The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light by Fly Lites is a combination 720 HD x 30 FPS high-definition video camera packaged up with a flashing rear tail-light designed for mounting on the seat post of bicycles. This review is of a 5th generation advanced prototype of the Fly6 and was provided by Fly Lites for the purpose of this review. My thanks to Andrew and Kingsley for the opportunity to play with their rather neat camera and light combination.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light Review Context
One unique characteristic of this review is that I have used the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light mounted on the right rear seat stay of my LoGo P-38 recumbent bicycle, so you get a different perspective of its functionality. My “standard” videoing and rear light configuration on the LoGo P-38 and my bikes generally is to run a GoPro Hero 3 HD camera mounted on my handlebars and a Contour HD 1080P mounted using a RAM mount to the rear. My standard rear light configuration is to Portland Design Works (PDW) Radbot 1000 mounted on either side of the rear wheel on the rear seat stays.
For this review I have replaced the right mounted PDW Radbot 1000 with the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light. It is my intention to run the video continuously when riding and to also use the rear light continuously when riding, i.e., in day and night mode. I don’t expect the Fly6’s HD camera to be effective at night and Fly Lites do make this clear, stating that the:
Fly6 is not designed as a ‘night vision’ camera. Statistics show that 90% of rides occur during the day and as a result, over 80% of recorded accidents occur during the day. Fly6 is extremely effective during the day and works well into low light (dusk & dawn) situations. Like all normal cameras, where there is no light, there is no recorded vision. We encourage the use of rear lights at almost all times when riding (just not in pelotons or in race situations!) but it is important to note Fly6 is not designed to record events at night-time. That said, when there is sufficient ambient light at night, the footage is pretty good!
My testing of the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light was shortened as I managed to come off my bike on Sunday February 16, 2014 resulting in a tear to my left knee’s medial cruciate ligament putting me off the bike for six weeks. This means my planned night testing has not been possible and hence this review is just based on about 300 to 400 km of day time riding.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light Specifications
The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light bicycle rear HD Camera and tail light specifications are given on the manufacturer’s website but in summary they are:
- The video recording angle is 130 degrees and the recording resolution is 1024 x 720 (720 HD) at 30 FPS and the video is recorded in AVI format. The video encoding/compression (codec) is H.264 which is considered a good standard.
- The Fly6 HD camera records video files are in 15 minutes or around 800MB segments. Recording is on a “dash-cam” basis, i.e., continuous so the Fly6 will loop through. Once the card (it takes up to 32 GB cards) is full the Fly6 will starting recording over the old video. This feature cannot be disabled.
- In situations where an incident occurs, the Fly6 HD camera will save footage from major incidents avoiding them being recorded over. The way this works is that if the bicycle that the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera is fitted to tilts over more than 45 degrees for more than three seconds, the Fly6 will trigger an internal program that will shut down your Fly6 after one hour. When using the supplied 8 Gb microSD card, the recorded footage will contain one hour prior to the event and one hour post the event assuming of course the Fly6 is damaged and hence not functioning.
- The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light is charged via USB 2.0 port in the base of the camera and is specified to take up to a 32 GB micro-SD card. It comes supplied with a 8 Gb micro-SD card.
- The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light has a reported weight of 105 g (106 grams on my scales) for the camera/light unit itself.
- The battery is a 3.7 V 1500 mah battery with a claimed life of over five hours.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light Unpacking
The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light comes well packaged and with a number of mounting components etc. In the box there was: 1 x Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light 1 x 5° Angled Alignment Spacer 1 x 10° Angled Alignment Spacer 2 x Standard Alignment Spacer 2 x Seat Post Mount 4 x Regular Straps 2 x Extra Length Straps 1 x USB Cable 1 x MicroSD Card and MicroSD Card Adaptor 1 x Seat Post Aero Attachment 1 x Quick Guide Manual
Initial Issues with my Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light and Recording Times
My testing of the first Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light recording video on to a Samsung 32 GB class 6 card with the light brightness high (default start-up level) resulted in one hour and 16 seconds of video. I was able to repeat this result several times. After discussion with Andrew at Fly Lites it was suggested my Class 6 card might be the problem. I then tried the same test with a SanDisk Ultra 32 GB Class 10 card and got the same result. However when I used the supplied SanDisk Ultra 8 GB Class 10 card the recording time was over five hours with the tail-light on and six hours with the tail-light turned off. It seems that my supplied Fly6 was not quite working as expected. In light of this Andrew at Fly Lites swapped out the supplied Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light and also supplied a Kingston 32GB Class 10 card which when tested recorded for 4.75 hours. I then reformatted my SanDisk Ultra 32 GB Class 10 using SDFormatter and charged up the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light to repeat the test. The Fly6 recorded video for four hours 40 minutes. A second test with a Samsung 32 GB Class 6 card resulted the same result as earlier, one hour and 16 seconds. Fly Lites did recommend against using cards lower than Class 10 and my tests with a Class 6 card seem to confirm this advice.
My final test with my SanDisk Ultra 32 GB Class 10 resulted in four hours and 10 minutes of video. This equates to ~ 14 GB of video. The Fly6 creates 15 minute files of ~ 841 mb per file.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light Mounting
As alluded to earlier, whilst the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light is designed for mounting on a bicycle seat-post, as my daily ride is a recumbent bicycle, a LoGo P-38 I don’t have a seat-post to mount the Fly6 on. Instead I have mounted the Fly6 on my right rear seat-stay. As the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light comes with a good choice of mounting components this was not a difficult task for me.
On the LoGo P-38 I used an aero mount, a couple of the angled alignment spaces and two of the straps to set-up the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light high-up on the right stay where it replaced a Radbot 1000 tail-light. A more “traditional” rear light mount might be a an option worth considering in the future.
My initial mounting position resulted into much black from the tyre causing the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light to have trouble dealing with the light. As a result of this I moved the Fly6 to a lower mounting point on the right-hand side seat stay which worked better, reducing the chances of white background number plates being flared out.
My only niggle with the mounting is that the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light is a bit difficult to remove and install. It is a tight fit into the mount which is probably necessary anyway in terms of reducing vibration on the video but it does make it a little more difficult to remove and install.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail In Use on the Bike
This sample video shows a comparison of the video recording from the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light after it has been converted into a file format that I can use in iMovie on the Mac. That said I really cannot see any noticeable difference between the AVI format viewed in VLC and what I see in iMovie. The comparison footage is taken from my Contour HD 1080P camera which was purchased in 2010, so an early version. The Contour was set at 720 30 fps to match the Fly6.
For me personally I don’t find the quality of the vision from the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light really good enough for me to warrant swapping out my Contour HD 1080P. I don’t like the colour tones, preferring the softer tones of the Contour, but that is a personal choice of course.
In terms of number plates, the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light is fine when the vehicle pulls up immediately behind but not so hot when the vehicle is more alongside. The Contour seems to be better in these marginal situations.
So that is the video quality, the battery performance is every good with ~ six hours with the light off and just under five hours with it on.
Actually using the is pretty straight forward. The Fly6 has two switches where are robust and easy to use. I am very impressed with the quality of the switches I must say. One switch controls the turning on and off of the camera as well as the flash sequence and the other switch controls the brightness of the light.
Accessing the microSD car slot and the USB port is very simple. There is a rubber plug or cover which fits the space where the port and card slot are held. It is one of the better fitting rubber covers I have come across. Pulling this out of the way exposes the USB port and the microSD card slot. The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light is easily charged via the computer or a wall-plug USB charger. I tended to remove the microSD card to download the files but it can also be easily down in the camera. Simply plug-in the USB cable and turn the Fly6 on. I found my Mac had no issues finding the Fly6 and recognising the card.
My final comment on us relates to the feature which prevents the video from being over-written in the case of an incident, what Fly Lites refer to as incident protection: it works! On my last ride before finalising this review the bike fell over at a rest stop. Of course I never thought to check the camera and hence to re-start it. So later I found the camera did as it should have done and stop recording after the point the bike fell over. So if you use the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light and your bike falls over don’t forget to turn the camera back on, otherwise the video protection feature will kick-in as planned!
CORRECTION – February 22, 2014 @ 16:00: In light of Paul’s comments below I went back and checked the footage from this faithful ride (I keep all my recordings for at least a month) and whilst the video recording ended seconds after the bike fell over, it was because the battery capacity had dropped below 5 (the three long beeps can be heard on the video indicating this condition) so I haven’t actually inadvertently tested the incident protection system after all. This is something I can test whilst off the bike so will do that and update this posting. That said this means the battery only lasted just under 2.5 hours on this ride which is disappointing. I am pretty sure it was fully charged up before the ride (the camera goes from the charge plug to the bike before a ride).
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light – Editing on a Mac
As an Apple Mac user I found the file format on the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light which is an *.avi format is a type which the Mac operating system (10.6.8 in my case) does not play nice with, i.e., it cannot import these files directly into Quicktime or iMovies. This means an intervention phase is required. I followed the advice from Fly Lites and installed VLC to at least view the files which was okay but still a bit of a pain as it is not as user-friendly as Quicktime.
To allow me to do simple editing, my process is to use SmartConverter to convert the *.avi files into a *.mov file for viewing in Quicktime and editing in iMovies. This is a bit frustrating from my perspective as both the Contour HD 1080P and GoPro Hero 3 HD cameras I use have video formats easily handled by the Mac. Maybe something that Fly Lites can considered down the track.
All that said I am pretty impressed with the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light and can see it having a place in the market place and working well for a lot of cyclists. For me I have decided to stick with my Contour HD 1080P but that shouldn’t be seen as discounting the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light as an alternative option.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light Summary Points
- I would like to see the mounting options need to extend beyond the seat post. I would prefer to see a more “traditional” rear light mounting option such as that provided with the Radbot 1000 to allow for seat-stay mounting.
- I do like that it comes ready to go with a microSD card. That is a neat touch in my view and one that other manufacturers need to pick-up on.
- The idea of a combined unit to minimise whats on the back of the bike is neat feature and I suspect will be popular. It seems to work well in principle. I just would prefer the video quality to be better.
- Fantastic battery life! That is a real selling point in my view. The Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light outperforms everything else I am aware of on the market.
Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light – Your Thoughts
Well that is my rather brief take on the Fly6 Bicycle Rear HD Camera and Tail Light. I would love to know your thoughts on the Fly6 so please do share below in the comments section.