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    Coming soon to a pocket near you: high-definition video recording

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver March 17-23, 2009; issue 1012

    High Tech Office column

    One of last year’s best gadget categories was the pocket-sized digital video camera. Pure Digital’s Flip and other manufacturers’ models allowed users to capture video on the fly. Yes, many mobile phones do that too, but mobile phone video captures are limited in length and resolution – good for a short low-res YouTube clip but not much else.

    Dedicated pocket video cameras typically came with one to two gigabytes of storage, allowing for an hour or two of 640x480 standard definition TV resolution recording.

    But that was so last year.

    This year’s models up the ante. They offer more storage and 720p (1,280x720) high definition resolution. There’s only one problem: the model you want might not be available in Canada. Pure Digital’s latest is the MinoHD (US$229). With four gigabytes of built-in storage, it can store up to an hour’s high-definition (HD) content. The company promises the MinoHD will be released in Canada this summer.

    Competitor Creative Labs has a new Vado HD. Also priced at US$229, it doubles the MinoHD’s built-in storage. With eight gigabytes, it lets users shoot two hours of high-quality footage – four hours of lower-quality HD clips, or up to eight hours of standard-definition video. The slim removable battery holds a charge of more than two hours, but you can buy extra batteries for about $14 each, popping one in as needed.

    Like the MinoHD and the earlier Flip, the Vado HD has a little USB plug at the bottom, making it easy to connect it to a PC or Mac to charge the battery and to transfer video clips to a computer. Files are saved in Windows-friendly AVI format and needed conversion for the Mac and Linux systems I tried. It includes a wider-angle lens than the competition and perhaps the best colour balance.

    I like it a lot, but you’ll have trouble getting one. Creative has no plans to sell it through Canadian retailers. It’s listed on, but Amazon won’t deliver it to Canada. Creative’s online store will sell to Canadian customers, but its promised “free shipping on orders over $75” is U.S.-only. Canadian customers get dinged about US$40 to ship the 100-gram device.

    Canadians can walk into Staples, Best Buy and other retail outlets and buy Kodak’s Zi6. While pocket-sized, the Zi6 is plumper than the Vado HD or MinoHD – perhaps because it’s powered by a pair of standard AA batteries.

    Unlike the other two models, the $179 Zi6 comes with minimal internal storage – 128 megabytes – but it includes a slot for standard definition (SD) memory cards. SD cards are common. The Zi6’s ability to use standard batteries and standard removable storage is handy – unlike its competitors, you don’t have to rush to transfer your video clips to a computer – just pop in another memory card. But because Kodak doesn’t include an SD card with the Zi6, it’s not usable right out of the box.

    Though there's also a USB connector, you can also pop out the memory card to transfer the video – handy if your computer has an SD slot, less handy if it doesn’t.

    You can also take three-megapixel still photos with the Zi6. The lack of a flash might limit its usefulness, but it could prove handy in a pinch. Video clips are saved in QuickTime format, which is usable on Mac, Windows and Linux systems.

    While this year’s models are more expensive than last year’s standard-definition models, the HD-quality video is worth the added expense with these convenient camcorders. At least if you’re able to find one to buy! •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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