SENA announced a great looking camera a while back, and I've been anxiously awaiting its release ever since. It was finally released a few weeks back, i quickly put my Sony action cam on ebay, and the second it sold I went to order the SENA PRISM. I'm not going to do a full review here, after all I've barely had it a day. But i will give my initial impression along with some photos and a video review the end.
The main draw with this camera is the bluetooth functionality. Pairing it with my SENA SMH10 Intercom on my helmet, and the camera really shines. I'll get in to that soon. Another stand out feature is that this camera is made for motorcycle riders. It comes with a huge variety of mounts in the box. The side helmet mount specifically is amazing. More on this soon.
Bluetooth Control Features
Once the camera is paired with my intercom, i can control it just by pressing buttons on my intercom. I get audible feedback from the camera overtime i do something. Keep in mind, my intercom is really easy to use with gloves, and I'm already really familiar with using the button set to control my phone through it.
From a completely off state, i can power on the camera by pressing the phone button 3 times. That takes the camera from completely off, to on and ready to go. Same thing to turn it off. This is a great battery saving feature while on longer trips. Side note, you can easily power the camera while recording, which you could not do with the Sony. Its even got waterproof USB port.
Once the camera is on, i can press and rotate the jog wheel on my intercom, the camera will switch modes between video mode, single shot mode, burst mode, and time lapse mode. The camera will announce each mode to me. If i glance at the camera in my rear view, i can easily see a big bright LED light on top of the camera that changes color depending on mode. Red for video mode, Purple for time lapse mode etc.
To activate or stop recording, i just press and hold the jog wheel in for 2 seconds. The camera announces recording to me. If i glance at the camera, i can see the red light flashing meaning its in video mode, and recording.
Bluetooth Audio Recording Feature
The biggest downside to my sony is that when recording from the side of my helmet, the video would be great, but the audio would just be loud whistling from the wind noise. Unusable. What the SENA does is pairs with any bluetooth headset and will overlay the audio from the bluetooth headset right on to the video. Initially I thought this would be great just for being able to narrate the ride right on to the track, making the video more interesting and easier to cut later. After playing with it, I'm noticing that its not just the voice overlay, but the engine noises are clearly audible as well, meaning i can finally hear down shifts, riding through the gears etc.
The bluetooth audio and control features are the number one reasons i wanted this camera. The voice overlay, along with being able to turn the camera on and off all through my existing intercom system that i already own is huge for me.
So it comes with a boat load of mounts. A DUAL suction cup mount, a single suction cup mount, a handlebar mount, a surface mount. All with a special QRM quick release mecahinsm letting you easily remove the camera and move it to another mount somewhere else on the bike. They also include a full waterproof case, even though the camera itself is good in the rain. The waterproof case is for pools, diving, etc.
It also comes with helmet mounts, the standard surface mount for top of helmet, the google mount, and most importantly it comes with a side helmet mount. Now with my sony, I had to work hard to come up with a solution to mount it to the side of helmet and it stuck out a bit far and looked funny. The SENA comes with a very similar mount to what they ship with the intercom on the other side of my helmet. Basically this is a clamp mount. It slips between the helmet liner and the outer shell, and clamps on tight. Its minimal and unobtrusive when not being used. Now some helmets don't let you slip something in between due to the construction choices of the helmet manufacturer. So my loaner helmet in the photos, the bell, i could indeed use the clamp mount, but on my Schuberth helmet, i can not. So for the intercom, i use a mount almost identical to the clamp mount in shape, but instead of clamping, it used strong double stick tape to keep it to the side. Over a year installed with zero issues. SENA was smart, and added this option for the camera too. They offer a very small double stick curved mount that goes on the side of the helmet andmimics the functionality of the clamp mount. Once you have that side mount installed, wether clamped or with double stick, you then slide a small female ball connector on to it. Then you take the actual side camera mount that interfaces with the camera, it has a ball on the back, and goes in to the side mount. You use a small wheel to tighten it on and that lets you choose angle at the same time. It's really strong, and easy to use.
This is key, the side helmet mount is the one i use most, and they got it right. I don't think any other action cam comes with this many mounts in the box, or even makes any helmet mounts that equal these. I was concerned from the photos and videos before i bought it, that since the clamp mount wouldn't work on my helmet, would they supply any thing else that would do the job. So, they do, and its great. See the photos in the slide show.
A few initial thoughts so far
- Controlling modes, power, and recording on off from intercom is amazing
- Bluetooth audio recording is amazing
- Great size (about same size as go pro, but the lens is on the small side which is better)
- Amazing mounts - all included
- Love the helmet side mount options - best in industry
- The LED status light shows if you are recording or not and also changes colors depending on what type of recording (red for video purple for time lapse etc)
- Really easy to see recording light on camera to know if you are recording or not
- Audible feedback through intercom to know what mode you're on and if you are recording or not.
- When you get a phone call the camera automatically utilizes the external camera mic until done with phone call.
- Standard thread mount for tri pods
- Good in the rain without waterproof case.
- Gets crazy hot when charging. Edit - only when it's left on. When off and charging it stays cool.
- Lack of Siri access during recording is a downer (usually use the phone button, which in this case would snap a photo)
- No live view through iOS app to aim camera (seems to be coming soon, via this podcast)
- Time lapse recording takes over your intercom even though it's not recording voice - preventing you from listening to music.
- When recording audio from intercom you hear a very small bit of echo in your speakers. You hear yourself and the road played at a very low volume through your speakers
- No protective clear lens cap for use while recording - cameras lens is exposed to elements at high speeds or off roading
- No auto overwrite of recording for use as continuous "dash cam" (good for non stop recording in city traffic in case you have an accident).
- Hard to get battery out
- Hard to open and close rear door (though its getting easier as it breaks in)
- Needs better anti shake recording setting (miss that from my Sony) but i think i can correct that with software editing
Some Video: Time Lapse (posted on instagram with a filter, with compression, and its a square)
Below is some test video on the highway uncompressed, but youtube does its own thing to compress i guess. Also keep in mind, I'm in a loaner helmet thats noisier then my normal helmet, and I'm wearing a balaclava over my mouth to keep me warm, which is muffling my voice.
Note: click the YouTube logo on the bottom right of the video to view it full screen. It will bring you to main youtube site where you can then press the full screen button. Also, click the little Settings icon to choose 1080p.
Update 3: Ze German has a great box opening video showing you the plethora of mounts