Hands-On Review: Zeiss Cinemizer OLED Multimedia Video Glasses
The Zeiss Cinemizer OLED glasses are a multimedia monitoring system that provides an impression of a 40” (105 cm) widescreen display with integrated stereo sound. They can be connected to HDMI or composite sources with the included cables, and a Cinemizer Adapter Kit for iPod and iPhone is separately available. The Cinemizer is a useful tool for a range of production applications, such as monitoring aerial photography, and shooting video with jibs and cranes. The Cinemizer supports 3D content, so it can be used for viewing 3D stills and video, as well as three-dimensional CAD drawings. This system is also great for privately viewing media and for playing video games. A rechargeable battery pack is included, so the Cinemizer can be used anywhere.
I had the opportunity to give the Zeiss Cinemizer OLED a short test drive, and I was impressed with the overall build quality of the design. There aren’t too many products like this out there, so I didn’t have any comparable examples against which to judge it. In the late 1990s it seemed everyone was under the impression that virtual reality goggles were going to be the next big thing, but they still haven’t arrived. I finally got to strap a pair on my head today, but instead of looking forward to exploring virtual worlds, I was mostly intrigued by how they could be used to help you produce technically challenging video shoots.
Setting up the Cinemizer for the first time is a little bit of a process. Human beings have different-sized ears and differently shaped noses. Accordingly, the Cinemizer’s nose pad and ear pieces are adjustable. The included Quick Guide booklet was helpful in getting up and running, and Zeiss provides many resources on their website to help you understand how this product works, in case you need a little assistance. All of the accessories required to get the perfect fit are included, and a sturdy yet lightweight zippered travel case is in the box as well.
Much like the viewfinder on a camera, there are diopters on each of the Cinemizer’s 870 x 500 resolution organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. The acuity of the system can be adjusted so that people who wear prescription eyeglasses can comfortably view footage on the Cinemizer. I don’t wear spectacles, so I can’t comment on how effective this is in practical use. However, I will say, the dials stick out just far enough to make it easy to adjust them while wearing the glasses. The process was as natural as manually focusing a lens.
Earphones are integrated into the Cinemizer and, if you don’t want to use them, they can be removed. This is convenient for anyone who may want to use their own earphones. The nice thing about the earphones that come with the Cinemizer is that they have really short cables, and they practically disappear into the chassis when assembled. If you want to use other earphones, you can connect them to the 3.5mm stereo output on the included battery pack. The battery pack is also where you’ll find the volume control for the headphones, as well as other ports and controls.
I only used the Cinemizer with my iPhone 4, which required the separately available Adapter Kit. The kit is composed of a 30-pin adapter, which docks with the Cinemizer’s battery box. An adapter plate and three pads for using different-sized gadgets are also included. It took me a moment to get familiar with the various parts and fit everything together, but it wasn’t too difficult. Once assembled, the phone and the Cinemizer battery pack had a satisfyingly solid feel.
As soon as I had the battery pack charged up, the iPhone adapter assembled and the Cinemizer properly fitted on my head, I was ready to dive into some video. The first thing I did was unlock my iPhone and mistakenly expect to see the phone’s home screen displayed on the dual OLED displays. This isn’t how it works. You operate the iPhone normally, using your fingers to navigate and carry out commands on the phone’s multitouch display. The screens on the Cinemizer don’t kick in until you play a video.
I didn’t have any videos saved on my phone, so everything I ended up watching came from the Web. My first stop was YouTube. I found a random video, pressed PLAY on the iPhone’s screen, and the Cinemizer sprang into action. The YouTube clip appeared on the virtual 40-inch screen before my eyes, and alas, it looked like a compressed YouTube video. The Cinemizer doesn’t make low-resolution footage look any better than it actually is, and it also doesn’t transform 2D footage into 3D. Still, it was kind of neat to watch and listen to a YouTube video privately at my desk.
The sound of the YouTube clip was initially only coming in my left earphone, and it seemed like the right earphone wasn’t operating properly. I figured the culprit might be the poorly made YouTube video I had watched, and sure enough, everything else I ended up playing through the Cinemizer worked just fine in both ears. The stock earphones were comfortable, and the sound quality was certainly acceptable. I eventually removed the included earphones and plugged in my own pair. My personal earphones sounded a little better, and the Comply ear tips that I use were a little more comfortable. All in all, my experience with the included earphones was positive.
Next, I pointed my iPhone’s Web browser to Vimeo. The first thing I played was a video promoting Vimeo’s new video-rental service, and the picture quality was much sharper this time around. I surfed around on Vimeo for a while, and everything I watched had a similar level of quality. When you’re judging a piece of equipment like this, you have to keep it in context. If you’re expecting the world to melt away around you, and to be transported into an immersive virtual realm, it’s simply not going to happen. The Cinemizer is a straightforward, head-worn video monitor with integrated sound. The picture quality wasn’t mind blowing, but considering it’s such a compact and lightweight battery-powered device, I was pleased with its performance.
Next, I tried to find some 3D content. I watched a few Stereo 3D videos on YouTube and Vimeo, and the quality varied from clip to clip. The 3D imagery didn’t really pop out of the screen too much. I fiddled with the 3D settings on the Cinemizer, but nothing really made the moving pictures lurch toward me. It seemed like the clips I was streaming weren’t fully optimized for the Cinemizer. On a positive note, the Stereo 3D footage I watched wasn’t as disorienting as normal 3D. I personally find 3D footage somewhat bothersome, and I didn’t have this feeling watching 3D footage on the Cinemizer.
An acquaintance of mine shoots aerial video by mounting a Sony NEX-5R to a remote-controlled helicopter. He connects the video output of the camera to a wireless video transmitter (which is also mounted to the helicopter), and sits in a lawn chair wearing video glasses similar to the Cinemizer, so he can both pilot the aircraft and compose his shots. As I sat at my desk watching Web videos, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Cinemizer would perform in a setting like that. Seeing as this is a Zeiss product, and that the overall quality of the construction was solid and the image quality was good, I’m guessing that it would be a real contender for videographers and filmmakers who push the envelope to achieve these amazing-looking shots. Perhaps the next time I encounter a Cinemizer, a quadcopter and an HD camera will be involved.
The industrial design of the Cinemizer is very tasteful. The included rechargeable battery pack is a great touch. It delivers up to six hours of use from a single charge and makes it possible to use this system on an airplane. All told, if you’re looking for a head-worn system for monitoring video for either productive or recreational purposes, Zeiss offers a compelling option with the Cinemizer OLED Glasses.
|Image||2 x OLED displays (Organic Light Emitting Diode)
Simulated screen of 40" (101.6 cm) at a distance of 6.6' (2 m)
Aspect ratio = 16:9
870 x 500 pixels on each display (100% fill factor)
24 Bit RGB color depth
Field of View = 30°
|3D Support||Side by side / Top-bottom / Line interleaved
Frame packing at 720p and 1080p (HDMI 1.4)
|Diopter Setting||Individually adjustable by -5 to +2 D|
|Interpupillary Distance||The optics support a pupil distance of 59 - 68mm|
|Input Sources||HDMI: 640 x 480p 60 Hz, 720 x 576p 50 Hz, 720 x 480p 60 Hz, 1280 x 720p 50/60 Hz, 1920 x 1080i 50/60 Hz, 1920 x 1080p 50/60 Hz, 1920 x 1080p 24 Hz, HDMI 1.4 3D 1080p 24 Hz, HDMI 1.4 3D 720p 60 Hz
AV Input: 3.5mm / 4pin jack for audio & video (PAL/NTSC)
Video capable iPod & iPhone models via optional accessory
|External Connectors||1 x Mini-USB for charging the integrated rechargeable battery
1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo headphone output
|Light Source||LED Class 1|
|Power Supply||Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Charging via USB, 5V / 450mA
Battery life up to 6 hours via Apple and AV input, up to 2.5 hours via HDMI
Charging time 2.5 hours
|Ambient Conditions||Operation temperature: 5° ~ 35° C
Storage temerature: -20° ~ 45° C
Humidity: 10 - 80% (non-condensing)
|Dimensions||Not Specified by Manufacturer|
|Weight||Battery box: 0.13 lb (60 g)
HDMI adapter: 0.66 lb (60 g)
Cinemizer video glasses: 0.26 lb (120 g)