With the rising popularity of headcams it wasn’t going to be long until someone combined goggles with a built-in headcam. The Loveskiing team got their snowy mitts on a pair to bring you their very own review of the Zeal Optics HD Camera goggles, which happen to do just that! Our aim is to review both the technology, image/video quality and also their performance as goggles.
Cost: £318/$399 (£247)
The Zeal HD Camera goggles are solidly constructed with a scratch-resistant anti-fog lens and impact-resistant frame. The goggles feel well built and the all important ports, buttons and access to any electronic components are weather-sealed. Dual adjustable straps have grippy rubber embossed on the fabric and in use the goggles stayed firmly in place. So top marks for build quality!
Only one lens/frame combination is available with the Zeal HD Camera goggles, a rather minimalistic, mirrored black lens combined with a dark grey plastic and rubber frame. The 170 degree fish-eye lens sits in the centre with glove-proof buttons on the frame. With all the technology inside and out the goggles are large, very large! They look best with a helmet where the extra bulk is somewhat hidden. All in all the Zeal HD Camera goggles are a modest looking set of goggles; they will turn heads but more because of the lens than their dashing looks.
As far as goggles go the HD Camera performs well in bright, sunny conditions. The field of view is excellent (and so it should be with a frame this size!!), the anti-fog technology worked well, the quality of the lens is crystal clear and they were comfy on the face all day long. If you are thinking of wearing them in adverse weather conditions, then don’t! The dark, mirrored lens only amplifies the darkness and flat light becomes flatter light. Unfortunately, Zeal don’t make interchangeable lenses for this product (yet) so use will be restricted to those bluebird days only.
On to the tech…
The Zeal HD Camera goggles have the ability to shoot both stills and video from the built-in fish-eye lens. Pictures are captured in an impressive 8MP size and whilst by no means offer the image quality that you can expect with a compact camera, still offer a useable end product. The funky fish-eye effect adds something different to your holiday snaps and, due to the wide angle lens, fitting all of your friends into a picture is a breeze! You wouldn’t want to enlarge and print images taken but that really isn’t the point. For fun filled pictures and great snaps that can be easily shared with friends using social networks, the Zeal HD Camera goggles are great!
Now for video footage, you can select various different recording formats with the highest resolution being 1080p at 30fps. We would advise that the best quality footage is found using 720p at 60fps – motion appears smoother whilst retaining a greater colour range. The lens is set up with infinity focus and auto-exposure so that everything, and everyone, remains in focus all the time with balanced colours regardless of the light conditions. In reality, we felt that videos were slightly over exposed as standard, with whites slightly burnt out. All in all, the video quality is nowhere near the seemingly untouchable Go Pro Hero HD3 (or the HD2). That doesn’t mean that the image quality is bad, far from it, in fact we would recommend the HD Camera goggles ahead of other HD headcams such as the Drift HD.
One of the issues with mounted headcams is the mounting itself. Hard stacks can result in the headcams flying down the slope or being buried in powder resulting in an expensive loss. The Zeal HD Camera goggles remove this potential problem and reduce the amount of gear you have to lug around with you. There are four large “glove-proof” buttons that operate everything from reviewing the footage to recording your friend stacking! The buttons are chunky, easy to use and, true to Zeal’s word, work with gloves on. The one downside to the interface is switching from taking a photo to recording a video whereby you have to navigate through the menu and change the recording mode. To be honest, it is a bit of a faff and one button to switch between the two or that allows simultaneous photo/video capture would be much better!
The Zeal HD Camera goggles are compatible with both a PC or a Mac and work using a simple plug-and-play USB connection. It is extremely easy to copy your footage to your hard drive or share with your friends via social media sites. Connectivity is in one word… easy!
The single biggest disappointment with the HD Camera Goggle is the battery life. At a mere three hours you have to carefully plan your day around a shoot and making use of the internal screen to view your footage back is impossible because you wouldn’t have any battery left to film the videos to watch! You can’t take spare batteries because they are weather-sealed and not removable so unless you stop for lunch and take your charging kit with you to give you a bit more juice you may as well give up on recording for half of your day.
We were impressed with the Zeal HD Camera goggles as stand alone goggles without all the tech, as the build quality and functional performance are excellent. The tech side was impressive with good quality videos and photo results, easy operation (with your gloves staying firmly on) and an impressive internal screen to aid navigation and watch your results back. This was let down by the battery performance which at 3 hours is a massive let down and really limits the usefulness of having a headcam. Retailing at just over £300 the goggles are by no means cheap but when you consider the technology stuffed inside the shell combined with the quality of the goggles you can see why Zeal ask for that much. Ultimately if you want the best quality footage stick with a Go Pro but for ease of use and to capture the good times with your friends the Zeal HD Camera goggles are a good choice.