With President Barack Obama setting aside $75 million of federal funds to help equip police departments with body cameras, one previously little-known company has been thrust into the spotlight: Vievu. The company has been making wearable cameras for law enforcement since 2007, and its super-rugged LE3 POV camera is already used by more than 4,000 law enforcement agencies globally. With recent incidents concerning the police and citizens in volatile situations like those in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, more and more police departments are looking to wearable body cameras as a form of accountability and source of evidence — as digital witnesses, if you will.
The Vievu2 is designed for professional consumers who have liability in their lives.
But there’s another reason why you might start seeing the Vievu name. This year, the company entered the prosumer market with the Vievu2 (pronounced vee-view squared), an action camera made for business professionals. It’s not the first camera you would grab for a bike ride or snowboarding down the slopes, a la GoPro, but it was designed for people who need proof they’ve done their jobs properly. Think of a human resources manager documenting an employee termination, a childcare provider recording her interactions with other people’s children, a courier making deliveries, or a handyman working unsupervised in someone else’s home. As Vievu’s President Steve Lovell tells us, the Vievu2 is “designed for professional consumers who have liability in their lives.”
The Vievu2 is like any typical action camera, but borrows some of the police camera DNA of the LE3. So, if you’re in a profession or situation where liability is a concern, is the $350 Vievu2 a must-have? Or can you get away by using any ordinary action camera that’s far cheaper?
Design and features
Measuring 1.9-inches squared (hence its name) and 0.75-inches deep, the palm-sized Vievu2 is roughly in the shape of an old-school pager (or a modern one if you’re a doctor). It’s lighter than a GoPro Hero4 Silver, but as a wearable, it’s a bit heavy due to the “military grade” aluminum body. Sure, it’s rugged (waterproof, but not submersible), the weight will also pull down on a shirt or even the pocket of a heavy jacket, aiming the camera downward with it. The clip is also so tight that it’s difficult to pry apart in order to attach it to your clothing, though it does clamp on firmly. Unlike lifestyle action cameras, there are no mounts other than the clip, but we hope Vievu adds some, because it shouldn’t be this hard.
On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of complicated buttons to worry about. There’s a rubberized button on the side to turn the Vievu2 on and off, which requires a hard press of a few seconds. On the other side is a tiny rubber door you pry out with your nails to expose the Micro USB port. To begin recording, you simply slide down the front cover down to expose the lens, and close it to stop. This simplicity and the rugged construction have both trickled down from the LE3 police camera.
As for specs, the camera can record at Full HD 1080 at 30 frames per second (MP4 format), but resolution can be switched to lower-quality 720p and 360p if you need to sacrifice some quality to save space and battery life. Space is a concern, as the Vievu2 uses non-removable flash storage, but 16GB should suffice if you’re in the habit of downloading the files off the camera. The camera also uses a non-removable battery; it recharges via Micro USB, and it has a 1.5-hour lifespan for Full HD videos (two or more hours if you use the lower resolutions), and three hours of standby.
While the construction makes it rugged, the weight makes it difficult to wear.
Unlike other POV cams, the Vievu2 can’t take photos. Don’t expect high-quality audio either. Another difference is the lens. Action cams usually use wide-angle lenses to capture an immersive view. The Vievu2 has a 95-degree field of view, which Vievu says eliminates the fish-eye effect. But when you aren’t sure what the camera is looking at, having a very wide-angle view can help you capture as much of the scene as possible. For reference purposes, you can add date and time stamps onto the videos.
The Vievu2 has Wi-Fi, which is used for pairing with Android and iOS smartphones. With the Vievu app, you can stream a live-view image to the camera, letting you frame exactly what you want. You can also record directly to the phone’s memory, and transfer videos from the camera to a phone. The app allows you to change the camera settings, but the Android version has far more options than the iOS version; we hope Vievu updates its iOS app soon.
What’s in the box
The Vievu2 camera comes with a Micro USB cable and a mounting clip for attaching it to your clothing.
Vievu provides a limited 90-day warranty. More details can be found here.
Performance and use
As we’ve alluded, the camera is very easy to use: Just firmly press and hold the side button to turn it on, and slide the cover down to record. It reminds us of the simplicity that Polaroid’s Cube offers, although we prefer the Cube.
Because the aluminum body offers rugged protection without a special housing, you can use it in both wet and dry situations. We walked around during a steady rain pour, and we didn’t encounter any issues with performance during or afterward.
As for video quality, it’s nothing special. At 30 frames per second, the video quality is closer to the budget Polaroid Cube than the Sony Action Cam Mini or GoPro Hero4 Silver, which both shoot at 60 frames per second. But even the Cube’s video capture is stronger. Video from the Vievu2 has issues with exposure, and it’s highly pixelated – even in bright environments. There’s no image stabilization, so if you are using the Vievu2 on the go, don’t expect smooth videos. For proving you didn’t steal a homeowner’s jewelry while you were fixing the plumbing, this footage will work. For back flipping a mountain bike over a 72-foot canyon, get a GoPro.
Connecting the Vievu2 to Wi-Fi is easy: just turn on the camera, look for the hotspot name on your phone, and connect to it. A less obscure network name and a password would make the process quicker, though. You’ll also need to download the apps from the respective stores.
Too bad everything goes downhill from there. We often encountered freezes in the live stream, or the Wi-Fi pairing would just break. Even slow panning causes the video to hang, and the live-view image on our phones looked noisy and jittery. These issues surfaced with both an iPhone 5S and Motorola Moto X. We could give Vievu the benefit of the doubt and blame interference from other Wi-Fi products, but it hasn’t been an issue with similar cameras. Overall, you can use the app for framing your shot or changing settings, but we wouldn’t use it for anything else.
Despite the Vievu2 having relatively barebones features, battery life isn’t great. It’s on par with most action cams, but those aren’t designed for the same continuous duty this camera is. We wouldn’t recommend it for meetings that last more than a couple hours, and it certainly won’t last an eight-hour workday.
Let’s look at the Vievu2’s strengths: It has a rugged aluminum construction that can withstand water, and it’s super-easy to use, which is essential if you need to record something at a moment’s notice.
But if you strip these benefits away, there’s nothing that differentiates the Vievu2 from other. superior options. If you’re a small-business owner looking for an easy-to-use POV camera and can sacrifice Wi-Fi, there are more affordable options – just look at the Polaroid Cube, which is weatherproof and support larger storage memory cards. Or for the Vievu2’s asking price, you can get a GoPro Hero or Sony Action Cam, which also have rugged features and Wi-Fi.
Of course, the Vievu2 isn’t meant to be an action camera like a GoPro, but it doesn’t offer enough additional features to justify its use as a body cam. For instance, we wish Vievu had included features like cloud storage for additional backup, or automatic file encryption in case the camera is stolen (as it is, anyone can plug the camera into a computer and pull the files off).
There’s no question: As our society become more litigious, documenting your innocence with a body-worn camera makes a lot of sense. Big businesses and governments may end up using products like the Vievu2, but for prosumers who need an affordable tool for that purpose, there are much better alternatives.
- Solid aluminum body
- Rugged, waterproof
- Simple to use
- Wi-Fi pairing with smartphones
- So-so video quality, no photos
- Inconsistent stability with Wi-Fi connections
- No extra benefits for its target user
- Difficult to wear
- Poor battery life