Shimano Sport Camera
A small action camera that's decent, but its features need work
- Waterproof and dust-proof by default
- Small and easy to carry
- Ultra-wide viewing angle
- Not all video modes recorded smoothly
- Shimano smartphone app didn't work properly for us
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Fishing enthusiasts and cyclists know all about Shimano reels and gears. Based on that name recognition, the company will no doubt be hoping that users of its products will also have a mind to check out the action cam it's offering. It's called the Shimano Sport Camera, and it's pitched at cyclists, as well as those of you who want to record activities near (or on and under) the water.
It's a camera that's waterproof by default, which means you don't have to fiddle around with any extra housings, except for a supplied underwater lens attachment that twists on. A door on the rear conceals the slot for the microSD card and the micro-USB port, and there is an O-ring in place to keep water out, as well as a lock on the door to prevent it from accidentally opening. Its rating is to a depth of 10m, at which it can last no longer than two hours. That's no problem, because the battery will barely give you that much endurance when shooting video.
Optics are by way of an f/2.0 lens that has a standard angle of 135 degrees and a super-wide angle of 180 degrees, and it sits in front of a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. It can capture video at up to 1080p resolution, but there are also a couple of other modes that can be used: 720p at 120 frames per second (fps), and 480p at 240fps. Since there is no settings screen on the camera, you have to make do by pressing the mode button on the camera, listening to the beeps, and looking at the colour of the LED indicators. A warning: the beeps the camera makes are loud, and could get quite annoying after a while, depending on how quiet your environment is.
You can change modes intuitively after you've had some practice with the camera. However, unless you remember the order of the modes, and the LEDs that represent them, it can be too easy to start recording in the wrong mode.
There are two LEDs to look at: one for video recording and battery status, and one for still images. Full HD mode is indicated by the video LED being illuminated. A press of the mode button puts it into 720p mode (both LEDs illuminated but the still image LED turns orange), another press puts it into 420p mode (both LEDs illuminated but the still image LED turns green), and a further press puts it into still image mode (only the still image LED is on), at which it captures images up to six megapixels.
The camera remembers which mode it was left in after you switch it off and on again, and you have to remember that, too, so that you can go back to the mode that you want. There is another mode that's present on the camera, and that's Wi-Fi. This can be invoked by pressing the mode button for a few seconds while both LEDs flash green.
In Wi-Fi mode, you can make a direct connection to the camera and then use the Shimano Sport Camera app to access functions such as a live view of what the camera is seeing. We didn't have much luck at all with this feature through our Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, only getting it to work once, for a few seconds, before the app crashed. Further attempts to use Wi-Fi were met with a message from the app saying we weren't connected to the camera, when we actually were. An update to the app might be in order.
Image quality from the Sport Camera is at its highest in Full HD mode. The wide-view lens puts up a noticeable angle on straight lines, so you will see plenty of bubbling and bobbing in the image when the angles change from twisting and turning your body or vehicle. The definition leans more to the blurry side of things, and there is chromatic aberration on objects such as trees. We didn't have much luck capturing useful footage with the 720p and 420p modes, as the video stuttered.Read more: GoPro's new action camera is smaller than ever
If you keep this camera in Full HD mode, then it will do a decent job of capturing your action adventure; just don't expect stellar quality. It weighs under 90g on its own, and it's very easy to keep in a pocket. A stand and strap are supplied in the box so that you can mount it to things such as bicycle helmets, and double sided tape and a leash are also offered for situations in which the strap can't be used.
A retail price of around $299 keeps the Shimano Sports Camera competitive, but it's perhaps not a compelling enough price to stop one from considering a consumer GoPro model instead. We like the size of the Shimano and that we don't have to fiddle with a housing to make it waterproof, but we also think it needs work. The Wi-Fi function didn't work for us, and the documentation wasn't clear enough about how to use all the functions that the camera supports — for example, the specs list still image interval recording, but we couldn't find a way to invoke this feature during our limited time with the camera.
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