Gone are the days when you had to carry a heavy camcorder strapped to your hand that recorded video on a tape and required at least a firewire port for transferring video from the camera to the computer.
The year 2008 saw the emergence of some great pocket video cameras that are no larger than your mobile phone, inexpensive, they shoot good-looking video and are almost as easy to operate as an iPod – no confusing controls, just a single record button. These pocket camcorder attach to the computer via the USB port and record video in a straight-to-web format perfect for YouTube and other video sharing websites.
Creative Vado Pocket Video Camera ($100)
This has a 2" screen with 2x zoom and 2 GB internal memory perfect for recording upto 2 hours of video (resolution 640×480, MPEG4 AVI). Creative Vado can be recharged via USB (similar to iPod or Zune) and includes removable battery. You’ll have to separately buy the RCA cable that is required to connect your Vado camera to a TV. Supports both Windows and Mac.
Creative Vado HD Video Camera ($200)
This camera has the same dimensions as the previous one (slightly heavier) and lets you shoot video in High Definition format (resolution 1280×720, H.264 AVI).
Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera ($180)
The Kodak Zi6 features a 2.4" LCD, 2x zoom, records both HD (H.264) & standard video but can also capture still photographs at 3MB resolution. Zi6 only has 128MB of internal memory, so you’ll need to buy a separate memory SD Card to record longer home movies.
The Kodak Zi6 does include both A/V and HDMI cables for connecting the camcorder to the television screen. Also include 2 Ni-MH rechargeable battery and charger included. Read Kodak Zi6 reviews at MacWorld, PC Magazine and LaptopMag.
Flip Mino HD Camcorder ($230)
FlipMino HD sports a 1.5" screen and can record up to 60 minutes of video (1280 x720 at 30 frames per second) on its 4 GB internal memory (non expandable). The camera has internal rechargeable battery that can be charged via USB port or the power adapter though you’ll have to buy it separately. TV connector cable is included to watch videos on television.
The included software program is compatible with both Mac and Windows and includes basic video editing features with the option of extracting still image frames from the video – the camera itself cannot snap still photos though. Read Flip Mino HD reviews and picture samples at Macworld and PC Magazine.
Pure Digital Flip Ultra Video Camera ($150)
The Flip Ultra video camera carries 2GB of built-in flash memory and can record 60 minutes of video at 640×480. The camera has a 1.5" LCD and requires 2 AA batteries that last up to 2.5 hours.
It records video in MPEG-4 AVI format at 30 frames per second. NTSC cable is included with Flip Ultra for connecting the unit to TV though there’s no way to expand the memory. Watch video review of Flip Ultra at Macworld and CNET.
Conclusion: I think the Zi6 offers best value for money – you get HD quality video, it has the largest LCD screen, the memory is expandable and Kodak Zi6 is the only pocket video camera that can shoot still photographs. Authors who have used the camera seem impressed by the video quality of Zi6 if there’s reasonable light and the camera is held with a steady hand.