Fly12 – Watching your front

fly12.jpg

My Kickstarter-backed Cycliq Fly12 arrived on Saturday morning, in time for See and Be Seen. Here’s my review.

The Fly12 is a combination front bike light (up to 400 lumens) and safety camera (1080p).

I had previously backed Cycliq’s Fly6 – the rear light and camera combo – and purchased the Fly6 version 2, so I am familiar with Cycliq’s products and will make reference to them.

During the See and Be Seen ride, I ran the Fly12 on various light settings (medium/low, constant/pulsing + cam) and it lasted four hours. Cycliq claims it will last 10 hours of it is camera-only. That’s probably an accurate assessment.

Let me start with the conclusion first: the Fly12 is a big step up from the Fly6.

Test footage

Positives

  • The video quality is fantastic. I thought it was grainy (view the video above in 1080p), then I compared it to footage from my Fly6. No contest! The Fly12 wins, hands down. Of course, I don’t think it will compare to GoPro video quality BUT a GoPro won’t last four hours while pumping out hundreds of lumens (if it had a built-in light). The Fly12’s camera is for safety, and I think it will capture incidents with sufficient detail.
  • It records mp4 out of the box. No more converting avi files on my Mac as with the Fly6.
  • The wi-fi button on the Fly12 serves as a lock footage button. Very handy for bookmarking incidents that you want to save.
  • The app is quite good.
    • I appreciate that I don’t need to set the time manually. Fly6 owners will know what I mean. Just connect the light to the app, and the date and time are set. Easy!
    • The Fly12 connects to the app quickly and reliably via Bluetooth.
    • Via the app, you can choose the light modes and brightness levels for the physical mode button on the Fly12. For example, I disabled the brightest setting for all modes. So, each button press cycled through: light off, medium/constant, low/constant, medium/pulse, low/pulse, medium/flash, low/flash, light off.
    • You can fiddle around with various other settings in the app. You can also review and trim footage for sharing. That said, the Fly12 can be used without the app. The app just gives you much more control over the light+camera.
    • I’m happy with the app, but there is room for improvement.
  • The Fly12 can be mounted using standard Garmin and GoPro mounts. It can also be mounted using standard camera tripod mount. It comes with a handlebar mount, which is what I used.
  • The last positive, which I did not test but is quite cool, is that Strava users can overlay their ride stats, like a heads-up display, on the video.

Negatives

  • The handlebar mount has no shim. It’s a small quibble, but the metal clamp will grind against your handlebars. Also, it needed a shim to properly fit on a 22mm diameter handlebar. I’m not a fan of the securing mechanism. There are two bolts to tighten – it could have been hinged on one side.
  • A handlebar-mounted camera means fairly shaky footage. I may try helmet-mounting it but…
  • The Fly 12 is quite large and heavy. It is the inevitable trade-off for battery life and 400 lumens. Perhaps Cycliq should consider a smaller onboard battery supplemented with external battery pack. (Question: Can the Fly12 operate while an external battery pack is plugged in?)
  • The Fly 12 should switch on at most recent setting rather than at light off + cam recording.
  • I liked the app but:
    • The video preview thumbnails are too small, and this is considering that I use an iPhone 6S Plus.
    • Smaller versions of the 1080p video files are created for the in-app previews. This takes up microSD card space. However, I am not sure which is the limiting factor – battery life or microSD card capacity. If the battery lasts, the Fly12 records over the oldest footage. If my Fly6 is any indication, the battery will die before the SD card gets filled. I used a 64GB microSD card for the four-hour ride.
    • You should be able to control the light intensity/modes from the app, like how the Icon See.Sense does. Although, I have to say that Icon See.Sense app also has a lot of room for improvement.
    • Connecting to the Fly12’s wi-fi is not as smooth or seamless as connecting to Bluetooth. Note: You only need to connect to Fly12’s wi-fi if you are reviewing and editing footage.

I hope to see…

I’ve already listed my suggestions above. What I really want to see is an equivalent 1080p, app-connected Fly6.

Imagine having a front and rear safety cam that are time-synchronised. And a desktop app will output a picture-in-picture video. (Sure, you can probably do this manually in a video editing app, but I hope that this can be made to be as simple as possible.)

Seeing how Cycliq improved the original Fly6 and launched the Fly12, I’m sure that Cycliq will deliver that one day.

Conclusion

Back to the Fly12.

I recommend it. It does its jobs – recording footage and lighting the way – commendably.

On features alone, I would say highly recommend it, but there is the price to consider.

On the Kickstarter page, Cycliq states that the RRP will be US$499. That’s not a small amount.

Still, if you are considering getting a GoPro (or another action camera) and a 400 lumen front light separately, you might spend a similar amount.

If you can afford it, get the Fly12 when it launched for sale to the public. You won’t regret it.

If you baulk at the price, wait for a year or so. Cycliq doesn’t stand still, so I suspect these will be cheaper once an upgraded version is looming.

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