However, the problem with the smartphone cam is that it is sometimes difficult to capture an activity in the moment.
The desire to capture a run along the beach, a bicycle ride on an autumn day, or a parasailing adventure has given rise to a plethora of active cams, with GoPro being one of the most popular. Outdoor enthusiasts tend to wear them conspicuously mounted on top of their bicycle helmets. We love the quality of the video these cameras capture and the hands-free mode of recording, but we don’t particularly like being seen wearing a video cam perched on top of our heads. We also don’t care for some of the high price tags these cams carry.
So, we have abstained from purchasing an active cam — until now.
We saw the SunnyCam product at the Consumer Electronics Show and immediately signed up to purchase once they started shipping to the United States. SunnyCam is a pair of glasses with a 1080p video camera nestled inconspicuously in the frame, between the eyes. What we like about the design is that the glasses (with either tinted lenses for sunglasses or clear lenses for indoors) look like real glasses, not the nerdy half-glasses/half-cyclops design of Google’s failed Google Glass experiment.
The SunnyCam frames are very sturdy and substantial without looking nerdy (at least, we don’t think we look nerdy when we wear them).
Once these SunnyCam glasses passed the fashion test, the more important determination was whether the process of video recording would be effortless — and the resulting video of good quality. We tested a little around the office and were pleased with the results but decided to send SunnyCam on a rugged test.
It just so happened that Phil was getting ready to embark on an early spring ski vacation in the Utah mountains. He took SunnyCam on a more rigorous test drive down the ski slopes and along some rough terrain in a snowmobile. The results were fantastic — the glasses held up quite well despite occasionally getting inadvertently buried in some snow drifts (no knock on Phil’s skiing ability, of course).
It is very easy to begin recording by simply pressing a button on the glass frame. The camera located between the eyes begins capturing whatever you are looking at. To stop recording, you press the same button. The captured video is stored on the built-in 16 GB memory card, which can hold up to three hours of footage. You can also capture still photos while recording by pressing the button on the frame.
The battery life on the SunnyCam was a little disappointing for our taste, giving only one hour of recording time on a single charge. It’s easy, however, to recharge the battery with the included USB cable. You could also elect to bring a backup power source to plug in via the USB cable once the battery starts to drain.
Viewing and downloading the videos from the glasses is easy once you get back to your computer. And the quality of those videos was actually quite stunning. While the skiing action was fast (sometimes), the snowmobiling action was fast and very bumpy. Surprisingly, the recorded videos even from the snowmobile runs were not excessively jumpy or unwatchable. What was really nice was being able to enjoy an activity with no encumbrance (other than a pair of sunglasses, which we would have worn anyway) and capture that active experience on a 1080p video camera.
Of course, devices like SunnyCam raise all sorts of privacy issues, as it is virtually impossible for someone to notice that you’re recording a video while wearing them. There is a small red light on the face side of the glasses that illuminates when the camera is recording, but this light is unseen from the onlooker's perspective. One can imagine that there will be all sorts of litigation interest in videos captured from these types of gadgets as they become more popular.
SunnyCam is made by a company in the U.K. and can be purchased online starting at 120 euros (roughly $130 U.S). There will be distribution through some U.S. retailers, per the company website.
Whether you want to take this device on vacation to capture the moment while living the moment, or just to capture a home improvement project, a child’s soccer game, or a fun day in the park, we think SunnyCam is up to the task.