Sionyx Aurora Black NV action cam - test & review
PUBLISHED: 14:32 19 August 2020
Do you want to film your night time hunting escapades? The Sionyx Aurora Black night vision action camera should do the job!
BRIEF OVERVIEW - SiOnyx Aurora Black night vision action camera
PROS: Truly impressive performance after dark; Tough, compact and adaptable
CONS: Daytime image quality doesn’t match its abilities after dark
VERDICT: The SiOnyx really is an excellent and unique piece of kit. It’s definitely an action cam rather than a broadcast tool but the night time performance really is exceptional. The emphasis has clearly been on optimising its night time performance, perhaps at the expense of day time image quality. Having said that, there’s nothing to touch it after dark in terms of price, performance and flexibility.
IN DEPTH TEST & REVIEW - SiOnyx Aurora Black night vision action camera
Action cameras are nothing new, but the SiOnyx Aurora has a very unique trick up its sleeve. The big USP on the packaging, so it says, is that it is: “the world’s first full colour night vision action camera”. You may think that’s impossible and, to be honest, in a way it is. The camera actually interpolates colour based on the very limited amount of light reaching the sensor.
The end result is more of an image processed remake of a mono image. To be fair, it does a very good job of it, with a quarter moon being more than enough to pull off the effect. It isn’t what you’d call 100% accurate, with green tones often taking on a distinct purple tinge. False colour it may be, but it’s definitely colour.
For me, the full-colour night vision claim is more about marketing than anything else, providing a nice tag line for a product entering into an already crowded market. The real appeal of the SiOnyx is it’s a dedicated night vision performance, that can still pull double duty during the day.
For would-be YouTubers (or ‘influencers’ as they say on social media), it’s got some real appeal. The camera is essentially a digital version of an old-school analogue image intensifier, but as it’s digital there’s no risk of damaging the unit in daylight conditions.
One of the toughest assignments for any photographer/videographer is nighttime shooting. With traditional gear, it’s more or less impossible, without humping around a mountain of additional lights. The SiOnyx’s doesn’t need any additional lighting, as long as there’s a hint of ambient light in the scene, which can usually be provided by the moon – or pretty much any light source will do the job, street lights, the light spill from urban developments and interestingly from a shooter’s perspective, IR light can also provide the illumination if you really need to flood a scene.
With only 1280x720 video output, it isn’t exactly broadcast quality but for an action cam it’s fine. If you’re serious about nighttime photography/videography, a Sony A7S Mk II with an IR conversion will often be the pro’s choice but that’s not what the SiOnyx is about. It’s essentially a nighttime GoPro. For day shooting, the footage from a GoPro is superior but at a night the SiOnyx is in a different league.
It’s so good, in fact, that you could definitely use it as a night vision spotter when you’re not actually filming. A two-hour runtime sounds limiting, but I had no problems over several outings, and its USB charging port means a powerbank could always inject some additional runtime if required.
The unit actually offers three shooting modes for both stills and video: day, twilight and night mode. As a daytime camera, you’d probably be better off using your smartphone, but twilight shooting provides a very usable full-colour image that no phone could match.
It’s the night modes where it really comes into its own. There’s the full-colour night mode, which is fine but perhaps not quite as sexy as it sounds, a green mode and by far my favourite the standard black and white NV mode, which really does produce excellent results with ambient light alone. Remember all the pics shown have no additional lighting, other than the IR from the rifles.
For a shooter looking to document his/her nocturnal adventures, there’s nothing even remotely close in terms of flexibility and performance at this price point. You can use it hand held or tripod-mounted to do your ‘little piece to camera’ or you can mount it on the gun ready to document the action. It can even be mounted upside down courtesy of an interface-flipping function.
It may also appeal to the black rifle boys, as it can also be mounted in front of a red dot optic via the optional Picatinny mount, providing a close-range night vision shooting solution. The manufacturers recommend no more than a .223/Nato 5.56 – given the very limited eye relief I can fully understand why.
Build quality is good; it’s IP67-rated, so won’t wind getting wet. All the traditional handy cam features are included with image stabilization, HDR, focus peaking, timelapse, composition grids and all the other photo/videographic essentials you’d expect. In terms of overall nighttime performance, I’d say it equates to a traditional Gen 2 device but at half the price, while offering a lot more flexibility.
The camera features a 1” CMOS chip but only at 720p resolution, a design choice that actually aids night shooting performance – big pixels perform better in low light. Up to 32GB can be stored via a Micro-SD, but that’s plenty considering the relatively small file sizes of both stills and video. Connectivity is well taken care of via a well-implemented app for both iOS and Android which allows you to transfer all your files from the camera and well as control it remotely via a live stream.
Sensor: 1” CMOS 1280 x 720 sensor
Display: Colour or Monochrome
Lens: 16mm f/1.4 Night, F/2.0 Twilight and F5.6 Day selectable
Battery: SX-50 Lithium-Ion
Video: 720P HD
FPS: 7.5, 15, 24, 30, 60
Shutter Speeds: 1.5 sec to 1/8000sec
IMU: GPS, Accelerator, Compass
Connectivity: Wifi & USB 2.0
Storage: Micro SD 4-32GB (not included)
Viewdinder: Micro OLED display
Water Resistance: IP67
Power Supply: Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery
App Compatibility: iOS & Android
Supplier: Thomas Jacks