Tag: gadget

Silvercrest Action Camera (Lidl)

Manuel Marques November 24, 2014 No Comments Stuff reviewed , , , , ,

So yes, last week after a short love affair that started with a Lidl catalogue I went and got myself an action camera from Silvercrest, aggressively priced at Ā£79.99, but with similar features to those of a far more expensive GoPro.


It came with a whole array of accessories, including two sets of cases (one water-proof, one splash-proof which features some holes to enable the camera to record audio through its built-in microphone), loads of different mounts and straps including a bike handlebar mount (which should also be compatible with a rowing shell’s outrigger).

The camera itself can record Full HD video @ 30 fps, or 720p @ 60 fps. It has a few nifty features which I have yet to explore, including time lapse and wi-fi remote control & viewing (I had to install an app from Google Play for that; there’s also a version available for iOS).

The camera with its fully waterproof case (to 60m) and velcro strap – I used this configuration when I took it out for a quick run last Sunday, worked well! (although in the beginning it was pointing quite a lot towards the sky…) Apologies for the lack of focus, I was messing around with my point-and-shoot camera and didn’t pay much attention to the distances! šŸ™‚

Can’t comment on the battery life as I haven’t done a full cycle yet – got it with about 1/4-1/2 of the charge and took it for a 40′ run on Sunday, didn’t manage to deplete it completely! I will write a follow-up post once I get to use a bit more (and perhaps under some nicer weather).

As for the video footage, here it is in its 720p-glory (after a bit of encoding). For some weird reason when I post-processed the video (with kdenlive) it rendered it with a lot more time (1h36m!), filling the end of the clip with black frames. I still need to optimise that, work in progress! šŸ™‚

The track itself, to be absolutely honest with you I think it was the first time I actually ran it (!) – I’ve obviously done parts of it, but this particular loop was a novel configuration, mostly chosen to avoid muddy bits (I am too lazy to scrub my trainers after a run and plus I was running with my newest set, which are still looking rather nice! šŸ˜› šŸ™‚ ).

The route:

Starting from Tyler Hill, I headed to Blean via Tyler Hill Road (those two bends next to Hothe Court Farm are a bit dangerous, I wouldn’t dream of doing that bit wearing headphones as it is basically a blind bend on a road with no pedestrian paths!), then took the A290 (Blean Hill) towards Canterbury, passing through Rough Common and the junction with Giles Lane (towards the university campus).

Afterwards, I followed the National Cycle Route 1 down the hill, through Neals Place Road and ending up in that housing estate next to London Road. Ran Westgate Court Avenue all the way till its junction with Whitstable Road, and descended a bit more into town, turning left just a bit before the St Dunstans roundabout.

Followed Beaconsfield Road until the junction with St Michaels Road (a popular route for people cycling into the UKC campus given that it links directly with the Eliot foot/cycle path) , from there I followed the foot path up to campus. Crossed the campus until its eastern end (Darwin), and took the B2205 back into Tyler Hill.

But since I was still about 400m away from my 10k goal I decided to do a few silly loops around the village until the Garmin finally acknowledged it (the locals probably think I’m crazy, but then again there weren’t that many people outside with that fantastic weather! šŸ™‚ )

Right, before this turns into a running-only post, just to sum up the camera: so far I liked it, the OLED display is very good, should be very readable under direct sunlight (can’t verify that for a while, though…), the recordings are made in MP4 in a fairly Linux-friendly codec (I have the bad and ugly gstreamer plugins, though…), not requiring any special software (some basic video editing software is included in the package, but it being Windows- and Mac-only meant that I couldn’t really do anything with it …). I still have a significant amount of testing to do, but for now I’m quite happy. I do intend to get the optional RF remote that can be ordered separately, which will allow me to start recording remotely without having to use my phone (useful if I’m on the boat, especially considering that the remote comes in the shape of a wrist-watch…). Keep tuned for more videos, hopefully I should make a few more soon!

Crivit pedometer and heart rate monitor review

Manuel Marques March 17, 2013 8 Comments Stuff reviewed , , ,

My new pedometer/HRM

So, here it is! Last week I got a new gizmo in Lidl, a “spur of the moment” buy – well, in my defence I had seen it in the catalogue before, but since I was considering getting a bluetooth heart rate monitor to interface with my Android phone I didn’t give it that much thought. Anyway, when I went last week to Lidl for my groceries I had a long look at it and in the end the relatively low price (Ā£14.99) convinced me šŸ˜€ .

It is quite full-featured (the user manual is quite sizeable, too!), having “regular” watch mode (eg comprising time & date, chronometer, alarm and even dual time zone support!), pedometer mode and HRM mode. The good news is that these functions are not independent, ie you can go for a run whilst tracking your heart rate and seeing all the relevant information on the screen, which albeit tiny is more than enough in terms of legibility (and it even has a blueish back-lighting to help when going for runs in the dark).

Aesthetics and ergonomics

OK, in terms of aesthetics is not the prettiest watch you’d find; it is quite bulky too, which is why I won’t retire my Casio – I’ll just take this one out of the drawer whenever I want to go for a run, as it is too big for everyday “normal” use. It is not as waterproof as my Casio, too – the manual states a tolerance of up to 3 bar, which according to them is just rain- and splash-resistance. Shame, I won’t be able to use it on the boat!… (anyway, for that I plan to get a cheap, waterproof Android phone and a Bluetooth HRM, as soon as my savings allow for that!…)

But it is functional, and the aforementioned display is good enough to accommodate the speed or HR as you’re going along in quite big digits, along with an accompanying graphic which, in pedometer mode will tell you if you are trending towards an increase or decrease in speed, and in HRM mode it will graphically tell you where your current HR is in terms of the typical minimum and maximum brackets for your age range (very handy!). There is also a bottom row with additional information which can be customised, eg you can select to have the distance run displayed alongside the speed, or your current heart rate, or your average speed… the choice is yours :).

The actual heart rate sensor is mounted on a chest strap (as all HRMs are), and I had absolutely no issue with it, and it seemed relatively comfortable in the 7.5k test run I had on Thursday. Probably in longer runs it might prove worse, I have to test that properly but unfortunately I don’t have proper long, uninterrupted running trails around here like I do in Porto, so that will have to wait for the Summer holidays! šŸ˜›

Functionality and user interface

As I mentioned before, the screen is quite good in terms of the amount of information it can display. The user interface is also quite simple to navigate, and I only had trouble finding some advanced settings because I didn’t read the user manual properly (more on that later). The rest is just a matter of navigating with one key and confirming with the other, and long-pressing to reset the counters. Nothing more simple!

The communication with the HR sensor is also quite simple (and apparently it is coded, so I won’t have problems with running with people also wearing HRMs!), the only issue is that you need to moisten the sensor in order for it to make proper contact with the skin, but that seems to be the case in most sensors out there…

One thing that I really liked is the fact that the timing will automatically stop when you are stationary (since it is detecting both my footsteps and the lack of them!…). Running in an urban setting here in England requires continuous stopping, as zebra crossings are rarer than the actual zebras around here, and the general rule to crossing a road is to cross anywhere, provided that there are no cars coming, which may work if you are walking but it is really annoying if you’re running. I would have to manually stop and start my stopwatch whenever that happened, which was not ideal, especially since I couldn’t hear if the action was actually carried out (I use earphones), and in the end I’d be continuously checking my watch to see if the timing was still on (and try doing that at night, even with a backlit screen!).

It also has some very neat stuff, such as memory of the highest/lowest/average heart rate,Ā  and fitness mode, which consists in measuring the heart rate drop along a specific period of time, which will assess your recovery after a strenuous exercise (of course you can always do this with a stopwatch and taking heart beat counts during 15 seconds, but it is much simpler this way!! šŸ™‚ )

The only real issue I had with it, which was really all my fault, was related to the calibration of my step. Following the typical male technocrat attitude, I only skimmed across the (quite sizeable) user manual and skipped the section on pedometer calibration in its entirety. And the result was quite evident: the 7.5k test run I had on Thursday was counted as only 5k, and I could see during my workout that the “instantaneous” speed would never go over 10 kph, which is quite low for me, as my average pace is slightly below 5:00/km, which in kph should be exactly 12! (I have been ill and only returned to proper running recently, but still!…)

After that, I went to the troubleshoot section of the watch and there it was, written exactly for fools like myself, that if the speed readings were not presented correctly you’d have to calibrate the device. And actually the algorithm is quite sophisticated, as it takes into account a lower and an upper limit, which are configurable, and then asks you to run and walk a predefined distance to assess the size of your step. After calibrating it with a 400 m track I went on a test run again (I had the motivation of testing this watch, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone out as the weather was horribly windy and damp!) and I had a much lower error of about 300 m in a 4.5k run (and this time the error was by excess, it overestimated the distance ran). I will still do some additional calibrations, as I feel that I’ve set the higher limit too high (13 kph, when I normally run at 12!) and I’ve also used a quite short calibration track – next time I’ll do 1k, which is exactly two laps around my cul-de-sac.


In conclusion: for a fraction of the cost of a Garmin specialist runner watch (they retail for well over Ā£100-Ā£200!) you get something that will most definitely help you assess your running workouts (and they also thrown in a bicycle holder to use the watch as an HRM during a bike ride!). Obviously it doesn’t have exactly the same level of functionality (you didn’t expect GPS and data export from a Ā£15 device, did you?), but if used while aware of its limitations it can serve you quite well. A must buy, definitely! šŸ™‚

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