Billed as an IR night vision action camera, the Aurora IR Night Vision Camera, by SiOnyx, has a lot of expectations to live up to. When it arrived at my desk, I was cautiously optimistic. After playing with it for a little while, I was impressed, though I question whether I’d call it an action camera.
The same thing that makes me question calling this an action camera is central to what makes it exceptional: its exceptionally large lens that supports its remarkable ability to capture color images in extremely dark conditions. This lens, made of unprotected glass, seems vulnerable to breakage. That wide lens is necessary to take advantage of the Aurora’s 1" image sensor, which is enormous. Low-light surveillance cameras often use sensors about half that size, and most handheld devices that sell for around the same price use sensors less than a quarter of the size of the Aurora’s. This large sensor allows the camera to better capture available light without relying on long exposures that often produce noisy or blurry images.
When you open the box, you’ll find the Aurora, a battery, a handy microfiber pouch that doubles as a lens cloth, a USB-to-micro-USB charging cable, and a neck strap. The physical interface is relatively simple: a power/mode dial lets you select between photo, video, time-lapse, file review, and Wi-Fi modes. A focus ring lets you adjust from f/1.4-5.6, and a scene selector can switch between Night, Twilight, and Day recording modes. A set of buttons lets you navigate through onscreen menus that display on the viewfinder—a Recording button, a zoom wheel. The device features a standard ¼"-20 tripod mount, a microSD card slot that supports up to 32GB of storage, and an 1100mAh battery. You might be a bit confused when you try to install the battery and memory card, which require that the entire viewfinder be removed from the camera to access their ports. Charging the battery will require you to use your own USB AC adapter or computer, since none is included.
Rated IP67, the Aurora is resistant to splashing water and can even be submerged in 3' of it. While I didn’t dip the camera in any puddles, knowing it had been tested reassured me that I could take it out into the rain without special protection. Which I did!
I played around with settings and took a walk around the neighborhood near B&H HQ to get some daylight impressions. The Aurora did a good job in Day mode, about an hour before sunset, but did even better in Twilight mode as I stood in the shadows cast by a few large buildings.
During a walk along the water late at night was when the Aurora truly shined. Video was crisp and clear in monochrome Night Vision mode, without any nearby light sources, and photos came out remarkably well in Twilight mode with relatively accurate color saturation… maybe. It was hard to be sure in the dark. I very much wish I’d been able to get farther away from the city to see how SiOnyx’s sensor handles recording without ambient metropolitan light pollution
Using the Aurora’s onscreen interface is intuitive. You can choose either to use the built-in viewfinder or put the camera in Wi-Fi mode and use your Android device or iPhone to see what the camera does. Pairing is simple. Once connected, your phone can be used as a controller for video and photo capture and to play back and manage files. The Wi-Fi range extends only a few feet; it’s enough to act as a controller and setting focus, but not for remote viewing. I think it would be most useful when the Aurora is mounted on a tripod. It’s got a couple of other features worth mentioning, though of more limited use. A GPS receiver, a compass, and an accelerometer can help you know where you’re at and which way you’re headed. It even has a time-lapse setting.
Overall, SiOnyx’s first attempt at a camera is solid, though the large, non-recessed lens and manual focus keep me from recommending it as an action camera—at least until they sell a protective case. It would be great for a camping or hiking trip, or nearly any outdoor activity that doesn’t pose a significant risk of the camera being hit or hitting the ground.
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