The action camera market is hotting up, with the inclusion of the latest GoPro Session trying to slim down on the GoPro formulae. Shimano, however, is already there with one of the smallest packages on the market, and with several lessons, GoPro should have taken on board.
Shimano Action Camera CM1000
I don’t like GoPro’s boxy “in your face” style, I’m also not a great fan of the Garmin VIRB elites size, much less its hammock of a mounting system, which is the definition of ugly. When I first saw the Shimano action camera, from a style and packaging perspective, it looked like someone had made a camera specifically for me! Its small, its black, it weighs almost exactly half the Garmin VIRB, it looks relatively innocuous/subtle – as long as it works well as a camera, I thought I’m sorted.
When you come to unpackage the camera, you realise how small it really is!
The camera is charged through micro USB through a waterproofed flap at the rear, next to the Micro SD card slot – which is limited to 32gb size. The camera is waterproofed down to 10m without any additional casing. Shimano comment that you should be able to wash your bike with it still on.
The Shimano action camera also feels ridiculously light in the hand, almost like its just an empty shell, at a claimed 86g
When compared to the Garmin Elite at 180gram you can see where the mass has gone. The Garmin dwarfs the Shimano, and also feels a lot heavier, but possibly more stable because of it.
In the box comes a helmet mount, requiring a strap.
I’m always between two fences with mounts such as this – I LIKE 3M tape-based mounts, as they look a lot better, but at the same time, I feel much more reassured using the physical straps around the helmet. But that is entirely personal.
The Shimano action camera slides into a click cradle, which is then connected to a GoPro compatible mount
Shimano has released two of their own Pro branded mounts, which come either in anodised black or a rather striking blue
Personally, I still prefer the under the bar mounted system on the K-Edge XL mounts as I feel it tidies up my bars nicely. With the small size of the Shimano action camera, it does give a very tidy bar
The Shimano action camera slides into and out of its cradle very easily, which stands in comparison with the Fly6 mount which was so tight that I actually broke one mount trying to get it off. The downside of the camera easily going into the mount, is there is no additional way of tightening the cradle, and the camera can move around ever so slightly, on videos, this gives a regrettably annoying knocking sound. However, this can also be resolved relatively quickly with a couple of pieces of electrical tape.
But I have to highlight again; this is probably the tidiest camera mounting I’ve seen.
If we just compare this to how the Garmin VIRB looked for the dual setup to take matching videos…well the Garmin Virb just looks like a block stuck on the handlebars by comparison
Some people might be wondering why the different lens in the pictures – the Shimano action camera comes with two lenses. A flat fronted lens to allow for underwater focusing, and a convex lens to allow for a wider field of view. Personally, I have found that when not using the “ultra-wide” video mode, which causes an almost fisheye distortion at the edges, there is minimal difference between the two lenses, regarding real-world usability, therefore have kept the underwater lens on most of the time.
I actually really like the idea of the replacement lenses. If you drop the camera, or in any way scratch the lens on a Garmin VIRB, you’ve shot the whole camera. In the case of the Shimano action camera, it’s merely a case of buying a new lens, which is £20, and frankly good value for a propriety optical lens
The Shimano action camera initially garnered a lot of attention from mid-race footage from the Tour de France 2014 peloton, partially as this was the first time this had been allowed. Team Sky produced an excellent compilation of their tour footage showing off the Shimano action camera – but this can only be viewed on YouTube
Before you can start to film anything, you need to know which set the camera is in. There is no screen on the camera. Instead, the camera communicates through beeps and the flashing status of two LEDs
This system of bleeps, lights and beeps is NOT an easy system to interpret; it almost worsens when you consult the instructions. Now it might just sound like male pig-headedness, but if you have a product where you think to yourself i) I need to check the user manual how to work it at all and ii) I think I need to keep this manual around… That might suggest the interface could have done with an extra round of development.
Thankfully there is an easier way around the list of beeps. The Shimano camera app. By long pressing on the small button, the camera will beep and flash the LEDs to green (You can’t completely get away from the beeps).
This sets up a WiFi network from the camera which you can connect to on your phone. Just be prepared to see the “connecting” dialogue often. When the WiFi has connected, the system is great, but getting into the WiFi seems to take about 2-3mins sometimes after first asking the camera to generate the network
The app allows access to all of the camera controls, including a LiveView function, which enables you to view and frame your images.
In the bottom RIGHT of the LiveView image is a button to allow you to change the camera angles for the best picture. Personally, I find that “Wide” works best for all situations.
This the main focus of any camera. How good is the photography/video it records?
The Shimano Action camera looks great, especially on the Sky Peloton video where there is plenty of things going on.
Three video moods:
|1920 x 1080 30fps, 18Mbps|
|1280 x 720 120fps, 24Mbps|
|640 x 360 240fps, 18Mbps|
Still image sizes
|6M pixels 4:3 ( 2848 x 2136 )|
|Interval recording 3M pixels 4:3 ( 2016 x 1512 )|
Interval photo recording at 10s, 20s, 30s, 60s
Auto rotation – which is EXCELLENT. The camera knows which way is up and automatically self-rotates to give a clear picture
Here are two videos I’ve recorded on a loop around the village. The first from the Shimano Action Camera:
Note I haven’t adjusted the audio or sped anything up. That annoying buzzing is the camera rattling inside the mount, even with the extra red tape!
The second from the Garmin Virb Elite on the same route
Here are two stills are taken from a different edit of the video allowing better comparison of the detail each camera can achieve
Even with resizing for uploading to the internet, I think there is a clear difference between the Garmin (top) and the Shimano (bottom)
The Shimano action camera CM1000 was actually released in the summer last year, but oddly, the camera shipped without a complete…well system. When it was first made available, the Shimano Camera Editor software wasn’t available, nor was any of the accessory mounts.
Initially, you might wonder why the lack of software matters to the camera. As long as you can put the SD card in the computer, you can get the films off, everything is good to go isn’t it? Not quite.
You see the Garmin VIRB Elite has a built-in GPS, so even if you don’t bother to connect any ANT+ sensors, there is always some useful data being stored on the camera. Even with this onboard data, the Virb Edit software is needed in order to be able to extract that GPS data, and add it to the image file on the computer. This process is not done on the camera. The theory behind this is quite straightforward though. If you don’t want the information overlay, you can give just the virgin film, if you want to have bells and whistles that an option too.
The Shimano action camera doesn’t have a built-in GPS but can pair to most, if not all ANT+ sensors.
It’s actually a nice feature that you can perform the power meter calibration through the camera app as well. The point is, like the Garmin, the Shimano action camera needs its corresponding software, to extract, in this case, the ANT+, data. Without it, you are left with the virgin film. Given this, it was a little surprising that the initial release of the Shimano action camera DIDNT coincides with the editing software!
Shimano Camera Edit
Not releasing the software is one issue. But the software that IS now available is…for want of a better word clunky, and also somewhat limited
It has all the basic functionality that is needed to import, load in the ANT+ data, and then export it – as.Mov. But I found very quickly that once I had used the software to create the movie file, I would then move over to Garmin’s Virb Edit software.
I wanted the Shimano action camera to be everything I wanted sooooo badly. It just fit! It didn’t need a jacket or a case to go in the pool, just a quick lens change. It was a perfect size. Ok, it didn’t have GPS, but realistically if I’m doing a video, what I’m primarily interested in is the speed, distance, cadence and heart rate – which I can get from the ANT+ sensors. Everything else is nice tinsel, but that’s really all it is.
The Wifi system, while tricky to set up initially, works well once you’ve connected, letting you frame shots and control the camera
The autorotation is a great feature
It has micro, not mini USB, which is a great plus and is charged quickly – yes I’m looking at you Garmin Elite!
The primary camera mount has too much play causing a rattle but is easily fixed with a bit of tape, and the mounting system will work with the myriad of existing GoPro mounts
If I’m honest, I was just disappointed with the footage quality, and that’s what the purpose of a camera is. The Garmin Virb has lots of niggles, but the image quality is excellent. With the Shimano action camera, the quality of the video is on par with that of the Fly6 rear safety camera which is a 720p camera.
MANY things to like, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the second generation brings to the table