So now we come to the million dollar (or at least four hundred pound) question. When all is said and done, are the images the camera produces any good?
With the Autographer, this question becomes somewhat more multi-faceted than usual. Not only do we have to consider the technical image quality - sensor, lens, image processing - we also have to think a bit about the underlying concept. Does the fundamental idea of the wearable camera have any key shortcomings, and crucially, does all that sensor technology seem to work?
These shots also show another key point about the camera - because you're not aiming it in any way, framing is very random. If you're wearing the camera, it's rarely going to be pointing straight and level, and if you're moving when it chooses to make an exposure, the image will often be heavily blurred due to camera movement. Just occasionally everything comes together and you get a really interesting shot, but this is essentially serendipitous.
Overall, then, as a wearable camera for shooting stills, the Autographer suffers from pretty much all the problems you might predict. Without any conscious composition, getting interesting pictures is essentially a matter of luck, and requires sorting through a lots of exposures to find them.
At the moment we're still far from sure what the camera's ambient sensor technology is really doing, either. From the timestamps on images it's clear that exposures aren't simply made at fixed intervals, so something is going on inside that little black box. But it's not clear exactly what, or indeed whether it's significantly more likely to trigger the capture of genuinely interesting images than a simple intervalometer would.
The second string in the Autographer's bow, beyond simply making a series of exposures, is assembling them together into stop-motion movies. It's possible to do this from the iPhone app, but the desktop version gives more options and allows easy selection of the frames you're going to include (and exclusion of those you don't want). In our brief experience so far this is pretty crucial - making an even vaguely engaging stop-motion movie ideally requires pretty ruthless editing.
This example was recorded at Autographer's launch event launch, hosted by OMG Life at London Zoo. My initial selection consisted of 46 frames, which I whittled down to 17 in the final version. The movie was exported at 960x720 resolution, and a framerate of 2fps.
This movie certainly isn't helped by the heavily overcast conditions, which make the colours appear rather dull. It also illustrates another problem with the wearable camera - you exercise little conscious control over where it's pointing. So the images are all skewed at different angles, and the main subject can easily get cropped off the edge of the frame. It's up to you top decide whether this is art, or merely distracting.
What we like
- Lightweight, unobtrusive design
- Intuitive, easy-to-use software
- Simple generation of stop-motion movies
What we don't like
- Image quality isn't great
- 'Hit rate' of interesting images is low (initially at least)
There's little doubt that the Autographer is a really interesting device - it's not often we see cameras that are genuinely innovative, and attempt to rethink the concept from scratch. But after a few days of trying one out, we're still trying to work out exactly what it's for, and whether it's a genuinely useful device. What is absolutely clear is that it has a completely different set of strengths and applications compared to a conventional camera, and therefore has to be assessed in a different way.
It's certainly easy to use, and light enough that you could wear it all day without really noticing. It's also pretty unobtrusive, so people don't necessarily react to it with the forced smiles often elicited by 'real' cameras. Because of this it may well provide unique images from family events, for example, that you wouldn't otherwise capture. But you'll have to dedicate yourself to picking out those special few from the thousands of ordinary shots it produces alongside.
In a way, we suspect Autographer may actually work best when not used as a wearable camera at all. Instead, it could be left in a fixed position to document a day or event. The advantage here is that it won't be affected so much by the randomness of framing that comes with a constantly-moving device, and this would also provide a better basis for producing stop-motion movies. Then again a conventional camera with an intervalometer might do practically the same job, cheaper.
We have no doubt that some users will love Autographer, and use it to produce hugely creative work. Others will enjoy using it to document and playback their day - although like any camera, it's probably best left for special occasions (if you use it to record your daily commute, chances are that you'll find it's just as dull and uneventful as you thought). It's certainly not to be dismissed out-of-hand, just because it's new and does things differently. In its current iteration we struggle to see it catching on as mainstream product, but we have to give credit for OMG Life for at least trying something new.
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Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
|OMG Life Autographer Review Samples - 2nd August 2013|