When news broke last year that Google would be releasing a camera, I wasn't totally sold on the idea. But after spending nearly two weeks with Google Clips, I've done a complete 180. I now can't imagine not having the tiny device around, and there are a couple of very good reasons for that.
First of all, it's absolutely essential that you read the fine print on what Google Clips actually is. It is not a replacement for your existing DSLR or hi-res phone camera; instead, it's the ultimate tool for supplementing those snaps you'd normally take on a daily basis, making sure that you, as the photographer, aren't always on the other side of the camera. By removing the need to stage your photos, you gain the ability to take part in the moments as they happen — and that's what Google Clips is all about: those candid moments that will be treasured forever — but aren't planned in advance.
So, let's move on to when you unbox Google Clips. Inside the packaging, you'll find a tiny, self-contained camera; it requires no data to function, and all the stills and videos it captures are kept within the device until you choose to move the files over to a smartphone or Google Photos. On the face of the camera is an indicator light that lets anyone within range know that you're capturing images, and it seeks out the action that can be captured within a 10-foot radius. It's not interested in the far-off distance; it's all about what's happening in the vicinity of the camera itself (and, honestly, you're more likely to capture the best shots when it's less than five feet away).
Also in the box is a rubbery clip-on case, and it's here that the magic truly happens. The camera is designed to be hands-free, and as a result, if you try to force Google Clips to capture something on demand, you're probably not going to get anything near what it is that you want. This takes a bit of getting used to — more than once I tried to force the camera to take stills on command, which is doable but not advisable — but after a few (probably hilarious) misfires, you start to get the hang of what you're meant to do: clip the camera to a stationary object at a height that is likely to be able to capture an entire scene, hop back in and do whatever you were doing, and let Google Clips do the work for you.
Once you've turned the camera on and set it loose to capture candids while you're doing any sort of normal activity — making dinner, playing with your children or your pets — the AI within Google Clips searches for clear, blur-free faces (and amazingly, that extends to pets as well), snapping the ones that are most appealing and contain smiling, happy expressions. That's not to say that it won't take a video of you if you're frowning (trust me, it will), but what it's actively looking for within its facial recognition system are the good moments, the ones you'll want to see tomorrow, not delete immediately.
At this point, you're probably wondering how on earth one figures out what's in the frame. I'll be honest: before using the camera and understanding why there's no viewfinder on the device itself, I had the same thought. But it's all done through the Google Clips app — an app that, I will wholly admit, I'm now obsessed with — and you can, at any time, check out the live view of what your camera is capturing at any given time right on your smartphone. It's also an incredibly useful way to edit and sort your photos; you can choose to keep those that are deemed to be shoo-ins or all of your hits and misfires . . . it's totally up to you. But take my word for it: mere days after starting to use the camera, you'll know exactly where to look for the things you want (and how to capture them). It becomes intuitive in a way that's truly hard to define but has absolutely changed the way I approach my own photo-taking.
Ultimately, Google Clips isn't going to replace your camera, but it's changed everything for me in terms of being able to be part of the action and not just the one trying to get everyone to stand still. I still take photos of moments that I absolutely cannot live without documenting, but those moments are supplemented by a whole host of new and great angles that, for once, include me. And that means our family photos feel more authentic, more friendly, more alive.
For decades, Google has paved the way for new, innovative technology, and with Google Clips, it has carved out a new niche by targeting parents and pet owners who never quite get the shot of their dreams — and as a whole, if you fall into either of those categories, we can't recommend highly enough that you try out the camera for yourself.