Monday 18 May 2020

Sports camera

When I started cycling as an adult about ten years ago I never thought I'd buy a camera to record my rides and report bad driving.

After a few close passes I bought a GoPro Hero. Eventually the battery wouldn't hold a charge for very long - it wasn't long to start with - so I looked at the alternatives. The GoPro brand is the Apple Mac of action cameras. Expensive, maybe not as feature rich as others but are easy to use; they are almost the default option.

Summary: Expensive, ok picture quality; poor in low light, short battery life, very easy to use.

gopro hero
it's had a tough life
My next purchase was a bad choice. It's a generic bullet camera based on a Sony chip. The picture quality is great, better than my old GoPro. But the rest is worse.

Sony bullet camera

I bought it because the retailer said battery life was around four hours, and could be swapped when flat.

The disappointment started when it arrived. One of the two batteries was DOA. This was quickly replaced, so that at least was helpful. Unfortunately neither lasted close to four hours. Other sites said it should run for around two and half hours. The best I got was ninety minutes.

I ordered two more batteries from another supplier, one was DOA. Again the charged life was not as advertised.

Less than two months later the batteries started to fail, eventually only one would hold a charge. Then that started to be troublesome; it was time to look around again.

A further problem I had relates to ease of use; setting the date and time, video record length and whether to show the timestamp. You have to attach the camera to a computer and edit a text file. What I didn't realise was that swapping batteries or memory card resets the above to factory default. The forums I read say this is not an issue with everyone. For me it means that if I had a spare battery, changing it or the card mid ride meant it reverted some or all of the settings.

Another issue was the supplied handlebar mount. It is so springy the camera continually flaps about. If it did have image stabilisation there is no way it could compensate. I tied it to the mount I had used for the GoPro. It was a bit of a bodge, velcro and bluetack, but it worked. The helmet mount was okay, but I could never get it straight.

Summary: Good picture quality except in low light. Poor battery life, and user experience. Cheap.

I went for the Cycliq fly 12. Mainly for the battery life. I looked at others with similar promises, but wanted to go with a recognised name, hopefully to avoid build quality issues.

Cycliq Fly12

I had heard the mount was fragile, it seemed okay to me. Although, it is the only camera I know supplied with a safety tether.

The issue seemed mostly to be caused by the twisting action to disengage it from the handlebar clamp. I decided to use the GoPro mount already on my bikes. It would mean I could just undo the bolt, rather than risk a twist. I also didn't need to buy another clamp.

Nothing is ever straightforward however; the mount isn't quite the correct width. I can't tighten the clamp enough the stop the camera moving when I hit a big bump. I'll have to find a shim.

First impressions: battery life is much better than my previous devices, it's very easy to use, the picture quality is as good as the Sony, the stabilisation seems to work, not as expensive as a GoPro.

I am using a 32gb microSD card, it's now the limiting factor if I want to record long rides. It does delete older footage when the card fills, and at low res it will start doing this after about two hours. Most of my rides are less than that so I think I may have found a winner.

Here is a video from it. If only more lanes were like this, just birdsong.

The pictures on this post were taken with my "big" Nikon, I haven't used it since my last studio shoot back in March. Just a week before lockdown came into force.

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