Review by: j_ung, 2005-05-23
[b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment LOANED it to RC.com and RC.com returned it after the review process. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com.[/b]
As of the writing of this review, only one size of Super Cam is available for purchase. Please keep in mind that this is only a review of this ďsmallĒ size. I will neither vouch for nor rip into larger sizes before using them.
The first cam I ever bought was a TCU. It had smooth lobes and no cam stops, but the little guy worked overtime on my rack for many years. Since that first purchase, my rack of cams has always been Metolius based. Oh, Iíve dabbled in various other Metolius models, but Iíve -----
Oh, screw it. We all know that Metolius is one of three companies to introduce crazy new tech to the mostly consistent world of SLCDs. This is the first of Rockclimbing.comís examinations of the three.
Anecdotes be damned. Letís get it on.
[size=9][i]Jay Young (j_ung) heads into the unknown with naught but the small Metolius Super Cam to protect him.[/i][/size]
Super Cam co-developer, John Field, practically stumbled into this radical concept when friends asked him to use his CNC machine to build SLCDs for wide cracks. But John knew he had a design problem on his hands, namely that really big units are inherently weak at the axle. The uniquely asymmetrical shape of the Super Cam was a way to address that weakness and, it turned out, to expand the range of the device. [b]To achieve this, the small lobes pass within the arc of the big ones and allow the Super Cam to make use of a much longer section of the cam spiral.[/b]
I understand just little enough about physics that this makes a sort of nonsensical sense to me. To Metolius, however, the applications were easily apparent, even for smaller SLCDs.
[size=9][i]From left to right: the Super Cam at rest, at half retraction, at full retraction Ė small lobes completely inverted.[/i][/size]
And indeed, the Super Cam does have an impressive range. Its 31mm range (39.5-70.5mm) is substantially bigger than, say, the corresponding Metolius Power Camís 23.5mm range. When stacked against the range of the other two new-fangled units on the market, however, this SC is actually the smallest of the three. Trangoís Max Cam edges it out by 2mm and Omega Pacificís Flex Cam by a whopping seven.
Of course, numbers are all well and good, but the proof is in the placing. It took high-quality playtime to really formulate an opinion of the Super Cam, so it and I set out on an adventure or ten and got to know each other.
Like, I imagine, both of the other new guys, the SC is new and improved enough that takes a little getting used to. The biggest obstacle to that is the very thing that makes it so radical: its asymmetric cams. Owing to the logarithmic nature of the cam spiral, the lobes dart toward the axle at breakneck speed with the first centimeters of trigger pull. But the farther one retracts the cams, the slower the unitís size decreases. The effect was that, early on, when I placed the SC near the lower end of its range, I was sometimes frustrated that I couldnít get it small enough. I was picking up the Super Cam when I should have been grabbing something a little more petite. On one occasion, I hung out fiddling with it too long and fell, pumped to the nines, onto what I thought was a less-than-optimal placement. It held, but I attribute that more to the 25m of rope out than any magical Super-Cam holding power.
I had no such trouble near the middle and upper end of its range. Indeed, in those situations I found myself overjoyed at the thought of using it and placed it with confidence every time. And, to be honest, it only took a few placements of use to figure out the newness and adjust accordingly.
To allow the little lobes to travel halfway round the axle while the big lobes only travel part of that distance, Metolius opted for a trigger that incorporates two Kevlar cords. The cord that controls the small cams wraps all the way around the axle and ends at the trigger bar, while the cord for the big lobes runs from one cam across the bar and down to other cam. At all ends the cords disappear into holes in the metal and exit out the other side, where theyíre tied in tiny stopper knots and glued into place. It reminds me of a lawn mowerís pull cord.
while the cord for the big lobes runs from one cam, across the bar and down to other cam.
Each cord ends at a stopper knot in a small hole in the metal where itís glued in place.[/i][/size]
I once had a U-stemmed Camalot that blew a trigger cable on the second pitch of a six-pitch route. I could still place it, but I only got one shot, since it required two hands to remove and re-adjust. If, for whatever reason, the trigger cord breaks on the Super Cam, the inverting smaller lobes will not afford you that courtesy. Needless to say, Iím hoping for [i]durable[/i], because I donít believe that itís field repairable; at least not [i]easily[/i] so. Only time will tell.
This particular Super Cam is a little heavy (184g) when compared to the corresponding Max Cam (150g), but itís lighter than its Link Cam counterpart (207g). Unlike the Link, however, the SC carries all its junk in the trunk. This baby is wide, almost 7cm, which is actually the primary thing I noticed on our first ďdate.Ē
Now, in reading back what Iíve written up to here, itís easy to get the impression that my thoughts about the Super Cam are not entirely flattering. I bitched about setting it at its low end, I whined about how it isnít the range equal of the other two new cams and I hosed it on the trigger. Then, just to ensure that itíll never let me into its pants, I told it that it needed to lose some weight.
Well, donít be like that, baby! I actually love the Super Cam for many of the same reasons Iím so devoted to Metoliusí other offerings. The Super Cam uses grippy 6061 aluminum, a tight 13.75-degree cam angle for power and a huge Ė HUGE, I tell you Ė cam surface, a la their Fat Cam. Those, combined with the new tech and Metoliusí reputation for quality and durability, tell me that this is a fantastic, versatile cam whose time has come.
Add to this the -- how else can I say it? Ė [i]sheer elegance and simplicity[/i] of its approach to the range problem and, in fact, my only [i]real[/i] gripe is that I have to send this cam back to Metolius.
Itís not a five on the RC.com biner scale, but itís close enough. If youíre looking for a hand-sized Ė and then some Ė piece, add it to your rack. You wonít be sorry.