A recent trip to Nice was an ideal place to test my new Snapchat Spectacles. I have to admit that Snapchat is not my network of choice but the new spectacles looked like something I could warm to.
After shipping a pair in from the USA (thanks Jeff!) I took them on holiday to give them a test run.
The spectacles come in a large yellow case that doubles as battery pack. The spectacles themselves look like normal sunglasses with one yellow circle above the left eye.This circle is the camera with a small set of lights around the lens that rotate when the camera is filming. It also acts as a battery level guide. Fitting snugly, they don’t feel any different to a normal set of sunglasses and after the first day I left my normal sunnies at the hotel and just used these ones.
Setting up the Spectacles
Setting up the camera is pretty easy. From the Snapchat app you are asked shown an image and asked to take a picture of it with your glasses. Like the Snapchat icon for your own profile, this will connect the spectacles to your account. You are then free to take videos that will be stored on the spectacles.
Taking video is as simple as clicking the button on top of your glasses. One press will give you ten seconds of video which can be quickly extended to 20 seconds with another press, up to 40 seconds with four presses.
A tiny light behind the lens, on the inside of the spectacles will light up whilst you record and start flashing when you are about to run out of time. It took me a few ‘shoots’ to realise the light was there but it is a handy little reference if you forget you have pressed the button.
Sometimes the images can be obscured by a wisp of your hair falling over the lens or sometimes the images can look squint. As the camera is on the spectacles these issues will be affected by your hair, your stance/balance and if you have one ear lower than the other! Like Alexa forces you to have better pronunciation, so the Spectacles force you to check your balance and posture!
The quality is surprisingly good for this first generation tech. Obviously the bright sunshine of the Cote D’Azur can make anything look good!
Video is taken ‘full screen’ but I have yet to find a way to capture/keep the format. Instead all videos are formatted into the round format that has become the initial trademark of spectacles posts.
When you connect to get your snaps, the quality and size is OK. The connection is through Bluetooth which keeps the file size and battery consumption low. You can access higher quality videos by connecting your ‘phone to the specs via Wifi. The app has simple instructions to help you achieve this.
Accessing and Sharing the Videos
Video taken stays on your spectacles until you are ready to move them to your ‘phone. You can do this easily within the Snapchat app. You can choose to retrieve or discard the snaps one by one, or you can download all of the videos in one go. Exporting all the images in one go means you give you one long video, whereas exporting one-by-one would give you individual files.
The choice will be a personal one. As I don’t actively use Snapchat I was more interested in saving the videos ‘offline’. Saving about 40 videos in HD format can take half an hour to process and would give you a video file you can then use wherever you needed it.
Battery Life & Power
The battery lasts quite well when you are out taking snaps. I estimated you could get around 40 x 10 second snaps on one full charge. The biggest challenge is when you connect the spectacles to the ‘phone to transfer the images. This is where the battery will drain very quickly which can be a pain if you are out for the day.
The associated case, which doubles as a battery pack would help you achieve a longer life but it does mean you are carrying round a sizeable block for the day.
Placing the specs inside the case will start charging them from the battery pack and you can choose to connect the charging wire directly to the specs or to the case. Connecting to the case will of course charge that up as your backup for next time.
With a small camera on your glasses, it can be easy to invade other’s privacy. Whilst the spinning light will show others you are recording video, I have found that most people don’t recognise the Snapchat Spectacles for what they are, or they don’t notice the camera.
Personally, I try to avoid taking personal shots in the same way as I wouldn’t if I was using a camera or a smartphone.
For new technology, the glasses worked a lot better than I had expected. The battery life was quite weak if I wanted to take videos and share them throughout the day. Snapping and sharing at the end of the day made the battery last longer but sacrifices the immediacy of sharing.
Connecting the spectacles to the ‘phone was easy the first time round. On every occasion where I tried to download a day’s worth of snaps, the app would lose connection to the camera and I would have to set it up again from scratch. Whilst this was not a time consuming process, it did get a touch boring to keep setting it up.
Would I recommend Snapchat Spectacles? At $130 plus shipping, these aren’t a cheap gimmick. However, as an addition to Snapchat or an alternative to smart ‘phone photography I would highly recommend it.
In less than three years my predominant means of holiday photography has shrunk from an SLR to a Smart ‘Phone to a pair of Spectacles. If you like tech and you like taking photos or videos, then I do suggest you grab a pair and have some fun!