Shimano Sport Camera review
Back in February Shimano announced the release of its CM-1000 Sport Camera, signalling a challenge to market leader GoPro and other contenders like Garmin. Since then the Sports Camera has made waves, thanks largely to its use in the pro peloton during races such as the Tour de Suisse and now the Tour de France.
CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef got his hands on a Shimano Sport Camera and wrote this review, considering the question: has Shimano created a genuine alternative to the GoPro?
If you’re at all familiar with GoPro HD Hero cameras, the first thing you’ll notice about the Shimano Sports Camera is that it feels smaller and lighter than other cameras on the market. To be fair, the Sports Camera isn’t actually that much smaller than a GoPro unit, but when you put the GoPro in its housing (for waterproofing and so you can mount it to you handlebars, for example) it’s considerably bulkier than the Shimano Sports Camera.
The Shimano camera weighs in at 93g, with mounting clip attached, while the ready-to-mount GoPro Hero 3+ weighs 136g. That mighn’t sound like much of a difference, but if you’re the sort of rider that likes to mount a camera to your helmet, you’ll be grateful for any weight savings you can get.
The Sports Camera doesn’t have a waterproof case, which contributes to the weight saving, and according to Shimano it functions fine without one:
Out of the box and without the need for an external case, CM-1000 is waterproof up to 10 meters. This depth meets the IPX-8 Waterproof Standard – the best rating for electronics experiencing continuous underwater use.
The unit doesn’t look like it should be waterproof — there are four small holes on the top of the CM-1000 (presumably to record audio) that look like they drain water straight into the unit. But having tested the unit in heavy rain and even snow (see video below) I can confirm that it works just fine in just about any conditions you’re likely to face on the bike.
Unlike the GoPro, which has a big on-off button on the front of the unit, it’s a little less obvious on the Shimano Sports Camera how to turn the thing on. There are just two buttons on the camera — a mode button (which, as it turns out, you hold for a few seconds to turn the camera on) and the recording button (which can also be used to turn the camera on, if you want it to start recording as soon as it does). To turn the camera off you press and hold the recording button for four seconds.
Where a GoPro features a basic screen for selecting recording modes, changing settings and deleting files, the Shimano Sports Camera has no such functionality. This makes it a little hard to work out how to access the unit’s features initially, but it doesn’t take long to work it out.
Most of the Shimano Sports Camera’s features are accessed via the compatible smartphone app when connected via WiFi (more on that in a moment). On the unit itself you can cycle between recording/capture modes by pressing the mode button — the two LEDs on the top of the unit show which mode you’re in.
Tech and recording specs
The Shimano Sport Camera records video in one of two angle settings — “Wide”, with a 135-degree point of view, or “Super Wide” at 180 degrees — and in three different formats:
– “Full HD”: 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second (fps)
– “HD 120fps”: 1280 x 720 pixels at 120 fps (slow-mo)
– “WVGA 240fps”: 640 x 360 pixels at 240 fps (super slow-mo)
Whenever you’ve got the camera in video recording mode, the left LED will be red while the right LED will show a colour according to the recording format you’ve selected:
– Full HD: right LED off
– HD 120fps: right LED orange
– WVGA 240fps: right LED green
While this isn’t meant to be a full comparison review, it’s worth noting that the latest edition of the GoPro, the HD Hero 3+, records at up to 60fps at 1080p resolution compared to the 30fps of the Shimano Sports Camera. The GoPro also records at up to 4K resolution whereas the Shimano Sports Camera is limited to 1080p.
The Shimano Sports Camera also takes still images, with this mode denoted by the left LED being off and the right LED being red. In addition to shooting standard stills (at 6 megapixels) the CM-1000 can take photos at either 10-, 20-, 30- or 60-second intervals (perfect for creating time-lapse movies). It doesn’t appear that you can switch between these interval shooting modes “in camera” — you have to connect the smartphone app and change the mode that way.
The camera records to MicroSD card (up to 32GB in capacity; not included), saving videos in the .mov format and images in .jpg.
The CM-1000 comes with one mount that can be configured in a couple of ways — using the supplied “belt” to attach the unit to a vented helmet, or using double-sided tape and a “leash” for mounting the unit on to a more solid helmet or other, similar surface.
You can purchase a chest mount separately, or wait until August when Shimano will be releasing mounts that will allow you to connect the CM-1000 to your handlebars, stem, seat post and so on.
Alternatively, you can simply use any of the GoPro mounts currently on the market — the Sports Camera uses the same interlocking mount scheme.
If you’re going to be mounting the camera upside down (such as to record from underneath your saddle or underneath your bars) you’ll need to invert the footage in your video editor. It’s worth noting though that if you’ve turned on the “Angle Free” option via your smartphone app, videos shot upside down (or at any 90-degree angle) will play right-way-up in most media players (e.g. QuickTime or Windows Media Player, but not VLC).
Connectivity and the Smartphone app
The Shimano Sports Camera features a standard Micro USB port for connecting it to your computer, but as mentioned above, there’s also a compatible smartphone app. After downloading the Shimano Sports Camera app from the app store (iOS or Android) you need to press and hold the Mode/WiFi button on the CM-1000 then connect your smartphone to the camera via WiFi.
The Sports Camera comes with a brief user’s manual which lists the default WiFi password, but if that doesn’t work (it didn’t for me) you need to follow the instructions on the Shimano website to reset the default password by uploading a small file to the CM-1000.
This was a little trickier than I was expecting — when I tried to upload the file to the Sports Camera (on PC and on Mac) I wasn’t able to — the camera appears to be set to “read only”. To get around this I had to pull the memory card out, put it in my GoPro, connect that to the computer, drag the file across on to the memory card then put it back in the CM-1000. A Shimano rep told us he’d experienced the same issue but that using an SD card reader is one solution.
Once you’ve established a WiFi connection you can use the app to get a “Liveview” of what the camera is seeing, start recording video or take a photo, or change a number of settings including the recording mode, the angle setting, the volume of the unit’s beeps and so on.
You’ll also be able to view any of the videos and photos currently on the camera, saving them to your smartphone if you like. Unless you’re using a card reader when connecting the camera to your computer, it’s through the smartphone app that you’ll have to delete videos and photos too. It would be nice if you were simply able to do this when plugging the camera into your computer via USB — this is the first camera (sports camera or otherwise) I’ve come across that is set to read-only.
Overall the smartphone app is solid and the Liveview feature works with an impressively minimal amount of lag. It’s not a perfect set-up though — if you close the Shimano Sports Camera app the CM-1000 automatically turns WiFi off, breaking the connection in the process. This makes sense from a battery-saving point of view, but if you’re in the app and want to check a text message on your phone, say, you’ll need to turn the CM-1000’s WiFi back on and re-establish the WiFi connection with your smartphone before proceeding. It would be nice to have the option of leaving the WiFi connection open until you disconnect it.
ANT+ and data overlays
The Shimano Sports Camera is also ANT+ compatible which means it can pull in data from power meters, heartrate monitors and even your Di2 system if you have the D-Fly wireless Di2 transmitter. If you have any of these ANT+ sensors connected to the CM-1000 (you initiate the connection via the smartphone app), whenever you record a video a corresponding data file will also be created with relevant info from your ANT+ sensors. This opens up the possibility of creating videos with data overlays, such as those seen at SUFFERvision and through other telemetry systems.
Sadly we couldn’t test this functionality because Shimano’s editing software — which allows you to combined the video file and the .csv data file — won’t be available until August. We had a look on the web for third-party software that might allow us to test this out in the meantime but services like SUFFERvision and DashWare didn’t seem to work. We asked our Shimano rep if they were aware of any other third-party software that will do the job and he replied: “besides Shimano software, not that I’m aware of.”
It’s a shame the software isn’t yet available. If you know of any software options that might work in the meantime, do let us know. Hopefully the Shimano software works as advertised once it’s available as this will be a great little tool to help you show your mates just how hard you rode your favourite climb (for example).
(Update: apparently DashWare does work with the Shimano Sports Camera but you need to email DashWare and request a particular plugin.)
To start recording a video on the Sports Camera you simply press the big red button. The unit will beep twice. Press it again to stop and the unit will beep five times.
Chances are you’ve probably already seen the footage the Sports Camera is capable of, thanks to terrific in-race footage from the Tour de France and the Tour de Suisse. Check out this video if you haven’t already:
While the following videos aren’t as spectacular as the one you see above, here are a couple I shot during my time with the Sports Camera, showing how the unit performs in different lighting. The first was shot in decent winter sunlight and shows me trying to catch my colleague Andy van Bergen on a short, steep local climb:
And this video shows how the camera performs in lower lighting, in a video shot on the slopes of Mt. Donna Buang a few weeks ago. Every shot in the video below is taken with the Shimano Sports Camera, except the closing two shots at the summit, which come from my iPhone 5.
As you can see, the quality of the video produced by the CM-1000 is more than fine for what it’s being used for. The quality isn’t perfect, but this isn’t an enterprise-level video solution — it’s a 100g sports camera mounted to a bike. The quality suffers somewhat in low light, but that’s to be expected and certainly isn’t a deal-breaker. To my eye, the footage the CM-1000 captures is of a comparable quality to that of the GoPro HD Hero 3.
According to this page on the Shimano website the battery in the Shimano Sports Camera should last for 2.2 hours when recording in Full HD (1080p at 30fps). I was able to get almost exactly that — 2 hours and 10 minutes — while recording in temperatures of around 20 degrees celcius.
On the Mt. Donna Buang snow ride, however, the battery lasted less than half of that time — roughly 30 minutes of filming and about the same again while turned on but not filming. To the best of my knowledge this is consistent with the performance of lithium ion (and other) batteries in cold weather generally — capacity drops as the temperature drops. Our Shimano rep gave the following advice for using the CM-1000 in cold conditions:
“The best solution to this problem is to remove the camera and store it in your pocket when not using for filming. Close to your armpits for maximum warmth!”
Price and availability
According to Shimano the CM-1000 is only available in Australia through authorised dealers and you can find your nearest dealer by heading to the Dealer Locator on the Shimano website.
One such dealer, Cell Bikes in Sydney, has the Sports Camera for $348. That’s roughly $100 cheaper than the GoPro HD Hero 3+ Black Edition and roughly $20 cheaper than the comparable GoPro HD Hero 3+ Silver Edition.
Final thoughts and summary
There’s a lot to like about the Shimano Sports Camera. It’s light, compact and most importantly it takes footage that’s more than good enough for its intended purpose. If the data overlay functionality works as it should that will be a lot of fun to play with, but it’s hard to say anything more about it at this point without testing it.
The Sports Camera’s smaller form factor comes at the expense of in-camera functionality and the ability to change settings on the fly. Some of this is offset by a solid smartphone app but GoPro users (and others) might miss being able to flick through menus and settings without pulling out their phone.
Despite the solid two-hour battery life, the Shimano Sports Camera does have a smaller battery than its competitors and while there are fewer recording options (and a lower maximum recording resolution) than on the GoPro, say, these factors might not be an issue for most users.
One small issue we found with the unit was that the lens cover seemed to get scratched quite easily. Even wiping water away from the lens cover with cycling gloves resulted in tiny scratches on the surface. This didn’t have a demonstrable impact on recording quality but the scratches are certainly visible. We asked Shimano whether this was something that had been reported by others:
“We haven’t had any issues with scratches prior to yours, but it is early days. The cap is replaceable and we have stock of these items. As per all units, with housing or without, care should be taken to only clean them with a soft cloth as your glove may have had grit or similar on it without you really noticing.”
So is the Shimano Sports Camera a viable alternative to the GoPro? In a word, yes. It mightn’t have the same feature set as the market leader but if you simply want to record footage of your rides for putting on the internet, this will more than suffice.
At the very least, it’s great to see another big player in the sports camera market pushing GoPro, Garmin and others for continual improvement. And at the end of the day it will be consumers that benefit most from greater depth in the market.