COOL/UNUSUAL - Cool Stuff: Eyetop "Wearable Viewfinder"|
(Friday, February 13, 2004 - 14:00 EST)
Dave found a cool gadget that can put a tiny video display in a pair of sunglasses. (Very compact and wearable.) A little pricey for casual use, but could this be the ideal "remote viewfinder" for your digicam?
Trolling the aisles in the low-rent district of the PMA show looking for the new, unusual, or overlooked, I came across a nifty gadget that's apparently already out in the US market, at places like Tiger Direct online, Fryes Electronics, and other merchants of similar persuasion.
The Eyetop Centra looks like a fairly ordinary pair of lightly-tinted sunglasses, only with a cable running out of one earpiece, attached to a beltpack, with a video input cable in turn running from it to whatever you want to connect it to. (In the photo above, it's connected to the video output of a Sony digicam.)In detail, the Eyetop has a small LCD screen set into the right side of the glasses, with adjustments for nose pad height and horizontal position. (When I tried it myself, I found that the units location relative to your eyeball was pretty critical for comfortable viewing.) There's also a focusing adjustment to help adapt to differing eyesight, but don't expect to use it over eyeglasses -- It just doesn't fit.
When you're wearing the Eyetop, you see a small video screen projecting into the field of view of your right eye, in the upper right. It's pretty easy to just glance up and right and see whatever is being displayed on it. Although the display is only 76,800 pixels and shows only quarter VGA (320x240) resolution, I found the images to be surprisingly sharp. Connected to the video-out jack on your digicam, it provides a very functional "remote viewfinder." You won't be using it to set manual focus on your digicam, but it was perfectly adequate to navigate menu items, or see in pretty fair detail what the camera was pointing at.
I could see a lot of uses for this gadget, shooting above the heads of crowds, around corners, or any time you want to do *really* candid photos. (With this connected to your digicam, you could be looking completely in the opposite direction from where you were shooting. - Your subjects would never have a clue that you were photographing them.) The shot above shows the tolerant booth staffer demonstrating the "shoot over your head" pose.
I was surprised to hear that the Eyetop is already in the US market, although a search of Pricegrabber revealed only Tiger Direct selling it. (For $349.) Definitely high on the "cool" scale!