- Touch screen
- Native 4K support
- Outstanding image quality
- Good low light performance
- External microphone
- EIS not working at 4K resolution
There’s so much I’d like to tell you about the Firefly 8SE! I had tons of requests to review it. And have been working on this for the last couple of weeks. On top of that – a giveaway.
Starting with the box – we can see the new logo, font and design of Hawkeye – the company that stays behind the firefly series. The package is decent, well designed. Maybe not as attractive as Gopro’s, but the space is much better utilized and the box is full of accessories.
You will find almost anything that you’ve ever seen as an action-cam accessory. From last year’s assembly the neck strap is missing – it used to be a nice idea, but even I haven’t used it at all. The nicest surprise is the included external microphone! While the embedded one is quite well capable and nicely improved from the 8s model, the add-on of an external mic makes the 8SE the best complete vlogging starter kit. Not only that – the mini USB port is standard and any kind of mic that you can connect via mini USB will be fine, unlike SJCAMs SJ7 and SJ8 models where the connector is proprietary. You also will receive a remote controller as accessory, and it is perfect for selfies, or night photography. Speaking of the connectivity – the mini USBport can be used for FPV via an additional cable – which is great news for drone enthusiasts.
Hardware and specs
The internals of the Firefly8SE are well known – the IMX117 sensor by Sony, with Ambarella a12 chipset. This package is almost as good as the hardware of the Gopro Hero 5. There is a decent upgrade of the optics, which gives improvements of the videos and photos. The most obvious for the end-user change is the display – it is now touch, and menus are slightly reorganized. I am still getting used to the new alignment, which looks similar to SJ7’s model, but with improvements and cleaner interface. When you are scrolling up and down – better do it slowly, it is not as responsive as using a smartphone digitizer. What is really perfect is the ability to still have controls via the buttons. The earliest firmware build had some issues with the touch navigation, and I am sure it will be polished with the forthcoming updates. The body of the camera is built out of quality materials, well assembled. Having used intensively the 8S model I can say only good things – navigation is quite nice, the grip is awesome, and the buttons have wonderful placement.
Battery performance is also great – having a nicely boosted improvement compared to last year’s release. You can expect somewhere between 40 and 70 minutes of shooting and configuring. Almost no difference between 4k and fullHD with gyro on, and this is based on real life experience. If in still condition – the battery life can reach up to hour and a half. And you can charge the battery while you are recording!
Features and performance
Feature-wise the camera has maxed the Ambarella processor inside. Since Hawkeye are always playing fair – there is no stabilization except for fullHD. Resolutions are real, and 4K is real 4K, so is 2.7K and the lower rates. There has been special attention given to the 120fps. We know that usually higher rates are a challenge for action cams, and the Firefly 8SE is a top performer – keeping most of the quality of the recording. 4K looks awesome, and the level of detail is quite high – above 62mbps. This is 50% more detail than the SJCAM SJ8 pro, which on theory should be way better. But real life experience shows otherwise. All the videos I have recorded look good, sharp, bright. There is a bit of noise visible in lower light conditions, which doesn’t surprise. Overall low light performance is excellent, and even with EIS on there are not too many artifacts. Which is good news for an overly budget action camera.
All sort of modes are there – video lapse, long ecposure, photo lapse and even car mode!
After highlighting the positives – the current minuses are a few – there is no embedded speaker. Kind of standard for all the 8-series. The firmware is still a bit glitchy – I had to remove the battery a few times with the initial release, but do not forget – a person like me is tinkering with the menus all the time, and a regular user is not.
You also have to make sure a U3 microSD is supported. I used to be fine with having 4k on class 10 with the 8s, but the 8SE has higher bitrate and you need a faster card.
Just as everything else – the price got an upgrade too! Right now the camera is trending at around 150USD, which is half of the price of Gopro Hero 5, around 50 bucks less than SJ7 star, and a bit more expensive than some of the models based on the iCatch v50 chipset, which can stabilize image at 4K. but lacks many other features that you get with the Ambarella A12 powered 8SE. There we go – not a perfect world – there is no model that ticks all the boxes – it is either the price, or some of the features, or the firmware or the support.
Oh – support – this model is out since just a week and there already is a firmware update. The 8S is the actioncamera with the most consistent firmware maintenance. Firefly have decent online presense and are taking your questions and ideas seriously. Which to me is very important and gives me the confidence to passionately recommend the SE.
At the end – is it a worthy upgrade to the last year’s model – no – you probably don’t need a touch screen. But if you are on the hunt for a new actioncam that has true 4k and is awesome – the 8se is one of the most reasonable choices. Especially if you are looking to get a lot of accessories and even a lav microphone.
And – tell me what ya think based on the footage you’ve seen?
A video review of the firefly 8SE including MANY samples: