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Bon Voyeur: A Hands-On Review of the FrontRow Camera

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In 1999, Spike Jonze delivered us the comedy classic, Being John Malkovich, wherein a luckless puppeteer played by John Cusack discovers a portal that allows him to enter the mind of actor John Malkovich and experience life through his eyes. Now, almost 20 years later, we're one step closer to that fantasy becoming a reality, thanks to the FrontRow Camera. Not a portal into the mind per se, the FrontRow offers audiences the next-best thing: a first-person look in to the world as you live it. I had the chance to test the FrontRow out for a couple of days. Here's what I saw.

Design-wise, the FrontRow is a sleek-looking device. It's teardrop shaped, and roughly the size of a stopwatch. It's not covert by any means, but it's not obtrusive either—I literally "lost" it at one point because I forgot I had it on. You have two options for wearing the camera: as a clip-on attachment that fastens securely to your clothing or as a pendant, using the included lanyard. I preferred the clip-on approach because it was the most inconspicuous and because, despite repeated failed attempts, I simply cannot pull off jewelry.

The clip-on attachment lets you fasten the FrontRow right to your clothing. It’s a little too big for undercover work but, otherwise, it goes pretty unnoticed. After a few minutes I totally forgot it was there.

Technically speaking, the FrontRow is outfitted with two cameras: an outward-facing 8MP lens capable of capturing 1080p video and hi-res stills, as well as a 5MP selfie camera above the touchscreen that can also capture full HD video. The touchscreen is a responsive, 2-inch OLED screen that offers up a crisp preview and full playback of all your footage. It comes with 32GB of flash memory—no SD card required—and you can offload footage via Wi-Fi or using the USB Type-C connection. It also has integrated Bluetooth for hands-free control using your phone or other smart device. Lastly, the FrontRow uses an integrated rechargeable battery that yields about two hours of continuous live-streaming/recording video, 16 hours of Story Mode use, and approximately 50 hours of standby power. I only ran out of juice once, and when I did, I was able to jump it back to full in well under an hour.

FrontRow images near the B&H SuperStore

In terms of performance, the FrontRow offers three basic methods for capturing your world: video, pics, and time-lapse footage. Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the photos and video. I took a quick stroll around Ninth Avenue just to test it, and thought the stills came out quite well. The video, too, looked great and, despite my own amateurishness, I thought the footage was fun and pretty compelling.

What really won me over, though, was the Story Mode function. When activated, FrontRow will continuously snap shots over a period of time, then automatically stitch them together for a cool time-lapse video. As with the other content, you can edit the Story Mode video to your liking using the FrontRow app, which lets you adjust the speed settings of playback, grab photo stills, and more.

A grab from one of my Story Mode vids: Our Operations Manager, Lawrence, getting animated about the new Surface Studio.

The Use Cases for the FrontRow seem to run pretty deep. As a social media tool, you can use it to share footage with audiences around the globe, whether that's family, friends, or legions of followers and fans. Sticking with the social media aspect, the FrontRow also seems like a great tool for building your brand if you're a vlogger, media star, influencer, or anyone who wants to cultivate or expand their online image and engagement.

Another Story Mode still: My Writing Manager, Richard, reminding me about that time he beat me in fantasy football. It’s been two years, dude.

Another great use would be live events, especially concerts. The mic picks up sound surprisingly well, and I can imagine vids from a live show or sporting event turning out really well. I wasn't able to fully test this theory in real life, but I did sit down in front of a drum kit for a few minutes and recorded some solid test footage with impressive sound playback.

Of course, there's nothing that says you must use the FrontRow as a social media tool or even a sharing platform. It definitely offers plenty of functionality to support those use cases, but you could just as easily save all those moments for your own private collection or to share with others offline.

Regardless of how you choose to use it, the FrontRow does deliver on its promise to capture, record, and, if you choose, share hi-res video and photos of the world around you. It's not a total glimpse into your mind—not all the way—but until someone discovers a magic portal that lets us in, it's about as close as we're gonna get.

What do you think about the FrontRow or the idea of the wearable camera in general? Would you buy one? Would you wear one? Sound off below.

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Could be really interesting as a sort of video diary while travelling - probably used in timed single shot mode - like during our forthcoming trip to Jordan.

What is the cost of Front Row Video camera?

$399 at B&H

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