Why I Love Them and How I Use Them
Here’s a comprehensive overview of the Spectacles V2 after 18+ months of capturing and creating with them. I have made 90+ videos for my #seewherejoegoes project, and a variety of others. My Spectacles facilitated all this, with Version 2 featuring a sleeker design, higher-quality video, and a better user experience.
Check out an overview of my experience with Spectacles:
Bottom Line / tl;dr
It’s $150 for a good pair of sunglasses with a good camera. The perfect companion for long term backpacking or travel, long hikes, or the camera-obsessed creator. Keep the cellphone in your pocket and live in the moment. Click a button to snap and record short videos and pictures. Relive these moments later from your own perspective.
History and Background
Created by Snap Inc. and integrated tightly with the Snapchat app, in late 2016, Spectacles served as their coming-out party as a camera company. It was a bold step into hardware at a time when the future of cameras seemed to be smartphone-centric. Spectacles V1 were priced at $129 and written off as a failure due to low sales and lack of traction. It didn’t stop Snap Inc. from continuing to iterate and innovate. (Here’s my full review of V1)
Spectacles V2 kept or upgraded all the great features of V2 while eliminating many of its drawbacks. Improvements included a refined design, better video and audio quality, and water resistance. With a $149 price point, they are not for everyone, but if you are looking for a tool to capture your adventures hands-free, then you couldn’t ask for more.
In November 2019, Spectacles V3 was released, featuring two cameras and tech for augmented reality, as well as deeper integration with Snapchat. The stereoscopic cameras allow for 3D filters and photos. Stay tuned for a full review in a few months. At $380, these are out of the reach of most casual consumers, but it looks like a vital tool for creators interested in the future of AR video capture.
V2 refined the V1 design. The rings around the camera and status LEDs are slightly smaller, less bold, and no longer bright Snapchat yellow. The biggest change was the shrinking of the electronics casing around the hinges. This makes the glasses lighter and easier to wear, with less blocked from the wearer’s field of vision.
It also introduced new frame styles: Nico and Veronica, which have a more traditional sunglasses look. They have polarized lenses and a $50 higher price tag. They come with a faux leather case instead of the charger case. So these versions have to be charged via the cable, which can be less convenient, but such is the price of beauty. These new styles are also rated water-resistant.
I have a narrow face, so the classic design fits me better than the larger Veronica and Nico. How do I look?
Spectacles Size and Weight Comparison:
Spectacles V2 introduced a new camera sensor with improved quality. The fisheye 115° field of view of V1 was replaced by a more natural 105°. Combined with an increase in video resolution (from 1152 px to 1216 px), this produces a sharper image. When I show people a demo, the reaction is always “Wow, that is way clearer and nicer than I expected.”
Recorded video looks best with natural outdoor light. That’s why the Spectacles are sunglasses — to discourage you from recording indoors. (Yes, you can get prescription normal lenses, but that is not the point.)
The V2 audio quality is also much better. It has two microphones — one facing in, other out. This allows for a clearer sound compared to V1. Check out the examples below to hear the difference.
I was excited to test out the V2’s water resistance. When my first pair of V1s were exposed to moisture, they stopped working. I was able to mail them in for a replacement, which was a nice gesture from Snap. I am still very cautious when filming in water with the V2, but I have captured some fun shots. See below for an example of its underwater capabilities. Sharks!
The nose pads present one challenge I have encountered with both V1 and V2. Wearing them daily, frequently while sweating, caused the pads to fall off in 3-4 months. I’ve read online that you can get replacements, but I personally haven’t minded wearing the glasses without them.
I own two pairs currently. One I’ve had for about a year, and they are still doing alright. I sometimes have trouble charging them, but this is my own fault; the charging leads are a bit rusted because I didn’t clean them properly, ignoring the instructions in the user care manual.
Overall the V2 is very durable. Its yellow case helps ensure that they stay charged and protected.
Spectacles Technical Specification Comparison
|1824 × 1824 px
|1216 x 1216 px
|1216 x 1216 px
|Video Field of View
|dual mic array
|four mic array
|GPS built in,
3D photo + video
Charger Case – The “Snapchat yellow” case doubles as a charger. The case allows for four full charges, and fits into the water bottle pocket of a backpack or a standard cup holder. Compared to V1, the V2 case is smaller, and it feels more solid than V1’s soft plastic. The fabric on the V2 case does attract dirt, so within a few weeks, you may notice discoloring with heavy use. One note: Veronica and Nico versions do not come with a charger case, and instead have a leather case that does not charge the Spectacles.
Software – Snapchat App
Since the first version of Spectacles was released, the team at Snap has continually have updated the Snapchat app. Spectacles connect via Bluetooth and send the app basic information about battery, Snaps to transfer, and status. The videos transfer via WiFi at a rate of about 1-2 seconds per 10-second video. This used to take much longer, and now happens behind the scenes.
I have an iPhone 7 whose performance has slowed over time, so I imagine that any newer version will be more capable and faster. Sometimes my phone will crash when importing a heavy volume of videos (around 60 or more). I assume this is an issue with the phone, since after a reset, the app works much better.
Once the Snaps are in the app, you can select and create Stories to organize the videos/photos. These do not actually need to be shared to your Snapchat story; this is to organize content. This is also how content is backed up into Snapchat’s storage. That way, you always have a version of your videos and photos saved in the cloud.
One of the best ways to see your content is in the app:
Here are some quick shots from my 18+ months of using the Spectacles across Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, the US, and elsewhere. They’re from multi-day hikes, swimming in the ocean, exploring cities, on runs, and more.
I had a pair of Spectacles V2 brought down while I was living in South America. With V2, I created a video series shot entirely on Spectacles, #SeeWhereJoeGoes, featuring over 90 videos documenting my travels. Here I’ll highlight several videos that demonstrate the unique advantages the Spectacles have over using a camera or phone.
This day was spent exploring in San Cipriano, Colombia. I rode a moto bruja (a motorcycle-powered train car), swam in waterfalls, and generally explored. It was pouring rain all day, but my phone could stay safely in my bag while I captured it all with the Spectacles.
This is from a four-day trek in Huaraz, Peru, through the Cordillera Blanca. I captured all the shots via my Spectacles V2, and also took still photos with my Sony RX100.
Sometimes I like sharing quick 10-second moments from a day via the Stories features on Snapchat and/or Instagram. With a quick export, such videos can be shared cross-platform.
In the future, I will share a full article about how I shot, edited, and shared videos using only the Spectacles and an iPhone.
When you travel or go to an event, do you rely on your phone to capture the action? What would happen if you could put it away and focus on being in the moment? I once constantly had my phone out, recording everything. Videos are how I like to remember experiences. Using Snapchat, I had a tendency to create stories out of both the mundane and exciting. I also was guilty of being the person who recorded an entire concert through my phone instead of enjoying it. The Spectacles empowered me to put my phone away.
The AR features and innovation within the software of V3 unlock several elements that are a natural progression for the Spectacles. I’m excited to eventually try out a pair. For now, I am waiting on a certain AR T-Rex lens…