Motorcycles

Sena 10C – the first Bluetooth headset with a built-in action camera

Sena 10C – the first Bluetooth...
Sena's 10C - action cam and Bluetooth headset in one compact unit (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - action cam and Bluetooth headset in one compact unit (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - Loz gives it a bit of the ol' Blue Steel (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - Loz gives it a bit of the ol' Blue Steel (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - action cam and Bluetooth headset in one compact unit (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - action cam and Bluetooth headset in one compact unit (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - 1080p video and 3.5 megapixel stills (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - 1080p video and 3.5 megapixel stills (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - controls are easy to access even in thick winter gloves (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - controls are easy to access even in thick winter gloves (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - in video tagging mode, this device operates as an excellent motorcycle dashcam (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - in video tagging mode, this device operates as an excellent motorcycle dashcam (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena 10C - earphones velcro straight in to your helmet
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Sena 10C - earphones velcro straight in to your helmet
Sena 10C - removeable with a bit of fiddling to take out the audio wires
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Sena 10C - removeable with a bit of fiddling to take out the audio wires
Sena 10C - integrated antenna handles FM radio
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Sena 10C - integrated antenna handles FM radio
Sena 10C - clamp system attaches to most helmets in minutes - for the others, there's an adhesive sticker
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Sena 10C - clamp system attaches to most helmets in minutes - for the others, there's an adhesive sticker
Sena 10C - includes boom and pad microphone options
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Sena 10C - includes boom and pad microphone options
Sena 10C - jog dial and phone button are joined by an easily accessible camera button
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Sena 10C - jog dial and phone button are joined by an easily accessible camera button
Sena 10C - pitch and tilt adjustable, but needs to be mounted facing forward
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Sena 10C - pitch and tilt adjustable, but needs to be mounted facing forward
Sena's 10C - level the camera by tilting the lens itself (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - level the camera by tilting the lens itself (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - fits to just about any helmet in minutes. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - fits to just about any helmet in minutes. (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - intercom has a 1.6 km range (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - intercom has a 1.6 km range (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - unit clips off for charging and security (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
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Sena's 10C - unit clips off for charging and security (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
View gallery - 16 images

Sena's 10C is the first Bluetooth headset to hit the market with a built-in action camera. It takes the intercom and phone integration features of the SMH-10, and mashes them together with the video capabilities of the Sena Prism we reviewed last week, while adding the convenience of dashcam-style video tagging. And after just a few days' use, we're happy to pronounce it the best gadget in the Sena range – one of those rare moments when you find yourself thinking "how come nobody ever thought of this before?"

Sena's Bluetooth headsets have been a favorite around the Gizmag office for some time now and just last week we reviewed the Korean company's first action camera, the Prism. The Prism may only be a few months old, but Sena is about to debut a product that's much, much better – and they've been nice enough to send us one for pre-launch review.

The 10C somehow manages to pack the Bluetooth headset and helmet camera gear into a single unit that's not much bigger than the 20S headset. It weighs 3.3 ounces (94 grams), a touch over 50 percent heavier than the 20S, but once it's on your lid, you don't notice it's there.

Sena's 10C - Loz gives it a bit of the ol' Blue Steel (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - Loz gives it a bit of the ol' Blue Steel (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag.com)

Installation is as simple as ever and you'll be able to fit a 10C to your helmet in about the same few minutes it takes to fit a SMH-10 or 20S. The main unit clamps onto the side of the lid, or sticks there with a strong adhesive, and you place the boom mic and earpads in with velcro. The one additional step you'll need to go through is leveling your camera, which is done with an angle adjustment lock to adjust up-down pitch, and you can then rotate the lens itself through about 30 degrees to get yourself a level video horizon.

The control system will be instantly familiar to Sena headset users. The jog dial and phone button are both where you expect them to be, although the jog dial is a fair bit smaller than previous units. These manage all your intercom, phone, FM radio and music controls. The intercom has a 1.6 km (1 mi) range, a bit of a drop from the massive 2 km range on the 20S, and you can only conference up to 4 intercoms where the 20S can handle 8. But unless you regularly ride with that many intercoms going, it's still a very practical unit.

On the top is a new button that controls the camera. One touch turns the camera on, and once it's on, one press will take a still photo, and holding it down will start video recording. Everything you do with the camera is reflected in an audio prompt through the headphones, so you always know what's going on.

Sena 10C - jog dial and phone button are joined by an easily accessible camera button
Sena 10C - jog dial and phone button are joined by an easily accessible camera button

Two taps on the camera button and the 10C will begin "video tagging," which is effectively a dashcam mode in which the camera records constantly in one-minute intervals, then deletes them. If something of interest happens while you're riding, you hold down the camera button and "tag" the footage, which means the camera will save the previous minute, the current minute and the next minute.

Realistically, 99 percent of the time you're riding, there's nothing happening that's worth recording. That's where video tagging comes in handy – as soon as something cool happens, you can save it. I reckon I'll start tagging video as a habit every time I ride, you never know what I might catch on there.

As you record video, the 10C overlays it with audio from the headset so you can live-narrate your own ride video. If you've got music playing through your phone, it'll record that as well, and if you're riding with buddies and talking on the intercoms, it'll record them as well. You'll also get alert noises from your phone in your footage, but for some reason phone call audio isn't included. Wind noise reduction on the helmet microphone audio is great; I've mounted this to the noisiest, windiest helmet I've got and the audio is still fine.

Sena 10C - the first Bluetooth headset with built in helmet cam

Note: YouTube hasn't been particularly kind to this video in its compression routine. Video files straight off the camera are noticeably clearer.

When I heard Sena was sticking an intercom and a helmet cam together into one package, my first thoughts were "awesome… oh wait, won't the camera drain the battery so fast that I won't be able to talk to anyone or listen to podcasts on my way home?"

The answer is yes. The 10C packs a huge battery that's good for a massive 17 hours' worth of talk time on the intercoms, but that's only enough for two hours of camera use. But Sena has taken this exact problem into account. After two hours with the camera on, the battery will be down to about 20 percent. At this point the camera shuts off, leaving you a solid two hours' worth of intercom time to get home with. I think that's a great solution that'll make the 10C as useful on long group rides as it is on shorter commutes. If you've got an external charger or 12V socket on your bike, you can also charge it on the go to avoid battery issues altogether.

Sena's 10C - unit clips off for charging and security (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)
Sena's 10C - unit clips off for charging and security (Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

Is it perfect? No. I think video and image quality from the 125-degree camera could stand to improve. It takes 1080p/30fps or 720p/60 or 30fps video, and 3.5-megapixel still shots, but dynamic range, sharpness, quickness of ISO adjustment in changing light conditions and the overall feel of image quality is a step behind the market leaders in action cameras. Plus the video compression tends to get a bit blocky and colour-bandy, which is noticeable on a big screen. If maximum image quality is your #1 priority, you'll need to look elsewhere for the moment.

Of course, top quality sensors and lenses don't come cheap, and the 10C is being built to a price point - and that's good news.

Secondly, if you're going to use it every day, you'll want to find some way of protecting the camera lens against mud, stones and general road grit, but I'm sure Sena's working on a replaceable lens filter for just that reason, as they told me they are for the Prism.

I'd also like to see audio from the headset microphone separated onto a different audio channel from any music you're playing in the lid, because there's no way to mix the audio in post production if the music's too loud. Music left/voice right would be a handy optional setting for me.

And finally, I'm a fan of the voice control system on the 20S, which lets you run a bunch of important functions hands-free. There's no voice control on the 10C, but it'd be great to be able to say "Sena, take a photo" or "Sena, record video" and have the unit turn on the camera and get to work.

Still, overall it's a fantastic gadget and there's nothing on the market that's like it. It goes on sale in a couple of weeks for US$349 - less than a hundred bucks more than the 20S, and $50 cheaper than a Gopro 4 Silver. I can't think of a good reason why you'd want to buy a headset without a built-in camera. Well done Sena for moving the goalposts, and we hope to see a 10C Pro with top-notch video sometime in the future!

View gallery - 16 images
8 comments
myale
Hope they have done some safety testing - in terms of what happens if you crash with it on - news stories where cameras may of caused additional injuries as they are not part of the protection crash protection systems and cause additional stress in accidents spring to mind
Daishi
@myale That was the first time I heard of that so I googled and it sounds like in schumachers Skiing accident his ski helmet hit a rock and it shattered the helmet. They are speculating if having a gopro between the rock and the helmet weakened the helmet or not.
I don't see why it should have weakened the helmet and it may have even acted as a buffer between the helmet and the rock if it did end up sandwiched in between. That could easily be the fault of the flimsy ski helmet rather than the gopro but I'm sure if you tried to sue either of them for injuries that their lawyers would do a good enough job blaming each other you might have better luck suing the rock.
Lee MeowMeow
Hope this is not another 'White Elephant' again liked their Sena 20S. My Sena 20S is having so much problems that I will never advice anyone from getting one. Beside the softwares problem and battery life also does not perform any where close to the manufacturer specifications. Now with additional camera on a SENA Bluetooth?! God know what will be the potential problems. I most probably will only buy this if they are able to iron out their previous product problems which is the Sena 20S. If they can not do then I will stay far from this camera.
SamuraiTortoise
You state the Sena 10C has no voice commands but every spec I've read it says it has voice prompts. Are these two different things or is this something they've added since the review? Having even simple voice prompts like "Call, *name*" or such would be ideal.
Loz
SamuraiTortoise - voice prompts tell you what button you've just pressed, the unit says "video recording" or "video tagging on" to let you know what's happening. It doesn't have voice commands like the 20S, which lets you say "hello Sena... Stereo music" and get your podcast playing.
BUT - it does have the little phone button on the back. And that lets you trigger Siri or Google Voice on your phone. So you can hit that button and then say "call Steve" - that works fine. So it'll do what you're asking for in that regard.
AndyHornsby
Looking forward to seeing how this compares to the 20S and Prism combination that I've been using for the last six months - both of which have been problem free (once I got your head round the vast array of controls required for the sophisticated feature set) and I recommend highly.
Video tagging looks useful and I hope it's something they add to the firmware of the Prism sometime, along with as a live preview for the initial camera set-up.
Re the crash protection: it's less a matter of weakening the helmet – which was an often-stated concern with the chemistry of glues used on stickers when polycarbonate was first used – and more that a helmet is designed to withstand glancing as well as frontal blows. If a camera or intercom – or a camouflage netting cover, to take the graphic analogy to breaking point – snags on something, the helmet will not glance off it but could stop and twist the neck as the rest of the body continues on its path. That is potentially lethal, but then so is anything that requires the wearing of a helmet as a matter of course.
HenryLee
Commuting cameras are so amazing invention. When I used my first one several years ago I fell in love with such devices. :) Now I use drift stealth, which is my favorite camera, mostly because of its "perfect for action" shape. I never sit on a motorcycle without a camera on.
Dr deanz
Guys I bought and used the 10c on a week long road trip last week. Two questions I had difficulty with. 1. How do you view what you are filming without access to a computer or other screen. Ie can you Bluetooth it to your phone so you can see live what angle camera is at. First three days I filmed my handle bars. 2. The whole trip was great to listen to my music, but every few minutes I would get this annoying message 'intercom pairing failed please try again later" I don't think I heard one song uninterrupted. So how can I turn that feature of , which I tried pressing the jog dial for 1 second. As manual suggests, with no success. So none of my mates had intercom but it kept searching to pair with anyone. Drove me crazy. Please any suggestions on solving those two issues. Thank you