There’s been a recent trend to record first-person video footage, be it of someone running a marathon, a gutsy trip down a ski slope, or even a spot of parkour. Of course none of these videos are recorded with a traditional handheld camera or anything that bulky, but are instead captured by small and lightweight cameras that can be easily mounted or strapped on before taking the plunge. I received one such device this week, in the form of the BlackVue SC500, and I was excited to try out this nifty little device for the first time.
Build quality & design
What strikes you the most about cameras like the BlackVue SC500 is just how small and lightweight they are. Measuring just 55 x 44.2 x 37 mm and weighing around 114g (with screen), this little guy weighs no more than an average smartphone would.
Packaged in the box you have the BlackVue camera, battery, two mounts, a mounting screw, rubber protective case, charging cable, and detachable LCD. The LCD is what sets the SC500 apart from other similar cameras I’ve seen, who only offer a small monochrome display for basic information and settings. This 2” screen snaps off or on to the SC500, and allows you to easily view what you’re recording or change settings on the camera. There’s also a separate waterproof housing available for the SC500.
On the front of the camera you have a few LED status lights that indicate what shooting mode the camera is in, as well as if the on-board Wifi is on or not. At the top you have a large recording button, and on the side you have a Power/Mode button and an on/off button for the Wifi. To the right of the device you have a small plastic removable cover that hides a microUSB port, miniHDMI port, and a slot for a microSD card for storage. I have to say that I often misplaced the cover, so I wish that the next model has a hinged cover instead. You also get a small rubber cover for the lens, but this doesn’t fit snugly and falls off very easily.
The SC500 lets you shoot in three modes – a regular recording mode that lets you record in full HD at 60 or 30fps, a high-speed mode that records fast-moving objects, and a picture mode for taking photos. You can easily switch between each mode with the Mode button on the side, however in order to change settings you’ll have to dive into the Settings option, rather than the mode itself that you want to change.
First up was traditional video recording in full HD. Depending on the speed and capacity of the microSD card you’re using (up to 32GB is supported), you can supposedly record up to 2 hours of footage non-stop. Below is a sample video taken using the SC500:
As you can see, the fisheye effect is simply due to the lens being used here, which allows for a much wider field of capture on these kind of cameras. Overall the video quality is quite good, and any compression you see here is due to Vimeo altering the quality of the video slightly after upload.
Next I tried out the high-speed recording mode, which produces a slow-motion video after capture. This is great for recording fast-moving subjects such as runners, and makes for some rather interesting videos. Here’s a short video captured in this mode:
One thing to keep in mind when using the high-speed recording mode is to ensure you have a fast enough microSD card, so I highly recommend you use a Class 10 card. Lastly I took some sample photos to see how the SC500 would fare. Bear in mind that there’s no flash or fancy effects on this camera, so you get pretty much what the lens can see. The camera doesn’t do too well in very bright environments, so you’re best using this just for videos.
What’s quite good about the BlackVue SC500 is that it has an app you can download for Android or iOS which lets you interact with the camera using its on-board Wifi. Simply turn on the Wifi, launch the app, and the device connects in a matter of seconds. The app is actually quite comprehensive, and allows you to access the camera’s internal memory, view a live feed, take photos, and adjust settings, all without going near the camera. This is especially useful if you’ve mounted the camera and don’t want to go around tinkering with it too much.
If you’re using the SC500 with a quadrocopter to do aerial videos, bear in mind that the SC500’s Wifi might interfere with your wireless equipment, so it’s best to keep the Wifi off when not in use. Also bear in mind that you’ll have a distance of about 10m that you can use the Wifi feature after which reception starts to get a bit sketchy. I did have a couple of connectivity issues with the iOS version however, so hopefully this will be addressed in a future update.
One of the key complaints I hear about these kind of sport cameras is how the battery life quickly wears out on them. A friend of mine owns several of these cameras, and the maximum he always seems to get out of them is about fifteen to twenty minutes of recording time. The SC500 on a full charge can record full HD video for about one hour and forty minutes with the LCD switched on, which is quite impressive for a device of this size.
The BlackVue SC500 is certainly not to be taken lightly. While there may certainly be other similar cameras on the market that have been around for a bit longer, the SC500 is a new contender that means business. Its smooth recording modes and great quality and battery life means that it could be something to consider if you’re in the market for a lightweight camera that’s easy to mount and use. Time-lapse photography is a missing feature that could be included in future firmware upgrades, but for a first release the BlackVue SC500 is an easy to use sport camera that won’t let you down.
Pricing for the SC500 hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re guessing something along the $300 mark when it does launch.