Hawkeye Firefly 8SE Review
The Hawkeye Firefly 8SE is an excellent 4K action-camera and a worthy entry at the entry-level / lower segment of the market. It packs quite a punch and should be a considered by anyone looking for the maximum bang for buck. That includes vloggers, action sports enthusiasts, Youtubers and anyone else, for that matter, who loves to record their lives in 4K rather than simply make a snap.
The Design of the Firefly 8SE
Side by side the Hawkeye Firefly 8SE and the SJCam SJ7 Star are very similar in form. As a matter of fact, most actions cameras in this price range segment are.
Having said that, the design is definitely different in the sense the layout of the buttons and the slots that adorn the camera body are nothing like the SJCam SJ7 Star that we reviewed earlier.
What I don’t like about the Firefly 8SE is that there is no single button that you could press to get into the main menu/settings’ option. The recently reviewed SJCam SJ7 Star has one at the front. Press it after switching on the camera and you are presented with the camera settings straight away.
With the Firefly 8SE, on the other hand, you have to either press the right arrow button (explained later in this review) to get to a screen and then choose Setup or touch the settings shortcut on the LCD display (logo at the right corner of the screen).
Now, anyone who is familiar with using a small camera such as the Firefly 8SE know how difficult it is to lock onto a small icon on a small 2″ touchscreen, especially under bright light.
Plus, the general level of unresponsiveness of the touchscreen means it often takes a few tries to get through to the option that you are looking to activate. I would have loved the reassuring feeling of a proper button. Especially, when working outdoors.
That said the Firefly 8SE does support Bluetooth remote controller. So, you could pair it with the optional Bluetooth remote and control the major functionalities of the camera. Hawkeye also has a smartphone App (available for both Android and iOS). You could download the same and use your smartphone as the remote for your camera.
The front is dominated by the lens, followed by the power on/off button and a shiny reflective contraption which acts as your selfie mirror. There is also a LED indicator for Wi-Fi that turns blue when you switch on the camera. There is an OK button on the top panel which is designed like a tear-drop at the top edge of the camera. Both the OK button and the front LED button glows up when the camera comes alive. They blink in sync too (along with the power button) when you are recording video.
At the back of the camera on the lower right part of the bezel is a miniscule play button. Pressing the play button opens up the last recorded video. You can then choose to play the video by pressing the OK button at the top of the camera or touching the play button on the touchscreen. And no, pressing the Play button again does not play the video, it takes you out of the video playback menu.
On the left side of the camera, there are two ports. One is a micro USB port and the other is a micro HDMI port.
MicroSD Card Slot
For a start, the MicroSD card slot is directly at the back of the camera rather than the side. There are some advantages to it, especially if you are planning to mount the camera as a dashcam. Plugging in a memory card and pulling it out while the camera is attached to the dashboard mount is a whole lot easier.
In my case, I have to reach out sitting in the driver’s position and look to the left of the SJCam SJ7 Star and use my left index fingernail to pop it out. Can be a pain most times as we have right-hand drive cars in India. In Europe and in the US this would be slightly easier to do.
With the MicroSD card slot on the Hawkeye Firefly 8SE positioned at the back of the camera, this is way easier for anyone to plug in and plug out a MicroSD card.
Additionally, there are menu shortcuts at the right side of the Firefly 8SE. Which is quite effective in case you are not too excited by the touchscreen menu.
Speaking of the touchscreen, I have already explained above that the Firefly 8SE’s touchscreen isn’t as smooth as the SJCam SJ7 Star. Then, of course, this is a subjective assessment and yours may differ from mine.
Still, on the subject of the touchscreen, the other Firefly models the 8S and the 8 Lite don’t have a built-in touchscreen. So, this is a new thing on this series. There is actually a small icon on the bottom right of the LCD screen just outside the actual display area that indicates the 8SE’s touchscreen capabilities.
Nevertheless, I am not too excited with the user experience of the touchscreen. It can be frustrating at times and having used the SJCam SJ7 Star recently, I like the responsiveness of the SJCam more than the 8SE.
Keeping in tune with the demands of the time the Firefly 8SE comes with a selfie mirror. It’s the shiny contraption that is positioned right at the front to the right of the lens. How to use it? Switch to still shooting mode, position your reflection on the mirror and press the OK button.
Before you switch on the Firefly 8SE make sure that you have a compatible and high-speed MicroSD card plugged into the card slot. Format it after switching on the camera and you are good to go.
Body and Build Quality
The Hawkeye Firefly 8SE is basically a low-cost action camera. The build quality does leave you unsatisfied if you compare this with something like the GoPro Hero 4 or the latest GoPro Hero 6. These cameras are excellent in build quality and come with built-in waterproofing (no housing required). The Firefly 8SE comes with a separate waterproof housing that gives it a working depth of up to 20 meters.
The body itself is crafted out of lightweight aluminum. The design is compact and gives you a rubberized feel because of the textured surface. I thought it was some sort of a rubberized layer on top of the aluminum chassis. But it is probably not that. Between the SJCam SJ7 Star and the Firefly 8SE, I like the second one because of the body texture and the better grip that it provides. Again, this is a subjective opinion and yours is likely to be different than mine.
An interesting feature in the Firefly 8SE is the Lanyard hole. The Lanyard hole allows you to attach a string to the camera, just in case you wish to carry it around your neck or hold it in your hand while traveling.
Interface – First Impression
One thing that I noticed straight away is the similarity of the interfaces, the SJCam SJ7 Star and the Firefly 8SE. They are nearly identical. The color scheme of the menu are 100% identical. They feel the same too when you use them side by side. The same swipe right or left to pull up the still or video interface.
That said, the Hawkeye’s interface is not exactly intuitive and there are some annoying presences (or should we say absences) which brings down the overall usage experience level while using the interface.
For a start, unlike on the SJCam SJ7 Star, the touchscreen on the Firefly 8SE do not reveal the settings when you tap on it. At least not where you are used to tapping. You have to tap on the top strip where the timer and the charging information is displayed to reveal the quick menu (still no shortcut to the settings menu).
It is a very thin (imaginary) line and it takes a bit of practice to master it. I have been using the camera for the past few weeks and I still can’t seem to get a hang of things. It is often a frustrating three, four often more attempts before I can access the quick menu using this option.
To access the settings menu you have to tap on the bottom right corner where there is a hexagonal icon. That’s just one of the ways.
The Weird Time-out Lock Button
Another weird thing I noticed is after the rear LCD screen turns off, and you attempt at reviving it by tapping on it, you are greeted with a small lock icon. You can turn on video recording at that point but everything else is pretty much stuck. You have to press and drag the lock icon all the way to the right of the screen, in a fluid swiping motion for the screen to get un-locked. Quite a hassle considering that the touchscreen is not as responsive as expected at times. You can choose to turn off the locking feature by accessing it from the menu (detailed below) and save yourself some hassles.
The Quick Menu
The quick menu has four options. You can turn on Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi from the quick menu. You can lock the display (I am not too keen on using this feature as it is a hassle for me). Finally, you have the power off button to turn off the camera.
Accessing the Main Menu – In Video Mode
The main settings menu can be accessed either via the Hexagonal icon that is located at the bottom right-hand corner of the display screen or by using the right arrow button on the right side of the camera.
After pressing the Right arrow button you have to then press ‘Setup’ to open up the main menu. Speaking of the Right arrow button, pressing it also reveals a host of other menu options including Recording, Video Lapse, Playback, Car Mode and Slow Motion. Of course these options will open up when you are in the video mode.
In the video mode, you also have a short-cut to the play menu. It is located at the bottom left of the screen. Pressing that opens up the last recorded video file for playing. You can then scroll between the various videos recorded using the left and right arrow keys and press the OK button at the top of the camera to play it.
Accessing the Main Menu – In Still Mode
Swiping the main screen from left to right or vice versa toggle between the video and still modes. When you are in the Still (image) mode, pressing the Right arrow button opens up the following menu options – Setup, Capture, Photo Burst, Playback, Photo lapse and finally Long Exposure.
Pressing the left arrow button locks the rear LCD screen. I suppose the only way that justifies this overindulgence on locking the screen is to prevent accidental touching and activating of any of the functions of the camera. That is smart. But depending on the kind of work that you do this can feel like a botheration for some.
Just like in the video mode, in the still mode too, you have a short-cut to the images recorded by the camera. Once you are in the playback mode you can then scroll between the various images by pressing the left and the right buttons.
Information Displayed on Tapping the LCD Screen
The rear LCD screen displays a few information. Straightaway you would be able to tell whether the camera is set to still or video mode. There would be a timer that will read 00:00:00 indicating that video is not being recorded. The other indicator is how long you can continue to record videos. This will change depending on the size of the memory card that you have slotted into the memory card slot.
The other information that is displayed on the main screen is the available battery life. A white indicator with four blocks suggests you have full charge available on the battery. More details on the battery of the Firefly 8SE in the relevant section below.
Sensor, Video Resolution and Stills
The Firefly 8SE is powered by an Ambarella a12S75 chip and is paired with a Sony IMX117 12 megapixel 1/2.3” WDR CMOS sensor. Together, the chip and the sensor should be able to handle a wide range of lighting situations and be able to produce high resolution (4K) videos and stills at a maximum resolution of 16 megapixels.
All the three comparable models of Firefly, the Firefly 8SE, the Firefly 8S, and the Firefly 8 Lite are powered by the same sensor but only the one in question and the Firefly 8S is equipped with Ambarella A12 chip. The 8 Lite comes with the Novateck 96660 chipset.
As a result, the 8S and the 8SE are the two cameras that can shoot real 4K videos as against interpolated on the Firefly 8 Lite.
Please note, WDR suggests that the camera is able to produce a higher dynamic range. WDR is technically similar to what HDR technology is in traditional camera systems.
When it comes to full HD video shooting the Firefly 8SE as well as the 8S can capture it at 120 fps. The Firefly 8 Lite can shoot full HD only at 60 fps. Additionally, another feature of the 8SE (and the 8S) is that these two cameras are RAW enabled.
Low Light Capabilities
Small sensors are nearly not as dependable when it comes to low light shooting as the big bad DSLRs and their smaller cousins the mirrorless. Larger sensors have larger pixel sizes and that allows a larger amount of light that can be captured. Consequently, these sensors don’t suffer from issues of noise. The Firefly 8SE, on the other hand, does have serious noise issues when shooting in low light conditions. Especially, when shooting videos and when shooting long exposures (stills).
The Firefly 8SE is powered by a 1200 mAh 3.85 V rechargeable battery. The company estimate for an overall working time on a full charge is about 90 mins. That is if you are shooting 4K at 30 fps. You get up to 5 hours of standby time.
There is an AC cable that allows you to charge the battery while it is plugged into a computer or the power outlet of your car. Which is exactly what every action camera owner would want. No external battery charger has been provided. Neither has been an adapter provided. But you can charge the battery by plugging the camera to an AC power outlet via a USB mini cable and an AC adapter. The USB mini cable gives the camera the ability to charge using a portable power bank on the move.
Still, on the subject of battery, you can choose to squeeze some additional power out of the battery by using these steps – turn off all the LED lights, and the LCD screen when you are not recording. The built-in options will automatically turn off the LCD screen after a certain time frame. You can choose to turn off the screen automatically after 10 S, 30 S, 1 min, 3 min or 5 min. There is also an option to turn off the device after some time. You can choose between 2 min, 3 min, 5 min or 10 min.
The Firefly 8SE comes with a number of accessories. Unboxing the package will reveal several of these accessories neatly packed inside the box. The most important of them are the waterproof housing, the charging cable, and the mic. Also, included is the user manual that explains how to set up the camera prior to use, the basic functions and the use of the accessories.
That said, the illustrations leave a lot to be asked and with very limited literature accompanying the illustrations, you are left with a plateful of jigsaw pieces that would take some time to assemble. Especially, for someone who has bought an action camera for the first time. To be fair to the Firefly 8SE, the feeling was identical when I unboxed the SJCam SJ7 Star.
The accessories include a number of mounts (a majority of them are for bikes and helmets), stickers and base plates. One of these stickers and base plates you could use on your car dash. There are several other miscellaneous mounts.
Additionally, there are a bunch of tying cables and 3M adhesive strips for fastening the camera to most surfaces. What I missed, however, is something like this –
There is a tiny lens hood as well. Surprise! Surprise! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it for the first time. It is a tiny (commensurate with the size of the lens) unit that simply slides over the lens via the three channels on the lens barrel.
You cannot mount the lens hood while the lens cap is on though and vice versa. The lens hood does prevent some amount of flare, but it is not as effective as the proper lens hoods on DSLR and mirrorless lenses.
External Lavalier Mic
One of the key accessories that have been provided with the Firefly 8SE, and one that is a notable absence in the SJCam SJ7 Star that we reviewed earlier this year, is the external stereo mic.
The external mic records crisp quality sound along with the video being recorded. It suppresses external noise when recording the audio from the intended source. Which is a nice thing, no doubt. The microphone is a lavalier unit which can be clipped on to the lapel/collar of the speaker and therefore allow hands-free operation.
The only thing which is a bit on the negative side is the length of the microphone wire. It is no longer than 3.5’ and that kind of limits the working distance of the camera. For recording extreme sports this microphone is okay. You can plug it on your shirt while the camera is attached to a mounting tool. This microphone would, however, be unusable if you plan on getting wet or taking the camera outdoors in inclement weather.
The external stereo mic plugs into the mini USB port on the left side of the camera. This is also the port where the dual purpose charging/data transfer cable also plugs in. There is also an HD out port just below the mini USB port.
Just in case you are wondering, no AC adapter is provided. You will have to get one from the market. Any standard AC adapter (such as the one for smartphones etc.) would be fine. I had a couple of these laying around at home so did not have any issues charging the battery when it ran out of juice.
Major Settings of the Camera – Video Resolutions
Excellent will be an understatement. Considering that this is still a lower to mid-range action camera and yet it gives you in-camera 4K shooting capabilities. There are three video qualities that you can choose from, Normal, Fine, and Super Fine. I’d prefer to keep it at Super Fine and never bother to change it, ever.
FOV (Field of View)
The FOV selector is only selectable in 4K, UHD and the FHD 120 fps modes. As soon as you select FHD 60 fps the FOV selector option gets grayed out. There are three FOV modes on the camera – Wide, medium and Narrow. Choose the one that you need. If you are shooting action videos of yourself, snowboarding or flying a hang glider or anything else remotely exciting then try the wide angle FOV. Ditto for using it as a car dash cam.
As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a situation when you would want to use the narrow mode or for that matter the wide mode. This is because it does not change the actual focal length of the lens. It just crops out a part of the frame when you choose a narrow FOV just to mimic what a ‘long’ lens would do. And an action camera works the best when you are using it at its strength which is wide angle.
Auto Low Light
The auto low light will increase the exposure. At the same time, it will reduce the number of frames to accommodate the slightly longer exposure time. While this does increase the chances of getting a better image/footage, there is a higher chance of image blur as the shutter speed remains open for a longer duration to accumulate more light. That means this mode will be suitable for stationary or slow-moving subjects only.
Plus, you also lose out on sharpness and detail. My initial tests reveal that it becomes difficult to read the license plates of oncoming vehicles and those of vehicles overtaking you. That said, you are not going to use this camera solely as a dashcam. In other shooting situations, the Firefly 8SE should be able to give you a better result.
Motion Detection does a great job of detecting any movement in front of the camera. It works as a parking monitor when you are parked at a less than a friendly neighborhood. It also works as a surveillance camera.
Just leave it recording with Motion Detection turned on. The long 5-hour standby time is perfect for that purpose. As soon as the camera detects any movement within the field of view, it will start recording.
If you are going to use this mode make sure that you set it to ‘High’. There are two other modes, Medium and Low which sometimes tend to overlook some movements. Also for dedicated surveillance work, you will need a constant power source and a larger capacity memory card.
The gyro sensor does an effective job of detecting when the camera moves or shakes in hand. Turning on gyro sensor also shows up an icon on the top right-hand corner of the image. You will clearly notice the gyro sensor kicking in when shooting videos. It helps in stabilizing the videos. But don’t count on this to stabilize an extremely shaky video capture. For professional quality results, you should insist on a hand-held action camera stabilizer/rig.
Dual files are necessary when you want to live-stream what’s being captured on the camera to your smartphone or via the smartphone to a social media broadcast. When turned on this option will enable the camera to record two separate files of different resolution. The smaller resolution is for streaming and playing back on the app. The higher resolution file is for sharing on social media and or for archiving purposes.
The only problem with using this option is that it fills up the memory card much faster. The average size of the second lower resolution file is about half the size of the original full resolution file. If you plan on using this feature make sure that you have plugged in a higher capacity memory card into the camera.
Video stamping refers to embossing information like day, date or both on to the video files. To choose the right option to navigate on to the Settings menu. Then scroll to ‘Video Stamping’. Next choose ‘Date’, ‘Time’ or Date / Time’ depending on what you need to bind with the video recorder. I prefer to include both time and date as it is more logical for the kind of work that I do.
Logo Watermarking is no more than embossing a logo that reads the Firefly 8SE make and model when someone watches the video. You could choose to keep it on or remove it. It is up to you. It is very simple to turn it on or off.
Simply navigate to the menu settings, scroll down to Logo Watermark and choose ‘On’ or ‘Off’. If you have multiple action cameras you could choose to keep that turned on. That said, a lot of action sports enthusiasts prefer not to provide ‘free’ publicity to any brand when they share/upload their videos.
Video lapse or hyper-lapse is a built-in feature that allows you to create a hyper-lapse video file straight in your camera. There are multiple choices of an interval at which the care will record a JPEG file. You can choose 1 S, 2 s, 5 S, 10 S, 30 S and 60 S. The camera will make a still after each interval.
When you stop the recording, the built-in software will quickly stitch all the images together and produce a time-lapse video that you can then watch on the rear LCD screen or download using any of the available options.
Loop recording is for continuous recording. This mode is particularly useful when you are using the camera as a dashcam. Loop recording is preferred when you want to have small clips of no more than 5 mins recorded of your drive or any activity. The camera will continue to record as long as the battery has juice and the memory card has space. When the memory card is exhausted, the older videos will be overwritten with new files. Thus, this feature is suitable for recording dashcam videos where you rarely back up and archive your recordings.
To switch on the Car DV mode (or Car mode) you have to press the right arrow button on the right-hand side of the camera body. It will pop up the menu options. The second option in the bottom row is Car mode.
Once you press it the camera will go into the car mode. In the Car mode, the camera will come alive as soon as you start the ignition and will start recording videos. In Car mode, loop recording comes on automatically.
Loop recording is an interesting option and it is available on all proper dashcam systems. Normally, when a camera runs out of storage it stops recording. But in a dashcam that kind of defeats the whole purpose of having a camera to record what’s happening in front of the car. To avoid a situation where you (God forbid) are involved in a collision and the camera did not record anything proper dashcams come equipped with this functionality by default.
With loop recording, these ‘proper’ dashcams come with a locking mechanism as well. Wherein the camera locks the video being recorded at the point of impact/collision. That functionality is missing in the Firefly 8SE.
In loop recording, the camera will continue to record videos, as long as it is plugged to an AC power output on your camera. When the memory card inside the camera is exhausted it would simply overwrite the older files and write new files in their places. In that sense, the camera will have an unlimited recording time provided it has a power input.
In the Car mode, loop recording is set to default 2 minutes, but you can change that to suit your needs.
Slow Motion Videos
Slow motion video recording is another interesting feature on the Firefly 8SE. when turned on this mode will allow you to record a video but at a higher frame rate than you would normally use. But when you play it back the video will be played back at normal speed, thus stretching the time and making everything appear in slow motion. An average 5 seconds of recorded video becomes more than 20 seconds when it’s played back.
This particular feature can be really useful when recording stunts and action. If done rightly with good camera work, the results could be breathtaking. The only thing that I don’t quite like is that as soon as you turn on Slow Motion option, the resolution is set to full HD (1080p) and 120 fps. This is kind of lame as you lose out on the 4K capabilities of the camera when shooting slow motion.
Of course, you can opt for a lower resolution and that would give you a maximum frame rate of 240 fps. But that means seriously lowering the capabilities of the camera. 720p at 240 fps could be useful in some situations.
Microphone volume depends on whether you want to record the ambient sound or just what’s happening in front of the camera. There are several volume settings that you can choose from. The options are Off, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% and 100%.
Major Settings of the Camera – Photo Size
The maximum photo resolution possible on the camera is 16 megapixels or a dimension of 4608 x 3456 pixels. The aspect ratio of the images is 4:3. If you wish to shoot at the wider 16:9 aspect ratio you have to scale down the resolution of the images to 8.3 megapixel. That would make the images 3840 x 2160 pixels in dimension.
There are three Photo Quality options on the camera. S.Fine, Fine and Normal. I’d keep it at S.Fine and not need a reason to change it.
An important aspect of the Firefly 8SE is its RAW shooting abilities. The ability to shoot RAW immediately gives you an incredible advantage. You can now pull the RAW files out of the memory card and process them to your taste whatever way you like it.
For those of you who hate shooting in RAW don’t fret. Even if you do choose RAW, a JPEG version of the frame shot will also be saved. So, basically, when you turn on the RAW mode you are saving two versions of the same image.
The RAW file is typically 10 times the size of the JPEG image. The higher bit depth allows you to post-process the images you want. You can obviously share the JPEG version of the images you don’t want to process.
To turn on RAW capabilities, you have to navigate to the Settings menu. Then tap on ‘RAW Photo’ and turn it to ‘On’ (or Off depending on what you want).
Between this camera and the SJCam SJ7 Star that we reviewed earlier, the Firefly’s RAW shooting capabilities make it the better camera for those who prefer a powerful camera with the RAW option.
We keep coming back to the SJCam as it is a camera that we liked working with. The SJCam SJ7 Star is a much more capable camera in terms of shooting options. That said the Firefly 8SE is also a good camera to work with.
Long Exposure capabilities is something that is default in most digital cameras. Regardless of the kind of system you are wielding. Even if there is no direct shutter control, you can still select from a range of built-in preset options.
In the case of the Firefly 8SE too, you can choose between 1/30 sec, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and up to 60 secs. You can do a lot using the built-in slow shutter speed / long exposure functionality. Such as, shoot really long exposures of a freeway standing from an overpass, or shoot images of someone doing light painting with a tripod setup.
Photo Stamp is just a simple feature of adding date and or time to your still shots. To turn it on, go to the photo menu of your Firefly 8SE. Tap on settings (the hexagonal logo at the bottom right corner). Scroll down to Photo Stamp and tap on it. It will take you to a set of options, Off, Date, Time, Date / Time. Exit menu. From now on, every time you snap a picture you will get the date or time or both printed on your image.
As the name suggests Self-timer is for auto clicking of images after a delay. Needless, to say this is a still shot feature. The timer options available are Off, 1 S, 2 S, 3 S, 5 S, 10 S, 30 S and 60 S. This basically is about setting the camera up, priming it and then pressing the shutter release button. Afterwards, you have to make a dash to be in the frame before the shutter opens and closes. 1 sec is the minimum and 60 seconds is for people who want to shoot expansive landscape shots with themselves in the middle of the frame.
Photo Burst is a yet another interesting feature that is tailor-made for still photographers. This feature allows you to make multiple images at a very quick frame rate. This mode is ideal for shooting a series of photos in a fast paced high action scene. Ideal for sports, wildlife, or anything else where the subject is moving about.
You can choose between 3 P/S, 5 P/S and 10 P/S. That is 3 photos, 5 photos and 10 photos per second. Which is great because you don’t always need a gazillion number of frames to shoot. Half a dozen frames are more than enough to work within most situations.
Photo Lapse is a feature that allows you to capture a series of photos one after the other at a fixed interval. The interval can be between 1 S, 3 S, 5 S, 10 S, 30 S, 60 S. These images can then be downloaded on to a photo editing software and combined to form a beautiful time-lapse video. This is a very useful feature especially when you are parked at a place and want to keep a record of what’s been happening while your vehicle lies unattended. Of course, there are other applications as well, like creating hyper lapses of your long drives or capturing landscape timelapse.
Sharpness is basically to do with how much detail there would be in the still images. There are two options on the Firefly 8SE. One being Strong and the other being Normal. Unlike the SJCam SJ7 Star that we had reviewed earlier which has three sharpness options, here we have only two. One would feel a little out of options but for all practical two is enough. You would ideally, want to leave the option at Strong as that gives you the best results at all times.
Auto White Balance or AWB is the auto white balance correction option that is there on the Firefly 8SE. just like in any other camera you would find a few basic adjustment options – Incandescent, D4000, D5000 and Daylight Lamp. There are others as well. Each of these are tailor-made for a specific type of light and color temperature. If you are unsure of what light you are shooting in or what settings to use, you can simply leave the white balance setting to Auto and continue shooting.
EV stands for Exposure Value. Exposure Value is the combination of shutter speed and aperture that captures a certain amount of light. You can change it according to your requirements, such as increase the EV when recording during the night or decreasing the EV when recording in bright light. By default the EV value is set to 0.0 which means the camera takes the metered reading and dials in an average exposure value for an average exposure. You can then decide to whether you want to up or push down the exposure. Exposure can be adjusted in 1/3rd stops. You can dial in a maximum of negative 2.0 EV or a positive 2.0 EV.
ISO settings is self-explainable. It is a setting that alters the sensitivity of the camera to light. Actually, the sensor sensitivity does not change. What happens is after that image is captured. The built-in software inside the camera amplifies the light signals to produce a decent exposure. ISO settings on the Firefly 8SE can be set between 100 and 1600 in increments of one stop each. Alternatively, you can set the ISO to Auto and leave the camera to figure out the right ISO number for the shot.
There are three metering modes on the Firefly 8SE. These are Center, Multi (point) and Spot metering. We have done detailed discussion for each of these elsewhere on this website. Multi-point metering allows photographers to shoot by making the average reading of the whole scene. That is a basic, workable but sometimes considered a flawed system for metering your scenes.
The other option is to choose the Center or center-weighted metering mode. This one gives maximum importance to whatever is in the middle of the frame. The final option is spot metering. This is by far the most accurate but is often difficult to work with because you have literally no control over the subject or where the focusing point is for a small camera like this.
4K Video Recording
The camera has 4K recording capabilities at a maximum frame rate of 30 fps with the option to record sound either through the built-in mic or with an external microphone that connects via the micro USB port on the camera. There are several UHD resolutions available as well. The maximum frame rate possible on the Firefly 8SE when recording UHD is 60 fps when shooting at 2560 x 1440.
Full HD Video Recording
The maximum frame rate in the Firefly 8SE is achieved, however, when shooting at full HD. The frame rate is 120 fps. At that frame rate, you can achieve super slow-motion effects recording action sports as well as everyday moments with breathtaking effects.
The LCD screen at the back of the camera is a tiny 2” real estate. It comes with touchscreen properties and is powered by IPS technology. The resolution of the LCD screen is sufficient for the screen size.
Unlike the SJCam SJ7 Star the Firefly 8SE did not reveal any major heat issues when recording videos. Even when the camera was recording for half an hour there were no heat-related issues. Unlike the SJCam SJ7 Star which has a metal body and encasing and gets extremely hot when recording videos, the Firefly 8SE, on the other hand, does not heat up even when it is recording for an extended period of time.
Recording While Charging
A simultaneous recording and charging routine did not reveal any major heat-related issues either. The body did get warm but that was within the normal threshold.
As already detailed above the Firefly 8SE has a bunch of video resolutions to choose from. But you are probably going to shoot in three 4K (UHD), FHD+ and HD. The frame rate varies as well. In regards to frame rate it is pertinent to mention the frame rates possible on the camera. The highest frame rate possible at FHD is 120 fps. At varying FHD+ resolutions you can shoot at 60 fps and 30 fps. At 4K the maximum frame rate you can shoot at is 30 fps.
Video encoding is in H.264 and the format is web-ready MP4.
There are a few settings which are common to both the photo and the video modes. These are –
In quick capture mode, the camera starts to record immediately when it turns on. This saves a considerable amount of time especially when the camera is working as a dashcam. You don’t have to reach out and press the record button for the camera to start recording. In the case of the SJCam SJ7 Star when you stop recording the camera counts down to 10 before shutting down automatically. No such option on the Hawkeye Firefly 8SE.
A slight delay between when the shutter is pressed and when the image is actually made. Though in this case even with the longest setting the delay is unnoticeable.
Changes between NTSC and PAL. Choose depending on the country you are in or where your principal audience are.
Again choose depending on the kind of light that you are shooting in. You can choose to keep it at Auto for the most part.
I would want to use this option as it simply turns the display on its head. Then again it might be necessary to do so in certain situations.
Is useful when you want to get a ‘saner’ picture sans the huge distortion that comes with the 170 ◦ perspective which the lens captures. This cuts down the distortion and in the process cuts some of the corners to produce a ‘flatter’ image.
Controls the brightness of the rear LCD screen. Keeping it at Low setting in dark conditions saves a lot of power. But you have to keep it at High setting when working under bright conditions.
Auto Shutdown will shut down the camera after a time frame. You can switch off this function (camera stays on as long as the battery has some charge on it) or choose any of the available options. The camera will turn off after the selected time frame.
This option when turned on will switch off the screen at the back after a fixed time. You may choose the time. If turned off, the screen will remain switched on for as long as the battery has power left.
The beep sound for confirmation can be disconcerting for some. You may choose to switch it off (or leave it on) depending on your preference.
Allows you to set up the date and the date format.
This allows you to set up the time for the time zone you are in.
Choose between the available language options in the camera as your language of choice to work with the interface.
This option will initiate Bluetooth pairing with a compatible device such as a smartphone or a tablet or a laptop.
This basically boots Bluetooth connectivity as soon as the camera turns on, ready to pair with a compatible device.
Wi-Fi autostart will boot Wi-Fi connection on the camera. This makes the ready to transfer or pair with a compatible device as soon as the camera is ready to start shooting.
Starts and stops the Wi-Fi functionality of the camera.
You can modify the Wi-Fi SSID for the action cam.
Allows you to set the Wi-Fi access password for the action camera. Refrain from using something as simple as 12345678 because you don’t want to have someone else login to your camera and download videos.
Formatting basically wipes clean the data on the memory card slotted into the memory card slot.
Default settings wipe clean all the changes you have made to the camera after you have unpacked it. Default setting often overcomes certain problems of playback issues or poor recording quality or display issues. However, it is not a solution for more serious issues that may also have similar symptoms.
This displays the software version inside the camera.
The Firefly 8SE comes with both built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. While it was a jiffy connecting to the camera via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth was not that easy. My Android phone kept looking for the device Amba-1 to pair with. It did eventually and may be this is an isolated experience.
There is a Firefly App that can transform your smartphone into a remote for this action cam. If you plan on using your smartphone as the remote for the Firefly 8SE, my initial experience was frustrating. The reason, it took an eternity to get a preview of a full resolution image out of the camera the first time. I had to disconnect and reconnect a few times before I could get a smooth connection.
Once it did, it reconnected on each of the consequent time without any issues. The interface is very easy to work with and transfer images.
Here is the first screen that greets you when you successfully download, install and open the app.
Transferring Files from Your Camera to Your Smartphone
Step one is to navigate to the preview window as shown above. Next check the images you wish to download.
Pressing the download button will show up a prompt to confirm.
Wi-Fi is the preferred option for controlling your camera via your smartphone. Transferring a large amount of files via Wi-Fi is going to be a little slow and understandably so. I tested out with a few high-resolution files and they all downloaded pretty quickly. Bluetooth is the preferred option for connecting to a remote trigger.
Memory Card Type and Capacity
I have tested the Firefly 8SE with a SanDisk Extreme 64 GB Micro SDXC Class U3 card (recommended in the manual) and the card works flawlessly. I have not tested it with a 128 GB card of the same speed. However, I feel that should work without issues. A higher capacity compatible memory card simply extends the recording time.
The Hawkeye Firefly 8SE is an excellent 4K action-camera and a worthy entry at the entry-level / lower segment of the market. It packs quite a punch and should be a considered by anyone looking for the maximum bang for buck. That includes vloggers, action sports enthusiasts, Youtubers and anyone else, for that matter, who loves to record their lives in 4K rather than simply make a snap.
The things that win it for the Firefly 8SE are the presence of RAW support and the bundled external mic. Also, the built-in Bluetooth function, as well as the built-in time-lapse and slow motion features, are good too. The Bluetooth functionality is a bit problematic but its there and the SJCam SJ7 Star does not have it, which gives the Firefly 8SE an added dimension. What loses it for the camera is the lack of responsiveness of the interface and the lack of mounting option that would have made it useful as a car dashcam.
Would I buy it? If I am looking for a 4K action camera under $150 this would definitely be one option I will be looking at.