Looking for the best camera glasses? This guide looks at the main options available, and helps you get them at the best price.
Once Google was going to take over the world with Glass, but now there are many more (and more practical) options.
The tech world was first excited about the idea of glasses with in-built cameras as Google followed a choreographed release of their smart ‘Google Glass’ in 2013. For a lot of reasons, it didn’t quite make it. The $1,500 price tag was probably a significant factor, and it’s fair to say that many felt the design (in which the display prism was certainly distinct, to put it mildly) was the first step toward Borg-like assimilation.
The better part of a decade after that first effort, things are coming into place. Not only has time inevitably marched on for technology, but categories have emerged. It wasn’t that people didn’t want smart glasses, it turns out, but that they had different ideas of what they could do for them. Which, in turn, means devices could be built to do just what was needed well.
Once again, there is a lot of excitement around smart glasses, but this time from a mix of brands which will carry weight outside the tech world (Ray-Ban, anyone?), social media firms and exciting start-ups offering an exciting mix of possibilities for people capturing and sharing moments or influencers looking for new stand-out styles.
At the cheaper end of the scale, other firms have simply worked out how to squeeze small cameras into glasses frames to create fun spy glasses or hands-free cameras. For products like these important considerations will be resolution, how the video is stored, battery life and activation. Because it’s a growing issue, we’re also going to note if whether there is an active camera indicator (privacy light).
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Google, so dependent on external developers and app store income, didn’t target niches, but now the world of enterprise is also looking for programmable smart glasses. Perhaps your future boss, rather than a Borg enslaver, will be a human-made software designed to enhance your efficiency.
Best camera glasses in 2021
Not only does Ray-Ban styling inspire confidence, but for some their partner Facebook will offer convenient social sharing. The result is a pair of glasses that look good, are built to a high standard, and perform the functions people use in their everyday life. Stylistically the camera almost disappears because there is one on either side, helping capture depth information for some effects. Videos are limited to 30 seconds for Stories. This duration, together with a tiny light and the button press (or option to say “Hey Facebook take a photo”) is meant to minimise privacy concerns. You can also take calls, play audio, and tap to skip tracks, though the speakers are audible by people near to you.
If you’re in the Snapchat world (about two-thirds of 18-29 year olds, as of 2021) you’ll understand the benefits of a look that stands out and, straight from the box, the styling is unique. The images stand out too; Spectacles 3 added a second camera and assorted visual effects before Ray-Ban/Facebook thought of it. Actually the price and tech (these even have a charging case) compare closely with so your preference in glass style is key (images can, after all, be exported from Snapchat). Snapchat also offer cheaper single-camera glasses, Spectacles 2 (link), these seem more chic. Expect to capture about 70 videos or 200 photos on one charge before putting in the case to top up; the case is USB-C charged.
Including U400 polarized lenses and clear alternatives, these are designed for all kinds of outdoor activity, and explorers will appreciate that IP66 certification has been achieved. The glasses come bundled with a strap and case. We must admit we raised an eyebrow at the marketing material’s reference to ‘solar technology’; we’re guessing that means UV filters in the shades as there certainly isn’t a solar panel! Charging (and downloading) is via a supplied USB cable. Storage is via 16GB internal space meaning regular downloading will be needed, though that will balance with the charging assuming they are done together. One plus, in a market with many unknown Chinese brands, is Gryll’s personal brand being attached to this .
There are situations where it’d be handy to record and video quality is less important than discretion and price point, which is where these unisex-styled glasses come in handy. With a CMOS tucked behind one of four holes in the front they don’t scream spy, though it doesn’t do anything for the image quality. The Micro USB charge socket is positioned in the left arm, above the ear, and the switch is on the inside too. Unlike some of the big-name models, there is no internal memory, which may be useful – a TF (Micro SD) card up to 32GB can be slid into the end of the arm when the glasses are open (not supplied).
It’s a pretty specific use case, but ski goggles with a built-in camera involve fewer straps than a separate action camera and get the lens closer to your eyes. OhO have some traction in the camera sunglasses market, and these video ski goggles seem to incorporate the same tech, right down to the 70-degree field of view. That doesn’t feel quite enough but it’s very useful that it can be tilted to suit your natural head position, if you remember to do it, and if you opt for the wi-fi version you can check the video on an app. Though it’s 4K-capable at 24fps (change via a text file and USB link), it defaults to 1080p at 60fps which for most will be better for the slopes.
Epson is known for projectors as well as printers, and these glasses tuck tiny projectors in the arms which, via prisms, augment your view with video. That video is, to all practical intents and purposes, the display of an Android tablet – the tablet itself is a box the size of a small phone with a touch surface which acts as a track pad. Together these can be used for all kinds of purposes; a teleprompter, a floating 80-inch display, and anything else you can do with (the admittedly slightly behind the times) Android 5.
They are often marketed as a display for DJI drones, and they are great for a number of now discontinued drones, but since there hasn’t been a new version recently while drones and their software progress very rapidly compatibility issues rule the newer crop out.
Look out, by the way for the long awaited update, the Epson Moverio BT-40s which will bring 1080p resolution, a 13 megapixel display, USB-C connections and Android 9. These are available to pre-order at B&H Photo.
Whether it suggests they never abandoned their ambitions, or simply feel motivated to support product lines longer than some, Google adapted Glass into an Enterprise edition and updated it to USB-C charging. The device is comparable in power to a smartphone. There is the Glass’s iconic 640 x 360 RGB display (reflected in a prism) which you can quickly view above the right eye, as well as a built-in microphone and mono speaker, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1. It can be developed for using Android Open Source so if you can do phone apps if should be a breeze, and the 8MP camera can even stream worker’s point-of-view to remote assistants – perhaps not Google’s original objective with Glass, but a useful niche.
The Vista glasses have a single camera mounted centrally, just above the nose, and capture H.264 video to built-in 64GB of storage. The IP44 resistance is enough for rain, but not swimming and. Cinema fans won’t mind that the 4K video is 24fps, but some might be frustrated that even 30fps means going down in resolutions. Moreover you’ll not want to change settings too frequently as the method is via changing the init.txt file and laptop (no app!). Video quality is good, if not stellar. You will need to plan both when you’ll shoot (there is about an hour’s recording time on one charge) and to using stabilization in your editing software for high action.