Sena 50C Review [Helmet-Mounted Mesh Intercom + 4K UHD Video]

This is the first time I have installed a Bluetooth intercom communications unit and had zero frustration connecting with other brands and the same brand. I lead with that statement because it has been a major annoyance until the Sena 50C. The 50C has the easy connectivity capabilities as the Sena 50S and 50R, along with an integrated 4K camera, and it all works.

Sena 50C Review: For SaleAlthough not a purpose-built stand-alone action sports video camera, the Sena 50C is convenient and produces quality video and audio. Video recording is literally a hand movement or voice order away, and it is a $190 premium over the 50S and 50R audio-only units. The Sena 50C is a feature-rich mesh intercom, Bluetooth intercom, and 4K camera unit priced at $549 MSRP.

Sena first integrated a camera into its state-of-the-art Bluetooth intercom units with the 10C Pro; the 10C Evo succeeded it. Now we have the 50C with the remarkable mesh connection technology while retaining Bluetooth capability and compatibility.

At the highest resolution settings, the new Sena 50C shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second and can take 12MP photos. It has image stabilization at both 30 and 60 fps at 1080p. The unit will loop record, and you can mark video sections for saving with a voice command or button press.

Sena 50C Review: Price

As soon as it arrived, I reached out to a few friends who I knew had Sena 50R units so I could test the one-button press connection. It works as advertised.

I came up to the group, pressed the mesh button one time, and within moments our group was talking. It was the easiest intercom pairing I have ever experienced.

It was almost as easy to connect a competitive brand Bluetooth communications unit by carefully following the step-by-step instructions. Connecting with a non-Sena unit is basically the same as connecting a second mobile phone. While you have limited range and the non-Sena unit has limited functionality, you can talk.

Sena 50C Review: MSRPIn Open Mesh intercom mode, a disbursed group of six riders can probably still talk if spread out evenly over five miles. You can create up to nine groups of unlimited participants in Open Mesh mode, where anyone on the selected channel can participate.

If you are in a busy area like a ride-in event, Sturgis or Daytona, you can create a private Group Mesh of up to 24 invite-only participants. If you have to step back to Bluetooth, you can create a four-unit grouping or a combination of mesh and Bluetooth.

I mounted the Sena 50C on the Bell MX-9 Adventure DLX MIPS helmet I have been testing. I used the clamp unit with the offset thumb wheel to adjust the vertical image to keep the camera just a little farther out from the shell. That extra half-inch eliminates almost all of the helmet from being visible on the right side of the 120-degree field of view.

Sena 50C Review: 4K Video

Another clamp without the infinite, vertical adjuster can still adjust 8, 20, or 32 degrees upwards, depending on how you install the clamp. The lens has 30 degrees of horizontal rotation to level the camera with the horizon.

You can also use the included 3M stick-on mount to affix the Sena 50C to your helmet. However, I change helmets fairly often and need the portability feature of the clamps.

Sena gets my appreciation for the quality of the voice command recognition. Even though all three buttons and the jog dial are glove-friendly, not having to take my left hand off the handlebar while navigating on-road and off-road twisties or rough terrain is a real safety feature. There are 25 voice commands possible. The four Sena commands that I use the most are:

  • “Hey Sena, camera on.”

  • “Hey Sena, camera off.”

  • “Hey Sena, recording.”

  • “Hey Sena, stop recording.”

“Hey Siri” and “Hey Google” are always listening also. It is easy to make phone calls, send text messages, start and stop music, get directions, or any other feature you have available on your Apple or Android phone. Ultimate Motorcycling Associate Editor Kelly Callan reports that she has to be careful not to say “Hey [insert name here]” when starting a conversation over the intercom, as it will trigger an unwanted function on the non-camera Sena 50S.

Also, if you sing along with your tunes, turn off the 50C’s VOX (voice-operated) intercom feature. Otherwise, you will keep keying your intercom.

Sena has two apps for controlling your 50C from your phone—a camera control app and a communications control app. Using the built-in WiFi on the 50C, the Sena Camera control app allows you to take photos, start and stop recording, fine-tune the camera settings to suit your recording requirements, and view stills and video. There is built-in electronic image stabilization in the 1080p EIS video recording mode.

Stills are fixed at 12MP, or 8.3MP if taken when recording at any resolution below 2160p. You can’t take stills when recording at 2160p. The time-lapse mode can be set at intervals of 1, 2, 5, or 10 seconds.

You will get about 90 minutes of video recording from the 50C’s internal battery. If you want to record your entire day of scenic wonder, you must plug your 50C into an external power supply, such as a power bank.

The new Sena 50C has a Bluetooth talk time of over 20 hours or a mesh intercom talk time of over 10 hours. Of course, if you use the camera for over 90 minutes, your battery will be almost out of power. It will fully charge in about 2.5 hours but will give you several hours of talk time with just a lunch stop of charging time. The supplied USB-C charging cable also has a built-in WiFi adapter to easily update the 50C’s firmware while charging.;

Sena 50C Review: WiFi Capable

There is a recording time/GB usage chart in the downloadable user guide that shows you can record 15 hours of 1080p/30 fps on a 128 GB microSD card. There is a 4GB maximum single video size limit, so you will have 32 4GB videos if you are going to record for 15 hours straight. You will have to purchase a UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) or higher microSD card. I use the 32 GB capacity. It’s close to the camera battery capacity, and I just take short clips for sharing highlights.

I have my Sena 10C Evo attached to my touring modular helmet. The 50C plugs into the 10C Evo mount and works, less the voice commands; there must be something in the newer 50C microphone that enables the voice command capability.

While swapping control units, I checked the fidelity of the 10C Evo speakers compared to the new Sena 50 series Harman Kardon speakers. The new Harman Kardon speakers have an undeniably fuller, more robust, and higher fidelity sound. Even though I am not an audiophile, the difference is obvious to me. The quality of the Harman Kardon speakers also translates to better clarity when listening on the phone or during intercom conversations. Harmon Kardon also makes the 50C’s microphone.

Sena 50C Review: Mesh Intercom Motorcycle Helmet

The Sena 50C manual is 73 pages long, and it contains just about all the info you will need to learn its features. I had a question about creating more than one Group Mesh channel, and I couldn’t find the answer in the manual or User Guide. So, I phoned Sena customer service. I got a very nice human who answered my question quickly. The User Guide only references a single Group Mesh, and that is because there is only one private Group Mesh available.

If you don’t think you need a built-in helmet cam, keep in mind that taking one-handed photos from a digital camera is dangerous. It’s not just the distraction—it’s also what might be hiding behind your hand. I took this photo at 40 mph on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550) of a road sign I was excited to be seeing. When I looked at the picture later, I saw what just might have taken me out—a deer that I didn’t see because my hand and the camera were blocking it from my view. Taking one-handed photos while riding is illegal in 24 states and not covered by most phone warranties when you drop it. The Sena 50C is a huge leap forward from hand-held photography while motorcycle riding.

Million Dollar Highway Colorado US Route 550I have had many Sena Bluetooth models since the first SMH10 came out and have never had a failure. If you have a problem with the 50C, the unit comes with a three-year warranty.

I don’t know how Sena could make its motorcycle intercom units any better than this feature-rich device. The 4K camera is just icing on the Sena 50C cake.

Sena 50C Specs

VIDEO

  • 2160p: 30fps (4K)
  • 1440p: 30fps (2K/QHD)
  • 1080p: 60fps (HD)
  • 1080p: 30fps (HD)
  • 1080p: 60fps (HD) + EIS
  • 1080p: 30fps (HD) + EIS
  • Video recording time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Video file format: MP4 (H.264)
  • Maximum video bit rate: 60 Mb/s (4K)
  • Field of view: 120 degrees
  • Aperture: f/2.4
  • Lens rotation: 30 degrees

STILL IMAGE

  • Resolution: 12 MP (4:3 ratio)
  • Burst shooting: 8 fps
  • Time lapse: 1-, 2-, 5-, or 10-second intervals

INTERCOM

  • Talk time without video: Bluetooth, 22 hours; mesh, 12 hours
  • Battery charge time: 2.5 hours
  • Battery capacity: 1450 mAh (lithium polymer)
  • Mesh intercom open-terrain working distance: Up to 1.2 miles (5 miles with six riders or more)
  • Bluetooth: 5.1 (1.0 miles open-terrain working distance)
  • WiFi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/a (up to 49 feet)

DIMENSIONS

  • Height: 2.3 inches
  • Width: 3.7 inches
  • Depth: 1.2 inches
  • Weight: 3.17 ounces
  • Speaker diameter: 36mm
  • Speaker depth: 6.5mm

Warranty: 3 years

Sena 50C Price: $549 MSRP