Video / Hands-on Review

Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear and Accessories

I grew up skiing almost every day, and was on my first pair of skis at age two. The high school I attended in Colorado even let us out at 11:00 a.m. during the winter months, so that we could ski or snowboard every day of the week if we wanted. The point of this little anecdote is to stress how much watching the Winter games still excites me and makes me nostalgic for my years in the mountains. I even felt inspired by a few of the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events I watched on television. After one event, I had the urge to shut the television off, grab my skis from the closet, call in sick to work for the rest of the week, and drive to whichever ski resort in New England had good conditions and fresh snow. Since half the fun of a day spent in the mountains is sharing your adventures via video and photo with friends or family—I would need to take a camera with me.

Luckily, the week before the Winter games started, I was handed the latest pair of video-recording eyewear from Pivothead to try out and review. Of course, my first instinct was to take them skiing with me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really call in sick for a week, which meant that I wound have to do my best, testing them out on the rough, crowded, and snow-covered streets of New York City. Between wearing them while riding my bicycle around town, having my friend skateboard with them on, and driving around Brooklyn and Manhattan in a snow storm, I gave it my all to put them to the test.

At the end of the week, my overall opinion of the Pivothead gear was a very positive one, even though there was one issue. I had a hard time getting the wireless accessories—that would allow me to take advantage of the Pivothead mobile apps on my iPhone—connected correctly to the imaging eyewear. Once everything was connected, I thought the Pivothead wearable camera/sunglasses system was intuitively designed, easy to operate, convenient to carry, and comfortable to wear in spite of the confusing and frustrating wireless setup procedure.

Although I never had an opportunity to wear them and record footage while skiing or snowboarding, I’d still say (thanks to my early life in the mountains) that the Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear would be a great choice for winter-sports enthusiasts like myself. This is because the Pivothead camera is built directly into a pair of sunglasses, similar to the Liquid Image video camera goggles. However, the fact that they are sunglasses, instead of goggles, does make the Pivothead camera better suited for sunny, warm weather activities like cycling, golfing, driving down a curvy road in a sports car, rock climbing, etc. Using them for winter sports would work fine as well—as long as it weren’t snowing or raining.

Basically, each Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear option combines a pair of sport-specific sunglasses, a Full HD 1080p camera that captures video or photos, and a built-in 44.1kHz mono microphone, so you can record high-quality audio as well. The camera is located directly between the lenses, right above the bridge of your nose. You can’t get much more point-of-view (POV) than that if you’re looking for a camera to capture POV video and photos while you rush down a mountain or cycle through the city. They’re also great for parents who want to follow and record their children’s sporting adventures, or for parents who just want to record their children while they play in the yard, playground, the beach, or local park.

The model I was given to test out were Pivothead’s Moab Purple Haze 1080p Video Recording Sunglasses, which came with one pair of 100% UV-blocking purple haze polarized lenses and one pair of 100% UV-blocking grey polarized lenses. The Moab’s integrated camera allows you to capture up to Full HD 1920 x 1080p video at 30 frames per second (fps) and still photos at eight-, five-, or three-megapixel resolution. Plus, if you’re shooting high-speed action like skiing, snowboarding or bicycling, you can set the video camera to shoot 1280 x 720p HD video at 60 fps.

The Pivothead Moab Purple Haze.

By recording at 60 fps, the high-speed action will appear smoother and less choppy. I tested this setting and compared it to the 1080p video at 30 fps. At 720p and 60 fps, the camera recorded much more seamless and smooth footage of me riding my bicycle through the city at high speed. The 1080p video at 30 fps still looked okay at higher speeds, but there were moments of choppiness where it looked like the footage would skip a frame or two—similar to the way a time-lapse video looks. The camera has a setting for capturing 1280 x 720p HD video at 30 fps as well. This was the camera’s lowest quality—but still HD—video setting. I never found a reason to use this setting, but it does allow you to capture the longest video clips and the largest amount of recorded video footage that can fit into the camera’s built-in 8GB flash memory.

The camera also supports still-photo burst photography in three, five, ten, or sixteen eight-megapixel (maximum still-photo resolution) image bursts. The burst mode is designed for shooting short action sequences with still photos instead of video. This basically means that it works well for moments where you are shooting a trick, stunt, or short series of movements. I used it to record a burst of photos that combined to display one complete skateboarding trick of my friend kick-flipping down some stairs. This mode would also work well for capturing skiing and snowboarding tricks in the terrain-park or halfpipe.

Besides the burst photo option, the Moab’s integrated camera also supports a time-lapse mode, which is perfect for capturing hands-free action sequences over an extended period of time. Like the burst mode, the time-lapse mode can be easily initiated—even if you don’t have your smartphone connected to the camera for remote control via the Pivothead mobile app. When using the time-lapse mode, you can choose between six settings for capturing full-resolution, eight-megapixel time-lapse photo sequences that are automatically strung together to create a time-lapse video sequence. You can shoot one shot per second, one shot every 30 seconds, four shots every eight seconds, four shots every thirty seconds, ten shots every thirty seconds, or five shots every minute.

I’ve used the time-lapse mode on a variety of different digital cameras, action video cameras, and consumer camcorders, so I speak from some experience when I say that the Pivothead time-lapse mode is one of the easiest to use since it automatically creates a time-lapse video from the series of images. The Pivothead camera’s additional setting and modes include a face-tracking video or photo setting, a black-and-white video or photo mode, a power-save mode, a time-and-date stamp you can place on your photos or video, and a Pivothead watermark that you can stamp onto your video recordings or still photos. There are also quick settings for specific shooting situations. These include an active, action sport, hands-on, social, and spectator setting. For added convenience, all of these options can be turned on or off while you're in the field, even without access to the mobile app. You can also turn the audio recording off in instances where you know you won’t be using the audio track on your video recordings.

The Moab imaging sunglasses have a built-in rechargeable 3.7V lithium-polymer battery with a 440mAh capacity, which I found to be powerful enough to capture all the video recordings I made throughout the day without recharging. In fact, of all the times that I took the sunglasses out to record around the city, the battery only died on me once, and that was the one time when I left my apartment with the battery only partially charged. If I would have had the optional Pivothead DC Car Charger, that wouldn’t have been a problem, because I could have just recharged the camera battery using my car’s accessory port.

However, if you plan to be out all day and would like some additional battery power, Pivothead makes a few options for recharging on the go. Their Power Refuel 4000 is a 4000mAh lithium-polymer rechargeable battery that you can easily slip into your pocket, so when the camera’s integrated battery dies, you can just attach the Power Refuel 4000 to the sunglasses’ micro-USB port and it will automatically charge up the built-in battery. The Power Refuel 4000 even features blue LED indicators so you can monitor its power levels.

Pivothead also makes a Power Pro Refuel 8000, which features an 8000mAh capacity lithium-polymer rechargeable power source with dual USB outputs, so you can charge two pairs of Pivothead glasses simultaneously or you could power up your Pivothead glasses and your smartphone simultaneously. Like the Power Refuel 4000, the 8000 pro model will recharge all Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear models while you’re out and about.

Another Pivothead option that provides additional power while you’re away from home is the Air Sync. The Air Sync is a useful multi-tool that works with all of the Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear models. When you connect the Air Sync to your Pivothead glasses in the field, it provides an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi signal with a 30-foot (9.2-meter) wireless range. The wireless signal allows you to link up the Pivothead glasses’ built-in camera with your smartphone. You do need the free downloadable Pivothead mobile app for your iOS or Android mobile device, as well. Basically, the Wi-Fi connection between the Pivothead camera and your smartphone allows you to easily change the camera’s settings while you're out. Of course, you can still change the camera’s settings blindly by pushing the glasses’ onboard buttons in various patterns, but the Air Sync link to your smartphone makes this a much easier proposition since you don’t have to memorize and then blindly enter various button patterns—sometimes without knowing whether the changes were successful.

Besides creating a Wi-Fi link to your iOS or Android smartphone, the Air Sync also provides an SD/SDHC memory card slot that allows you to add up to 32GB of additional recording memory in the form of an SD or SDHC memory card. And finally, the Air Sync includes an onboard 2500mAh rechargeable 5V lithium-polymer battery, as well. The Air Sync’s battery allows you to record and snap photos with your Pivothead imaging glasses for an additional six hours after the built-in camera battery dies. It can also provide an additional ten hours of stand-by time. The only downsides to the Air Sync are its confusing setup procedure, and the fact that its clunky and cumbersome 2.6-ounce body must be connected to your glasses by micro-USB cable. This means that it’s best used when you’re not performing high-flying action sports stunts. Save the glasses’ onboard battery and 8GB flash memory for those moments and use the Air Sync for mellower recording or photography situations where the connected accessory can be more manageable.

To ensure that your high-def recordings are as stunning as they should be, the onboard camera is equipped with a 75° wide-angle, four-element Largan glass lens that supports continuous focusing, four-inch autofocusing, four-inch to 28-inch macro focusing, or 2.8-foot, fixed-focus video settings. The camera also features an eight-megapixel Sony CMOS image sensor and 2GB of onboard RAM, and records video and audio to the AVI format using MPEG-4/H.264 video compression. You can adjust the auto, dim, and bright exposure settings. For still image capture, the camera uses the M-JPEG format and it supports auto or macro focusing, as well as auto, dim, or bright exposure settings. You can also choose between an auto, 200, 800, or 1600 ISO setting. As I mentioned earlier, the glasses are equipped with 8GB of onboard flash storage capacity and a micro-USB 2.0 port, for data transfers and for battery charging. All you need to complete the video and photo transfers to your PC or Mac computer is the free, downloadable Pivothead Desktop app. I have an iMac and it worked seamlessly with the Pivothead Desktop application. Overall, I’d say the experience of using my iMac and iPhone with the Pivothead apps was pleasant, intuitive, and user-friendly.

To conclude my review, I thought it was important to touch on the following points as well. Each year, action-camera technology continues to improve and action-camera popularity continues to grow. Most major camcorder manufacturers now have at least one action-camera model in their camcorder lineups. However, brands like Pivothead—that exclusively manufacture only wearable action camera systems—are usually more popular than the action cameras released by mainstream consumer camcorder manufacturers because they can dedicate 100% of their resources and research to improving on the major requirements of every action camera—its wearable/mounting design, camera performance and exterior/housing durability. Pivothead has created a powerful action camera that’s comfortable to wear since it’s housed in a pair of durable and stylish sunglasses.

My overall experience with Pivothead’s Video Recording Eyewear and accessories was a positive one. So, if you’re looking to buy a wearable action camera for yourself, a family member or a friend, definitely take a close look at any of the many Pivothead models and their available accessories. You can check out the Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear in person at the B&H SuperStore in Manhattan. And if you’re not going to be in New York City anytime soon, you can stop by the B&H website to get in-depth product descriptions, complete feature lists, and full spec sheets on any Pivothead product.

Pivothead Moab Purple Haze Video Recording Eyewear
Lens Largan Glass Camera Lens
Focus Continous Focus
Auto Focus: 4" (102mm)
Fixed focus: 2.8' (0.85m)
Macro: 4 - 28" (102 - 711mm)
Field of View 75°
Image Sensor 8MP Sony CMOS sensor
Supported Resolutions 1920 x 1080p at 30 fps
1280 x 720p at 60 fps
1280 x 720p at 30 fps
Video Format AVI (MPEG-4/H.264)
Exposure Auto
Video Settings Black & White
Face Tracking
Time/Date Stamp
Audio Format AAC (mono) 44.1kHz
Supported Resolutions 3MP, 5MP, 8MP
Burst Option 16, 10, 5 and 3 shots
Time Lapse 1 shot / 1 sec
1 shot / 30 sec
4 shots / 8 sec
4 shots / 30 sec
10 shots / 30 sec
5 shots / 60 sec
Focus Auto / Macro
Exposure Bright
ISO Auto, 200, 800, 1600
Photo Settings Black & White
Time/Date Stamp
Internal Memory 8GB
Interface Micro-USB 2.0 (for charging and data transfer)
Battery Type Rechargeable 3.7V lithium-polymer battery
Battery Capacity 440mAh
DC Power Requirements 5V DC, 500mA (USB power via micro-USB 2.0 port)
Supported Operating Systems Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Pre-Set Modes Active, Action Sport, Power Save, Spectator, Hands On (Macro), Social, Black & White
Certifications FCC, FDA, CE