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Image quality

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?

The Autographer's lens has a huge 136° diagonal angle of view, and is a semi-fisheye design, meaning that straight lines which don't pass through the centre of the frame end up curved.
This image tells you a fair bit about the camera's good light image quality. Colours are pretty attractive - strong and saturated - but highlight clipping is pretty obvious in the clouds and tree trunks. If you look at the image closely it's not especially sharp at the pixel level either - best results tend to be with much closer subjects (~1m / 3ft).

The lens's distortion characteristics mean that both the horizon and trees are decidedly bent.
With the sun directly in the frame - not an uncommon occurrence given its huge angle of view - the lens will flare spectacularly, giving large red dots and lots of radial streaking. Here it's especially pronounced due to the clear blue sky and bright midsummer sun - if the light is attenuated in any way, it's naturally less severe.

Flare like this isn't always a bad thing; sometimes it can add to an image.
In lower light levels - here overcast daylight - colour saturation holds up pretty well. But look a little closer and there's lots of chroma noise - the image processing doesn't seem to be doing much to reduce it at all.

This image does show one advantage of the semi-fisheye lens - despite its huge angle of view, the people towards the edge of the frame don't appear too dramatically out of proportion. The flipside is that subjects have to be really close not to look tiny in the frame.

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.

Stop-motion movies

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.

Summary

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.

Samples Gallery

There are 30 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

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
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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (11 months ago)

This thing takes narcissism to a new level.

5 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (11 months ago)

How does taking picture of everything *but* yourself count as narcissism?

3 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (11 months ago)

Because you obviously feel that everything you are doing in a day is so awesome that it warrants recording.

14 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (11 months ago)

because it's *your* P.o.V.

2 upvotes
Gesture
By Gesture (11 months ago)

Great point. Portraiture can be done from the photographer's point of view or if one is skillful, the subject's

0 upvotes
Nismo350Z
By Nismo350Z (11 months ago)

Maybe he meant that narcissists usually enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror, so then the camera works in that regard. *shrugs*

0 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (11 months ago)

'just 'cause I sent the huge alarm clock that usually dangles from my neck back to the shop for chroming... (facepalm)

1 upvote
LaFonte
By LaFonte (11 months ago)

Maybe big brother can (for some fee) let you search the cctv database for pictures of you. That would be better than a wearable cctv.

2 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (11 months ago)

This is the logical extension of instagram. Flood the internet with photographs that no one cares about, and few look at, and which document the totally boring nature of your life.

I think this sums up the future: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn-dD-QKYN4

4 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (11 months ago)

I suppose somewhere in this world there is an idiot predicting this is the future of photography.

7 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (11 months ago)

And its very likely he's got an account here...

9 upvotes
andrew turner
By andrew turner (11 months ago)

IMO this concept needs to be on glasses, and constantly recording with a loop of 2 minutes or so.

That way, you drive past something really interesting, press a button, and say to your passenger,

"did you see THAT?"... and they say no, and you say "I'll show you later."

The picture stream (video) from 5 seconds before and after is saved. You go back later and fish out the image(s) you want.

2 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (11 months ago)

Seems like there is no more sense in discussing usefulness of anything that appears on the market, because as long as there are people ready to buy anything, anything will be sold.

1 upvote
Tape5
By Tape5 (11 months ago)

...and the trash commercialism-trash consumerism loop is neatly closed.

1 upvote
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (11 months ago)

... while resources and energy considerations be damned, along with the manufacturers' sensibility for what the potential users might really need...

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (11 months ago)

Seems like a toy or a weird gadget for extreme bloggers.

1 upvote
Langusta
By Langusta (11 months ago)

"big brother is watching you" and yet you need to pay for it???
I guess, I simlpy don't understand why anyone would pay for such gizmo...what's the purpose of that thing anyway? I do have my mobile and one rather crapy camera that came with it.
OMG...Maybe I'm aging...

0 upvotes
Shengji
By Shengji (11 months ago)

I guess you're paying to be big brother - presumably your camera is watching everyone else!

0 upvotes
zodiacfml
By zodiacfml (11 months ago)

it will take trashy imagery since you can't predict where it will shoot.
how come it doesn't have GoPro like sort of attachments where it will have almost limitless applications?

0 upvotes
knize10
By knize10 (11 months ago)

Made in China and available at your dollar store.

0 upvotes
knize10
By knize10 (11 months ago)

Appears to be easily snatched from someone's neck.

0 upvotes
fuego6
By fuego6 (11 months ago)

more.. failware.. thx for bringing this device to the masses..!

1 upvote
alFR
By alFR (11 months ago)

"Not obviously a camera"
"distinctly unobtrusive"
I guess it depends on where it's being worn on the user's body, but it has a very distinct lens on it and looks pretty damn obvious in the photo above...

3 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (11 months ago)

How to lose friends and alienate people ... If you see anyone with one of these around their neck, avoid contact ! How can anyone have a serious conversation like that.

12 upvotes
duartix
By duartix (11 months ago)

Smartphone = 0$ (I already have one)
App to shoot at (ir?)regular intervals = 0$
Wide angle adapter = 10$
Neck strap = 2$

Come again??? 400£???
Seriously, Oh My Grandmother have a real issue with their price point...
...and IQ...
...and storage...
...but to name a few.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
12 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (11 months ago)

Unless you are gonna wear one of those Pureview camera phone then it is fine otherwise you will just carry a bigger garbage camera like iPhone etc etc.

3 upvotes
duartix
By duartix (11 months ago)

You are right but that was not my point!
Garbage for garbage I have my phone which by the looks of it is less garbage than this device.
I understand the concept though, and I don't dispute it, I'm just arguing that weight aside, there is almost nothing that this gadget will do that a phone won't.

2 upvotes
WellyNZ
By WellyNZ (11 months ago)

That's great for you that already has a smart phone.

0 upvotes
brumd
By brumd (11 months ago)

Just at the moment I thought one of these gadgets would be fun to do stop-motions of my hiking adventures, I read:
"Built-in battery, charges over USB"

too bad..

actually it's quite handy that it is usb-chargable (with solar power of one of those nifty cooking devices), but not being able to insert a spare battery is very inconvenient; you're bound to miss exactly the part that you wanted to record (after a few rainy days in the sub-arctic).

0 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (11 months ago)

OMG what a great set of pictures!

Perfect focus, tack-sharp images and wonderful colors!

Well-worth it than reviewing other cameras such as Fuji HS50, Fuji X-S1 etc etc...

4 upvotes
absentaneous
By absentaneous (11 months ago)

from a purely photographic point of view this thing seems to me pretty useless. even more considering the fact that most of the people carry a (phone) camera with them all the time.

3 upvotes
fotografer
By fotografer (11 months ago)

Oh dear, I MUST sell my RX100 now for this!!!

1 upvote
Total comments: 123
12