. But word is that it will be priced around $300, a decent pricepoint, but not quite enough to push it atop the crowded list of competitors in our opinion. Improved battery life and stability are critical- and others like the Monoprice MHD include a waterproof casing and feel less plasticky, which makes them a better value for most folks, even if their optics aren’t quite as good. We loved the footage captured with the BlackVue Sport SC500 though; an excellent first attempt.