Wearables

Taking videos with these sunglasses is a snap

The Spectacles, By Snap Inc, is a pair of sunglasses equipped with a camera that shoots video clips lasting up to 30sec.
The Spectacles, By Snap Inc, is a pair of sunglasses equipped with a camera that shoots video clips lasting up to 30sec.PHOTO: SNAP INC

Wear this cool pair of shades and tell people 'smile, you're on candid camera'

Made by Snap Inc (formerly known as Snapchat), the Spectacles is a pair of sunglasses equipped with a camera that shoots video clips lasting up to 30sec.

Previously, the product was available only via pop-up vending machines - known as Snapbot - that appeared randomly in the United States. So it was quite difficult to buy one. But now, you can order it online from the Snap Inc website. You will need to use a freight-forwarding service, as it does not ship outside the US. Or you can try www.qoo10.sg.

Available in black (the version reviewed), red and teal, the Spectacles looks like any other fashion sunglasses. That's good because too many such tech glasses, like Google Glasses, look so geeky that no one wants to wear them.

I received compliments from passers-by and sales people for having such a cool pair of sunglasses. And the cool factor went up further when I told them the sunglasses could shoot videos as well.

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Despite its one-size-fits-all frame, the Spectacles is very comfortable to wear, with rubber paddings on the nose pads. The frame does not feel cheap, but yet is not heavy despite the electronics in the bigger-than-usual hinges.

A quick way to recognise the Spectacles is from its two yellow circles at the top outer corners. The left (when you are wearing it) circle has circular LED lights that flash during video recording so people know you are shooting, while the other circle contains the 115-degree-wide camera.

It is able to shoot standard definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) videos, but not still images.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: US$129.90 (S$182), from www.spectacles.com

    CAMERA: 115-degree wide

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 50g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 2/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

On the left hinge is the button for taking videos. One press will start the default 10sec video recording. Press and hold for 2sec to stop recording before the 10sec mark. Or you can press the button three times to record a 30sec clip.

Spectacles works only with the social media app Snapchat, at least for transferring the videos. You need to pair the Spectacles with your smartphone.

I paired it with my iPhone 7 Plus. To do so, I powered up the Snapchat app and swiped down on the screen to reveal a Snapcode. Then, while wearing the Spectacles and looking at the Snapcode, I pressed the button once to pair it. Piece of cake.

Once paired, transfer of the videos is automatic whenever you power up the Snapchat app. For iOS, it transfers SD clips by default using Bluetooth. You need to switch to Wi-Fi to transfer HD clips.

No such problem with Android, as it does not support Bluetooth. It transfers HD clips using only Wi-Fi.

Videos taken with the Spectacles are clear and sharp.

Plus, it gives viewers a great first-person perspective, as in the footage I got when I wore it to shoot some hoops.

The videos are actually circular and have a wide field of view. If you share the video on Snapchat, your friends can rotate the phone to see the whole picture.

You can also save the videos in your camera roll or gallery and share them on Instagram or Facebook. But it will be a circular view.

On the downside, the videos look grainy when shot at night or in dim lighting conditions.

As the Spectacles was designed to look like a fashion accessory, there is not much space to hold a large battery. As a result, battery life is abysmal. It can shoot only 100 10sec videos on a full charge.

Furthermore, transferring the high-definition videos will further shorten the battery life. I shot 35 10sec videos and managed to transfer only 30 of them before the battery went flat.

Thankfully, the Spectacles comes with a funky-looking yellow box that doubles as a charging cradle. The box also has a built-in rechargeable battery that can charge the Spectacles four times.

For those who need prescription lenses like myself, the Spectacles' weird cut-out lenses will be a problem. I visited several opticians before I found one optical shop, Visio Optical, that was confident of making the prescription lenses.

It cost me $380 more for the lenses (I have high myopia and astigmatism), but it is far more convenient than placing the Spectacles on top of my, well, spectacles.

•Verdict: The Snap Spectacles is a fashionable good-looking pair of sunglasses that lets you take short clips conveniently with lots of fun.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Taking videos with these sunglasses is a snap'. Print Edition | Subscribe