What’s with these “wearable” cameras that are all the rage lately? Do they work and really know what they’re doing and how do you handle them? The Autographer does what a “wearable” camera should and does it well, even if it’s not as unobtrusive looking as some others.
The Autographer looks like a camera — it has a “lens cover” that rotates and keeps the lens from getting dusty when not in use but this also doubles as the “on/off” switch. The other controls, mounted on the side, consist of a Menu and Action button. Whatever is selected is reflected in a small but bright LED panel on the front. The Menu controls whether Bluetooth is active or not, whether the Autographer makes noises or blinks when it takes a shot and at what resolution the pictures are taken (thousands of them are possible with the built-in 8GBs of memory. The Autographer is really a self-contained device, with its 5 megapixel fixed-focus lens wrapped around a series of 5 sensors (plus GPS) working ambient light / accelerometer / magnetometer / PIR / temperature. All of these combine to determine when a picture is to be shot — rather than it being based on a “timed” sequence. So once turned on, the camera takes over and shoots when “it” thinks it should (although a manual control is available for snapping when desired).
The angle of view is unique compared to other cameras — it’s a wide angle view, yes, but the 136degrees are designed to better approximate what the eye sees. Of course the camera’s placement influences that as well; I used the attached and very strong clip to hold it to my belt so it faced outward. I also tried it clipped to the lapel of my coat as well. Of course the included lanyard and positioning around the neck makes the most sense as that will keep the Autographer lying flat and facing outward without any “tweaking,” but besides this standing out, it’s not the kind of thing that I as a guy would do. But that’s just me.
Previewing the images that have been shot are done through the phone — I used an iPhone 5 and the free app that’s provided. The syncing process requires a few button presses on the Autographer and corresponding pairing on the iPhone’s BT setting, which auto-goes to the app. The app provides a number of views for seeing what the camera has “caught,” this being stored in its memory, unless the streamed imaging is transferred to the phone’s own internal memory. You can also tag and share pictures from the app. In the app, you can also create a “flip-book” like effect by creating an animated GIF from a series of images. But what you can not do is use the app to preview live streaming. Because of the large number of pictures that are shot, it makes perfect sense to connect the Autographer to a computer via its micro-USB (which also charges it) for downloading the pictures.
It took me a few times to get the angle right so that the Autographer was looking in the direction that I wanted it to (hence its best use being on the lanyard). It can also be stood up on a table or any flat surface and left to do its thing — as I found, it was pretty forgiving as to the light level, providing it wasn’t too dark, which would cause it to turn itself off. I also found that a full charge would last the day.
I found the Autographer’s credo of “leave me alone and I’ll take care of shooting” to work fine. I clipped it to my belt as I got out of the car in the grocery store’s parking lot and turned it on by rotating the lens. I made my way into the store and didn’t think about how I was carrying a concealed camera on my person. In fact after a bit I forgot that it was there until I was back in the parking lot. I was going to turn it off after I had unloaded the cart and gotten back in the car, figuring that shots of the foot pedals wouldn’t be that exciting, but decided to wait until I had gotten home and brought everything upstairs. Later I reviewed the images that had been shot on the phone before transferring them to the computer. The picture sequence kind of reminded me of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride from Disneyland years ago, since the lighting changed from outdoor sun to indoor fluorescent to shaded daylight over the course of what had been shot. It was cool. I also did a sequence where I had gone for a walk over to a local 7/11 and again, it was cool to see the results once I had gotten back home.
I wasn’t able to keep the Autographer for more than a week and so didn’t have the opportunity to try it out in as many situations as I would have liked — taking it to Disneyland would have been a hoot, especially if I had let my niece wear it for the day (roller coasters being her thing more than mine, especially after the third repeat ride). If you’re curious, the Autographer’s design did catch a lot of people’s attention, and on more than one occasion I was asked what it was (the lens was what did it, I think).
Bottom line: In the digital, social-lifestyle environment that we now live in, recording what we’re doing is kind of a fun way to create memories. This becomes especially easy since the Autographer doesn’t require any effort to use and can be ignored and just let go to do its thing. The $399 retail is kind of steep, but who can put a price tag on what goes on in your life?
Custom Eye-View lens, Free Autographer Share cloud service, PC/Mac software embedded in device
GPS signal strength varies depending on location
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.