CASIO Excursion Tests New EXILIM EX-FR10 Action Cam & PRO-TREK Watch (GALLERY)
This peek behind the curtains of a corporate media junket is a preface to our upcoming EX-FR10 action cam review. Our extant CASIO reviews and coverage can be found here.
Special thanks to CASIO Public Relations representative Miho Nishizawa for inviting our Senior Contributor Nayalan Moodley to join the ‘Tech Media Mountain Adventure.’ One of our greatest advantages as a Japan-focused, Tokyo-based tech news outlet is developing privileged, professional connections with tech firms large and small, and when we find ourselves the only English-language news source on a excursion like the one detailed below, we know we’re doing the right thing - and we’re grateful to be there.
And now, Nayalan channels a Shatner narrative:
Media dudes are climbing a mountain.
Why are they climbing a mountain?
Media dudes are climbing a mountain.
Why are they climbing a mountain?
On Monday the 29th of September, CASIO held their first ever media retreat to give the who’s who of Japanese-language tech publications and a jumped-up hooligan from AkihabaraNews the lowdown on their new modular EXILIM EX-FR10 action camera and PRO-TREK PRW-3000 series watches. It was a two day affair in the northern Japanese Alps where we essentially got to hang out with the dudes and dudettes in charge of developing and marketing the aforementioned products, learn about the features, and shoot the shizzle with them, all in an environment that they envision the products mainly being used in. Of the 8 or 9 websites and magazines who were representing, ours was the only one that caters to an audience beyond these islands. Why any of the others would have passed on a trip like this is beyond me, because essentially it was an all-expenses-paid mountain vacation for camera nerds.
The Gear - CASIO’s EX-FR10 and the PRO-TREK PRW-3000 Series:
To hug the mountain
To envelop that mountain
We gathered In the skyscraper district of Shinjuku, early enough that I had to subject myself to the morning madness that is Tokyo’s rush hour. The schedule was pretty tight, but Tokyo being Tokyo, a human accident on one of the train lines ended up delaying the arrival the last few goers. After one more arrived we got underway, and picked up the last two CASIO staffers en-route.
As the bus rumbled along the Chuo Expressway, Casio got their show on the road...on the road. To supplement the EX-FR10 modular camera they had kindly mailed us a week before, we were provided a suction cup mount, a compact selfie boom, and a trekking pole mount which I returned because it was made for smaller mammals than I. They then briefed us on features of the cam that set it apart from its competitors, and the development process that they went through to create a product that can bring something new and unique to the rather saturated action-cam market. They then had us us each strap on a PRO-TREK PRW-3000 watch (I chose the neon green one because i like subtle colours) and gave us a bit of a rundown of its features. We then put our cameras up around the bus and got comfy as the bus took us further away from Tokyo’s grey monotony.
Upon exiting the expressway somewhere past Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture, the scenery began to get more interesting. After driving through a thick wooded region, the road’s gradient increased and began snaking its way into the northern alps. The landscape became progressively more beautiful up to rounding the final corner and arriving at the Ogisawara base station. We calibrated the PRO-TREK PRW-3000 watches for more accurate measurements, gorged ourselves on a rather delicious green curry lunch, and…
They want to make love to the mountain.
We then boarded trolley busses, electric busses that draw power from overhead lines like urban trains, and headed up into the mountains and across the border into Toyama Prefecture and onward to the mighty Kurobe Dam. Completed in 1963, the Kurobe Dam generates enough power to charge just over 185 million iPads. Utility aside, it is a spectacularly beautiful location nestled between Toyama’s steep alpine slopes.
As we moved from the first observation deck down toward the dam wall, I attached the camera to my head with the headband accessory useful for shooting POV videos, which also makes good use of the detachable control unit. I also (along with a few of the other journos there) took a good few glam shots of the camera and the two lovely ladies from CASIO’s marketing department, Miyagi-san and Handa-san, who were pulling double duty as models. Dressed in yama-gyaru (mountain girl) attire, they could easily have been a part of that recent subcultural development in Japan where young ladies climb mountains in cute, colourful, fashionable outdoor wear. While they aren’t necessarily those girls, they chose their attire specifically because the mountain girls are their main market for both the EX-FR10 camera and the neon colored PRO-TREK in Japan.
Where in the world:
Tough media guys and their teeny, tiny cameras.
We all lined up for a group jump shot on the dam wall, which took a few goes to get right but looked good in the end. We then rode a cable car and ropeway up over the 2000m ASL mark, above the dew point temperature line.
After a few more dam lookout shots from a higher vantage point, we rode another trolley bus through a series of tunnels to nearly the top of Mt. Tate. The area is crisscrossed with walking trails and has a number of spectacular lookouts.
I remained at one lookout a bit longer than the rest where I was treated to a spectacular sunset above the clouds, and as darkness fell, I caught up to the group and proceeded to hike toward our accommodations for the night: a lodge perched on the edge Mt. Tate’s Jigoku-Dani (Hell Valley) where volcanic gas fields belch sulphurous, noxious clouds into the air, but thanks to the prevailing winds, away from the structure.
Jigoku-Dani Lodge in HDR
We weren’t the only media people rocking camera gear at the lodge: NHK was also making good use of the picturesque location for an upcoming TV drama series. I was assigned a room with a fellow tech reviwer and alltogether awesome dude from Kakaku.com, MIURA☆ (yep, his pieces are signed with the star). After dinner, we hit the hot spring for a long soak, and, as it turned out, one of the dudes in there with us was the main actor in the NHK production…don’t remember his name, but he was apparently a big-time player in the NHK drama scene (which informs how well CASIO was treating our little group of journalists). Cleansed and relaxed, I set the PRO-TREK watch’s alarm and bedded down early - getting up at 2am was required to make to the highest peak by sunrise.
Challenge the rock
I woke up at 3am to the realization that that the PRO-TREK’s alarm is essentially useless for my ears, and were it not for Miura’s iPhone alarm I’d have slept clear through till breakfast. I was rather annoyed at myself for not setting another alarm, but I wanted to play with the toys I was given! Having really wanted to summit the mountain, I must say from that point I did harbour some negativity toward a watch that wasn’t loud enough to get me up on time. Instead, I joined the other early hike heading to the highest lodge on Mt. Tatsu where we braved ferocious, freezing gales to see the sunrise.
I also managed to hit my head on the doorway to that lodge (which, I swear, is made for hobbits) and sprain my neck. As you can imagine, that absolutely made my morning. We returned to the lodge for breakfast before trekking back to the bus stop.
The bus took a meandering route down the other side of Mt.Tate, treating us to the rich reds and yellows of autumn that were beginning to take over the landscape.
We made a brief stop along the way to walk another trail before continuing down to Bijoudaira (which basically means “Hottie Highland,” well “Beautiful Woman Highland,” to be precise, but my version sounds better), and then we then rode another cable car down to the Tateyama base station where our chartered bus was waiting.
CASIO treated us to a delicious soba lunch at a small restaurant in the middle of rural Toyama before the 4-hour bus ride away from the clean air, open spaces and spectacular landscapes, and back to the concrete and glass 36-million-strong rat race. We returned the watch and miscellaneous accessories they gave us the day before, and by dinnertime I was back beneath Shinjuku’s sky-obscuring artificial illumination.
Why do they challenge the mountain?
The trip, in a word, was spectacular. More manufacturers need to do this. Especially when their products are aimed at a niche market that reviewers may not really understand or know much about. I was a giant male mountain gal for 2 days and I got to find out about the watch and camera’s strengths from the passionate people who created them. It was a chance to rub shoulders with local tech reviewers, photographers, and journalists. I also got to escape the world’s largest rat race, breathe clean air, drink from mountain streams, take photos of cute girls, and play with cool toys. Definitely not the worst 2 work days I’ve had.
Because they’re in love
And the gadgets themselves? They performed well. They did what they were supposed to. They were both much more than I’d expected and they both proved useful and fun to use. They both also frustrated me and gave me a few points to ponder.
Product reviews are coming soon. Till then, Hang tight and live vicariously through my photos. and enjoy having this stuck in your head as I did for the entire trip.
Thanks to our friends at CASIO! Left to right, clockwise from top-left: Ran Miyagi, Miho Nishizawa, Kazuto Ushiyama, Kazuo Tanaka, Erika Handa, Hikari Jufuku, and Kazunori Yanagi
Editor’s Second Note:
Play this video and re-read the article’s section headings. It’ll all come into...well, partial focus.