With wearable cameras becoming increasingly popular due to devices such as the GoPro, other companies have also sought to get in on the first-person action video market. At the bargain end is the $100 Looxcie 3, which is half the size and price of the market-leading GoPro Hero3. And while the Looxcie 3 isn't designed to be quite the go-anywhere warhorse that the Hero3 is, it does offer one feature the GoPro lacks -- live Facebook streaming. But Looxcie 3's advantage as a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative is compromised by the results.
Click to EnlargeUnlike previous iterations of its camera, which were long and thin and meant to be worn like a Bluetooth headset, the Looxcie 3 has a square shape, not that dissimilar from the GoPro Hero 3. The Looxcie 3 is designed to be worn on one's chest or lapel using an adjustable clothing clip.
At 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.63 inches and 1.3 ounces, the Looxcie is less than half the size and only a third as heavy as the Hero3. Looxcie 3's lightness of being makes it a lot more bearable to wear in everyday situations.
On the top of Looxcie 3 is a Record/Photo shutter button; on one side is the power button and a mode selection button, and on the other side is a microSD card slot and a microUSB charging jack.
Click to EnlargeIncluded with the Looxcie 3 is a tripod mount. The Looxcie 3 Social Pack ($149) packs a collection of mounts and lanyards and two extra color covers. There are orange, red, white, blue and dark pink rubberized protective skins, and you can buy a three-pack of colored covers for $14.99.
The Looxcie 3 is not waterproof, but a waterproof case ($50) is available.
How it Works
Click to EnlargeLooxcie 3 uses built-in Wi-Fi to create a direct connection with Looxcie's iOS or Android smartphone app, which you use as a viewfinder and a remote control for recording, streaming and sharing video.
When you open the Looxcie iOS or Android app, you'll see videos shot by other users and, at the bottom, small tabs to Record or Stream; this emphasis on other people's footage with small Record options seems inverted.
In order to use your smartphone to control the camera, you have to create a Wi-Fi connection between the Looxcie 3 and your smartphone by finding the Looxcie 3 "network" in the Wi-Fi networks Settings menu.
Once successfully synced, hit Record and you'll get a viewfinder displaying what the camera sees. You can shoot footage without the direct Wi-Fi connection, but you'll risk not capturing your subject.. You're completely on your own aiming for still photos -- the app only can control video recording or streaming.
You can put your phone to sleep while recording, but we found this confuses the app when we tested the Looxcie 3 using an iPhone 5s. When you reawaken your phone and the app, the time record counter seems to start from zero, even though your camera is still recording.
In conjunction with its smartphone app, Looxcie lets you stream live footage to the virtual world via a Facebook app, a la Ustream.
You can choose to stream publicly or to chosen Facebook friends. It helps if you're Facebook-fluent, though, as the setup process isn't exactly intuitive.
The app lets you choose between Private and Public viewing (although why these choices are presented on a slide bar instead of a radio button is odd), invite viewers, see who's viewing and even which camera you want to shoot through -- the Looxcie, or one of your two smartphone lenses.
The Looxcie 3 records footage at 720p, which is low when you consider that other wearable cameras, not to mention smartphones, can record video up to 1080p. Worse, the Looxcie 3 shoots still images at a resolution of 1280 x 720, and you can't use the app to frame or take a still shot. You'll have to guess what you're shooting, and simply press the shutter button on the Looxcie 3 itself.
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Even in bright sunlight, colors were washed out. A blue sky was very pale, and blacks, such as in shadows, lacked contrast.
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Colors in indoor and nighttime scenes virtually disappear; the green in a Subway sandwich shop sign looked faded. The darker the environment, the grainier and less distinct the footage.
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Looxcie 3 also doesn't offer comparatively long battery life; we were able to record for about 90 minutes sans Wi-Fi and about an hour with Wi-Fi. While that's in line with Looxie's claims, it's about two-thirds of the GoPro Hero3's runtime.
Click to EnlargeA specialty video device should not produce worse images than your average smartphone -- especially since, for around the same price, you can turn an iPhone into an action cam via an extra lens, case and/or kit, such as the Optrix XD5. This goes double for Looxcie 3's more "social" intended usage, which is likely to be mostly indoors. While it's more compact than most action cams, the lackluster footage the Looxcie 3 records cancel out the freedom the device provides.