JOHN BANTIN REVIEWED Liquid Images innovative camera-mask in these pages a while back (December 2012). It tracks everything youre looking at in moving or still images without you having to get involved.
The camera-mask costs £330, though you really need mask-mounted lights as well to get decent results. Bubbles and the need to keep the head still were problems John encountered, but the product earned a respectable seven stars from him.
Liquid Image is a US brand and its wearable technology is now distributed by HAMA UK.
Gunning for the burgeoning GoPro market here, it has also released a cheaper high-definition video/stills “action camera” called the Ego, essentially the camera minus the mask, to be mounted wherever the user sees fit.
Most sales are likely to be to topside adventure-sports folk, to which end the Ego comes with multi-directional mounting brackets and a splash-proof cover.
However, a simple snaplock underwater housing is available as an optional extra and, flimsy as it might look, it allows you to take the Ego to a claimed 100m (I admit to not testing it that far) and track your dives with it.

The Design
The Ego (so named because you can angle it to put yourself in the frame) has four modes indicated by lights: full HD 1080p video at 30fps (blue); a high-action HD 720p video at 60fps to capture fast action with less blurring (green); 12MP still photos (red); and continuous photos (purple).
Two buttons control the camera. Press the left one to switch on, then tap it again to scroll through the modes, marked by the coloured lights, before pressing the right button to activate the required mode. A long push on the left button switches the unit off. There are no controls on the underwater housing.
A tiny LCD screen on top of the Ego will, if you have good eyesight, provide battery state, resolution and number of videos recorded.
The Ego is wi-fi enabled. After downloading an app you can view images and stream them to Apple or Android phones or tablets in real time, and also control the camera from your device (not much use under water, of course).
The micro-sized card slot, video output and charging socket are found under a rubber flap.

In action
I first tried the Ego topside, on a Thames RIB ride, which established that it did take very sharp pictures of Tower Bridge, the O2 and other journalists holding Egos at arms length, though with a pronounced fisheye effect thanks to the 136° angle of the lens.
My underwater experiments took place off Borneo, diving from Tasik Divers boat from Derawan Dive Lodge.
The rigid mount supplied is no use with a BC, so I improvised by wrapping a plastic mask-strap around a shoulder-strap.
Once the Ego was switched on and clipped into its housing on boat or beach, that was it.
I rarely open housings anywhere but in the safe environment of a hotel room or cabin if I can help it.
But once the camera is set, inevitably there will be delays before you enter the water, so the unit sits there recording other divers backsides, the rinse-bucket and bits of sky.
Luckily, if you use a 32GB Micro SDHC card you can record several thousand continuous photos or up to two hours of HD video, so its just a matter of cutting out all the wasted shots later. If my experience is typical, that will be most of them.

In The Water
To my surprise, the inelegant strap arrangement worked quite well, even allowing me to alter the angle of the camera in the vertical plane.
What it didnt allow me to do was keep the second-stage hose from straying into view every few frames when I moved my head, as I realised when I checked the results later.
On the next dive I switched the camera to the corrugated-hose side, which worked better!
You assume that a camera mounted on your shoulder will roughly follow your line of sight. In fact, while I was homing in on something with my main camera, the Ego tended to be gazing off at the seabed or infinity, like a bored buddy.
Little of interest was recorded in the process, even though there was a lot to see on the dives, and I wouldnt want to wade through such results at the end of every day.
The wide-angle bending effects were counteracted under water by the flat screen on the housing, however, and when the Ego was focused on the same thing as my camera, and natural light was available, the quality of the images was better than one might expect for such a cheap camera.
I started by using mainly the continuous photo mode, in the hope of capturing some unexpected bonus shot. I can’t say I did.
I eventually tried hand-holding the device set to video, so that I could actually aim it.
The results were passable if you don’t want much more than a memory aid, but usually too blue to be anything I’d want to keep.

Conclusion
This is an impressively engineered little camera, and if you have topside uses for it you might consider a £50 housing worth the extra to give you an occasional underwater option.
It’s a low-cost alternative to the GoPro, and at least youre not risking anything too expensive under water!

COMPARABLE CAMCORDERS TO CONSIDER:
GoPro HD2 (with housing), £349
CamOne Infinity, £308
Contour GPS POW, £300

SPECS
PRICE £145, u/w housing £50
ACCESSORIES INCLUDED Splash cover, mounts, high-speed USB cable
SIZE 4.1 x 3 x 6.4cm
LENS FOV 135° wide-angle f 2.8
RESOLUTION 12MP
HOUSING DEPTH RATING 100m
BATTERY Li-ion, 130min video per charge
WI-FI Built-in, for Apple/Android devices
MEMORY Micro SDHC card up to 32GB (not supplied)
COLOURS Black, Red, Blue, White or Yellow
CONTACT uk.hama.com
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