GoPro’s Tiny New 74g Camera, Hero 4 Session

The wearable camera giants, GoPro have announced a tiny new camera weighing only 74g, with only one button and controllable via their GoPro mobile app.

The small size, with a durable and waterproof casing up to 10m, it is going to open up endless possibilities for mounting this thing anywhere you want.

Function wise, the new Hero 4 Session packs many of the features of the 147g Black and Silver model cameras, but loses out on 4K and 2.7K footage capturing capabilities.

It uses the same mount as current GoPros, with the addition of a ball-joint mount (pictured below, third image) for even more mounting options.

The built in battery will give you two hours of claimed run time, and can be recharged via a micro USB cable only, similar to the Shimano Sport Camera we use a lot.

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HERO 4 Session Features

$579.95 AUD

– Stunning 1080p60, 720p100, and 1440p30 video

– Waterproof to 33’ (10m), no separate housing required

– Easy one-button control: short press of shutter powers camera on and begins capturing video, long shutter button press powers camera on and begins capturing time-lapse photos

– Captures 8MP Single, Burst, and Time Lapse photo

– Compatible with GoPro mounts and accessories

– Dual Mic system captures enhanced audio during high wind and water-based activities

– Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth® enable easy connectivity to GoPro App and Smart Remote

– Auto image rotation corrects image orientation during recording

– Includes standard and low-profile frame mounts for increased mounting versatility

– New Ball Joint Buckle mount is included

 

And lastly, who doesn’t love a GoPro, GoPro video made by GoPro!

Amazing Fontana Downhill Track Preview

Most of the time track previews give you a very limited view.

Shaky GoPro footage taken at sixty kilometres an hour can sometimes turn the sketchiest of features, or the most beautiful of landscapes into an indistinguishable blur.

KHS Factory Racing have realised this, and put together an incredible preview of the Fontana downhill course, using drone and GoPro footage combined to not only show the features of the track, but also the beautiful landscape.

Fresh Product: Drift Stealth 2, Smallest and Lightest Drift Camera

Drift Innovation announce their eighth generation camera, a tiny and lightweight version of their popular Drift Ghost camera, the Drift Stealth 2. At only 97 grams, this mini device answers the need for smaller and lighter cameras to further extend the usability of the wearable camera.

The addition of the Drift Stealth 2 expands their current range to three option, the small Stealth sits alongside the Drift HD Ghost and premium feature-packed Drift Ghost-S. In an effort to decrease weight and size, the Stealth’s list of features is reduced in comparison to it’s bigger brothers, but we believe the success of a good camera is not the amount of dazzling tech features, but the ease of use of capturing video and photos that we can actually use.

A colour coded LCD display indicates the shooting mode, and three small buttons navigate the menu with remarkable simplicity.

Read our earlier review of the bigger Ghost-S here. http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-drift-ghost-s-action-camera/

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Tiny, yep.

Three hours of recording time, 60fps at 720p or 30fps at 1080p, 12MP still images, 135 degree view and a rotating lens are the standout features. A new Android and IOS app ‘Drift Connect’ is on the way too, to help you set up shots, record remotely and share via your mobile device. Wifi connectivity with these cameras is super handy, and can help eliminate those throw-away shots due to bad angles with camera pointing the wrong way.

What sets the Drift apart from the others is the rotating lens, with 300 degrees of rotation, you can mount it to anything, and roll the from element around to achieve a horizontal recording shot, too easy!

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The Stealth on the right, next to the original HD Ghost.
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The Stealth loses the live screen in favour of a back-lit LCD screen. Colour coded to communicate shooting modes, clever.

For a fair $329 the Stealth is also the cheapest of the Drift options, but if you’re after a completely waterproof camera with the highest frame rates and recording sizes, the Drift HD and Ghost-S is still available for $399 and $499 respectively.

Expect a full review of the Stealth 2 on Flow very soon!

 

World Champs Course Preview, With Claudio and Brendan Fairclough

Our tamed test pilot, Claudio Caluori, has pretty much had it all his own way this season. His companion riders on the GoPro course previews have either bitten the dust or eaten his… So, with the World Champs looming, we decided to up the stakes a little.

We invited his own Gstaad Scott rider, Brendan Fairclough, along to join him. Would Claudio be able to beat him down the Hafjell course or would flat pedals and whips prevail?!

Also, keep your eyes pealed for a spot of celebrity nudity on the side of the track…

Video: What I Do In Whistler – Must Watch

Last night the GoPro Dirt Diaries happened at Whistler Olympic Plaza in front of a crowd of over 4000 people as a part of Crankworx Whistler.

A total of six videos put together by invited athletes and their selected filmmakers and teams screened in front of fans and a judging panel of five of the mountain bike industry’s most influential film professionals. The level of videos was stepped up again for 2014 and fans were wowed by some of the best riding and stories told to date.

The invited teams were Claire Buchar with the Summer Of Summit filming crew, Kirt Voreis with filmer Gunner Oliphant, rider Wade Simmons with Connor Macleod, Ross Measures with filmmaker Matt Dennison, rider Andrew Taylor with Long Nguyen and slope style rider Yannick Granieri with Jules Langeard. 

At the end of the night, the top three finishers who took home $10,000 in total prize money were:
1. Ross Measures and Matt Dennison – $5000
2. Kirt Voreis and Gunner Oliphant – $3000
3. Claire Buchar and the Summer Of Summit Crew – $2000

Flow’s First Bite: Shimano Sport Camera

This one’s more out of left field than Clive Palmer grabbing senate seats! Shimano, the world’s biggest bike component manufacturer have entered the helmet / wearable camera market.

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Click here to read our full review.

With the experience in electronics Shimano has developed over the last half dozen years with their Di2 battery-powered shifting, we guess the Japanese giant has been laying the ground work on this move for a long time.

But can Shimano be a serious challenger in this incredibly competitive market? We’ve seen a number of brands throw themselves up against the might GoPro and come away second best. What gives the Shimano Sport Camera a fighting chance? Certainly not the name… Sport Camera?

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We previewed the Sport Camera couple of months ago and finally received a test unit in the mail today. After half an hour or so of tooling around with it, we’ve got to say it really does seem to be very good. You can read all the tech specs here, but below are our initial impressions.

First up, it’s absolutely tiny. At just 86g and not much bigger than a box of matches, it’s impressively petite – a child could swallow it – as it doesn’t rely on a waterproof casing to protect the innards. The whole unit is waterproof to a depth of 10 metres apparently (no surprise really, given Shimano also push this unit as a product for their fishing market too).

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There’s no live display or menu on the camera – instead it relies on a basic series of coloured LEDs to let you know what mode the camera is in. BUT this rather basic on-camera information is supplemented by a fantastic smart phone App. So far, we’re confident in saying the interface between phone and camera is the best we’ve used. You can change modes, resolutions, replay and delete clips, format the card, switch the lens angle from 135-180 degrees and more from your phone. There also seems to be very little lag from the camera to the phone display.

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In the box there’s a couple of mounting options, namely a stick-on flat surface mount and a vented helmet mount. As we’ve found in the past, the success or failure of a camera like this can really rest on the quality and availability of good mounting options, so we’re super happy to see that the Shimano camera works with all GoPro mounts, as well as a range of Shimano’s own mounts.

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Unfortunately you’ll need to shell out for a micro SD card before you can actually record anything, but that’s fair enough as the $449 price tag seems quite reasonable to us thus far.

Incredibly, the camera is also ANT+ enabled, meaning it can record information from your GPS and incorporate that into the video file. And if you’re a roadie you’ll be pleased to know that the camera can talk to your Shimano Di2 shifting (providing you’ve got the new Di2 D-Fly transmitter) and incorporate all kinds of nerdy info about your shifting too. Welcome to #thefuture.

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We’re really looking forward to reviewing this one!

 

Tested: Drift Ghost-S Action Camera

If you’re not GoPro then it’s a tough action camera market to get attention in to. However, the Drift Ghost-S is a fresh camera with a different approach on life and we think it’s definitely worth consideration. It’s water-proof, without the need of extra casing; has an in-built LCD, so you can review your shots and get an instant replay of the action; has heaps of battery power; and it’s got a rotating lens so you can line up your shots perfectly.

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The Ghost-S is a little different from the others.
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What’s in the box (audio cable and remote were a little camera shy).

Out-of-the-box the camera comes with two flat surface one-time-use sticky mounts, audio-in cable, wrist strap, wrist remote control, USB cable, goggle strap mount, dry weather rear door, 1700mAh replaceable battery, and 16GB micro SD memory card. Pretty much everything you need.

The Ghost-S is a forward facing camera, like the Sony Action Cam and now defunct Contour. Being so it’s a little different to mount chest mount it pretty much out. It’s also a little bigger than it’s competitors but that’s because of the LCD and toughened exterior. However, seeing as it doesn’t need an extra housing, when compared to others (once in their housing) it’s not too bad.

The top of the camera has all the menu buttons and mode indictor light. The rear of the camera has a water-proof door that hides and protects the memory card, battery, microphone input, HDMI output and USB port. If you’re never going to get the camera wet you can change the water-proof rear cover with a cover that lets you access the ports without removing said cover. The right side has the 2” LCD display and the left a standard tripod mount – which we loved as we could easily attach the camera to other assessories.

The Ghost-S is a killer on paper with all the technical spec’s you’re looking for: Up to 1080p @ 60fps, super slow motion @ 240 fps (only at small WVGA though), 3.5 hours of recording life, a 2 inch LCD display, water-proof (to 3m), rotating lens with Gorilla glass, standard tripod mount, Wifi connectivity, 4 shooting modes (video, stills, timelapse, burst), 90-160 degree Field-of-View settings, digital zoom (for stills), and optional manual exposure.

Overall the image quality was good (as good as you can get for any action cam). Even though the Ghost uses a Sony sensor we think it’s not quite up there with Sony on image quality. Colours and quality are best in full light and being that most people will be uploading their footage to the web then the image quality is more than acceptable.  Image stabilisation wasn’t industry leading but acceptable  (we’re still waiting on someone to come up with something that’s good enough for mountain biking anyway).

Most people get caught up in the megapixels, frame rates, and all the technical guff, but in reality it’s the easy of use, mount-ability and durability that really matters. We’ve been playing with the Ghost-S for a few weeks now and here’s the lowdown on what we think of it as a real-world mountain bike action cam.

The Good Stuff

No case. That’s right, there’s no extra case to mess with. The Ghost-S has a toughened exterior and can take a pretty good pounding as is.

It’s water proof right out of the box (without the need for an extra case). Whilst it’s only to 3m we don’t expect anyone to be riding their mountain bike below that depth anyway so it’s a winner.

It has an LCD. This is fantastic for lining up your shots and reviewing your footage. Sure you can get this review function on other cameras with a wifi connection to your smart phone but being in-built saves time and battery power. Viewing the LCD screen was good in shaded or darker situations but in direct sun it’s a little harder to see. The LCD also displays all the important information (resolution, Field-of-View, battery level) in an easy to read manner.

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We loved having an LCD screen, especially for shooting off bike stuff where we could line up that perfect shot.

Bright colours to indicate shooting modes. The front of the Ghost has a bright light that changes colour to indicate what mode you’re in. So simple.

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Super simple idea. A big bright light to indicate what mode you’re shooting in.

Simple menu system. Navigation was simple and intuitive and with the added bonus of the LCD to navigate with.

A 300 degree rotating lens. Sometimes you just can’t mount an action camera exactly where you want and rather than messing around with re-aligning the shot in post (in software – which will mean some cropping and loss of resolution) you can get the shot perfect no matter what angle it’s at.

Standard tripod mount. The Ghost uses an industry standard ¼” threaded tripod mount for attaching the Ghost to other accessories. No propriety adaptor needed. The mount is also directly on the camera with no case needed for mounting.

Simple small remote. The wrist remote is small and very easy to use, with bright lights to indicate what mode you’re shooting in.

16GB Card in the box. We love a big card that comes standard.

Battery life. It lasts for ages. In one test session we used the camera for about 2 hours, using the LCD and fiddling a little more than normal and only got to 50% battery life. That’s pretty good in our books.

The Less Than Good Stuff

It’s probably a bit heavy. All the hardening, LCD and big battery means a camera that’s a little heavy, but still only 173g (as tested). When mounted on the side of a helmet it’s weight is notacable and a counter weight on the opposite side would be preferable for balancing.

Remote range. Yes, we loved the remote, but without getting out the measuring tape and being overly accurate we found that it wouldn’t work too well past about 5 meters from the camera. Not a problem when shooting on body or bike, but if you’re into off bike selfie movies then don’t expect to be able to trigger the camera from the start of your 100 meter run-in for that huge gap.

Goggle Strap. The goggle strap (which comes in the box as a standard accessory) isn’t the best. As we’ve said before, the only way to get the best out of an action cam is by being able to tighten the camera down firmly to minimise camera movement. It’s probably more marketed to the smoother snow world but on a mountain bike the harshness of the terrain was just too much.

Dynamic range. We though the dynamic range (the ability to see details in the dark areas of a mixed light scene) was a little on the low side. We also found that when riding in dappled light it was a little slow in adjusting exposure.

Audio. Like every single action cam, get over 10kms and it sucks.

Helmet Mount. The one-time-use helmet mounts worked great but seeing as they need a solid surface to mount to it’s a little hard to mount them on most mountain bike helmets. This would be the biggest mounting issue we see with the Ghost-S.

No case. (yep, this is a good and bad). While it’s a great thing not to have the case we’d be worried about the long-term durability of the lens and LCD. While the lens cover can be replaced we’re not sure what a huge rock would do to the LCD (which probably isn’t as easily replaced). Plus, the LCD may get pretty scratched over time making it harder to see the action.

No “lock” function. It’s pretty hard to knock the buttons on the top of the camera for accidental operation, however there’s still not ability to lock off the camera buttons.

As we’ve stated before, action cams are really only was good as where you can mount them and a tick in the box for Ghost for their list of accessories, which seem good for mountain biking (apart from a good helmet mount). Add the standard tripod mount, and rotating lens, and you can mount this camera anywhere (except probably your chest).

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The universal clip for connecting camera to Ghost accessories.

The Final Word

As a mountain bike action camera the Ghost-S is great. It’s simple to use, strong, goes forever and has a usable LCD screen. It’s different and we think that it’s the difference which makes it a great camera and well worth your consideration.

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It’s even super easy to see what you’re doing with the supplied wearable wrist remote. (photographed here less the wrist strap).

Tested: Sony Action Cam

First-person video cameras, point-of-view action cameras, small wearable cameras – whatever you call them – have become infinitely popular in the last few years.  One search on YouTube will yield enough MTB first-person footage to keep you viewing for a lifetime.

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The Sony Action Cam with the Live-View remote. If you’re small, the remote is big.

GoPro led that charge and over the past few years others have followed, Sony included. The Sony Action Cam is Sony’s aggressive attempt at the first person market and when it’s a market that’s pretty saturated already you have to come up with a good point of difference for the masses to be converted.  We think Sony is an industry leader for image quality and stabilisation (and that’s a point of difference), but lacks a little in the accessory and MTB usability departments.

We are reviewing this camera as a mountain bike accessory and while the camera has many other uses and functions we will focus on how useful it is on the trail. Also, let’s be honest, most people don’t buy these cameras in the hope of winning the next Academy Award for cinematography, so we’ve reviewed the camera from a real-world perspective – is it good enough for what the majority of people want and how they’ll actually use it.

Let’s begin with the physical unit. The Sony Action Cam is long and slim and very light.  Its “orientation” is opposite to that of GoPro with the lens at the front of the body and more in a “pointed” stance, which in theory is more aerodynamic (but more of pain to chest mount). On the side of the camera is a small LCD screen and two control buttons.  The rear of the camera has a start/stop button, a lock button (to prevent accidental operation the camera), a hinged door which opens to reveal the memory card (a 4GB micro SD is include in the box) and the replaceable battery. At the bottom of the camera is another compartment which hides the various ports used for USB (data transfer and charging), HDMI out, Sony accessories, and external microphone port. The ports are great and add functionality to the camera however in reality they cannot be used when operating the camera as you cannot mount the camera without the door being shut.  On that point, the only way to mount the camera to anything is with the waterproof case. [Flow has seen some early photos of the next generation of the Action Cam and this issue seems to be resolved.]

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As you can see the only mounting point is at the bottom of the waterproof housing. This has been fixed in the next generation model.

Setting up and operating the Action Cam was very simple. The on-camera menu system is easy and intuitive and the information displayed, as to settings and mode, is very clear.  Turning the camera on/off is a simple single button push with some audio feedback (although a little muted inside the waterproof case).

We also received the additional wrist-watch accessory that enables you to operate the camera from your wrist. This was great as you can see, in real-time, where the camera is pointing – no more guessing.  It is however a little big and looks a little awkward on the wrist.

There is also a smart-phone application that connects to the Action Cam via WiFi and lets you see both the live view and control the camera. We did have some issues with the connectivity of the smart-phone app and our connection rate was about 20%.  A very handy function once they get it a little more stable.

Both the watch and phone connection do chew through the battery (due to the WiFi connection) so it’s best used very sparingly. We only got about an hour of use when we were abusing the Wifi connectivity, so only switch it on when really necessary. The Action Cam also has GPS capabilities, however, we did not test this function.

Now to the guts of the camera – it has all the numbers to impress any camera nerd.  The Action Cam has several different video modes: 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @30fps, 720p @60fps, and 720P @120fps, just what you need for the slow motion action. There is also a flexible and very handy time-lapse mode that’s great for shooting your standard “moving clouds” video intro. The lens is very wide angled with two different field-of-view options: 120-degrees and 170-degrees (that’s super wide.)

Image quality is clean, very colourful and great for such small lens and sensor. We’re not going to kid ourselves and say it’s DSLR quality, as no little camera like this is, but it is more than good enough to produce excellent web edits. Dynamic range is very good and the details between shadows and light are great which is important when filming in filtered light (like trees on a sunny day).

The camera does of course take still images and at 11.9 megapixels they’re pretty big and usable for all of your Internet posting needs. As with any camera with a small lens and sensor you’re not going to get magically good photos and it’s more akin the smart phone quality and use (without any zoom though).

Audio quality is what you expect; like other wearable cameras, once you get over a walking pace the audio is pretty useless. Great for sounds bites, parties and lifestyle stuff, but on a bike they just get too much wind noise.

The real strength in the Sony Action Cam is the image stabilisation.  Sony has a long history with their “Steady Shot” technology and this shows with the Action Cam. We think that the Sony is the steadiest of all the point-of-view crowd but even with the greatest of image stabilisation there is still the need to fix the camera securely to an object, as all the technology in the world is useless if the camera moves too much.

This is where the supplied handlebar/bike mount disappointed us. It was awkwardly too tall and also introduced too much movement and thus the Sony technology was unable to fix that vomit-inducing image shake. The one-time-use stick-on mounts were great, and very solid, but only if you have an unvented patch of helmet you can stick the mount to. We battled to find a spot on our helmet to secure the mount, but obviously you won’t have this problem with a full-face helmet.

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The handlebar mount is a little too high (once you mount the camera on it) and moves fore and aft too much.

The main point, and fun, of point-of-view cameras is the ability to mount them everywhere and anywhere. GoPro has this nailed and looking at the list of available Sony mounts we’re unsure if Sony is targeting the MTB sector as hard as other cameras. If you think about all the popular locations you will want to mount the camera Sony’s lacks capability (the handlebar mount is about it and we’ve covered that).

Interestingly they do have a GoPro mount adaptor (allowing you to run the Sony camera with GoPro’s superior mounts). We do think it is questionable when a company relies on another company’s products for the best mounting options…

One very cool accessory the we received with our Sony was the Handy Cam convertor that allows you to use the same camera as mini Handy Cam, complete with a flip out view finder / display. This is super cool for all your holiday footage.

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This was pretty cool. You can turn your Action Cam into a really usable Handy Cam.

So what is it actually like to use? (That was the “real-word” testing we talked about at the start of the review.).  From a technology perspective it’s a great camera. It takes pretty good videos, has great stabilisation, takes a good hit or two from crashing and dropping, is super easy to operate, and connects to the computer with ease. All the things you want in a camera.  But what about a mountain bike camera?  That’s where we found a few issues.

Maybe we’ve been a little harsh, but with years of experience with a GoPro it’s always going to be tough for a newcomer to compete. The Sony Action Cam is (we want to emphasise this) fantastic, with all the nerdy technical stuff, image quality and stabilisation. But ultimately it falls a little short in the mounting and usability departments. For us, that fun of inventing new places to mount the camera and capture different angles is part of the appeal, and the Sony isn’t yet up to speed in this area. Hopefully this aspect of the camera is improved as it has the image and construction quality to be a real contender.

Tested: GoPro 3 Black Edition

In the hotly contested and highly competitive field of wearable camcorders, there has long been a standout performer for very good reason; the GoPro. We’ve put the latest GoPro 3 Black Edition to the test, and were more than impressed.

Smaller, lighter, clearer better, better and even better.
Smaller, lighter, clearer, better, better and even better. The flat screen helps boost picture quality when sunlight hits the lens early or late in the day.

What GoPro have succeeded in doing is similar in a way to what separates a great set of night riding lights from the myriad of other options out there; you could be the brightest in light output, but that’s only part of the equation. With cameras, like lights, it is their usability, mounts, and method of integrating them into mountain bikes and our bodies that is paramount. GoPro have nailed it, especially due to the array of mounting options, with the chest harness being our favourite for capturing the feel of the ride.

Slimmer, but still boxy.
Slimmer, but still boxy.

Picture quality aside, the big improvements noticeable to us from our well used GoPro 2 is the size and weight of the unit, and simpler menu navigation. It’s still a boxy squarey thing though and will never look too natural sticking on top of your helmet, but it’s now quite slim and light. The menu is much easier to read and decipher, even cycling through functions with gloves on is easy and doesn’t require too much studying of the instruction manual to figure out what does what.

Our original GoPro 2 on the left, with the slimmer and lighter bodied GoPro 3 on the right.
Our original GoPro 2 on the left, with the slimmer and lighter bodied GoPro 3 on the right.

Battery life is still one thing we find frustrating though, punching the sky in frustration when the battery fades faster than you wished. A spare battery is a worthy option.

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GoPro without the robust and waterproof housing.

If you have a creative urge, you can do so much with just one GoPro and a little imagination. Being such a handy size, and protected in a robust and waterproof casing, placing it anywhere and capturing all the action is a snack. Even still photos are worth leaving your camera at home, for cool wide angled images to accompany the crisp footage.

Making use of the footage is the next step, but with simple video editing software very simple to drive these days it’s no wonder there is so much footage of every section of trail in the world nowadays.

You simply cannot go past the GoPro, especially now with more options and price points.