Physically, there's not much to the specs. They're comprised of a relatively soft, matte plastic with a slight give that should keep them from shattering easily in the event of an impact. In total there are four styles, all with a few frame and lens color options. Our pair, the Durangos, were black with the highly reflective "glacier blue" lenses. Smack dab in-between those, near the bridge of the nose, is the 8-megapixel CMOS sensor from Sony that forms the heart of the gadget. The camera is reasonably conspicuous, recessed into the frames and surrounded by a protective bezel. Simply put, there's no way you could have a conversation with someone without them noticing it. From a distance though, they just look like a pair of unusually bulky eyewear.
All of the controls and the micro-USB port are housed in the left arm, along with a heatsink, which keeps the electronics and battery from melting the plastic frames. To hide all that hardware, the arms need to be pretty thick -- measuring in at a hefty 11mm at their widest. On top is a rocker: press it forward to record video and back to capture a photo -- simple enough, right? Sort of. See, if you hold down the front toggle for four seconds it cycles between video modes. Hold the rear toggle and it flips through focus modes: auto, fixed and continuous auto. The only problem is, which mode you've changed to is indicated by a trio of LEDs on the inside of the arm that are not only cryptic, but impossible to see while wearing them. There are other options, such as a macro mode, but you'll need to fire up the desktop software to switch to those. On the underside of the same arm is the power button and the micro-USB port, which does double duty -- charging the glasses and turning them into a mass storage device so you can remove your photos and video from the 8GB of internal storage.
While the Pivothead glasses are bulky for a pair of specs, they're still far more discreet than say a GoPro or other helmet cam. Beyond the lack of mounting hardware, it's just easier to carry around or quietly capture video and photos without others noticing... as long as they're not paying particularly close attention. You will look slightly odd if you keep touching your temple.
Believe it or not, there's actually a software component to Pivothead's offering, though, we'd venture to guess you could use these things for quite some time without ever needing to fire up the desktop app. Sure, it's handy for quickly switching between a few pre-set video modes, but the default settings worked well enough for almost everything we threw at it. One of the settings relegated to the app is macro focus mode. While it's nice to have the option, we can't imagine ever holding anything close enough to our faces for it to really be necessary. The Windows app worked exactly as we expected it, easily changing settings on the glasses and pulling our media off. But the Mac version was a little more fickle. It was a bit buggy and locked up completely when we clicked to button to transfer our photos and videos to our MacBook.
The only problem with manually setting the exposure compensation or ISO, is that you can't change them back on the fly.
The program provides access to a number of "quick" setting video modes optimized for sports, power savings and hands-on, along with a few others. Manually you can also set the focus mode and turn on or off features like face-tracking and audio recording. Those fine-grained controls extend to still captures as well, where you can choose between 200, 800 and 1,600 ISO. The only problem with manually setting the exposure compensation or ISO, is that you can't change them back on the fly. So, if you're still out when the sun goes down but have the exposure set for bright conditions, you'll be out of luck.
That is, at least until the Air Pivothead WiFi Drive hits shelves in July. Sadly, we couldn't get one in time for the review, but eventually it will allow you to quickly preview images on your mobile device and even change the camera's settings. There's an iPhone and iPad app that should be in the App Store very soon, and an Android version is in the works.
Honestly, we have very little to complain about when it comes to the quality of the product produced by Pivothead's video recording eyewear. Was it as crisp or clear as, say, an HD Hero 2 or Contour+? No, but considering it was only an 8MP sensor crammed into the body of a pair of knock-off Oakley sunglasses, we didn't expect it to be. The 1080p and 720p clips coming out of the specs were definitely a step above your average smartphone or pocket camcorder. When panning about quickly there's some noticeable skew to the images, but it's hardly a deal-breaker and, if you can keep your head relatively steady, the cam picks up a surprising amount of detail even when charging down a hill at about 26MPH on a bike. What's more, the on-board mic had no trouble picking up our narration (as you can see in the video above) even while moving at such high speeds on a windy day. Sure the "wind-resistant" recording isn't quite as resistant as we'd like, but rarely did the roar of the gusts overpower our voice.