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Pocket Camcorder Holiday Buyer's Guide

By Megan Iverson

Zoom Q3 Handy Video Recorder MHS-PM1 Webbie HD Camera MinoHD Camcorder

If you're trying to decide which of the various pocket camcorders to give as a gift this holiday season, or maybe to gift to yourself, this article covers several possible choices. For such seemingly simple devices, the variations in this camcorder genre can make buying one a dizzying task. But have no fear, depending on budget, interests, and needs there is definitely a pocket camcorder out there that's sure to be remembered as this year's coolest gift.

Known by many names—shoot-and-share, point-and-shoot, and pocket camcorders, just for starters—the major appeal of these pint-sized video cameras is their ease-of-use for recording and posting videos to the Internet. Virtually anyone, including children, can operate a pocket cam. And I can guarantee there won't be any late nights spent trying to decipher the user manual. Looking at the back of one of these camcorders should tell you everything you need to know. All of these cameras include software that enables editing and sharing of your videos through email or social networking sites—often with just a touch. However, while most camcorders allow saving of your files to Mac or PC, not all editing software works with both.

Designed for uncomplicated recording of fun times or just impromptu moments, these camcorders are growing in popularity every day, and not just with young people—people everywhere and of all age groups use pocket camcorders for any number of creative endeavors. Odds are the next Oscar winning Best Picture won't be recorded with one, but who's to say a point-and-shoot camcorder can't be used to sketch out short film ideas or for educational how-to videos? For such projects, shoot-and-share camcorders are an inexpensive way to get ideas across without a major expense to what may already be a tightly-budgeted production. But no matter what the intended use, one thing's for sure, these video cameras do what they're designed to do, and without a major investment.

While the manufacturers of these various pocket camcorders try to set their cameras apart from the others, there are a few rules that seem to hold true across the board — at least for now. First, these camcorders all feature a fixed focus lens. From time to time, a camera may have a limited zoom range, but for the most part, if there is a zoom it's between 2 and 5x. Keeping in mind that these are "point-and-shoot" camcorders, this limited zoom is a major part of the concept of keeping things simple.

In addition, most, if not all camcorders in this genre record to MPEG4 video, which allows for "instant" upload of files to the Internet even when shooting high-definition video. This means that those good times can be on the 'net for all to see in a matter of moments. Other standard features include a USB interface, often times a built-in USB arm, but sometimes using an included USB cable, and some sort of output to your TV or HDTV, although, not always.

There are a few things to keep in mind concerning accessories when purchasing a pocket camcorder. Additional items may need to be obtained in order to use the camera from day one, and it's a good idea to budget for these accessories from the outset.

Generally speaking, any camera in this genre that records to both internal memory and SD/SDHC memory cards is going to require the use of memory cards for any significant period of recording. So, I recommend picking up a card or two to start out with. Another thing you may need off the bat is batteries, which could range from standard 'AA's to 'AAA's to lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, depending on the camcorder. And while not a necessary part of the recording process, accessories such as battery chargers, HDMI cables (for HD cams), cases, protective skins, and tripods are all worth considering. Of course, needs and compatibility may vary depending on manufacturer and model, so be sure to double check.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's look at some of the most popular shoot-and-share camcorders on the market today, all of which are available at B&H. Ranging in price, as well as in features, colors, and design, you're sure to find one that fits your holiday budget and will make that special someone on your gift-giving list extremely happy.

Ultra Budget-Friendly SD Pocket Cams

These standard definition pocket camcorders all feature uncomplicated operation, record video that's certainly good enough for Internet posting, and are easy on the wallet. If you're looking for an entry-level point-and-shoot these four camcorders are worth considering.

Aiptek ISDV2.4 Flash Memory Camcorder The Aiptek ISDV2.4 Flash Memory Camcorder has a pistol-grip design with a swing-out 2.4 inch LCD which allows shooting from various angles—not just a straight-on point of view. The camera captures 720 x 480 video or enhanced 8MP digital stills to SD/SDHC memory cards up to 4GB, or to the 16MB internal memory. As I mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to pick up some extra memory cards to start out.

In addition to its duties as a camcorder, the ISDV2.4 offers up a few other functions, including voice recording, use as an MP3 player, and use as a mass storage device. Note: The Aiptek ISDV2.4 comes in white and blue.

Coby CAM3000 SNAPP Mini Digital Camcorder Coby CAM4000 SNAPP Mini Digital Camcorder

Two other ultra budget-friendly SD pocket camcorders to consider are from Coby: the CAM3000 and CAM4000 SNAPP Mini Digital Camcorder/Cameras. While differing in design, both camcorders capture 640 x 480 VGA video to the 32MB built-in memory or to SD/SDHC cards up to 8GB, for over two hours of recording. Both also feature a built-in LED light for low-light recording. And as the names imply, both cams capture digital stills as well. In addition to their roles as pocket camcorder/cameras these two can also be used as web cams. Note: The CAM3000 and CAM4000 are powered by easily-replaceable 'AAA' batteries.

Flip Video Ultra CamcorderThe last standard definition pocket cam we'll explore is the Flip Video Ultra, which is the company's 2nd generation model. The Ultra comes in white, black, white with pink, and white with yellow. Arguably the most popular of the budget-friendly realm, the Ultra is capable of recording 120 minutes of 960 x 240 SD video to its 4GB internal flash memory. The camera sports a 2" LCD and can be powered for up to 2.5 hours with two 'AA' batteries or the Flip Video Battery Pack. The Ultra is both Mac and PC friendly and comes with Flip Video's built-in FlipShare software for editing and posting videos directly to the Internet.

Note: if you use Energizer e2 batteries the camcorder will run for up to 6.5 hours.

 

HD Video Recording and Then Some

The world of HD pocket camcorders is vast and ever-expanding. Some shoot only straight video, while others act as a digital camera/MP3 player/voice recorder, and so on. To keep things simple, we'll first look at some high definition camcorders that offer up video recording and then some.

DXG DXG-569V 720p HD Camcorder (Black)To get started, let's look at the DXG DXG-569V HD Camcorder. Considered entry-level for HD pocket cams, the 569V takes 1280 x 720p video and 5MP digital stills, and can also be used as a digital voice recorder. The 569V captures its 720p HD video to either to the 32MB built-in flash memory or to SD/SDHC memory cards.

However, what may be most striking is the camera's 3" rotating LCD screen. The 3" screen size is quite large for the genre, giving you an easy-to-see display for both recording and watching already-recorded video clips. Note: The camera comes with 3 'AAA' rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.

Aiptek HD-1 720p High Definition Camcorder Aiptek Action-HD 1080p High Definition Camcorder
Aiptek HD-1 720p High-Definition Camcorder Aiptek Action-HD 1080p High-Definition Camcorder

Aiptek manufactures both the HD-1 720p High Definition Camcorder and the Action-HD 1080p High Definition Camcorder. Both models have an upright form factor and a 2.4" LCD screen that rotates up to 270 degrees. Both also record video and stills to SD/SDHC memory cards, while the Action-HD also provides 128MB of built-in memory.

The two differ when it comes to recording resolution: The HD-1 records in 1280 x 720p while the Action-HD records in 1440 x 1080p. Like all shoot-and-shares, both have a fixed focus lens, with the Action-HD having 3x optical zoom and the HD-1 having a 4x digital zoom. When it comes to bells and whistles the Action-HD also works as personal media player by allowing you to record shows or movies from any TV, VCR, or DVD player for playback on the LCD screen. On the other hand, the HD-1 doubles as an MP3 player.

JVC PICSIO GC-FM1 HD Memory Camera
JVC PICSIO GC-FM1 HD Memory Camera

JVC, a relative newcomer to the shoot-and-share market, offers up their PICSIO GC-FM1 HD Memory Camera. This 1920 x 1080p HD cam is also capable of capturing 8MP digital stills and records to SD/SDHC memory cards up to 32GB.

The PICSIO has a 2" anti-glare display screen, a jeweled finish, and an HDMI output for one-cable transfer to your HDTV. The GC-FM1 also features image stabilization—a definite plus. When you're ready to share all the video or stills you've taken, the camera features software for Internet sharing and uploading to iTunes, along with an HDMI connection for sharing on an HDTV. Note: The PICSIO comes in Black Ice, Purple Passion, and Blue Steel.

Sony MHS-CM1 Sony MHS-PM1

MHS-CM1

MHS-PM1

Sony's MHS-CM1 and MHS-PM1 Webbie HD Cameras come in bright colors with your choice of an upright or traditional camcorder design. Both are capable of recording 1440 x 1080p high definition video and 5MP digital stills. And using Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Media (up to 16GB) you can capture up to 8.5 hours of video.

The Webbies let you choose between 5 scene selection modes for capturing great video no matter where you are, and both feature individual "Movie" or "Still" buttons for switching between capture modes. Both the MHS-CM1 and the MHS-PM1 are compatible with Mac and PC, and both connect to your HDTV using an included Component A/V cable.

HD Pocket Cams that Solely Record Video

When it comes to the purest form of the genre—cameras that simply record video—Flip Video has the corner on the market. Flip camcorders started the revolution of the pocket camcorder with their simple, easy to operate cameras. That being said, it's rather fitting that the three HD camcorders we'll look at for solely recording video are part of the Flip Video line-up.

Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder
Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder

The 1st generation Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder captures up to 60 minutes of 1280 x 720p high-def video to its 4GB internal flash memory. Flip Video camcorders are ultra-simple devices with no need for SD/SDHC memory card slots. The 4GB internal memory should carry you through most events with no problems whatsoever. The MinoHD also features a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery which charges using the flip-out USB arm.

The back of MinoHD sports a 1.5" LCD screen and the camera's basic controls. One optional function of the camera is a 'Child Safe' mode that prevents your video from accidentally being erased. When you're ready to share your footage with the world, just connect the flip-out USB arm and let the built-in FlipShare Software guide you through the process of editing and posting your videos. FlipShare is compatible with both Mac and PC. Note: The 1st gen MinoHD comes in black and chrome.

MinoHD Camcorder
MinoHD Camcorder

Now, the 2nd generation MinoHD Camcorder virtually mirrors the 1st gen, but with a few noticeable differences. This model records up to 120 minutes of 720p HD video to its 8GB internal flash memory. The 2nd gen also features a slightly bigger 2" LCD screen, and, unlike the 1st gen, is compatible with your HDTV, although you must purchase an HDMI cable separately.

2nd generation UltraHD

2nd generation UltraHD

Rounding out this popular triad of HD pocket camcorders is the 2nd generation UltraHD. This camcorder, while similar to the 2nd gen MinoHD, has a few distinct differences. The first and most obvious is a somewhat bigger form factor; while it's still small, the UltraHD does have a little more thickness. That could be due to the power source, which is a pair of 'AA' batteries (included). Controls on the UltraHD include: record, playback, pause, fast-forward, rewind, zoom and delete. Note: The UltraHD comes in black and white.

HD Video with Pro Quality Audio Recording

 

Zoom Q3 Handy Video Recorder - Camcorder with High-Quality Microphone

Zoom Q3 Handy Video Recorder

Now, if you're on the hunt for something that does both internet-friendly video recording, along with pro quality audio recording, you should consider Zoom's Q3 Handy Video Recorder. The Q3 features pro microphones, a non-traditional, thus inconspicuous look—even for this genre of camcorders, and 640 x 480 standard definition video capture, which is certainly fine for posting to social media sites.

Zoom Q3 Handy Video Recorder - Camcorder with High-Quality Microphones

Zoom Q3 Handy Video Recorder - Camcorder with High-Quality Microphones

Created with musicians and music lovers in mind, the Q3 uses the same studio-quality stereo condenser microphone capsules that are used in the company's popular H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder. And while recording, at the bottom of the 2.4" LCD screen, you'll be able to read the audio meters in both audio and video modes. When in the audio-only mode the recorder can capture 96kHz 16-24 bit WAV files and the microphones can be adjusted to record loud or soft sounds, or set to the Auto Record Level for automatic adjustment of levels.

The Q3 runs off on 2 'AA' batteries—a set comes included with the camcorder. SD/SDHC memory cards are used for recording, and a 2GB card is included to get you started as well. And good news the Q3 is compatible with both Mac and PC operating systems and features HandyShare software which allows for editing and easy upload to the Internet for sharing.


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