Liquid Image Apex HD + WiFi Camera Goggles £335
27th Feb 2013 | 02:30
Helmet cams are all the rage, but what if you want a less conspicuous option?
Head to any ski resort and you're bound to see skiers rocking any manner of action cams. While some see this trend as yet more narcissism, a way to show off to your Facebook and Twitter buddies that "I'm skiing and you're not," getting video of yourself and your buddies can also serve as a great educational tool.
Last year, TechRadar got our hands on the juggernaut of the action cam world, the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. There's much to like about GoPro's latest offering, but it's still far from perfect. While the image quality is second to none, the cameras themselves can be finicky, not to mention bulky. While rocking a GoPro might appeal to some, others don't necessarily like the idea of having a bulky camera perched atop their helmet. And that's where the Liquid Image Apex HD + WiFi Camera Goggles come in.
We took to the slopes at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, Calif. to put the Liquid Image Apex HD + WiFi Camera Goggles through its paces and we were very impressed.
Described as an "all-in-one POV camera and goggle" where the Apex HD + WiFi shines is in its relative simplicity. Since you're probably already going to wear goggles, using this setup doesn't really require another piece of gear. Of course, since the camera is built into the goggles, relative to other setups, the Apex HD only sports 30 degrees of vertical angle adjustability. That said, in our testing this wasn't really a problem. For the most part, when you attach a camera to the front or top or your helmet you pretty much just want to see what's in front of you anyway.
Liquid Image has a mobile app for iOS and Android phones that uses the camera goggles' built-in WiFi and once you have the connection setup you can monitor and set up your shots making sure that the angles are right. You can even use the mobile app to control certain aspects of the camera.
Of course, during our tests we tended to shy away from watching the phone all day because of battery life concerns. There's another app as well called Action Connect that lets you control even more of the camera's functions but it has an awful delay that we found to be annoying.
Speaking of battery life the Apex HD + WiFi sports a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that's housed in the right side of the strap. The control mechanism, replete with the tiny 0.5" x 0.5" LCD is housed in the left side of the strap. The camera's battery is rated to last between two and two and a half hours and that was consistent with our experience.
Similar to other action cameras controlling the device and feedback is handled via a series of beeps. Turn the camera on and one beep tells you you're in 720p 60FPS video recording mode. Hit the power button again and you're in 1080p 30FPS video recording mode. Another beep and you're in single photo mode. One more beep and you're taking a burst of photos. Hold the power button down for a series of beeps powers the camera off. In our tests we would turn the camera on while riding near the end of the lift, record our video or pics and then turn it off at the bottom to save battery life.
The Apex HD + is capable of recording video at 1080p and 720p at 30FPS and 60FPS respectively. It also rocks a built-in microphone but in our tests, while skiing down the mountain, it mostly just picked up wind noise. While quietly riding up the lift the built-in mic did as good a job as can be expected from a helmet cam.
Boasting a 12MP camera the Apex HD + stores data via a 4GB MicroSD card (included) who's slot resides in the left-side housing unit. The device takes about four hours to charge and uses MiniUSB. We would have preferred it to use MicroUSB as that's the format most widely used with mobiles. Of course, this is a rather minor gripe.
Now, the Apex HD + WiFi isn't just a camera. It's also a set of goggles. That said, the quality of the goggles was truly impressive. Of course, if you're spending $US399 you expect quality optics. Additionally they ship with two anti-fog, 100 percent UV Protected lenses.
Video and picture quality
We tested the Apex HD + WiFi in beautiful sunny conditions as well as in a blizzard and the image quality was awesome. Still images were crisp and video too was nice and smooth, especially at 720p and 60FPS. One issue that plagued us while skiing during a blizzard that we didn't notice until we got back to the cabin to go over the day's activities was that the falling snow covered the lens!
Since we setup the camera angle before the snow started falling it didn't occur to us to clean the lens during the day. Lesson learned.
All in all, anyone who's interested in taking video of themselves and their buddies skiing would no doubt dig the Apex HD + WiFi from Liquid Image. While GoPros are all the rage, the fact remains they're not the only game in town and well... not everyone likes the idea of having a camera mounted to their helmet.
Compared to other goggles the Apex HD + WiFi is pretty bulky. We tested it with two helmets and didn't really have any problems but the control modules and battery are large especially when they're on top of a helmet. Also, at $US399 it's a commitment that definitely lacks the flexibility of other options. We also don't understand why all of these companies continue to use WiFi to connect to your phone as opposed to Bluetooth, which is significantly easier to setup and use.
We really liked having a simple to use and inconspicuous setup. While the kids on the mountain seemed to revel in the fact that everyone knows they have a GoPro some of us prefer to go a bit under the radar.
With image and video quality that rivals other manufacturers, if you're a skier looking for a less conspicuous option you'll no doubt be happy with the Apex HD + WiFi.