zooms in on camcorder niche
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
June 17-23, 2008; issue 973
High Tech Office column
There are a lot of nice
things about living in Canada. Less nice, however: we tend to be six
months to a year behind our more populous neighbour to the south for
when tech gadgets make it to market. And I’m not just talking about the
One of last year’s tech toy hits in the
United States that still isn’t available in Canada is a pocket-sized
video recorder, the Flip, from Pure Digital. Since its first day on the
market, it’s been Amazon.com’s best selling camcorder and now accounts
for some 13% of the camcorder market – at least in the U.S.
the Flip still hasn’t arrived locally, a Flip competitor, Creative
Labs’ Vado, is being made available here at about the same time as its
U.S.-release. It should be in stores by the time you read this.
Like the Flip, Creative’s Vado is a simple pocket-sized video recorder
with a pop-out USB plug for quick computer connection.
work with Windows or Mac with minimal fuss or software installation.
Both include 2x digital zooms and produce 640 x 480-pixel video clips,
which will (more or less) fill a standard-size TV screen, and both save
files in non-proprietary MPEG4 AVI formats that can be viewed by most
computer media players and uploaded to YouTube or other websites
Both do a surprisingly good job in low-light.
Vado beats out the Flip in a number of ways, though. About the size of
an iPod, it’s noticeably thinner and lighter (84 grams compared with
136 grams) than the Flip, making it the more pocket-sized pocket-sized
camcorder. It has a larger LCD screen (two inches versus 1.5 inches)
sporting more pixels for better display.
The Flip sells for
US$99 for a version that can store 30 minutes of video and $149 for a
model with 60 minutes of storage. The $99 Vado has two gigabytes of
storage, enough for 60 minutes of high quality video storage or 120
minutes of standard quality clips. (Neither product offers a slot for
removable memory cards, which would be a plus.)
The Flip uses
standard AA batteries; the Vado has a removable rechargeable battery –
holding about two hours of shooting life on a charge. This might be a
plus. It’s nice to be able to charge it up by simply plugging its USB
plug into a computer. But while it’s possible to carry around a spare
Vado battery, it’s more convenient to buy AA batteries if you run out
of juice at an inconvenient time.
(I have the same ambivalence
with digital cameras. I can’t decide whether a built-in rechargeable
battery is better or worse than using AAs.)
The Vado can be
attached to a tripod. This is only the case for the more expensive Flip
model. However, both Flip models include a cable for connection to TVs;
this A/V cable is a $10 added extra with the Vado.
phone and digital camera models can also take video clips, but they
typically allow only a few minutes of lower-quality video. It can also
be difficult to get the video off phones and onto a computer. Easy to
carry, easy to use, with non-trivial amounts of video storage, the Vado
or the Flip represent a breakthrough in making digital video always
available. I find the Vado’s two-hour capacity especially usable to
record meetings, for example.
Lots of gadgets promise more
features, but more features typically equal more complexity. Kudos to
Pure Digital and Creative for managing to keep their products simple,
for keeping their eyes on what users really need.
comparing Pure Digital’s Flip and Creative’s Vado, in Canada perhaps
only one thing really matters. The Vado is available here. Now. •