The greatest photos are a moment naturally captured; that genuine laugh or a perfect action shot is a snapshot in time forever remembered. That’s the aim of the Autographer, a new wearable camera that’s designed to do what point-and-shoot cameras can’t: produce the most natural of images while you get on with your life.
The idea of lifelogging isn’t new, but it has certainly been brought to the fore by Google Glass, and has highlighted the legal and social issues of snapping everyone and everything you see – sometimes without permission.
Those problems aren’t just exclusive to Glass. Before even stepping out of the house, we felt a little awkward displaying the Autographer on our clothing in public, which limited it to family time in the garden, bike rides in the country or out on the golf course – all excellent locations none the less.
But is the Autographer up to the task? Read on for our review.
The Autographer camera (£299) features just two general photo settings: a continuous shooting mode (which can be adjusted to high, medium and low frequency) and a sequence mode, which captures a series of nine shots. The latter is handy when you know specifically what you want your pictures to show.
The whole camera is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and, at 58g, it’s not much of a burden. It’s designed to be worn on your clothing or bag, and comes with a thick clip on the back, so it can be attached to any flap of clothing, bag strap or loose appendage. However, we found it to be too loose to really clip on with any great authority. We heard it clatter from our bag on a number of occasions, and it felt heavy when attached to a shirt pocket.
Inside is a 5MP camera and 8GB of storage – enough to store 28,000 images, meaning the battery will give out before you run out of space. On high frequency mode, which takes an image every ten seconds, we saw around four hours of battery life. Incidentally, low frequency takes a shot every 30 seconds, and lasted an excellent 8 hours.
To help the Autographer’s chances of capturing some stunning real-life action, it has been equipped with a wide-angle lens, opening its field of view up to 130 degrees. This lends pictures a fisheye quality, which is pretty funky, but non-negotiable.
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Image quality is on par with a 2007 feature phone, with some good results in decent even sunlight, and plenty of blurry rejects. With the fisheye lens the grainy-ness is actually styled out as some retro-style filter that can be charming when you capture the right shot.
The main problem wasn’t the quality of the shots, it was getting the Autographer pointing at the action. When clipped onto loose clothing, it had a nasty tendency of swinging away from the action, thanks to the bulk of the device pulling down on shirt pockets or swinging like a pendulum on its strap. What’s more, the static clip means that if you want to attach to a bag strap or any non-horizontally aligned appendage, you’d have to turn the camera so your shots will be sideways or worse, wonky.
Due to the sheer number of images captured, the law of averages states that out of the thousands of random stills some moments of gold will appear, and to sort the wheat and chaff those out you’ll need the app.
There are two ways to look at the pictures from your Autographer and neither of them are from the device itself. First is from the app, which is available for both iOS and Android – sorry Windows Phone users. There are also desktop apps for both Mac and PC, so no-one should feel left out.
The app’s a little fiddly to sync with the Autographer, and after we’d fully paired it we ran into difficulty again while out on a round of golf, while keen to see what sort of images we were getting.
When working, the app does a good job at showing all your snaps, although we found the desktop version a lot more helpful for the huge editing task. As a rule of thumb, we found around 5% of images were worth keeping, and while it’s easy to find, view and grab the images you like from the desktop app, there’s little help refining them. One great feature, however, is the GPS tagging of your images, and if you’re spending a day on the move, it’s easy to filter your collection down to specific places.
Autographer: Wrap up
There’s plenty to like about the Autographer, and it’s truly capable of capturing some unique shots of your day out. While the quality is lacking, we have a soft spot for the slightly crummy fisheye snaps, and there’s a thrill from sorting through the pictures and finding a couple of keepers.
Unfortunately, the consistently low volume of usable shots each day out produced meant that after the novelty wore off, it rarely left the house.
It’s also important to remember the insane asking price, which outstrips a fair amount of fully featured compacts and entry-level DSLRs. Yes, it’s a different proposition, but with such a low success rate of quality photos, we’re unlikely to ever feel gratified by the extortionate price.
- Nice fish-eye shots
- Easy desktop app
- Good battery life and storage
- Loose clip
- Very poor ratio of usable shots
- Still feels a little bulky