Do you tame lions? Wrestle alligators? Skydive through flaming rings in the air? If you lead a fascinating life, the Autographer camera could capture it for posterity. It's a wearable camera that constantly snaps photos to document your every move. A lovely concept, but for £400? I don't think so. I went in for a closer look.
The camera itself is roughly 4 inches long, so you can wear it around your neck on the supplied lanyard. Rather than simply snap at a set interval, the Autographer uses five sensors -- light, colour, movement, speed and temperature -- to figure out when you're actually doing something worth documenting and only then takes a snapshot. GPS tagging lets you see where your photos were taken.
It can store up to 30,000 shots, taking up to 2,000 throughout one day, allowing you to capture your entire scaling of Snowdon or, more likely, your whole day spent wandering around a shopping centre.
It's a smart idea -- wear it throughout a weekend away at a festival and you'll come back with thousands of interesting photos from unusual angles. Rather than a bunch of posed, lifeless pics, Autographer snags candid shots from a point-of-view perspective of you and your friends simply going about your business. It's far from perfect though.
The most critical problem is that the image quality is -- there's no other way to say it -- awful. In bright sunlight it's not too bad, but it struggles to maintain an even exposure between bright and dark areas, and fast movement will cause horribly blurred snaps. That's a huge problem for a camera you wear dangling freely around your neck. Dare to take it anywhere with less than brilliant light and you'll be given shots full of image noise.
It's a wide-angle lens, which allows a wide scene to be captured, but if you do have your mates in the shot, expect them to look slightly wider and more distorted than normal -- something they'll definitely appreciate when you put the pics on Facebook. I'd expect the same image quality from the front-facing camera of a low-end smart phone.
Then comes the problem of wading through tens of thousands of photos. Autographer comes with some desktop software that allows you to quickly import new pictures. It has a handy automator that can turn all the photos into a time-lapse style video or gif image.
This is actually quite fun -- so long as your shots are interesting enough -- but you will need your computer to do it. It'd be nice to see a version of the device with a built-in display that allowed you to create videos within the camera, letting you quickly upload them to Facebook. If you want to save individual shots, you'll need to go through them one by one.
The software is easy to use though and lets you go through your snaps by date, so you can see what you got up to on a certain day. The camera itself has only two buttons and a tiny OLED screen that shows settings only -- there's little to confuse even terminal technophobes.
I might sound negative about Autographer, but as a concept, I like the idea of 'always-on' cameras. The automated gif image is fun, but I'd expect it to come with a price tag somewhere around the £80 mark. Autographer is, right now, unique -- there are no direct rivals I can point you towards if your budget doesn't stretch.
For less than the £400 Autographer wants though, you can snag the incredible GoPro Hero 3 Black. It has superb image quality for videos and can be set to automate photos at a set interval. It constantly takes shots every few seconds, rather than using smart 'cues', but the quality, plus the ability to record video and its waterproof, rugged body gives it more applications in everyday life. You can import photos and combine them into a time-lapse style video using most desktop video applications.
I've popped in a bunch of example shots from the camera in the gallery above and you can check out a gif image of my commute to the CNET office. Give your point of view on Autographer in the comments, or over on our wide-angle Facebook page.