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Action cams typically need some sort of mount before you can start shooting hands-free video. That's not the case with the Cyclops Gear CGLife 2 1080p HD video sunglasses.
Basically, you just pop these glasses on your face, press a button on the left arm, and in a few seconds you're recording video at 720p or 1080p resolutions. You can take snapshots with them, too, using the same button.
You can get better video from full-size action cams, but you're paying for convenience and ease of use here and, I guess, a pair of sunglasses.
Also, Cyclops Gear is working on a Wi-Fi version of the GGLife 2 glasses using Fundable.com. The campaign has ended, but you might want to keep an eye out for them if you must have something for shooting and sharing on the go.
Worth noting, too, is that these glasses are available for less through other vendors on eBay and elsewhere (just search for "1080p HD video sunglasses"). They aren't branded and it might be a crap shoot on returning them if you get a busted pair or just don't want them, but it's an option. Cyclops Gear does, however, have a 30-day money-back return policy and a 90-day warranty.
What's in the box
Without a need for mounts or housings or really anything extra to use them, the CGLife 2 glasses don't come with much beyond the glasses. You do get a protective carrying case, which is nice, especially since there's room for its charger, USB cable, and a cleaning cloth. (A Cyclops Gear sticker is thrown in for good measure.)
The glasses come preloaded with a 4GB microSDHC card, so you can take them right out of their packaging and start recording. You should, however, charge them up first, which can be done with the included wall adapter or simply by connecting to a computer.
Design and features
These glasses aren't for everyone. Yes, they're designed for sports, so you're probably not going to walk around town in these. Still, I imagine the protruding camera barrel between the eyes might be enough to turn off potential buyers.
Then again, anyone who can get past the stares attracted by attaching an action cam on top of their helmet, probably won't care about wearing these.
What you might care about is the build quality. While they are very lightweight, they don't feel particularly sturdy. If you bend or twist them in any way, parts of the frames start to pull away from other parts. The lenses pop out easily as well, which could be considered a good or bad thing. If you're shooting in overcast or low-light conditions, you can simply take out the lenses and still see what you're doing. They come out so easily, though, you might just do it accidentally and lose or damage the lens.
Under normal use, they'll probably hold up just fine. But, if you're the type to freely toss your gear in a bag or are generally tougher on things than perhaps you should be, you'll want to take a few extra seconds to get these back in their case when travelling.
Aside from the lens and sensor in front, the left arm of the glasses is where you'll find the rest of the camera. On the bottom is a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB and a nonstandard eight-pin Micro-USB port, different from the type you'll find on most mobile devices. There is a small flap that covers the port as well as a tiny reset button; after the first time I lifted the flap, it never fit flush with the body again and frequently popped out of place.
The power/record/shutter release button is on the outside of this arm as well. With the camera off, you just press the button once and in a few seconds it starts recording a movie. Press it again to stop, and then the button becomes a shutter release. Press and hold it for three seconds and it'll start recording video again, or hold it longer and it will shut off entirely. A small red light lets you know exactly what's going on and can be seen out of the corner of your eye if the glasses are slightly forward on your nose.
If you like a lot of shooting options, these are not for you. The glasses record in AVI format and you get three video resolutions to choose from: 1,920x1,080p at 25fps, 1,440x1,080p at 30fps (default), and 1,280x720p at 50fps. However, there is no software for changing settings. You have to connect the glasses to a computer and save a text document to your microSDHC card containing a 0, 1, or 2, and then disconnect and restart the glasses. Now, that's not the end of the world, and really, you probably don't want to use anything other than the default resolutions anyway, but it's far from convenient.
You have to do this to set the time and date stamp for movies as well. Save a text document with the current date and time and it'll be stamped on every video. You can remove the date stamp by inputting a date before 2013, but that will in turn label all your videos with the wrong date -- less than ideal if you like easy organization. This, by the way, only removes the date stamp from videos, not photos, so if you do this, all of your photos will have the wrong dates on them.
Video quality is merely OK, though, like many things in life, it really comes down to expectations. After all, this is a camera embedded into a pair of sunglasses that sells for less than $150.
There are similarly priced action cams that produce nicer video, and spending more than $150 can get you significantly better video. But, again, none of them are built into glasses. The only comparable product I've tested are the Durango glasses from Pivothead. The video from them is generally better, but actually has more rolling shutter artifacts than the CGLife 2 and they're at least twice the price.
For the best results, keep these set to their default resolution, 1,440x1,080 at 30 fps. Unfortunately, this means the video isn't widescreen, but a 4:3 aspect ratio instead. So, if you need "full HD" video or a 16:9 aspect ratio, I would skip these glasses. Otherwise, at small sizes on a computer screen or mobile devices, it's fine.
Viewed at larger sizes subjects look soft and you'll see a lot of blocky artifacts in fast-moving scenes. There's visible banding in skies and exposures don't change smoothly, which isn't great for something that's on your face. Also, at least for my review pair, the lens seemed to be crooked, so everything I recorded appeared tilted.
There is a mono microphone built into the frames as well, but it's really only sensitive enough to pick up the user's voice, and you have to be speaking fairly loudly to be clearly heard.
Photo quality from the CGLife 2's isn't great. They'll do fine if you just want to take a quick snapshot of something to insert into your videos or share online. Viewed at larger sizes, there's almost no detail, but plenty of noise/artifacts, even in good lighting. And again, unlike with video, images always have a date stamp, so you'll have to do a bit of photo editing if you don't want it.
If you want a simple solution for shooting POV video, a pair of Cyclops Gear CG Life 2 video sunglasses should do the trick. The video and build quality of the glasses isn't fantastic, but competing models can cost twice as much, so it really comes down to your needs, expectations, and how much you're willing to spend for convenience.