What's better than awesome technology? Wireless awesome technology. Recently I got my hands on the new Prism action camera from Sena. What's a Bluetooth company doing making an action sports camera? I'm not really sure, but for it being their first camera, they came out of the gate swinging. If you want to know more about the technical aspects, I'll include a link to the Sena website where you can read up about the camera. This review is going to be more about my experience with the Sena and thoughts on it after testing.
I spent the day riding around downtown Atlanta, Georgia testing out the Prism along with my handy GoPro Hero 3+ Black. Since I don't currently have the GoPro Hero 4, I figured why not test the Prism against the best wide angle action camera that I currently use.
Let's start with the things I appreciate about the camera. One of my favorite elements of the Prism was something I discovered before I got the camera onto the helmet, and that was the camera menu options. Being an avid user of the GoPro, I have learned their menu system over time and am very familiar with how to change settings. Being that this was the first time I had ever touched the Prism, I wanted to cycle through the menus and see what options the camera came with. It didn't take long before I felt the same level of knowledge about the menu systems on the Prism as I currently feel with the GoPro, and I was really happy with how intuitive the Menu was laid out. For your convenience, Sena even includes an amazing chart that lays out the menu for you, which of course I found after playing with the camera. While we are on the subject of the menu, I'll also add that the screen on the side of the camera is incredibly clear and is great about giving the user just enough information to do what they are trying to do without being minimalistic (GoPro) and wasting space with information. Here is a little video of me cycling through the menus for you to check it out.
What's in the box? A ton of stuff is the answer to that question. If you are a previous user of action cameras, you will will know there are nearly one billion mounts for every camera for every situation. In the case of the Sena Prism, they give you all of those right in the box they ship the Prism with. It was really great to see that instead of selling you a camera and then making you spend the same amount of money buying their mounts to use the camera, Sena sends you pretty much any mount you could need for the Prism right from the get go. You can check everything out in photo to the right. I'm really excited about that dual suction cup mount. Further testing will need to be done, but I can assure you I'm definitely going to be trying to get a DSLR on that thing!
So after that last paragraph you might be asking yourself how I'm going to modify Sena's mounts to fit a DSLR since they are like standard cameras and use tripod threads on the bottom. We'll in a feat of genius Sena has decided to have a regular 1/4 20" thread on the Prism which makes it compatible with normal tripods. That means not only can a Prism attach itself to other pieces of kit you have in your photo bag, but that inversely all of the mounting options could (weight permitting) support any other piece of camera gear that has a 1/4 20 thread! This personally excited me a ton and I'll be doing loads of testing down the road with these mounts to see what kind of ridiculous stuff I can come up with!
This Prism is a camera after all so let's talk about the video quality. Through my (day time) testing I found the Prism to have pretty good video quality. It seemed on par with the GoPro Hero 3+ black, but keep in mind the GoPro Hero 4 is now out which I assume would easily surpass the quality of the Prism easily. Granted price wise your looking at spending over $100 more USD getting a GoPro Hero 4. One thing I did notice during testing was a slight tint when their was less light. You can see in this image comparison when I went into an underground parking lot that the Prism has a warmer tint as compared to the GoPro. Based on how it looked to my eye I can say in this instance the GoPro was more "true" to what the area looked like to me. Along with the coloring difference another thing I was slightly let down with was the max FPS in 1080 mode. Action sports cameras are just that. Cameras made for fast moving action so with these cameras having 60fps should all, but be required so when I found out the camera can only do 30 fps at 1080 that was a bit of a let down. Hopefully this will be one of the first things Sena changes in future models.
With Sena being a Bluetooth communications company, I came into this Prism testing with a pretty high expectation out of this camera in the audio department. Coming out of testing I can definitely say I was surprised how well the Prism was able to pick up bike audio. Older models using the bluetooth backpack for the GoPro drowned out background noise so much you weren't able to hear the engine. Knowing that, I was very interested with how the Prism handled it. As far as audio testing goes, my voice was mixed and I don't really have a definitive thought for or against it. I have my Sena mic right in front of my mouth in my helmet so that when I talk with rider they are able to hear me. I noticed that I tend to yell while talking in the helmet, which to GoPro levels out automatically, but the Prism audio seemed to cap out during the video. I feel like if you spent some time and positioned the Sena mic into a better location or just didn't yell you would be able to get great audio. I say this because the moments in my testing where I wasn't riding and talked at a lower volume the audio coming out sounded good.
All things considered, I do prefer the GoPro mic audio using the lapel mic in the helmet. The Sena audio has a certain characteristic to it that I just don't care for. It sort of has a walkie-talkie'esc sound quality to it. That being said, I think after so much time working on in-helmet audio I think I have grown particular to the subject so I'm a bit more conscious than most. Regardless, it's definitely something to note while considering the camera over other options. (Note: During testing I did notice that there is a very slight audio delay. From my testing it seemed to be about 1/2 a second or less compared to the GoPro that had a lapel mic connected directly to the unit. When using the Prism alone you will probably never notice and I don't feel it's a huge deal as it shouldn't affect video/audio quality)
Wrapping up, there are a few small things I wanted to mention that didn't need their own section. The first is something obvious, but the Prism charges with the same cable the Sena 20s uses. It's a small detail but very convenient. The ball joint mounting options are a great way to easily change viewing angles without the need for one hundred mounts like you see with GoPro cameras. This is something I see the market adopting down the road for sure. The Sena lens is on the thinner side of the helmet so you are going to see much less drag as opposed to cameras with the lens on the widest side. I would also love to see Sena come out with a less bulky case in the future because the waterproof enclosure doubles the size of the actual camera.
All in all, I feel like the Sena Prism is a great option and if you are doing commentary over your action sport of choice then you need to be highly considering this camera. Once you factor in the price of not only the Prism but the 20s (it needs this to use wireless audio but can also use any bluetooth device) you're looking as spending a pretty penny. Is that worth the wireless awesomeness that it offers? That's something you need to decide, but I will say I'm really excited to add the Prism to my action camera arsenal.
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