Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shimano Sport Camera CM-1000 Review

It is time to review another new product! This time it is the Shimano Sport Camera CM-1000, which has just been introduced to the market. To Shimano, this is a new market as they have not produced cameras before. It faces fierce competition from other cameras such as the popular GoPro and other brands such as Sony, Garmin and Polaroid.

Due to the limited stock, this camera is not available in Singapore yet. It was bought at a bike shop in Japan.

So what differentiates it from the other cameras? Let's check it out below.

Standard transparent packaging displays the camera for the customer

Here is where the features can be seen. Of particular highlights are the ANT+, the 10m waterproofing and the D-Fly feature. 

Elaborating more on the unique features, the ANT+ feature enables the camera to pick up data from ANT+ compatible sensors, such as power meters, speedometers, heart rate monitors and etc. The data will be stored in a separate file, which can be combined with the video footage using software. This gives a video with information overlay. However, the Shimano software for this is not available yet. An example of such a display from Garmin can be seen below.

Example of a video with info overlay, from the Garmin VIRB.

That is a very cool feature, as it allows you to review your data along with the video footage. This is especially useful for training purposes as it can show your power output, along with the speed and other information that you want.

The 10 metres waterproofing is another major advantage of this camera. Without the need for a bulky casing like GoPro, it is already waterproof out of the box. This keeps the weight down and the size small, and is certainly rainproof.

Next, the D-Fly feature is designed to work with Shimano's own Di2 gear shifting system. It will be able to accept data from the D-Fly transmitter, such as selected gear, battery level and others. Not sure how useful it is as these are still early days for this. Read more about the Shimano D-Fly here.

Let's now take a close up look at the camera itself.

One slim power button on top, and one big record button. The functions of these buttons will be shown at the end of this post. 

Convex lens at the front. Interchangeable with a flat lens (provided) and replaceable if required. 

Simple slide-on mounting at the bottom 

Rear door that is double locked for extra protection against water 

There is a rubber seal around the edges of the rear door. Micro USB plug on the left, Micro SD card slot on the right. The Micro SD card is not included.

One of the first thing that struck me when I first took out the camera was how small it is! It is a really small and lightweight camera. You can get a feel of the size by making a comparison with some other common objects.

Comparison with a one dollar coin 

Comparison with a standard namecard 

When placed in the palm of my hand. Feels like a large chicken nugget. 

Compared with my other sport camera, the Polaroid XS100i. 

The Shimano camera is a lot smaller than the Polaroid camera, which is already rather small.

The weight of the Polaroid XS100i, at 148 grams. 

The weight of the Shimano camera is 86 grams, exactly as stated on the packaging. Over 60 grams lighter than the Polaroid, which is very significant. 

Since this Shimano Sport Camera is already waterproof up till 10 metres, it can be used for underwater video shooting without the need for a casing. However, it does come with a flat squarish lens that can be interchanged. It is said that this flat lens will prevent distortion when taking underwater videos. I have not tried it yet.

Flat lens for underwater usage. 

 Choose between the round convex lens or the square flat lens, depending on your usage.

Looks quite professional when the flat lens is used!

The camera also comes with some standard mounting for helmets. Currently the mounts for bicycle handlebars and such are not available yet, but it is not a big problem. Read on to find out why.

Helmet strap for use on vented helmets. There are stick on mounts for full face helmets too. 

The camera mounting that is included. Slide the camera into the top portion to lock it in place. 

The camera mount that should be used with the helmet strap. Doesn't the mounting look familiar?

The mounting method used by this Shimano camera is actually the same as the GoPro style of mounting! The simple yet secure 3+2 slot mount is also used here. This means that we can actually use the full range of GoPro mounts if required. A very clever move, to maximise compatibility with different mounting locations and yet there is no need to design and manufacture multiple mounts that are only specific to the camera.

Fixed the helmet mount onto the helmet 

Rather low profile mounting that still allows for angle adjustment. 

With the camera mounted on top 

Does not look as tall as a GoPro, as the camera design is flat instead of vertical like GoPro 

Button can be reached and differentiated quite easily 

Side view of the camera when mounted on the helmet. The camera can be made to point forward or backward, just by removing and reversing the top part of the camera mount. 

Mounting the camera on the helmet should enable the footage to be more stable, as compared to the bike frame. However, this also depends on where it is mounted on the bike, and the type of bike frame. In this case I mounted it on the helmet as it is the only mount that is included, and also because I can use it no matter which bike I ride, as long as I wear the helmet with the camera.

The advantages and disadvantages of different camera mounting locations can be found here.

Weight of the Kabuto MS-2 helmet, at only 202 grams. A very lightweight and comfortable helmet.

Weight of the helmet with the camera mounting and mounting straps. Adds on only 35 grams. 

Weight of the helmet + camera mounting + Shimano Sport Camera. The Shimano Sport Camera weighs 86 grams on its own.

The weight of the helmet has been increased by more than 50%, which can seem quite a lot. However, due to the central mounting position of the camera, it is still rather comfortable as the helmet does not really tilt forward or backward easily. This is also helped by the very lightweight camera.

Although the previous Polaroid XS100i camera is only 60 grams heavier than the Shimano Sport Camera, this 60 grams difference can be felt very easily when mounted on the helmet. It is much less comfortable and less secure when the Polaroid camera was mounted on the helmet.

As for the operation modes, the manual is rather confusing. It took a bit of trial and error before I could understand what everything means. Once I got the hang of it, it is rather easy to operate even without looking. The audible beeps will tell the user what the camera is currently doing and what mode it is in.

Auto angle adjust. Means that even if the camera is tilted, the image will auto correct itself so that the footage appears the right side up and not tilted 90 degrees or upside down. 

Using the buttons to cycle through the various recording modes, and what the various LED colours mean. 

The LEDs also displays the battery level remaining and the recording time remaining. 

Of course, it can be quite challenging to operate all these modes using only 2 buttons. Besides, you will need to remember what all the different LED colour combinations and beeping means! Luckily, there is also a Wifi feature which allows you to use a phone to connect to the camera and adjust the settings.

Setting up this connection is easy. After turning on the Wifi on the camera itself, connect to the camera using your phone. You will need the Shimano Sport Camera app to link up with the camera.

Main page after connecting to the camera. 

Liveview gives you a live footage of what the camera sees. This is very useful to help position the camera to the angle that you want. The lag is also acceptable at only 1 second.

File List shows the footage that has been recorded. You can stream the video directly from the camera, or download it for better quality. Note that you can only delete files here, and not through the computer. 

Settings available for the camera. Types of recording modes that are available are shown in the next picture.

The field of vision angle can be set to 135 degrees or 180 degrees. The difference can be seen below. Angle free means that the camera will auto rotate the footage when recording. Not too sure about high sensitivity setting, but I think it might mean higher light sensitivity or higher ISO setting.

Wheel size setting is not used now, as I have not paired it to any ANT+ devices. Volume setting refers to the volume of the beeping sound that gives the audible cues.

Many different recording modes available. The 120 fps setting is rather interesting, which allows footage to be slowed to 1/4 the frame rate and still look smooth. 

Liveview, showing the wide angle setting of 135 degrees. 

Super wide angle of 180 degrees. Basically covers beyond the eyes' field of vision!

Changing the field of vision angle can only be done via the Wifi settings. Note that at the top right hand corner of the Liveview, the recording time remaining and the battery level are also displayed. You can even start recording immediately by pressing the red recording button shown at the bottom left corner of the phone!

Overall, I think that this Shimano Sport Camera is a smart little camera that is small in size and yet packs a lot of features in it. The in-built waterproofing and lightweight construction means that it can be used for almost any sport purpose out of the box.

Connectivity is good with Wifi and ANT+ capability, however it lacks a dedicated remote control for now. It has a lot of potential regarding data collection with the ANT+ capability and D-Fly, but the software for this is not available yet. Mounting is not a problem, with the GoPro style of mounting enabling GoPro mounts to be used easily.

Battery life is quite decent at 2 hours, on Full HD recording mode. The battery is built in, so you can't just swap in a battery. While charging, it is not possible to record videos. This is a downside and means that it is not designed to be an all day recording camera. Rather, it is designed to be used for shorter events that are less than 2 hours long.

Video quality is quite good, with excellent low light capability and accurate colour representation. Footage might be a bit jittery as there is no image stabilization like Sony, but still acceptable. For some sample videos, visit the official Shimano Sport Camera page!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Minoura Bike Tower 10 Review

Do you have a bike storage problem? Too many bikes and not enough space to store them? This is a very common problem in Singapore, where homes are usually small and don't have much space for full sized bikes. Folding bikes help to alleviate the situation somewhat, but it is only a partial solution as the bikes still take up space when folded. For convenience's sake, many people actually prefer to keep the bikes unfolded.

One good way to maximize the use of space in the house is to store items vertically, using the space above other items. For bicycles, the only way to do this is to use a bike storage stand for hanging bikes. There are many different bike storage stands available, and they serve similar purposes. Most of them use the concept of suspending bikes above each other, saving some space.

There are two main types of storage stands, the type that is freestanding, and the type that is supported by the floor and ceiling. The advantage of the freestanding bike storage stand is that it can be placed almost anywhere in the house, and is super easy to set up. However, there will be the support legs of the stand that will stick out across the floor, which may cause accidents if someone trips over them.

The other type of bike storage stand would be the type that is supported by the floor and ceiling, without the use of support legs across the floor. The advantage of this type is a very clean and minimalist design. However, it cannot be used on soft floors such as carpets. Also, it needs a solid ceiling for the pole to push against. False ceilings cannot use these type of bike storage stands as the false ceiling cannot support the force of the pole pushing against the ceiling. There is also a maximum height limit, depending on the brand and model of bike stand.

For my new place, I had already planned out where to install this bike storage stand. As such, I ensured that there is no false ceiling at the area where I planned to install the bike stand. So which is the bike storage stand that I chose?

I selected the Minoura Bike Tower 10 as Minoura products are usually well designed, very sturdy and durable. The design may not be as attractive as some other brands, but they are very functional.

Minoura Bike Tower 10! Comes in a slim but long package that is about 1.8 metres long.

There are quite a few steps to assemble and install the bike stand, as it is not as straightforward as it looks. Many safety features and fail safe designs can be seen, to minimise the risk to the user.

Some features of the Minoura Bike Tower 10:
1) Can fit up to 4 bikes of 20 kg each (comes with 2 cradles, can buy 2 additional ones if needed)
2) Max height of 3.1 metres, fits almost all HDB flats, even for top floor units.
3) Hooks and arms of the cradles are independently adjustable, ensuring optimal hooking angles for any bike frame.
4) Wide range of mounting heights for the bike cradles, to fit in different types of bikes
5) Very small footprint on the ground, does not have support legs sticking out across the floor.
More details available at this link.

I forgot to take pictures of the bike stand as I was setting it up, as I was too engrossed in making sure that I fixed it up properly. One important thing to take note when setting it up is to ensure that the pole is vertical and not slanted, or the pole may slide to one side and topple.

The bike pole when fully set up! I reinstalled many times before I got it perfectly vertical.

To install the bike stand, we need to first set it to the correct length and fix the length. After that, rest the bottom rubber cup on the floor, and pull down the top section to compress the internal spring. Then, align the pole to a vertical position, and release the top section such that the top rubber cup is pushed hard against the ceiling. This combination of friction and spring force should be sufficient to prevent the pole from moving.

One useful tip for setting the top rubber cup is to place a piece of paper or something between the rubber and the ceiling. This will prevent black marks from being left on the ceiling. For me, I taped the top of the rubber cup with masking tape and cut off the excess at the edges.

Bottom rubber cup seated firmly on the floor tiles.

Top rubber cup resting on the solid ceiling. I designed L-box lights for the ceiling so that the bike pole can rest outside the L-box.

The two included bike cradles can be placed anywhere along the length of the pole. The recommended set up is to have one at the bottom section, and the other cradle at the top section of the pole.

Bike cradle for one bike. The angle of the arms and hooks are independently adjustable.

Cradle hooks are rubber coated to prevent frame damage

The intersection between the top section and the bottom section. The two bolts shown at the right of the picture fixes the height of the entire pole. The chunky clamp of the cradle can be seen also.

Clamp of the lower bike cradle. The many bolts you see allow different arm angles to be fixed and secures the clamp securely to the bike pole.   

The user manual recommends that the front end of the bike should be hung lower than the rear, to prevent the front wheel from swinging around and hitting the bike itself.

Best to ensure that when the bike is placed onto the hooks, the cables are not squashed between the hooks and the frame.

All the bikes located around the bike pole! Dahon Boardwalk at the bottom, the folded Dahon Vitesse at the back, and the Avanti Inc 3 at the side.

I decided not to hang the Dahon Boardwalk using the bottom cradle, as there is not enough space on the frame to hang the bike properly. The cables that run along the bike frame will be squashed between the hook and the frame.

The bottom cradle is not wasted! It can be used to hang other accessories such as helmets or bags.

With the bike pole, it allows four bikes to be compactly stored in a space usually needed to store two full sized bikes.

Although this bike stand did not save as much space as I would have liked, as it only suspended one bike above the others, it still achieved its purpose of helping to store all the bikes neatly in one corner. Also, it displays the great looking MuEX bike in the air as part of the house decoration.

The bike collection! Placed prominently in the living room, near the main door so that bikes can be wheeled in and out of the house easily.

If you have a bike storage problem, this Minoura bike storage stand may just be able to solve your problem!