Replay XD 1080 Review

by Brian Mullin on August 24, 2012

The XD1080 is a small, light and compact video camera, which is easy to use and has a simple interface for video resolution changes. It has an excellent usage and form factor, combining two sharp tactile buttons (power and record) with distinctive vibrating mode changes and a tiny cylindrical camera body. The rugged and water resistant camera records in a wide array of high-definition video resolutions up to 1080p, and have proven itself to take excellent footage with great clarity and realistic colors.

Replay XD 1080

The XD 1080 is a POV (point of view) high-definition sports camera and uses a 5MP CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) sensor. Its uses a wide angle 135º fixed-focus, 6-element, and f3.1 lens, with an anti-glare coating. It can record video footage in 1080p, 960p, and 720p formats and photos in a time lapse and manual shutter mode. It records data onto a micro SDHC (4GB included) up to 32GB in size, and is powered by an internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery that gives around two hours of recording time. It has ports for a mini USB for computer connection and recharging, and a dual-purpose type A HDMI, which can do live streaming to a TV or other source, or can be an external microphone for higher-quality audio recording. The small and light camera uses a protective anodized aluminum barrel body surrounding the lens and electronics, and its impact, shock, and water resistant. The camera attaches to an assortment of mounts, and the ones that are applicable to biking, include a low profile and adjustable swivel/tilt, which both connect into their SnapTray system, and then an optional handlebar/seatpost clamp. The cylindrical camera measures 1″ x 3.5″, weighs 3 ounces, and the kit retails for $299.

The
kit comes with the XD 1080 camera, the HeimLock adjustable and LowBoy
fixed mounts, two stick-on Flat Base and Curved Base SnapTrays, an
instruction guide, a USB and HDMI cable, car and wall USB chargers,
nylon case, soft camera bag, leash, 4GB microSD card, micro USB card
reader and micro SD to SD card reader.

Measured Specs:

  • Camera  – 88 grams ( 3.1 oz)
  • Size – 94.5mm x 28mm (3.7″ x 1.1″)
  • HeimLock mount w/ SnapTray – 42 grams (1.5 oz)
  • LowBoy mount w/ SnapTray – 26 grams (1 oz)

Flying Dog Trail – Replay XD 1080 at 720p: full light test (no edits and default bit rate/sharpness) from Brian Mullin on Vimeo.

Video Resolutions

The XD 1080 can shoot in High Definition, in three video resolutions. It can shoot in 1080p (widescreen) at 30fps (frames per second), 960p (full frame) at 30fps and 720p (widescreen) at either 30 fps or 60 fps. The 720p 60 fps allow for slow motion playback, which is pretty cool to watch, and, in addition, it gives the normal footage a smoother and more fluid look. Each of the video resolutions is captured at different bit rates, which entails varying recording times and storage requirements, meaning greater resources are needed for the higher usage formats. The resolution settings are altered using two buttons that reside inside the rear screw cap of the camera. The camera records in two viewing angles, unique to its video resolution, so 1080p is 110° while 920p and 720p are at 135°. It uses the H.264 video codec, AAC audio compression, and a .mov file type. Everything defaults to the NTSC standard, but it can optionally record PAL video in 25fps and 50fps increments.

Photos
The XD 1080 can shoot still 5MP photos with a resolution of 2592 x 1944
pixels and 135° field of view, in an automatic mode, which allows
photos to be taken every X number of seconds, where X is 3, 5, 15, or
30-second intervals. In the latest firmware release (v45), the 3 second
time lapse option can be replaced with a manual shutter mode, using the
advanced settings interface.

Camera Features
Inside the rear screw cap of the camera are the frame rate (FPS) and
mode (Mode) buttons, a microSD slot, a mini USB and HDMI port, mode and
charging LEDs, an audio and recessed reset button.

On the barrel of the camera by the lens is a Power or On/Off button, with two LED’s on either side of it. The rearward LED turns a solid blue when the camera is powered on, and the front LED turns solid red while recording video and photos. You can also monitor the battery level with the blue power LED. A solid blue LED means the battery output is between 26-100%, and a slow blinking means 11-25%, and a fast blinking means 10% or lower. Towards the back of the camera next to the rear, screw cap is the Record button, which initiates recording of video or photos. The red recording LED will begin blinking when the microSD card is full, and then the camera will automatically power down. The inside of the rear screw cap has mini set of the menu options, explaining the colors of the mode and fps LEDs.

Memory/Storage

It uses microSDHC (Secure Digital High-Capacity) cards up to 32GB in size, and comes with a 4GB one in the kit, which is a nice dividend. Using a computer, you can interface with the card from the camera itself, or use the included micro USB card reader and micro SD to SD card reader. You can reformat the card by powering on the camera, and then pressing and holding the FPS and Mode button for 10 seconds. The SD Cards are formatted with a FAT 32 partition, which has a 4GB file size limitation. While recording on this camera, a new video file will be created once the currently recording one reaches appropriately 3.08GB (30 min of footage) in size, due to the FAT (File Allocation Table) limitation, so you will need to piece the files together in an editor to have a full timeline if you continually record while riding.If the camera is powered up without a card in its port, it will do an automatic shutdown.

Battery

The camera uses an internal rechargeable Lithium-Ion 3.7V 750Ah battery, which is charged using a computer USB port for its replenishment or the accompanying USB car or wall charger. It takes about an hour to recharge the battery, and during the cycle, the green charging LED is illuminated, and it will turn off when the process has completed.   The battery is supposed to last 122 minutes per charge, but it varies depending on the temperature, video resolution, bit rate, and sharpness. At the default bit rate setting (medium), I got around 95 minutes at 1080p and 105 minutes at 720p.
 

Measured Specs for Battery and Storage:

  • Battery Limit – 1080p 95 min, 960p 98 min, 720p 105 min
  • Storage usage – 1080p 106MB per min, 960p 62MB per min, 720p 43 MB per min

They
have optional 3 and 6-hour battery packs that plug into the USB and
HDMI ports on the rear of the camera behind the screw cap, but I haven’t
gotten a chance to test them out. I do wish it had a replaceable
battery for longer video sessions, but due to the small form factor and
design of the camera, it’s probably not feasible?

Camera Body

The camera is constructed with a hard anodized aluminum tube body,
which is rugged, impact and water resistant. The inner lens is protected
with a screw-on protective clear cover which is sealed with an O-ring.
The front cap can be swapped out for a 37mm adapter ring so that
different lens filters can be used. The rear screw-on cap has an O-ring
to keep the electronics contaminant free, so be careful you don’t lose
it since it offers a lot of protection. The rear cap also has a hole for
the included lanyard, but I never used it, or the looped lanyard which
fits around the body itself.

Audio

The camera
has an internal omnidirectional microphone located just opposite of the
power button by the lens, and though it’s a tiny hole, it picks up
things pretty well, including some extraneous wind noise at speed. They
include some stickers called Windbreakers in the kit to place over the
microphones hole to attenuate the noise, but they don’t seem to help,
and I ended misplacing them somewhere. You can alter the
microphone gain within the advanced settings interface if desired. They
have an optional external microphone which plugs into the back of the
camera behind the screw cap, using the HDMI port as its interface.

Camera Usage
Depending on what mount is being used, set the preferred tilt angle by sighting down the camera body, and then rotates the camera body until the alignment lines on the lens are horizontal to your field of view. The power and record buttons always point to 12 o’clock.  Since you don’t have an external display device you’ll need to guesstimate the proper lens rotation and tilt, and using the above method seems to result in proper footage.

To turn the camera on, press and hold the front power button (i.e. On/Off) for 2 seconds and release, and the camera will vibrate 3 times and the rearward LED by that button will turn blue. The vibration is pretty distinctive and strong, and you can easily feel it through full faced and XC/AM helmets. To begin recording, press and hold the rear button (i.e. Record) for 2 seconds and then release, and the camera will vibrate three times, and it will begin recording in the chosen resolution and mode, in either videos or photos. To stop recording, press and hold the record button for 4 seconds and then release, and it will vibrate once to announce that the recording has completed. If you hit the record button quickly, it will stop the current recording and start a new one, and it will vibrate 3 times to inform you that it’s clipping and saving a file (they call it “Quick-Clip”). To turn the camera off, hold the power button for 4 seconds and release, and it will vibrate once and shutdown. If the camera is recording, hitting the power button doesn’t accomplish anything, as this prevents accidental loss of footage.

To change the video resolution or photo intervals of the camera, you remove the rear screw cap, and use the FPS and Mode buttons to make alterations, and a set of LEDs will indicate what the results are. Depending on what the last chosen video resolution or photo interval, hitting the Mode button cycles the settings from 1080p, to 960p, 720p, and Photo, etc., ad nauseum. If the 720p and Photo modes are highlighted, then the FPS button can be used, altering the 720p between 30fps and 60fps, and the Photo between 3, 5, 15 and 30 seconds.

The
back of the screw cap has a list of the menu options (a.k.a., the cheat
sheet) that can be initiated from the rear of the camera, but it’s
tough to read the small print. The manual for the camera does explain
the resolution and mode changes for video and photos, but the colors in
the LED diagram are extremely difficult to discern. Fortunately, once
you have played with the Mode and FPS buttons and understand the LED
color pattern, it’s pretty simple to make the proper changes.

Advanced Settings
Although the camera’s global default mode, features and settings are
pretty decent and robust, you may need additional fine tuning for
specific requirements. You can alter those global camera settings, which
includes video, audio, lighting and other customizable feature
settings, by updating a text file that resides on the root directory of
the microSD card. You can set the parameters for bit rate quality (high,
medium, low), white balance (auto, 2800K – 10000K), sharpness (1-5),
metering weighting (spot, center, avg), exposure (-4 to +4), contrast
(1-255), and saturation (0 – 127), etc. I always left the bit rate high
and sharpness at 4-5, since I didn’t worry about resource issues
(battery and memory), and I wanted the highest quality output possible. I
left most everything else as factory default, unless I played with the
lighting settings, for dealing with the dimmer light conditions or when
the ride was going to be predominantly in the deep dark woods.

To
alter the settings, you mount the microSD by any method desired, open up
the XD1080.txt text file, edit it as required (set the Update Flag to
Y), and then close it. To load the new settings into the camera, power
it up and then press record button to propagate the settings. I created
several microSD cards with different global settings, and I can change
the camera operational aspects by swapping the different ones in and
out. It’s not the most eloquent method though it works just fine and
its particular useful when you want to switch the camera for low light
usage.

Mounting

The camera comes with the HeimLock adjustable and LowBoy fixed mounts,
plus two stick-on flat and curved base SnapTrays. The SnapTrays can be
used at various locations, dependent on personal requirements and helmet
shape and design, and they’re especially useful for non vented or low
vent count helmets, such as ski, full faced, skateboard, BMX and some
All Mountain designs. Unfortunately, some sort of vented helmet mount
system is not currently available, which would be comprised of a strap
and an attached SnapTrays, which is a big bummer for the average
mountain biker, who typically wears a vented helmet.

The optional
handlebar or seatpost mount works decently once it’s set up properly,
and the rugged aluminum system, which uses a separate handlebar and
camera clamp, lets you point it just about anywhere, and since it
directly attaches to the camera, no SnapTrays is required. The mount
comes in several different clamp diameters, so it can cover bars and
seatposts from 1/2″ to 2″, although it does require getting a different
clamp since they are size specific.

Since
they don’t have a specific vented helmet mount, you’ll need to find a
spot on your helmet that is large enough and has the proper shape to
place one of the stick-on SnapTrays. I didn’t like that idea, since it
was semi-permanent, so I created my own customized vented mount by using
another company’s strap, and dremeled down the old connection system
flat, so that I could attach a SnapTray. It worked extremely well, and I
am surprised that Replay hasn’t released something like this?

The
HeimLock and LowBoy mounts slip and click into the stick-on SnapTrays,
and then the cylindrical body of the camera pops into those mounts. I
always used the HeimLock rotatable (swivel/tilt) and lockable mount,
which pivots 360° around the base, and tilts approximately 8° off axis,
which gave enough adjustability if the proper helmet location was found.
Once the camera was inserted into the mounts, the camera was stable and
secure, and didn’t rotate out of position, since the interface offered a
very snug connection.

Interface to Computer and TV
To download or view the videos or pictures you recorded, unscrew the
rear cap of the camera, and connect the mini USB to the camera and the
other end of the connector to a computer USB port. Press and hold the
FPS and Power button for around 4 seconds until the computer
acknowledges the device. The unit will appear as a Removable Disk, and
just navigate down to the appropriate directory (example: F:Removable
DiskDCIM100MEDIA) and either download or view the video straight from
the camera. For faster downloads, remove the card, and use either the
micro USB card reader or microSD to SD card reader, and bypass the
camera as the downloading interface.

The recorded footage can also
be viewed on a TV by using the HDMI port of the camera, using the
buttons to tab through, and start each of the videos stored on the
microSD card. The controls are very rudimentary, but the results are
quite impressive on a larger screen. For advanced users and commercial
proposes, you can live stream video to an external HD recorder or
transmitter.

Broken Hip Trail – Replay XD 1080 at 720p: Low Light Test (no edits and default bit rate/sharpness) from Brian Mullin on Vimeo.

Impressions
Time and time again, what stands out to me when using this camera is
its excellent usage and form factor? The unit is very small, light and
obstructive, and it can fit almost anywhere, like the inside of an RC
car if required. Changing the resolution and mode is easily accomplished
with the FPS and Mode buttons under the rear cap, and it only takes a
few tires to learn the fairly simple color pattern of the LEDs to get
everything set up properly. The power and record buttons are sharp and
decently large, so they offer excellent tactile response when locating
and pressing them, even with gloved hands. The vibration feedback is a
simple and intuitive feature that informs you of modal changes, such as
power and recording, and I easily felt them through the helmet, no
matter how noisy the environment or rough the trail conditions were. I
do admit that I occasionally hit the record button too quickly, and
although it clipped the video that I wanted, it continued recording a
new one, and it took my concerted effort to make sure I held the button
for a few seconds to stop the recording process.
Although I wish
they had a vented helmet mount system, you can usually find spots on
your helmet to install the stick-on SnapTrays. The connection between
the mounts and the SnapTrays works great, and forms a solid and almost
one-piece unit, and I couldn’t detect any slop in the system. It was
easy to slide the mounts into the SnapTray, but occasionally I had
issues pushing down the lock tab to remove the tray. I only used the
HeimLock mount myself, which offers an adequate amount of swivel and
tilt if the SnapTray was placed in an optimal location. It was easy to
pop the camera into the HeimLock, and once installed it offered a
stable, secure and vibration-free environment, yet it still allowed you
to rotate the camera in place for proper alignment. Although setting up
the camera alignment should be problematic, since it’s a guesstimate, I
found that the actual footage usually came out fine, and was well within
any tolerances for viewing. With the small size of the camera and the
moderately low height of the mount, it meant it didn’t stick up or
protrude too much on the helmet, so I rarely whacked trees and bushes
with it.

The video footage that the camera produced was great, and
reminded me of the Contour+, although the footage wasn’t as good in
comparison to GoPro HERO 2, mostly because of the HERO2’s killer 11MP
sensor compared to the others 5MP. Photos looked fantastic, and were on
par with all the competitors.


Sidewinder Trail – Replay XD 1080 at 960p Variable Light Test  (no edits and default bit rate/sharpness) from Brian Mullin on Vimeo.

I
thought the colors were pretty realistic, though in some bright light
conditions they got washed out and oversaturated. It performed decently
when going in and out of shadows, although the automatic exposure did
lag behind sometimes. Quite a few global settings can be altered,
including the bit rate quality, white balance, sharpness, metering
weighting, exposure, contrast, saturation, and audio gain, allowing a
slew of customization. You can’t set those parameters in the field, and
they must be preset on the microSD beforehand, but it does at least
allow alteration of things for fine tuning, albeit it’s not a very
eloquent method.

One benefit of this camera is that the fish eye
lens isn’t that wide at 135° (1080 is 110°) compared to the industry
norm of 170°, and although it doesn’t capture the extreme side area’s
being recorded, it gives a more coherent and normal looking viewpoint.
The camera is pretty rugged, durable, and weather resistant, and I have
used it in lots of heavy rain storms without any ill effects.

The
audio picked up things with decent clarity, but it also had a lot of
extraneous noise, especially when you cranked the speed up, or it was
really windy out, though for my more formal videos, I mute the sound
during editing, and add music, so it’s not really a high-priority issue.

The
full camera kit is pretty sweet, and comes with a lot of items that are
optional from other vendors, including a USB car and wall chargers,
nylon case, 4GB microSD card, micro USB card reader and micro SD to SD
card reader.

The battery life was slightly less than I would have
liked, and comes in at less than 2 hours of usage before it dies. They
do sell battery packs that can do a recharge in the field (maybe when
you’re not recording) or just extend the recording time, but the latter
would add bulk and create a poorer form factor. Obliviously, I would
have liked a replaceable battery to make usage easier, but the camera’s
design doesn’t make that feasible.

POV Camera Shootout
I am going to do a full-blown and detailed POV camera comparison
sometime in the near future, but I thought I would give a mini shootout
of four cameras, the Replay XD 1080, GoPro HERO2, Contour+ and Drift HD.
I picked some features and functions I think are important, and gave a
general viewpoint on their respective qualities. High marks go to the
GoPro HERO2 11MP sensor and mounts, but the competition still has other
things they do better. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of
personal choice, as they all take great footage, and have different
features and functions that set them apart.



* Changes can be made in Advanced Settings on the SD card

Bottom Line
The Replay XD 1080 has an excellent form and usage factor, exemplified
by the power/record buttons, vibration feedback and small and light
size. The power and record buttons have a nice sharp tactile feel, which
is great when wearing gloves, and the superb feedback given by the
vibrations when modes are changing makes for an effortless reinforcement
of the camera’s status. Altering the resolution was simple and straight
forward using the rear buttons and the LEDs. The mounting system was
quite nice, and their SnapTray system with the HeimLock worked extremely
well in usage, though I do wish they had a vented helmet mount in their
arsenal. The kit comes with a slew of extra items that are optional
with most other manufacturers, which is a great dividend.

The
camera took great footage with good clarity and realist colors, but I
would like to see some improvement, since the GoPro competition with
their 11MP sensor is leaving the others in the dust. The battery life is
pretty mediocre, and a replaceable battery would be nice, though they
do offer optional battery packs to extend the power.

Strengths

  • SnapTray system
  • HeimLock mount
  • Form factor – small and light
  • Easy to use – setting resolutions and  initiating power and recording
  • Sharp tactile power and record buttons
  • Vibration feedback for power and recording
  • Kit comes with many extras

Weaknesses

  • Poor battery life
  • Only 5MP sensor – needs 11MP
  • No replaceable battery
  • Lack of vented helmet mount
  • User manual needs an update

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

MSRP: $299.99

Replay XD 1080 Technical Specifications
Removable Storage microSDHC (up to 32GB)
4GB micro SDHC Included
Ports HDMI 1.3a Output
-Live HD Video Streaming
-HD Video & Photo Playback, Thumbnail Display, Play/Stop, Skip Forward/Reverse, Menu On/Off
-External Mic/Audio Line-In
USB 2.0 Mini 8-pin
-Charge and Sync
-Timecode Out (with HW Data Kit)
microSDHC slot
-up to 32 GB
Power AC Power 100~240 V, 50~60 Hz
Rechargeable Internal Li-ion Battery 3.7 V, 750 mAh*
up to 122 Minute Record Time*
Housing Durable Aluminum Housing
-Type-1 Black Anodized
-Round for 360º Mounting Rotation
-Impact Resistant
Black with Laser Etched Logos
-Easy Alignment
-Discrete Placement
O-ring Sealed
-Front and Rear Bezel
-Exterior Buttons
Weather Resistant
Size 28 mm Dia. x 93 mm Length, 27 mm Mounting Dia.
1.1 in Dia. x 3.6 in Length, 1.063 in Mounting Dia.
96.2 mm with Lanyard Cap
3.78 in with Lanyard Cap
Weight 85 grams (including battery & microSDHC)
3 ounces
Control On Top: Power “On/Off” & Select “Record, Stop, Playback, Clip File” Buttons with Vibration Feedback
On the Back: Mode “1080P, 960P, 720P, Photo, Heads-up On/Off, FPS “60 fps, 30 fps, 3, 5, 15, 30 Sec.
Audio: Internal Mic & External Mic Selection
Photo Mode 5 MP JPEG Photo 2592 x 1944
1 Photo per 3, 5, 15, 30 sec
Video Settings H.264 Codec, Quicktime .mov file type
Live HD Playback, Live HD View, Live HD Streaming
Bitrate Adjustment: High, Medium, Low
Exposure Control EV Adjustment
Auto Exposure Metering: Center, Average, Spot
Automatic White Balance with Adjustment
Contrast Adjustment
Sharpness Adjustment
Saturation Adjustment
Microphone Audio Gain Control
Date and Time Adjustment
Heads-up Display via HDMI Port On/Off
Video Resolution 5 MP (2592 x 1944) CMOS Sensor
1080P 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, Bitrate M(bit/s) = up to 15M
960P 1280 x 960, 30 fps, Bitrate M(bit/s) = up to 15M
720P 1280 x 720, 60 fps, Bitrate M(bit/s) = up to 15M
720P 1280 x 720, 30 fps, Bitrate M(bit/s) = up to 15M
HDMI HD Video Streaming, Real-time HD 1080.
NTSC 30/60 and PAL 25/50 option
Optics F3.1±5% Wide Angle
110.5 Degrees @ 1080P
135 Degrees @ 960P, 720P
135 Degrees @ Photo
1.3V/lux-sec Light Sensitivity
Lens Cover Replaceable Aluminum Bezel and Lens Cover
Audio Internal Omnidirectional Microphone
AAC and AC3 2-channel
48K, 16-bit, Auto Gain
External Mic-in 0.707 Vrms
Power Supply 5V +/- 0.5V / 2A
Windows Intel® Core Duo® or higher
Windows® XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista, Windows 7
1920 x 1080 screen resolution
USB 2.0 Port, Mouse
Macintosh Intel® Core Duo® or higher
Mac OS X v.10.5, 10.6, 10.7
USB 2.0 Port, Mouse
Replay XD 1080 Kit Replay
XD1080 Camera, HeimLock adjustable mount, LowBoy fixed mount,2 Flat
Base VHB SnapTrays, 2 Curved Base VHB SnapTrays, 4GB microSDHC Card,USB
Cable, HDMI Cable, Univ. USB DC Wall Adapter, Car USB Charger, Nylon
Ballistic Case, Silk Camera Bag, Windbreaker Decal Kit, Replay XD
Decals, User Guide

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous April 12, 2014 at 6:16 am

Great review. Do you have the vented helmet strap details? I am hoping to fit one of these to my bike helmet.

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet April 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

They still don't make one, but you can buy a GoPro vented mounts, dremel off the tab and use a replay flat stick-on mount

Reply

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