soon to a pocket near you: high-definition video recording
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
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
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 Amazon.com, 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.
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
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
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! •