Monday, June 23, 2008

How Small Can You Make a Camcorder?

Digital Camcorders are getting smaller and the prices are dropping. That seems to be the general story of all technology. I’ve recently tested a Flip Video Ultra camcorder (see and found it wonderfully small (fits in a shirt pocket). It’s lightweight too. It records video on internal memory rather than on a miniDV tape. The Flip Video Ultra can record 60 minutes of video using 2GB of internal memory (the Ultra has 2GB while the regular Flip Video has 1GB). Note, the newest addition to the Flip Video family is a 2GB Flip Mino. It’s much like the Ultra except it includes an internal Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery capable of 4 hours recording between charges. It retails for $179.99.

I was pretty impressed with the 640x480 resolution image from the $149 camera, until I ran across the AIPTEK A-HD 720P digital camcorder (see which retails at $159.99 (as low as $139.99 refurbished). While the A-HD 720P doesn’t have a snappy name (like Flip Video Ultra), it does provide high definition (HD) video recording (1280x720 using H.264 video compression) and is also an 8 megapixel still image camera and media player all rolled into one. The video you capture can be played on a high definition TV, standard TV, PC or Mac (cables are included) and enables you to record direct from a TV set as well. Some of the other significant differences include a rechargeable 1000mA Li-ion battery good for about 4 hours of recording (the Flip Video Ultra uses 2 AA batteries that give you approximately 2 hours of recording time) and the ability to use up to an 8GB SD card (the Flip Video Ultra’s memory is not expandable). The bad news is that the A-HD 720P does not come with an SD memory card, so you must buy one or you don’t have sufficient memory to record video (it comes with only 6MB internal memory). So effectively, the cost of the camcorder is $12 to $30 more than it seems. The following chart indicates how much video recording time or how many images you can store based on the SD card size and the resolution of the images/video you capture.

One negative to the A-HD 720P is it’s a bit heavier than the 5.2 oz Flip Video Ultra (can’t find an exact weight in the specs).

The A-HD video files are compressed (stored in the QuickTime .MOV format using H.264 video compression) while the Flip Video Ultra uses Pure Digital Video Engine 2.5 to compress in .AVI format. With both camcorders, it takes some practice to steady the camera and adjust the zoom (both units employ a 2x digital zoom).

Prices listed above are list and can be “beat” at and other vendors. There are accessories available for both camcorders (tripods, and so on). Either choice is a giant step forward in miniaturization and price reduction.


greg said...

Thanks. I've been using a digital camera (sony handheld) which has respectable video quality - but seeing the specs on these cameras lets me know I can get better quality video -

Will these small cameras fit on a tripod?

Jonathan said...

Yes, these mini-camcorders do work with a standard tripod. However, I've been using the Vanguard VS-55 Pocket Pod instead. It's much smaller and easier to lug around. It works just fine for my purposes.

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