Review: Sena Prism Bluetooth motorcycle action camera
Sena's excellent 20S Bluetooth headset is my daily driver these days - and now there's an action camera to go with it. The Prism is a 1080p/30fps camera designed specifically for motorcycle use, and it links up with the 20S to take advantage of the headset's audio capabilities.
It's Sena's first camera, and it's pretty well executed. A simple two-button design lets you cycle through modes and start/stop recording in a way that'll be very familiar to GoPro users. Video options are basic – 1080p or 720p at 30 frames per second, or 480p at 120 frames for chunky slow motion visuals. Video quality is fine, it's probably around the level of an entry-level GoPro Hero.
Audio is more interesting. When connected to a Bluetooth headset, it records your voice directly onto the video, taking advantage of your headset's noise reduction capabilities to give you a nice, clean audio track of yourself speaking as you ride, much like what the GP10 backpack does when coupled with a GoPro, but without the extra bulk.
The Prism also sends voice prompts back to your headset speakers to let you know what's going on – which mode you're in, whether the camera's connected, and when you start and stop recording. It's a handy feature that should prevent a lot of missed footage.
The mount kit deserves a lot of praise. It's been very well thought out from a biker's perspective and frankly makes the standard GoPro mount set look very ordinary. Everything from the GoPro-compatible sticker mounts to the bar mount to the helmet mount includes a ball head, so positioning the camera and getting the angle you want is quick and easy.
The sucker mount is unusual, you can configure it as either a single or double sucker unit, which gives you a bit of redundancy if one falls off, and Sena helpfully throws in a little metal cable as a last resort. As an idiot who has now thrown five action cameras down the road at high speed due to the sucker mounts failing, I'm a fan.
Last and probably most importantly, there's the helmet mount itself. It attaches to the side of your lid in about the same way Sena's headsets do, either clamping to the helmet shell, or using strong 3M adhesive to stick to the side. I've tested these sticker mounts at high speeds and in all kinds of weather and never had a problem.
Because I'm weird and I love flip face lids, I was a little restricted in where I could mount it, so there's a fair bit of helmet in my shot. But the 140-degree field of view is still good, taking in my bike's clocks as well as plenty of road and sky. Because of the Prism's unique audio capabilities, and the natural fit of voiceover with first-person view, I expect it'll mainly be a helmet cam for me, and it does a great job.
There are a few things we feel are missing here. First is the ability to control the camera through voice commands. I use voice commands a lot to control the 20S headset, and being able to say "record video" to start the camera, or "shoot" to take a photo, would be a great way to interact with the camera while you're riding and your right hand has a job to do. Sena says voice commands may be added in a future firmware update.
There's also no way to preview your shot through the Prism's smartphone companion app. The GoPro cameras have built-in Wi-Fi transmitters that stream a low-res shot to your smartphone so you can check and compose your shots, but Sena determined that the battery life penalty of the Wi-Fi system was too great, and it's hard to disagree. Our GoPro cameras seem to chew battery at a scary rate when we've got the Wi-Fi on. Sena says it's working on a way to let you check your shot using Bluetooth through your phone, so there's another possible firmware upgrade for the future.
And finally, while all the other mounts let you use the Prism in a protective case, the helmet mount leaves the lens exposed to damage and chipping from road grit and stones. You can use a different mount to put the waterproof case on your helmet, but it's kinda chunky. Sena is looking into building replaceable slip-on lens filters to deal with this exact issue.
We also experienced an issue in which alerts and phone calls coming through the 20S headset would cause the audio to drop out in the Prism video recording, a situation which only stopped after both the camera and the headset were turned off and on. Other users haven't had this issue, so perhaps I've ticked a wrong box somewhere in the options menu in the Prism app.
In all, the Prism delivers good vision, excellent audio (in conjunction with a good headset), a superb set of mounting options and a very compelling solution for motovloggers. The more expensive GoPro cameras offer 4K recording, slightly better looking video and a wider 170-degree lens, but you do pay a fair bit for that advantage and you need extra equipment to record your voice. Not to mention, the wider GoPro profile is much less suited to high-speed wind if it's mounted on the side of a helmet.
Offering 2 hours of recording to a battery charge, the Prism is a useful and well thought out piece of kit that will become my go-to helmet cam for motorcycle video. At around US$370 it's good value and a solid performer. Check out our review video below.
More information: Sena Prism