A couple of years ago, Loveskiing reviewed Zeal’s revolutionary HD Camera goggle (SEE HERE) – a POV goggle that recorded your every move on the slopes. Whilst we were impressed with certain aspects (build quality in particular), we lamented the lack of lens choice, the pretty rubbish battery life and the faffy process that was changing from video to photo mode. So here we are with the HD2 in our hands, eager to see if our criticisms have been resolved! In this review, we’ll take a detailed look at the build quality, aesthetics, lens quality, image/video quality, usability, connectivity and battery life.
- Choice of lenses
- Great looking frame and build quality
- Potential WIFI connectivity
- The idea of POV goggles
WE DON’T LIKE
- Lack of notable upgrades from predecessor
- Video quality considering the price
- Wifi connectivity issues
- Poor battery life
The Zeal HD2 Camera goggle is very solidly constructed with a scratch-resistant anti-fog lens and impact-resistant frame. All the important ports, buttons and access to electronic components are weather-sealed and dual adjustable straps have grippy rubber embossed on the fabric, so the goggles stick to your helmet with no movement whatsoever. All in all, we’d say there aren’t really any changes with regards to the original HD camera goggle in terms of build quality. It got top marks then and it gets them again now!
As with the original, the 170 degree fish-eye lens sits in the centre of the top of the frame. There are also different frames to choose from with this new model – a plus if looking stylish on the slopes is your thing. Another change (for the better) is the size of the frame – this one is smaller than the last, so in theory it should fit more faces than the original HD goggle. Do try one out before buying though as it’s still a fairly hefty frame. Zeal has also reduced the amount of buttons from four to three, thus making the goggle slightly less crowded and more visually appealing.
We were actually pretty impressed with the overall performance of the HD2 goggle. Peripheral vision is a little above average – although we wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s great. We have no qualms with the anti-fog technology and the frame is comfortable on the face too. Whilst the Original HD Camera goggle only had one lens/frame combination, Zeal has (thankfully) thrown in more options with this latest model. Now, in terms of lenses, keen customers will have a choice between Dark Grey (10 percent visual light transmission (VLT)), Metal Mirror (28 percent VLT), Copper (40% VLT) and the almost clear Sky Blue Mirror (80 percent VLT). So, in this regard, the HD2 is a clear step up from its predecessor.
On to the tech…
Unfortunately, Loveskiing were left disappointed with the HD2 in the image and video quality department. In terms of image quality, we said the original HD goggles (able to capture 8MP stills) offered a “useable end product” that was good for funky fish-eye snaps to share on social media. We hoped that the HD2 would really up its game in this respect, yet despite the stills now being an impressive 12MP, we struggled to see much of a difference: the images are acceptable for sharing on social media (a bit grainy, though, for our liking…), but they aren’t anything to shout home about. However, the main reason you’d buy these goggles would be for the videos they shoot…so let’s take a look at that side of things.
Much to our malaise, the HD2 goggles failed to take that step up in video quality that they desperately needed to make the fairly hefty price tag worthwhile. The HD2 goggles allow users to film in 1080p at 30fps, 960p at 30fps, 720p at 30fps or 60fps and VGA at 120fps, which represents a lack of any sort of real upgrade from the HD goggles. And this really disappoints us. Last time, we said that “the video quality is nowhere near the seemingly untouchable Go Pro” and that although it was far from bad, it was not top-of-the-range. This time we were hoping for a real push towards getting into Go Pro quality so it’s disappointing not to see this/any sort of real improvement. All this doesn’t mean the quality is bad – it’s actually pretty good – we just feel it doesn’t justify the high price point. The lens has infinity focus and auto-exposure so that everything – and everyone – remains in focus all the time with fairly balanced colours regardless of the light conditions. See our video below that demonstrates the goggles in their best mode (720p at 60fps) to get an idea of the quality you can achieve with the HD2.
This is where we love the HD2 goggles: unlike mounted headcams, which can be a faff to mount, the camera is already built into your goggles! There are now only three buttons on the side of the frame (compared to four on the HD version) and these are big enough to make navigating the goggles menu easy, even with gloves on. However, it’s a shame that Zeal didn’t add a button that instantly switches between taking a photo and video (one of our qualms last time) as it’s a pain to have to scroll through the menu and manually change modes.
Finally, a big difference between the HD and HD2! Whilst the HD2 goggles have a conventional USB connection to transfer files to your computer, they also have integrated WIFI which connects to an app (appropriately named “Zeal HD2”) on your smartphone so you can instantly send your snaps and videos over and upload them to whichever social media platform happens to take your fancy! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our goggles to connect to our phone (from what we’ve heard, we aren’t the only ones to suffer from this issue…), so we can’t say how good the app is and if the feature actually works or not. However, the idea is great and if it has worked for any of you guys, we’d love to hear about it.
We were unimpressed with the battery life in the HD2’s predecessor and, unfortunately, we’re far from pleased with it again. The battery life is sufficient for about four hours (five, if you’re lucky) and although this is a (slight) improvement from the HD, we think you realistically need at least eight hours in order to be fully assured that it won’t die on you halfway through the powder run of your lifetime. Comeon, Zeal, step it up and get a better battery in there for the HD3s!!
As we’re sure you can see from this review, we have mixed feelings on the HD2. We’re disappointed that there haven’t been many major upgrades from its predecessor: whilst the frame and lens options are better, video and image quality haven’t noticeably improved, the new connectivity options are temperamental and battery life is still a disappointment at a mere four hours.
This isn’t to say that Zeal’s HD2 camera goggles are a bad piece of kit, we’d go as far as saying they’re very good, as well as a great piece of innovation. However, they’re just too damn expensive for what they offer. At over £400, you’d expect a seriously good piece of kit with slightly less issues than those we experienced. If you have money to spare, they’re a fun toy to have. However, if you’re investing a precious chunk of your savings in them, then we can’t bring ourselves to recommend them as they just don’t live up to their price point. Let’s hope that when Zeal bring out the HD3s (let’s hope they do decide to as we do love the idea of POV goggles!) they actually build upon the solid, yet not totally convincing, platform they’ve constructed so far…