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Mirrorless Camera Maniac: New Camera–Google Clips

Sized like a GoPro, the new Google Clips camera seems to be aimed at the family rather than the adrenaline junkie. This new camera’s biggest unique selling point is the continual use of artificial intelligence to automatically record motion photos of the people you point it at.

The advertising page shows it being used to record family events. It says it recognizes not only people’s faces, and not only specific people’s faces, and not only when they are facing the camera, but it even recognizes when they have a “good” expression. I’m not sure I trust an A.I. to know what a good expression is. It seems to recognize smiles, but I doubt it’ll shoot when gentle, thoughtful expressions emerge.

The Lens

But maybe that’s expecting too much of a camera with a fixed 130-degree field of view, which is similar to a 10mm lens on a full frame camera. If it had a telephoto lens, then I’d be looking for subtlety, but this wide angle view of the world is really intended for the whole scene, not the closeup shot. The lens is made with Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which is hopefully tough enough for getting close to the action.

Sensor and Memory

The Google Clips (is it singular or plural even when referring to one?) has a 12-megapixel sensor, which is more than enough for a small sensor, and that size of picture won’t be too much for the built-in 16mgb of memory. However, that’s only the onboard memory: Google Clips comes with unlimited online storage, and that’s pretty awesome. Still, if you want great detail of the scene, you’ll have to get the camera close.

How’s It Work?

First of all, it connects with your phone that runs Android 7.0 Nougat or higher and you do most of the controlling and setup with the phone as the controller, including transferring images to that unlimited depository in the cloud (we should ask someone to help us ingest the terms of service). The onboard controls are limited to a single button and a case with a clip for hanging on stuff. It seems that it doesn’t just record a single still, but rather shoots several still photos in a row–motion photos, they’re called–and then you can choose the best of the bunch to keep, but it’ll also make suggestions of which are the best.

The cool thing here is that it has artificial intelligence which recognizes individual people and learns their faces over time and becomes more comfortable photographing them when they’re with you. I suppose you’ll have to do some calibrating so it knows your face first of all. It’ll run for three hours doing this kind of smart capture.

Who’s It For?

I’m sure we’ll soon see creative uses for this little camera. The styling and colors and advertising certainly seem to expect families to use it. I could imagine a bride putting it in her bouquet and making selfies with all her friends and family. Similarly, at a school event, it’d make pictures of your kids and their close friends. Without having handled or seen it or used it, I think placement is the most important consideration when using a camera like this. It’s got to be close enough that you can see the people involved, and it’s got to be at a good height, too, so you’re not always looking up people’s noses and accentuating their hips with the wide angle lens shooting from below. I’m excited to see how people use it and whether the artificial intelligence makes it markedly better than a GoPro.

I’m not going to buy one anytime soon, but I’d love to hear about your results.

The Mirrorless Camera Maniac publishes each week–check them out right here.

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