Action cameras are great for shredding the slopes and all, but there are some drawbacks. What if it falls off your helmet? What if the angle is too high, or too low?
Those are the sorts of problems Liquid Image tackles by building an action cam right into your snow goggles. And it comes so very close to solving them.
What Is It?
An action camera/snow goggle hybrid. It shoots 1080p at 30 fps or 720p at 60 fps. (LI also makes versions for scuba and dirt biking.)
Who's It For?
People whose only sport is skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling, and who want to record their point of view without buying a separate action cam and mount.
They look like a pair of snow googles, but larger. The camera lens sits in the center of your forehead like a video bindi. The battery and controls are stuck on a little panel embedded in the side of the strap. There are two buttons for toggling between shooting modes. You can swap the battery and SD card in or out fairly easily. It comes with two interchangeable lenses (for your eyes, not the camera): Black Ionized & Amber.
It's not 100 percent intuitive, but once you read the instructions, it's very easy. Slap the goggles on your face, press one button to turn the camera on and then toggle through modes. There's a tiny LED in the top of your field of view which tells you how many fps you're shooting (depending on color) and whether you're recording or not. That's actually a wonderful feature. We used the Wi-Fi capable version, which enables the Apex HD+ to work with an Android or iOS app. From there you can monitor your shot, change settings, and start/stop recording.
The Best Part
Convenience. You're already going to be wearing goggles. Not having to worry about attaching anything else is really sweet, and you're never worried about it falling off and getting lost. Plus, the glowing light you can juuuust barely see in the top of your vision eliminates the worry that you might not be recording.
There's a lot of funk in the video. The color balance is excellent, but there are major problems. For starters, look at how it handles changing light levels. There is a very harsh "stepping" effect as it gains up and down constantly, resulting in a kind of flickering image. Now look at the trees in the first part of the clip. It's got some serious moiré pattern going on, which is very distracting. And, finally, if you pause on the split screen, you can see that the GoPro Hero 3 Black just captures way, way more detail. The Apex HD+ looks pixelated by comparison, despite that fact they were shooting at the same resolution and frame rate.
This Is Weird...
These goggles are definitely bigger, heavier (11.25 ounces), and bulkier than normal snow goggles. Look how much of my face they cover! I wore these with four different helmets this winter, and found that about half the time they didn't match very well. The helmet would kind of push them down my nose, which wasn't particularly comfortable. They fit reasonably well with other helmets, though, so you may just have to try a few until you find a good match.
- The Apex's white balance is fantastic. By comparison the GoPro looks yellowish-brown and kind of dark. This is one of the advantages of having a monotasker. Liquid Image tweaked the camera settings so it performs really well in snow, specifically. That said, a simple, one-click auto white balance once you're editing footage is all it takes to show that the GoPro is easily the better camera. That doesn't change the fact that the colors on the Apex are way more accurate out of the box.
- Audio quality is definitely better on the Apex HD+. The GoPro 3 Black sounds muffled by comparison, which isn't surprising considering it was in its waterproof housing.
- Battery life was respectable, coming in at just under two hours of recording.
- It's very limited in terms of shooting options. You have 1080p/30fps, 720p/60fps, and a 12MP still, continuous shooting mode. Your only option is the 135 degree angle. The Hero 3 Black, which is the same price, is far more customizable.
- We ran into a handful of bugs. In the middle of one run the unit started beeping, and continued to beep every five seconds or so. It was still recording, though, and you can hear this beeps on the audio (which is annoying). It didn't seem to be running out of battery or storage space, either. Very mysterious, and annoying. And then sometimes, it simply failed to record.
- To access the control panel (to swap out the card, or to charge it, or look at the LCD display) you have to peel back a sleeve that surrounds it. It's actually very hard to do, and you'll often end up turning on the camera, switching modes, and/or starting to record because it's impossible not to hit the buttons while fumbling with the sleeve.
- The optics (for your eyes) were both very good. Everything was extremely clear through them and it seemed to be high-quality glass.
Should You Buy It?
Probably not. It's just way too specialized. Yes, it's convenient, but with a detachable action camera there are a ton of different ways you can mount it to get really awesome shots. With the Apex HD+, you're limited to your own point of view, and you're especially limited to one specific set of activities (you wouldn't wear snow goggles while biking down the street, probably). Considering they're the same price, you'll get a lot more bang for your buck with the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. [Liquid Image]
Apex HD+ Snow Goggles Specs
• Field of View: 135°
• Storage: up to 32 GB microSD
• Frame Rates: 1080p @ 30fps, 720 @ 60fps
• Weight: 11.25 ounces
• Price: $400