Zeal HD2 Camera Goggles Review
There are so many action cameras on the market at this time. It is very difficult to decide which one to choose. I started writing reviews for action cameras, and my first one can be found here. The Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is a little different as the camera is imbedded into the goggles. Zeal calls this their “in-goggle” camera. You don’t have to carry an extra camera and it gives you the perfect POV (point of view). So are they worth the investment? I think it completely depends on what type of footage you want to take. If you want to shoot yourself in any kind of winter activity, then this is definitely not the camera for you. If you want to shoot your point of view on the slopes, these might be the perfect solution. I will split the review into two sections; for the first part I will talk mainly about the camera, and for the second part I will focus on the goggles.
In the box of Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle
When you open the box you will find:
- Goggles with camera
- Protective microfiber pouch
- 8GB Micro SD Card
- Quick Start Guide
- Mini USB Cable
Having an 8GB SD card included is amazing, because for most cameras you still have to buy memory separately. You don’t realize that until you get the camera, and then you have to go back out to buy it. With Zeal you can start shooting right away. If you’d like to upgrade, SD cards are very cheap and you can quadruple the storage capacity for less than $20 here.
What you need to use the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggles
Since the camera is already inside the goggle, the nice thing is that you don’t have to invest in 3rd party accessories, like any other action camera. What type of accessories you ask? Well like all of the arms, adaptors for helmets, body straps, etc. The downside to this, is of course that you can only take pictures or video from 1 angle unless you take the goggles off. The Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle does come packaged very nicely. Zeal is able to put a full HD camera inside the goggles without making them any larger than other goggles out on the market. I’m pretty impressed with that.
The battery as well as the micro SD card slot are both concealed in the goggles. Battery doesn’t come with much charge, so as soon as you get the goggles make sure that you fully charge the battery with the included USB cable.
The camera shoots at 1080p 30fps & 720p 60fps, which means that you don’t need a high speed micro SD card as you would with all the other new action cameras. Zeal ships their camera with a class 4 speed.
Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle Construction
Unlike all other action cameras you don’t have to buy extra protective covers for the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle, everything that you need already comes in the package. What’s amazing is that the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is not much heavier than any other goggle. Once properly attached onto your helmet, you won’t notice any difference.
Weight: 245 grams
I measured other goggles I have and they come in at around 190 grams.
Size dimensions: Zeal calls these medium fit goggles, as you can tell from the pictures they are very standard size.
Features of the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle
Shoots 12 megapixel HD photos (Can also shoot 5 or 8 megapixel photos)
– 170-degree wide angle camera lens
– Camera automatically adjusts for light levels and has infinity focus
– Utilizes an in-goggle viewfinder
– Controlled by glove-ready buttons on the side of the frame
– Rechargeable lithium-ion battery has a three-hour run time, depending on usage
– Easily integrates with all social media outlets to share your memories
– Instant Replay
– Optimal performance temperature range: -15C to +45C
Using the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle
Once you have the goggles on, there are only 3 buttons, which makes the control very easy. Zeal also made these buttons very large, for easy access.
The button on the top is the largest, this is the one you’ll use the most. It will turn the camera ON or OFF. And this is also the one to use to start recording. The other two buttons are used to navigate through the menus and to turn the WiFi on/off. Once the goggles are on, position them in a way that your right eye can see the viewfinder. For my face and eyes, this needed a little bit of adjustment. Once I could see the view finder, it’s very easy though. Press and hold the power button for 3 seconds and view finder will turn on and a quick Zeal animation will pop up. This is important. I am used to just pressing the ON/OFF button quickly, but with the Zeal HD Camera Goggle you do have to hold it. Once that is done you will see a preview of what the camera is looking at. From here you can also get battery information, which mode you are on (video/photo), whether WiFi is on or off, amount of time you have left to record, amount of pictures you can still take, resolution you are shooting, and lastly, FPS.
When you want to start recording you can look for the power button again, and a red dot will appear in the view finder. It will also start a timer so you can see how long you’ve been recording. The camera will record whatever you are looking at, since the camera itself cannot move. I really like this feature, compared to any other camera you are not 100% sure what you are shooting, unless they have a view finder. Most don’t, or you have spend several minutes positioning the camera perfectly to get the right angle. With the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle you can relive exactly what you were looking at while you were taking video or pictures. With the 170 degree view it gives you a wide angle to get as much information around you as possible.
Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle Menu:
Navigating through the menu is simple. I always just look for the largest button and then slide my finger down until I feel the next button, which is the settings button. Once I press that I have the following options:
– Instant Playback (Plays back the last video that you shot, or shows you the latest picture you took)
– VIDEO or PHOTO (Change between both settings)
– Video Resolution (Select from the resolutions mentioned above)
– Photo Resolution (5, 8 or 12 megapixels)
– Scene Settings (Auto, Low light, sunny)
– LDC Auto Off (amount of time you want the LCD to remain on, the longer you select the more battery it will use)
– Set Clock
– Format (Micro SD card)
– Exit Menu
A couple of things about the menu. You can make all these adjustments, which is amazing, but the problem for me is that I found myself not taking as many pictures. I want to be able to take pictures on the fly, so going into the menu and switching modes while going downhill didn’t seem very safe or practical. There are other action cameras on the market that let you shoot the video, and also giving you the option to take pictures at a specific rate (5, 10, 30 seconds). What I would like to see for future Zeal camera goggles is a specific picture and specific video button. That way if you are shooting video but want to take a quick picture, you just press the picture button.
The highest frame rate you can take with the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is 60fps but in order to get here you have to go down in resolution to 720p. At the native 1080p you can shoot up to 30fps. This is another decision you have to make, if you have to have super slow motion video you should use 720p at 60fps as you will be able to slow it down without it looking choppy. For me this is not really a problem, I use the camera to record my surroundings and to relive the feeling I had while going down hill or looking at my companion. Here is an example of video taken at 1080p 60fps, this is not moving fast with a lot of sunlight. Also pay attention to the first part of the video, it has sound, because the microphone is so close you can hear very well.
This next video is a compilation of several videos, showing what it looks like while moving quickly at 1080p 60fps, as a reminder all of the videos are straight out of the camera, without applying any stabilization to the video or making any video adjustment.
The video is separated into 7 different pieces:
2. Showing Fast Movement
3. Showing up and down movement, going through moguls
4. What it looks like following someone
6. Following someone through trees
7. Another video of movement on powder.
Thoughts on Video Quality
Below, I took 2 frames. The top one is with the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle, and the bottom with the Gopro Hero 4. They are both running at the exact same resolution and frame rate 1080p @ 30fps. As you can see the frame snapshot is very similar. They can’t be identical because of the different angle of the cameras. What I want to show on the pictures is that the quality quite good on both. They are crisp, and I can see very well the snow on both. However the image coming out of the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle has a little red tint and is just a little less sharp than the Gopro. Having said that I am still not having to carry an extra camera if I use the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle.
The only other problem that I noticed with the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is that in some frames I saw a blue line come through, shown in the picture below. I am not sure why this happens and it’s random, but it’s just something to keep in mind. I am sure that Zeal will probably fix this in the next Firmware update.
The Zeal HD2 camera goggle comes with a battery that’s rated for 3 hours of recoding which pretty much means a full day of skiing. Since you are most likely not going to be shooting the whole time, because you’ll be in line waiting for the lift or on the lift itself. I was able to record 1 full day of skiing by changing the settings to where the viewfinder would turn off after 10 seconds. Obviously the downside in having the battery inside the goggles is that you can’t simply exchange the battery when it runs out. You have to wait until you can charge it fully, but that is usually not a problem as it should last you all day if you adjust the settings correctly so that the view finder turns off quickly. Also if you have a backpack you can always carry a portable battery and charge it during lunch or a break. If you are looking for a rugged battery charger you can read my review of the Kodiak Outdoor Tech Portable Power Bank here.
There are 3 modes to take pictures. You can do a time lapse and select how often you want the camera to snap a picture, you can shoot a single picture, or do a burst mode that goes from 2-10 pictures per second. It doesn’t matter which mode you chose, the pictures will always be 12MP
Here are some samples of what the pictures look like:
The Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle worked very well for me. It is very responsive and never really experienced any real problems. The only issue I had one time was when the camera froze, and I couldn’t take any videos or pictures. This was easily fixed by simply pressing the reset button shown in the picture below. Once I press and held it for a couple of seconds the Zeal logo flashed in the view finder and everything was working again. I am not sure if it was because the day that this happened it was very cold (-10 degrees Fahrenheit), but I’m thinking it might have had something to do with it.
iOS Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle App
I didn’t expect the App to be good, but at was the most surprising feature of the camera. It is excellent. Once Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is turned on, you can press the WiFi button and can now search for it on your phone. Once connected you are able to control all of the functions I described by going through the settings on the goggles themselves. You can preview what you are shooting as well as review what you’ve shot. The video below shows all of the menu options.
Now that we have discussed the camera and its performance we can talk about the goggles. The Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is considered a Medium Fit goggle.
No matter how good the camera is, if they fog up, let too much light in, are uncomfortable, you will probably not wear them. Fortunately the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle delivers, here are the features:
– Anti-Fog Infused Lens Process
– Impact Resistant Frame Technology
– High Density Lens Technology
– 100% UV Protection
– Helmet Compatible
– Dual Strap Adjustments
– Optimum™ Lens
The lens is interchangeable, and there are other color lenses available, these range from $40 up to $120 depending on what you want.
The Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle fits perfectly on all helmets I tried (Giro, Salomon, Quicksilver), the strap was easy to adjust. The optics are excellent, letting minimum glare in and blocking away a lot of the sunlight. As you see from all the pictures and videos, I had some very sunny days during testing. The goggles never fogged up on me and were very comfortable.
If you are in the market for a new action camera and you know you will use it mostly to ski or snowboard, the Zeal HD2 Camera Goggle is an excellent choice. The goggles themselves are excellent quality, and you can shoot video and pictures without having to purchase extra accessories. As long as you are looking where you want to take video/picture you’ll always have the perfect shot. You can purchase them from the Zeal Optics website directly and they will set you back $499.00.