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Zeiss Cinemizer - Image Quality, Head Tracking and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

6

Zeiss Cinemizer – Display Quality

With most video glasses we’ve tried, we found significant image quality problems. Poor contrast, low resolution and the intrusion of ambient light make most feel like hideously compromised things.

The Zeiss Cinemizer glasses manage to minimise some of these problems. Using an OLED display, contrast and the richness of the colours is impressive – far better than the milky LCD panels used in some other sets.

Zeiss Cinemizer 9

The rubber seals that bridge the gap between the glasses and your face – an optional accessory – do an excellent job of blocking out the outside world. Even without them applied, the screen is pretty clear indoors too.

However, the Zeiss Cinemizer image is still far from perfect. Our biggest issue is that the resolution isn’t quite good enough for the most “mainstream” group that would appreciate a gadget like this – gamers. The resolution of each eye's display is 870 x 500 pixels.

It’s enough to offer decent image quality despite being a way short of the lowest HD standard, 720p. However, text suffers. No PC/console games are designed with such a low resolution in mind these days, and interfaces feel compromised.

Compromise isn’t something that’s in the forefront of your mind when considering an £600 luxury gadget.

However, no head-bound display currently offers a solution on this front. The current (dev) version of the Oculus Rift is far worse, stretching a similar resolution over a greater "virtual screen" area and the higher-res Sony Personal 3D Viewer is much larger and heavier.

Zeiss Cinemizer 1

Those who haven’t experience video glasses before may also be slightly disappointed by the size of the screen. This isn’t a world-devouring IMAX-style immersive experience. It can roughly be compared to a 42-inch TV a few feet away or – at a stretch – a smaller cinema screen. However, settle down with the rubber isolator attached and it’s a pretty immersive experience when, for example, watching a film.

There is one more distracting image quality problem, though. The lenses used in order to trick your eyes into believing you’re seeing a large screen far away rather than a tiny one up close cause some colour distortion.

Areas of white image cause a purple bloom that hangs over the screen, spoiling the otherwise decent colour reproduction. As with the resolution issue, this affects high-contrast areas like menu systems worse than movies, although it’s noticeable whatever sort of content you’re looking at. Image quality enthusiasts will not be pleased.

Zeiss Cinemizer 3

Zeiss Cinemizer – Head tracking

What wins the Cinemizer back a big ole’ handful of gaming cool points is the head tracker. This is an another accessory that slots into the glasses themselves, turning them into a virtual reality simulator.

The tracker functions just like a mouse – so if you’re a glutton for punishment, and neck ache – you could use it to operate Windows. It’s much more effective as a game controller, though. As you merely plug it into a standard USB port, it’s surprisingly versatile, working well with PC first-person shooters – perhaps the most obvious gaming partner for the Zeiss Cinemizer.

Zeiss Cinemizer 11

Move your head and your character will look around – it’s the VR dream brought to life. However, it feels ever-so- slightly jittery in use and games won’t support full movement without a specific driver (to add “head tilt” movement). It also costs around £180, which will be prohibitively expensive for many – like the glasses themselves. The tracker also reduces comfort, as it's harder than the rubber stabiliser it replaces.

Zeiss Cinemizer – Value, Should You Buy?

Having used the Zeiss Cinemizer glasses for films, TV-watching and games, we’re confident in saying that while they offer a great experience among video glasses as a whole, the picture quality issues make them a tough sell. For the price, you could buy an excellent TV instead, so you need to be in a niche that truly benefits from the Cinemizer’s distinct skills to make the purchase worthwhile.

Zeiss offered us a few groups that might find particular use for the glasses, the most striking being radio controlled plane enthusiasts, who could use the CInemizer to get a “plane’s eye” view. And, of course, the shackles on their wallets will already have been bust open, having bought a miniature aeroplane. Zeiss Cinemizer 5

For gamers and movie enthusiasts, the expense is much harder to justify. With the head tracker, you're looking at an outlay of £800, or around £600 without. If Zeiss could stretch to 720p an eye and rid the glasses of the colour distortion issue, we'd be looking at an attractive plaything for flush folk. However, until generational shifts in display tech come around, it'll be limited to a distinctly niche audience.

Verdict

The Zeiss Cinemizer are undoubtedly among the most practical, high quality video glasses we’ve used. Among their peers, they’re relatively practical, comfortable and offer good, if not stellar, image quality. However, the price-to-experience ratio remains hard to accept. It’s a solid effort, but not one that breaks through the crust of traditional video glasses issues to appeal to a truly mainstream buyer. That was arguably never Zeiss’s aim, though.

Overall Score

6

OhYeah!

May 17, 2013, 6:40 pm

"but the Zeiss Cinemizer is a slightly more sensible affair.
These video glasses aren’t cheap at £600" Oculus Rift is only 300 usd and and has much better tracking and fills your vision. The Cinemizer has been passed and they need to up their game.

mikfrak

May 17, 2013, 8:19 pm

Unless there is a new advance in audio-visual technology on the horizon (painting images on the back of the eye with low powered lasers?) glasses are simply the wrong way to approach the design of these devices. The Occulus Rift is a huge improvement because it takes its design cues from ski goggles, the only style of eyewear that can comfortably accommodate the need for additional, screens, lenses and electronics with a comfortable band holding them in place rather than two plastic arms hooked over your ears. Trying to put this kind of technology into designs based on glasses, even large wrap-around sunglasses, is a technological dead end that always ends up disappointing the user and creating a clumsy uncomfortable viewing experience. Even a big improvement in screen resolution can't get around the physiology of the human face and basic physics because the screen has to be a certain distance from the eye and so do the lenses that allow the eyes to focus on them. Human ears and noses never evolved to balance electronic devices on them. Vuzix, Sony, Zeiss and all the rest are simply barking up the wrong tree design-wise and are forced to make design compromises that create an extremely disappointing narrow field of view. I would go so far as to say that a person would look much less like a dork with an Occulus Rift which has a certain design integrity that giant oversized glasses never will have.

Michael Price

May 18, 2013, 10:10 am

The Oculus Rift may fill your vision but what is the image quality for that extra field of view? That is always the trade off.

David Fanning

May 20, 2013, 8:04 am

Oculus Rift won't be available until 2015, so it's difficult to say how good it will be. But the size of the display is not a measure of quality. They are aiming for a 1,280-x-800 display split between two eyes. So an effective resolution of 640-x-800 per eye. So having the bigger field of vision means merely magnifying the pixels.

The cinemizer has a smaller field of vision, but it is pin-sharp from edge-to-edge, and you won't see pixels (a bit like a Retina Display from Apple). To match that density of pixels at the size the Oculus Rift will display things, they would need a minimum 4K, Ultra HD display to get close. An 8K display would be better. But if course they don't exist at this size.

So it's like having a 40-inch screen at HD resolution, or a 120-inch screen with the same resolution. Bigger doesn't always mean better.

lackert

May 21, 2013, 2:53 pm

it says the headtracker "...won’t support full movement without a specific driver"

Thats not true. The tracker uses the HID-USB interface and those are standard drivers that come with every OS. What does needs to be done is, the Software has to support the Tracker. This means it needs to be modified by the developers. For this there is exists a free SDK.

psuedonymous

May 21, 2013, 3:43 pm

"Oculus Rift won't be available until 2015"

The consumer version has not been dated, though Palmer has previously stated that they're aiming to get it out at least before Q4 2014, with the 2nd gen devkit arriving before then. The current devkit is available already: I have one on my desk.

The screen-door is noticeable, but it doesn't matter once you are wearing it. Because it tracks your head movement, and you naturally move your head around without realising it, you brain interpolates between pixels over time to build up an effectively higher resolution view of the world. Plus, enveloping the majority of your field of view with image is such a profound effect that you don't really care about the low resolution.

TR guys: if you want to play around the with devkit for a while, I can cart it down to the Southwark Street office for a few hours or so. My desktop isn't portable, so you'd have to have a decently grunty computer on-hand (a solid 60fps is a requirement to avoid nausea).

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:12 am

I think the entire notion of having huge ski Goggles on is absurd. I would pic the Zeiss Cinemizer over Rift any day. I have a friend who has a Zeiss and its awesome...I'm surprised by all the negitivity...they are super easy to use and are really uber In person , they are not bluky and lightweight on the head...very very comforable very easy to use..and attractive..espeically since you would want to wear them for a long time..and you do not get the 3-D headache like you get when seeing 3-D in a movie threater...they come across very professional and the head tracker is being used by people who like to do RC helicopters they can set it up to see though the helicopters eyes..when flying its super sweet..

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:25 am

I think if people had both sets to try they would pick the Cinemizer over Rift. Rift is so unprofessional looking..and I think a headset like this could be used on more then just games. Spending 300$ for a headset that doesn't look better then something you would sit at home in your PJ's with is a lot of money really. Especally since most gammers spend about 300$ for an entire gamming system..to spend 300 on just a head set that you wouldnt want to leave the house with is a lot of money.

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:30 am

yea, in two years this concept with the Rift will drift away. There will be so many better options.

OhYeah!

May 24, 2013, 3:19 pm

Well there is your problem. Puting form before function. Oculus offers something the cinemizer only dreams of with it's tiny fov. Oculus provides superior sensors and when the consumer version comes out (we are taking about a dev kit which also destroys your argument because these aren't meant for general public yet) will have a high res screen and decimate the boring, non immersive cinemizer. Where are the lines of people trying the cinemizer and freaking out ;)

Mat Holton

September 26, 2013, 8:37 am

I have tried both Oculus and Zeiss (on the same day, at a convention) and I can honestly tell you that the Oculus beat it!

Why you may ask? Simply because the Oculus provided a MUCH more
immersive experience. I think this was due to the fact that head-tracking was almost perfect but perhaps more than that was the fact that the Oculus 'screen' took up almost my entire field of vision. It was unbelievably impressive...and this even when the resolution is crap (compared to the Zeiss, oculus res is pathetic) - it doesn't seem to matter, once you find yourself 'immersed'.

Regarding the immersive-power Vs resolution issue. I recall playing a VR arcade game way back in the mid-90s. Graphics: terrible, Framerate: terrible, Experience: incredible! Basically, what I'm saying is that it's not about the graphics/frame-rate/#polygons - it's about how well the overall experience is!

That said, if I had to choose one of the devices to watch a film, I would choose the Zeiss but for anything else it's Oculus all the way!

HeliEye

September 15, 2014, 2:24 pm

It wouldn't be so bad if the reviewer managed to give the Correct resolution for the Cinemizers 570x800? NOT.
They are 870 × 500 pixels I have a set, they are amazing, I also have 640x480 LCD, these are not so good.
I have also tried a 3D BluRay which was impressive.
What often gets missed, is the very good contrast with OLED over LCD, where blacks look grey.

Joe Holliday

December 25, 2014, 7:04 pm

Here we are two years later with the DK2 out and future models on the horizon. You were saying?

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