When Shimano joined the largely GoPro-dominated wearable camera market in 2014 with their Shimano CM-1000 Sports Camera, I don’t think I was alone in being skeptical as to whether or not the camera could compete. Afterall, this is a camera that for all intensive purposes is designed to appeal to, and work well for, both fisherman and cyclists; two sports that in my opinion could not possibly be further apart on the sporting spectrum. Yes, Shimano is famous for doing its due-diligence, extensive testing, and putting out amazingly good products, but could their first crack at a wearable camera actually make the cut against some very stiff competition?
First, let’s talk specs. The years Shimano was reported to have spent on the development of this camera certainly show in the specs and features department. It’s bright F2.0 lens, coupled with it’s 16mp CMOS sensor allows users to record stunning video at 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 120 fps, and 640×360 at 240 fps, reportedly in even the lowest of lighting conditions. A very cool 90 degree incremental auto image rotation feature allows users to mount the camera in any orientation and maintain a horizontal image plane. There are two angle modes available to choose from as well: the standard 135 degree angle, and (my personal favourite) the super-wide 180 degree mode. The Shimano Sports Cam measures 44x70x30mm and at only 86 grams it is incredibly light– a feature that should keep your neck happy when it’s mounted on your head. Yes, Shimano certainly seems to have brought a proper gun to the gun fight.
Aside: I should note that one of the features available on the CM-1000 is that it uses ANT+ and ANT private wireless connections to “talk” to some specific bicycle computers and accessories. This includes the Shimano D-Fly which can record your performance data while you record video. These features are all currently unique to this camera, and is a big plus for those who love to scour over data post-ride. Unfortunately, I do not have anything that would connect with the CM-1000, so I can’t properly comment on these features, but you should know that the support is there.
First Impressions & Unboxing
Immediately after opening the package and examining the camera I noticed a number of things that got me excited about it right away. The first was that the camera mounts differently than others that I’d used before. It “lies flat” rather than standing on end like a big dumb brick. This allows for much more discreet mounting, which made me very happy. I was able to mount the camera under my full-face visor and feel very little to no weight added on my head. What made me even happier though, was that I couldn’t see it in my peripheral vision either. The second thing that I realized was how light the camera is. At an aforementioned 86 grams, this camera is right on the money in the weight department, which should keep the weight-weenies and their necks happy. Most impressively, the third realization I came to was how incredibly not waterproof it looks. I tore through the box finding only a thin, rubber skin that wasn’t possibly waterproof before reading that the bare camera was, indeed, waterproof straight out of the box up to 10 meters. Still, I was petrified about putting it in the water until I just went for it and everything worked perfectly (and still does).
Admittedly, after opening the box and dumping the contents on my floor, I would have liked to have seen a wider collection of mounting options and hardware. Instead, I found only a head/helmet mount strap, a thin strap that I can only assume is for your wrist, and two thin sticky strips to stick the somewhat awkwardly wide camera mounting base to your lid. However, this issue was quickly solved for me when I realized that this camera is compatible with the GoPro mounts I have already. I should mention, however that I was able to mount the camera to my Medium/Large Troy Lee Designs D3 without issue using the included Shimano mounts, but I feel that this should be pointed out nonetheless. Shimano was also cool enough to send along a PRO handle bar mount that I was able to install on bike number two, my clunker commuter.
Ask my fiancée or any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I tend to yell and curse at technology that “isn’t working like it should” until it “starts working like it should”. I yell at my iPhone, my video camera, my computer and my GoPro, so I was interested to see how much yelling I’d have to do at this fine piece of technology. I initially ignored the instructions to set up the Shimano Sports Cam app on my phone, and struggled a bit to use the two buttons available to get the camera set in the mode that I wanted. To clarify, the problem wasn’t so much using the buttons—they’re very easy to find and press—the problem was trying to remember what each colour combination meant. There is no display telling you what mode you’re in or what video quality you’ve selected. The LED lights simply change colour based on what mode you’re in. For someone with a bad memory like myself, this is difficult to remember and I didn’t feel like carrying the instruction card around until I committed them all to memory.
After some yelling, I decided to install the app. My world changed! The app was very easy to install on my iPhone 4 (the app is Android-compatible as well) and it worked seamlessly right away. The camera connects to your phone VIA WiFi connection and allows you to easily change all modes and settings, check out the live feed, and immediately playback some video from your gnarly crash on that root after the left-hander over the drop. This made life much easier during camera setup, and made for some really fun rides home or back up the lift with buddies. I will mention that I occasionally experienced a slight bit of lag when watching videos playback on the app. This increased with distance between the devices, which is to be expected with a weak wifi connection. Never a problem necessarily, as the lag can easily be stopped by making sure both devices are in close proximity to one another and more or less stationary. When they were, playback was damn near perfect. Just don’t wave it around or walk away and you’ll be just fine.
Recording Video and Shooting Photos with the CM-1000
To put it simply, recording with the CM-1000 is a very pleasant, simple, and fast experience. To start recording, I was able to feel the record button with my gloves on and press it easily without having to remove my helmet, even while riding. One second later, two amply audible beeps told me that the camera is on and recording. When the ride (or run) was over, you simply press the record button again and five rapid beeps tell you that the camera is no longer recording. Holding the record button down for four seconds turns the device off completely.
Shooting photos couldn’t have been easier as well. Simply change to photo mode using either the app or the buttons on the camera (red light on the right side, if you’re looking at the camera from the top). Then, snapping a photo is as simple as pressing the record button. If you’re connected to your smartphone, you can even use the live feed to make sure you grab the perfect frame. The CM-1000 also allows users to take photos in time-lapse mode in 10, 20, 30, and 60-second intervals. Changing from single photo mode to time-lapse mode is accomplished easily through the app under the settings tab.
Video & Photo Quality
Arguably the most important consideration when purchasing a camera is the quality of the video and the photos that the camera spits out. Up against some stiff competition, I was eager to see how the Shimano CM-1000 performed. In my opinion, the most important thing to check first when testing a wearable video camera is of course the video quality, so let’s start there.
1080p HD at 30fps – In good lighting, beautiful sharp, crisp video is produced under this setting. The colours come out of the camera very near true to life and the motion appears very smooth without being blurry. Slow motion can be achieved with video editing software, but only to about 60-50% of the original speed before things start to get choppy. Still, quite impressive for such a little camera set at only 30 frames per second.
720p HD at 120fps – There is not much more to say here that wasn’t already said about 1080p. Again, in good lighting the video is very crisp and smooth and the colours true to life. Expectedly however, the video is just not as crisp as it is in 1080p. The tradeoff for this however, makes it almost a non-issue. Because the video is recorded at 120fps, you can get amazingly smooth slow motion video capability, while still filming in HD. This is a great setting for faster sports, including gravity-defying enthusiasts like myself. I had the camera on this setting most of the time during testing and I don’t regret a thing.
640×360 at 240 fps – Very much the same as the other two, the image quality is great, albeit a smaller image. For this reason I can’t see this setting be used often by many users unless they’re trying to capture a single shot and don’t care for it to be HD. However, recording at a frame rate of 240 fps does generate some very interesting and impressive slow motion video.
Photo mode – I’ve got admit something: I damn near forgot to actually even test this mode because to me, this is not an important feature for a video camera to have. If I want a photo and I don’t have a DSLR, I’d rather take video and take a screen grab later. However, I did test this feature and if I’m honest I was hoping for a bit more from the CM-1000. At 6 megapixels, images were unfortunately a bit blurry, especially if the content was not perfectly centred in the frame. This effect is magnified when moving, especially at higher speeds. Nevertheless, most people that I know (myself included), who have a wearable video camera almost never use them for photos. That said, it is my opinion that this is not a huge strike against the Sports Cam at all.
Some more video and photo quality notes that should be made: In 180 degree mode, the corners of the camera’s lense can be seen, creating a vignette effect—almost like a fisheye. Personally, I liked the effect it created and with where I had the camera mounted my visor was visible in the top corners anyway. Additionally, in certain lighting conditions and at the perfect angle the lens seems to reflect back on itself. Lastly when recording in darker or dimmer areas, like inside a poorly lit building, the image quality just isn’t as quite good as it was when outside in good lighting, or in natural shade.
So the question remains: can the Shimano CM-1000 Sports Camera really compete with the current giants of the wearable camera industry? The answer is simply: without question. However, I think the Shimano camera was beautifully put together and outfitted with just the right amount of everything to appeal to the largest market segment grouping: the casual “just for fun” and “because I can” group. You know, the group that isn’t producing feature films or trying to the next viral video; the group that wants a camera that can just as well capture the catch of their largest fish as it can their high speed gravity defying stunts. Yes, other wearable cameras can do that but at a price tag of $299.99 CAD, it is priced in about the middle of the helmet camera world which I’d say is more than fair for a high quality camera like this. When you think about it, this “just for fun and because I can” grouping really is probably about 75% of us who would actually buy one. I really believe that those who are reading this would love this camera as much as I do. It does a great job at everything that I needed it to do: it’s durable, it’s light, it’s compact, it’s easy to setup (with the app’s help), it produces amazing HD video and slow motion video, and it’s got the best waterproof rating on the market… even if it doesn’t look like it.
I’ll say this to finish it off: I like it more than my GoPro. Bam!