Easy to setup/use
- Looxcie application
720p vs. 1080p of other similar cameras
- Privacy concerns
- Only posts to Facebook
When someone thinks of going out for a night on the town, there's nearly always a camera handy to record the events of the evening. In an age where we share our social experiences on the web as freely as air is breathed, cell phones act as a catch-all for this activity, snapping photos or video and sharing them on services like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. But what about those occasions where an event needs to be shared as it happens? The Looxcie 3, a small video recorder, streams video through a smartphone and posts the feed straight to Facebook. As much as we like to share with the world, does the Looxcie fit into the online social landscape, or is it trouble waiting to happen?
Everything has been done to make using the Looxcie 3 as easy as possible, from its design to the application required to use it. Coming in at 37 grams (1.3 ounces), the camera is easily forgotten when hanging from a lanyard or clipped into a pocket. The small footprint, 48 mm (1.88 inches) at its largest dimension, only contributes to the portability. The mounting system is fairly straightforward, utilizing a custom rail system. Even different color covers are produced (two are included) to be able to align the camera with a wardrobe if the black plastic isn't working. Included mounting options like the swiveling social clip make packing the camera around easier, and even blocks some of the orange lights the camera flashes when the battery is low.
Some of the hard specifications for the camera are promising, featuring a 2.2f aperture, 25cm focal length, and 100 degree field of view. By comparison, a GoPro3 has a 2.8f aperture, 14-28 mm focal length, and 90-170 degree field of view. The iPhone 4S has a 2.4f aperture and a focal length closer to a 4.3 focal point (35mm lens equivalent) with a field of view around 62 degrees. The specs paint a picture that the Looxie 3 is purpose built: a camera for close shots with little or low light. Sound is a low point for the Looxcie, as it struggles to pick up even basic dialogue compared to the GoPro -- which wants to pick up every clank and rattle of the case it sits in.
It is also apparent that the Looxcie was made for mostly video use as well. While it does shoot in 720p video, still images are shot at a terrible 1MP (yes, one megapixel). Given the size and cost of the camera, this is hardly a surprise. With the current generation of cell phones, one would be hard pressed to find something with less than five megapixels at its disposal. However, the price would be substantially greater than the $150 social package we are reviewing.
The Looxcie 3 is a camera for a niche that has yet to be really solved in the social media. Camera phones have filled that point up until now, but recording video eats battery life at a rapid pace and contributes to data plan usage if videos are uploaded as they happen. Those being the greatest hurdles to for a successful integration for a video cam to cross over, the Looxcie 3 trips over one and clears the other with some room to spare.
The battery for the camera is only 700mAh, making for a recording time of 90 minutes under most conditions. This is actually a large improvement over the use of a cell phone. For example, the iPhone 4S averages around 160 minutes with its 1420mAh battery. The Looxcie comes up with 7.77mAh used per minute of video, while the iPhone 4S comes up at 8.87mAh per minute. The difference is minor, but the Looxcie is approximately 14 percent more efficient. It is worth noting, however, that the Looxcie only records at 720p compared to the iPhone's 1080p.
With concern to data plan usage, use of the Looxcie will increase consumption, with no doubt. During testing on a 3G network with an iPhone 4S, there was significant audio and video loss. A test stream for 18 seconds resulted in an 11 second stream when completed, while another 3 second stream was cut to 1 second. Granted, this depends greatly on the strength of the network the camera is used on, but for something that is meant to be worn around to document everyday occurrences it could be considered dropping the ball.
This means that the Looxcie 3 is better used in the traditional fashion, recording videos as needed rather than capturing everything as it happens. Pulling the video clips off of the camera works just like pulling any photos off of an SD card. Simply find the folder the videos or folders are stored in, and copy them over. This actually works in favor of the Looxcie, since it requires Facebook tie-ins through the Looxcie app. Apps on Facebook are not always safe to use, so adding another one to the pile to watch a video that may or may not be any good would be left up for the viewer to decide. Fortunately there is no cost to it, but like most Facebook apps it does pull private information.
Privacy is the elephant in the room when it comes to the Looxcie 3. How one feels about the streaming feature will weigh heavily on the whether or not the camera is truly worth buying. Taking a picture is one thing, but recording video and posting to the Internet without any sort of filter can cause problems. It isn't hard to imagine a person having a issue with being caught on camera while sitting in a private venue. It is easy to stop recording once started, via button or application, but be aware of the surroundings when using the Looxcie. The last thing a night out needs is a Looxcie owner following people around to have them sign a waiver when riding a train or walking into a restaurant.
A look at some of the accessories available for the Looxcie 3 provided an interesting fact about the mounts. Six of the seven extra mounts require an additional purchase of a multiflex arm. A waterproof case can be used with the windshield mount, but the tether base requires the case. As the mounts run $15 to $30, users can be expected to pay at least another $20 (multiflex arm) or $50 (waterproof case) to be able to use them. The Looxcie 3 isn't compatible with mounting systems for the GoPro or IronX, either.
The two side buttons never triggered while drop testing from short distances. However, a drop from five feet to concrete did cause the camera to shut down completely on one occasion. Using the camera as one would use an action cam may not be the best application.
Perhaps the best feature of the Looxcie 3 is the application required to use it. Available for both Android and iOS, the app seamlessly connects with the camera to provide an all-in-one experience. Videos from other users appear on the front page. The recording and streaming screens show the user exactly what is being filmed with very little lag time. Perhaps the most exciting part is that it integrates with the video on the camera's memory card. Record a video earlier that didn't turn out well? Delete it through the app -- it is as simple as that. The app informs of the remaining battery life, even updating while recording -- something lacking on the camera itself.
The Looxcie 3 is a good idea when it comes to filling a hole in the changing landscape of social media. While it opens another avenue of sharing, it will probably be relegated to taking short video clips disconnected from social media giant where it is intended to be used. This is due in part to its small battery life, but mostly due to its dependency on a good wireless connection. It also isn't future-proof, given the recent news that younger users have been turning away from Facebook for other services.
With the rise and fall that comes with online services, the Looxcie 3 may only be practical to use for a short period of time decreasing on the odds that is if someone is willing to download the app or plugin to view the videos and streams posted. This is before making any considerations for privacy, which can play a considerable role. While the $150 price tag seems comfortable, we recommend shopping around or buying a used GoPro for better value on the dollar.