Wearable cameras are a fun idea, but unless you can see what the camera is pointed at, you can’t be sure you’re recording what you want to record. The Always Innovating MeCam demonstrates this problem, since it’s a tiny, pin-on (or hang-on) 720p video camera with no viewfinder, no screen, no smartphone app, and no way to know if it’s even level. Its video and picture quality aren’t particularly great, either, but considering it retails for just $49.99 (direct for 4GB version; $59.99 and $69.99 for 8GB and 16GB versions), it’s hard to hold it up to very high standards. It’s small and fun to play with, even if it doesn’t have much purpose beyond spying.
The MeCam is so unassuming you wouldn’t even know it was a camera unless someone told you. It’s a round, 1.9-inch diameter plastic button that, strangely enough, is almost identical in size and shape to the Pokewalker pedometer that came with Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver. It also has a MeCam logo and seven small dots on the front. Six of the dots are the MeCam’s nearly useless infrared lights, while the center dot is the camera itself. The MeCam can pin onto your clothes; it can also hang from your neck like a pendant with the included rubber band-like neck strap, or your own string or chain that you can fit through the small holes on the back.
Three tiny buttons on the side let you turn the camera on and off, take a picture or switch to night mode, or begin recording. These buttons are small and hard to manipulate, and the only indication it’s working is an indicator light on the top of the MeCam that flashes red or blue to show it’s turned on, recording, in night mode, or taking a picture. A microSD card slot accepts memory cards, and depending on the version you purchase, comes preinstalled with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB cards that can record one, two, or four hours of video. All versions of the MeCam are identical, except for the size of the microSD card included; the camera has no onboard memory. A proprietary micro USB-like port lets you charge the camera and transfer data.
Video quality isn’t particularly good, but that isn’t entirely the fault of the camera’s tiny lens and sensor. Whether you pin it to your clothes or hang it from your neck, you can’t make sure the camera consistently level. Since there’s no viewfinder or smartphone app to see what the camera sees while recording, it’s a crapshoot whether the picture will be straight. Nearly all test footage I shot was skewed to one angle or another. The lens isn’t particularly wide either, so if you want to make sure you capture people’s faces you need to either stand back or wear the MeCam taped to your forehead. The video has another big issue that MeCam is working on fixing in a firmware update: It always shows a timestamp on the video. The timestamp will eventually be a feature you can disable, but currently you can’t turn it off.
When the MeCam is pointed at the right angle, it records as well as you can hope from a $50 mini-camera. There’s no zoom or any way to control the camera besides pressing record (or taking 5MP snapshots), but it maintains focus pretty well on both near and far objects, like coworkers up close or the bars across the street. The video gets a lot of motion blur when you walk around while wearing it, but if you stand relatively still you can get a good picture. This isn’t a sports camera in any way; this is more a spy cam. A night vision mode increases the camera’s sensitivity and lets it pick up infrared lighting, but the infrared LEDs on the camera can’t illuminate anything further than about a foot away. Still photos don’t look great, but they’re legible if you can take a picture while keeping the camera still. Neither the video nor the photo quality is good enough for any serious work, but as a spy camera it can be either fun or incriminating to record people. Plus, if you want to make your own Slenderman viral video series, this could be an invaluable tool. Beyond that, though, the MeCam isn’t very useful.
The MeCam is just a novelty camera, but considering its price and its potential uses, it’s worth playing with. It won’t turn you into an investigative journalist or a super-spy, but it’ll let you take rough point-of-view videos without anyone giving you a second glance.
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|Mic Input Jack||No|
|Optical Zoom||1 x|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Recording Format||MicroSD|
|Still Image Recording Format||MicroSD|
|CCD Resolution||5 megapixels|
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