Last year’s Looxcie 2 was a disappointment. The idea of turning a Bluetooth headset into a video camera is interesting, but if you can’t point the camera in the right direction it doesn’t work very well. If the video quality isn’t particularly good, that’s another problem. This time around, Looxcie abandons the Bluetooth headset idea and focuses on making a great wearable camera—with much better results. The Looxcie HD Explore may not double as a headset, but with 720p video at 60fps, 1080p video at 30fps, and a variety of included mounts including a hat clip, this $329.99 (direct) camera is a great way to record things from your own point of view.
Design and Mounting Options
The Looxcie HD is a plain gray plastic rectangle measuring 1.4 by 1.9 by 3.8 inches and weighing 2.6 ounces, a little bit larger than a disposable lighter and equipped with a prominent battery that sticks out on one of the sides to give it a trapezoidal profile. The battery covers the microSD card compartment, which accepts a card readily but doesn’t let you remove it without some very tricky prying, because the installed card sits flush against a little dip in the case that lets you insert the card in the first place.
The butt of the Looxcie HD holds a removable rubber panel that covers a micro USB port and a three-way power switch that lets you turn the camera off, turn it on and set it to Wi-Fi, or turn it on and disable Wi-Fi. The front holds the small lens and pinhole microphone, flush against a flat, smooth face. Besides those details, the only distinguishing features of the camera itself are a pair of rows of small, rectangular holes to let it snap securely into the included hat clip.
The camera comes with a stick-on helmet mount, a clamp-on bike mount, and a hat clip, which are necessary if you don’t want to hold the Looxcie HD awkwardly while you use it. This is a mounted camera, and it’s not intended to be held like point-and-shoot cameras. The helmet mount consists of a stick-on panel that you can put on a helmet or any smooth, rigid surface, and the bike mount consists of a clamp that goes over handlebars. Both mounts have a solid notch where a universal Looxcie HD holder fits securely; put the Looxcie HD in the foam ring of the holder, tighten the clamp, then slide it into either mount’s notch.
The hat clip is a simple clip with a two-jointed arm that connects to a C-shaped bracket that holds the camera securely with both the aforementioned holes and two hook-and-loop straps. The hat clip is probably meant for use with the camera above the clip, but I found it worked just as well with the camera below the clip, placed right in front of one of my eyes to ensure it was pointed at whatever I was looking at. Wearing the clip this way offered me the added benefit of feeling like a cyborg.
If the three mounts aren’t enough for you, you can buy additional mounts from Looxcie like a vented helmet mount, a windshield mount, and a tripod mount for $25 to $40. You can also get add-on wide-angle, macro, zoom, and fisheye lenses for $20 to $25 (with the wide-angle and macro lenses available together as a $20 pack). I didn’t test any of the optional accessories, but the Looxcie HD and its included accessories were enough to evaluate the camera itself.
Interface, Performance, and Conclusions
While you can record just by pressing the Record or Instant Clip buttons on the Looxcie itself (the latter snapping a quick 30-second clip), most of the camera’s features must be accessed through the Looxcie iOS and Android apps. The app turns your phone into a mobile viewfinder, which refreshingly has only a split second of lag and displays the video very smoothly. The app lets you change resolution settings between 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps, 48fps, and 30fps. You can change the lighting mode to adjust for white balance, and even stream video online through Looxcie’s live broadcast feature. You can also buffer video to continually capture and discard footage, then hit the Instant Clip button on the camera or in the app to save a 30-second instant replay video. You can change the settings by connecting the Looxcie HD to your computer and running the Looxcie software, but it’s much more convenient to change settings (especially lighting) while you shoot.
The Looxcie app uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Looxcie HD, so if you broadcast it’ll have to be over your mobile data plan. This means livestreaming video can be tricky, but it also means you can broadcast video to the Internet from anywhere with a $330 camera and a smartphone instead of a satellite van and a camera crew.
Video quality is relatively clear and smooth, but some noticeable tearing occurs when the camera is moved quickly back and forth at 1080p at 30fps. A walk down the street and through a park showed details in signs, trees, and walkways. 720p video at 60fps looks much smoother, but tearing can occasionally occur with fast lateral motion. While it’s lower resolution, you should probably record in 720p at 60fps most of the time, simply because the video seems so much cleaner and blur-free. This is ostensibly an action camera, after all, but even walking around and panning through the PCMag Labs looks better at 60 fps.
The Looxcie HD is a comprehensive action camera and livestreaming system that lets you record anything from sports action to just walking around, and its smartphone app is extremely useful. The Looxcie HD has improved leaps and bounds over the Looxcie 2, and is a great choice for shooting action from a first-person perspective. If you don’t have a smartphone, though, it’s more limited. While you can record without a smartphone, it means you can’t see what the camera is seeing, change the settings on the fly, or stream video. If you want first-person video without the need of a smartphone (and don’t need helmet or bike mount support), Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear offers a more streamlined setup at the cost of video quality. If you don’t want to spend three digits on a wearable camera, the MeCam is far harder to use and the video doesn’t look nearly as good, but it’s $50 and you can pin it onto your clothes.
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|Interface Ports||micro USB|
|Optical Zoom||1 x|
|Dimensions||1.2 x 3.7 x 0.9 inches|
|Video Recording Format||MicroSD|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Mic Input Jack||No|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc