The Fly6 has captured the hearts of cyclists across the globe and has produced some incredible on-bike video footage over the past year. Rather than just relaxing and enjoying their success, the Western Australian inventors have continued to develop their product and, in November 2014, launched the redesigned Fly6 while simultaneously announcing Cycliq as their new company name. Now they are just about to launch the Fly12 front light with integrated camera on Kickstarter.
If you don’t know much about the Fly6, start with our review of the original product which we classified as a safety camera, not a sports action camera. I was surprised at the speed in which the Fly6 was upgraded and asked Cycliq CEO, Andrew Hagen, about the the motivation to move fast.
“We had identified a number of areas we thought we could improve on from customer feedback on Fly6 Original and while on a trip to China & Hong Kong we found a new factory with experience in high quality camera based products. We discussed Fly6 with them and found they could make many of the improvements we were looking for. They were very efficient and were able to bring the new Fly6 model to production much faster than we could have imagined. The result was what might seem to our customers as fast turn around.”
At first glance the new Fly6 is very similar to its predecessor; it retains the rubber strap mounts (with aero seatpost compatibility), features a camera with rotating LED lights, and has the bright LEDs you expect of a rear bicycle light. It has retained the two buttons (on/off and light mode) as well as the micro SD card for storing the video footage. The new Fly6 is smaller in height than its predecessor, however, shaving 2 centimeters off and bringing it down to 8.5cm tall.
Aside from the height reduction, the other obvious change is that the USB and micro SD card slots have been moved from underneath the unit to the side of the unit, and the USB port on the new Fly6 is the more compact mini-USB version.
Beneath the surface, the main technical improvements are brighter lights, louder audio signals, and a longer run time of up to 6 hours. The video resolution, however, has remained at 1280×720, and I queried Andrew Hagen on this. While the Fly6 is not a sports action cam, isn’t it possible to increase the resolution?
“Part of the fast turn around was based on keeping many of the principles of Fly6 Original but applying better quality components and a higher quality manufacturing process. As such, the 720 resolution was retained however, part of the improvements for the new Fly6 included a higher quality camera module and sensor (which is why the FOV went from 130 to 100 degrees). In addition, we changed the way the device was assembled from a three part over-moulded front cover (which had a tendency to create undetectable distortions in the lens) to a two part front cover joined together through ultrasonic bonding (which does not distort the optically correct lens).
“With the new module, sensor and lens bonding process, the result is much clearer footage without the wasted fish-eyed effect on the edge. We would like to move up to 1080 but it requires a complete re-design which we don’t have the capacity to do at the moment.”
But before releasing the new camera, part of the research and development for Cycliq was testing prototypes. I was fortunate to be involved in the early prototype testing and providing product feedback. But did the feedback from the testers made its way onto the new Fly6? Mr Hagen comments, “With the new Fly6 testing, we backed off on the number of testers from 150 to around 25-30. This gave us much better and more concise feedback. Our new factory is much more responsive to changes and the result was from our weekly surveys that a number of both hardware and software suggestions were able to be implemented.
“One of our testers in particular suggested a couple of hardware changes that were implemented in the next prototype and he couldn’t believe how his words turned into physical changes in just a few weeks. Even without testing groups we get suggestions all the time and they are great to hear, however people expect most of them to be just a ‘firmware’ modification and don’t understand how difficult even a seemingly simple change can be to do.”
So how did the new Fly6 perform?
Before prototype testing, I was using the original Fly6 permanently, so when the next generation (new) Fly6 arrived, it was business as usual, performing as I expected. I noticed that the beeps were louder, but I still didn’t hear beeps while riding. In practice, the camera will only beep if it is about to stop recording or run out of battery, for me the road noise is too loud so it is worthwhile ensuring that the unit is charged.
The lights are certainly brighter, though for summer riding I tend to dim my lights below the brightest settings. In winter, for dark, early morning rides I will revert to brighter settings to maximise my visibility, however for bunch riding it is worth showing consideration for others in the group and dimming the bike light accordingly.
The following video demonstrates the light settings.
I used the aero seat-tube adapter to allow me to mount the bike light and camera on my road bike. One observation was that the further down the seat post I mounted the Fly6 camera, the more stable the footage. During testing, when running two cameras on the same seat post (my jersey pockets were stuffed with the contents of my saddle bag), the top camera always seemed to be more susceptible to movement, although the original fly6 handled it better.
Looking at the technology, the mini USB port is convenient and it is setup to allow the Fly6 to mount directly onto the desktop of my mac. For the mac, I traditionally used VLC for non-standard file formats (and on Apple Mac, .AVI is non-standard). MPlayerX was recommended by Cycliq and is a much more stable option for playing the .avi files on the mac. Editing .avi files on a Mac is difficult, so the files need to be converted, and SmartConverter is a good software solution which easily converts the .avi to the Mac friendly quicktime. Speaking of software, SDFormatter is a must-have. From time-to-time, or if there are recording issues, SDFormatter is useful for wiping the micro SD card.
There is also an on-board formatting option, the camera uses an editable config.txt file which allows you to set the date and time so that it is recorded directly onto the video footage (a very useful feature). The config.txt file can also be modified to instruct the camera to self-format. Here are the formatting instructions from the Cycliq Support Site.
Recording and Numberplate recognition
While there are spectacular videos on the Cycliq website of bike riders stacking and crashing, the role of the Fly6 camera is to help protect the bike rider and this means recording vehicle number plates in the case of an accident or a reportable driving offence. [There is a fierce debate among cyclists discussing which infringements are reportable, this is best tackled in the Australian Cycling Forums]. Put simply, the video data (evidence) and number plate recognition is what it is all about.
In the review of the original Fly6 it became obvious that the closer a vehicle passed, the easier it was to recognise the number plate. The new Fly6 appears to provide clearer number plate recognition towards the edges. The ability to recognise number plates. however, will always be affected by the light conditions, so poor light conditions such as darkness, glare, strong contrasts, and even rain will make it harder to read the number plates. Vehicle proximity and speed will also affect the ability to read however when it matters, the chances are than enough information is available to identify the vehicle.
But there are two key points on the number plate recognition, firstly a motor vehicle driving dangerously, or who hits you, is likely to be closer to you, so you have a better change to identify the vehicle. Secondly, reviewing the video footage and shuffling through the footage or watching frame-by-frame can aid you in identifying the number plate.
Keep in mind that for some incidents, the motorist may already be identified, so the video footage gives the authorities supporting evidence. In an incident where I was verbally abused by P-Plater hoons, I shouted out the number plate and the Fly6 recorded this audio.
The comparison video relied upon mounting both cameras on the seat post, one on top of the other. With this approach, the top camera suffered more vibration.
The comparison of the original Fly6 and the new Fly6 reveals:
• The new Fly6 has a smaller viewing angle of 100° compared with 130° for the original.
• The video footage for the new Fly6 appears to have deeper contrast and a green tinge
• The audio recoding for the new Fly6 is louder
It is difficult to compare the number plate recognition, however I didn’t perceive a substantial difference in quality with the new Fly6. Video changes are subtle, though the unit as a whole has proven itself as a permanent accessory for my riding.
One issue I experienced was a broken rubber mounting strap. To suit different sized seat posts, the mounting solution needs to be flexible, so while the rubber straps are flexible in this respect, they can easily break when over-stretched.
On the horizon for Fly
The Fly6 has proven itself popular, and almost immediately after being released people were asking for a front light version, possibly a ‘Fly12’, a name suggested by members in the Australian Cycling Forums many months ago. Recently the Fly12, as suspected, a front light with integrated camera to compliment the Fly6, was announced.
Andrew Hagen provided feedback on these next steps, “As you know the name Fly6 means a Fly on the wall watching your back (or 6 o’clock) and the front solution will of course be called Fly12 as it is still a fly on the wall but now it is facing forward (towards your 12 o’clock). It didn’t take long for people to start asking us about Fly12 and the BNA forums are no different – in fact there was quite some chatter about what features it should have. Quite the crowd design studio you have there!”
“In reality, we thought of Fly12 three years ago when we thought of Fly6. It was just that we decided to develop Fly6 first given there were a number of camera solutions at the time people were using for the front of the bike. We have only now had the time and resources to focus on Fly12. What to expect? Well, without giving too much away we have decided to do a Kickstarter campaign for Fly12 early this year. We found it was a great way of getting people involved in the process of bringing a product to life. In terms of the device itself – we have recently got our first prototype and to say that I am a little excited is a massive understatement! Some people say the design of Fly6 is “a bit retro” and I can’t really disagree with them but if Fly6 is retro then Fly12 is going to be very current’!”
The Fly6 Verdict
The new Fly6 has received an all-round update, although original Fly6 owners don’t need to upgrade yet. The new unit is a little more convenient and a little more refined, plus the six hour battery run time makes it more practical for long distance cycling. The improvements in video quality are not as substantial as anticipated, but spot-tests to recognise number plates show that this will help with incident capture and number plate recognition.
The looped recording feature and ‘crash protection’ features mean that the Fly6 is still unique and indispensable.
Fly6 is available in bicycle shops across Australia (distributor Jet Black) or is available online directly from Cycliq for $275 (plus postage) and comes with an 8GB micro SD card, cable, and mount.
BNA Fly6 Giveaway
Cycliq have kindly provided a Fly6 to give away to a BNA reader – simply comment below answering the question; if you won a Fly6, how would you celebrate?
25 words or less, closes noon AEST on February 20, 2015. I will chose the best answer, our Terms and Conditions for competitions apply and this is a ‘game of skill’.