Compact camcorder group test

Introduction

In the world of the camcorder, now almost exclusively digital, the big news is not just the ability for the amateur to shoot high definition (HD) video and upload it to YouTube in minutes, but the smaller and more lightweight models via which to do it. Tapes of old are being eschewed in favour of committing footage direct to built-in hard drives (HDD) or, as with the digital stills camera, removable media. Typically this is the Secure Digital (SD) or the higher capacity SDHC format, the size of a postage stamp.

Shooting video straight to removable media has a couple more advantages. Since the camcorder’s memory doesn’t have a finite capacity (as an incorporated hard drive does), users who want to shoot for longer can simply insert a higher capacity card, with SDHC currently boasting a 32GB capacity. This means the camera itself is reasonably future proofed. Also, since the technology is ‘solid state’ – there are no moving parts – there is, in theory, less to wear out and possibly go wrong.

At the same time, shrinking camcorder dimensions barely larger than a mobile phone or iPod are increasingly being married to a shrinking asking price, as such products become the latest must-have mass-market devices. New concepts such as Flip Video, the latest MinoHD model featured here, have taken advantage, introducing dedicated digital models for under £100.

And, with more of us investing in the latest high-definition screens, many of today’s camcorders are naturally shooting 16:9 widescreen movie format with stereo sound to complement the popularity of home cinema set-ups. Though footage from models shooting in MPEG4 video format can be replayed on the Mac in QuickTime or RealPlayer, for any that utilise the relatively new compression code AVCHD, an Intel-based Mac running iMovie ’08 or ’09 is required. If in doubt check compatibility with your set-up by visiting the useful chart on the Apple website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1014

It’s also worth noting that, for all the talk about the improved quality of HD video, at the end of the day the total pixel count only translates to a 2-megapixel image; paltry by still camera standards. And, of course, file sizes will inevitably be large even for short video bursts, so it might be worth investing in an additional drive. With the above in mind let’s examine the build and performance of the following contenders.

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