The issue with most action cams is that, however small they are, they're bulky appendages on your helmet or person. The Pivothead Recon glasses eliminate that problem by combining a video camera and sunglasses into one, fairly compact unit. But can the $299 Pivothead shades deliver video quality on a par with dedicated action cameras?
The Pivothead Recon Black Jet glasses look basically like a chunky pair of shades, somewhat similar to the Oakley Thumps from a few years ago. The only thing that would tip someone off that they're more than just sunglasses is the small camera lens in the bridge.
At 2.4 ounces, the Pivothead glasses weight in a bit heavier than your typical pair of shades, but they didn't feel uncomfortable while we wore them. The glasses remained secure on our head even as we schussed down black diamond ski trails at Whiteface in Upstate New York, but as we started sweating, they would drop slightly down on the bridge of our nose.
We also found that we couldn't wear a facemask; any time we exhaled, the warm air would fog up the Pivotheads. This, however, will happen if you wear any type of sunglasses in this situation.
Aside from the polarized, smoke grey lenses that came installed, the Recon Black Jet Pivothead glasses come with two extra sets of lenses, one clear and one yellow-tinted, so you can swap them out as conditions change. We also like that the lenses and the glasses all fit in a semi-hard travel case.
Pivothead makes 15 different styles of glasses; only the Recon model comes with three sets of lenses. However, consumers can also order clear or photochromic prescription lenses.
Controls are pretty basic: On the top of the left arm is a rocker switch, and on the bottom you'll find a power button and a microUSB port covered by a rubber flap. Three small LEDs on the inside -- red, green and blue -- indicate recording modes.
Storage and Transfer of Images
The Pivothead glasses have 8GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, there's no microSD card slot, a limitation caused by the glasses' size.
In order to get video and images off the Pivothead glasses, you must plug them into your computer via USB. You can also purchase the Air Pivothead, a $99 accessory that will let you stream and transfer video via Wi-Fi to a connected device, such as an iPhone.
Using the desktop software or the controls on the Pivothead glasses, you can switch video resolution from 720p/30 fps to 1080p/30 fps. You can also change the Video Recording focus to one of several settings: Auto Focus, Fixed Focus or Continuous Auto Focus. The desktop app offers a few more focusing options, including Active Mode, Action Sports Mode and Social Mode. According to Pivothead, the latter lets you "turn on the glasses, forget about them and relive the party tomorrow."
While skiing, we set the glasses to Active Mode, which continually adjusts the focus. However, the Pivothead glasses had trouble remaining in focus as we shifted our gaze from the slope in front of us to the horizon. While colors were bright and vivid, video wasn't as crisp as with other wearable cameras.
The camera picked up audio cleanly while we remained stationary, but once we got moving, wind noise, as with all other action cams, became an issue.
Wearers can take still images up to 8 megapixels in size. You can also set the camera to take photos at regular intervals, from once every second to five shots every 60 seconds.
With Social Mode on and resolution set at 720p/30 fps, the Pivothead camera lasted 1 hour and 11 minutes. That's about half the time notched by larger action cameras, such as the GoPro Hero3, which itself lasted only about 2 hours. To be fair, though, there's much less space for a battery in the Pivothead glasses.
The idea behind the Pivothead Recon Black Jet is definitely clever: Why carry sunglasses and an action camera when you can combine the two into one? Fashionistas will like that the Recons aren't overly bulky, and the glasses' price of $299 is reasonable. However, putting all that tech into such a small package presents its limitations: Video quality, battery life and storage all fall short of the standards set by dedicated action cameras. If you're willing to live with those tradeoffs, though, the Pivothead Recon Black glasses are good for catching some impromptu outdoor moments.