Comparison of Inexpensive Flash Camcorders
Here are the best flash camcorders (below $200) that have comparable performance to real HD camcorders but will suit your budget perfectly. We will examine and rate each camcorder based on Value (what the camcorder has to offer), Quality (video performance in different environments), Ease of Use (user-friendliness), Control (manual options) and Overall performance. A maximum score of five goes to each of the categories mentioned.
The first on the list is the Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5, which records in 1920 x 1080 pixels HD and uses H.264-compressed MPEG-4. It has a decent image quality characterized by extreme warm colors and over saturation. Possessing a 1080p video capture feature, the video quality is equally sharp; however, the autofocus has a tendency to respond slowly. What’s good with the Bloggie CM5 is that it can focus on objects as close as nearly 2 inches. This macro feature is best for people who want to get a close-up detail of their subjects. With its average video quality and macro capability, we grade this camcorder a 4.0 for Value and 4.1 for Quality.
This Bloggie CM5 supports SDHC cards as well as Memory Stick Duo cards. It has a large 2.5-inch swiveling LCD and a 5x optical zoom lens. This pocket camcorder uses a removable rechargeable lithium ion battery, which delivers up to 105 minutes of recording time. For extra shooting flexibility, you can purchase an additional NP-BK1 battery. The camcorder adds a mini HDMI jack for HDTV viewing and a USB connector for battery charging. Though the CM5 doesn’t have a mic input for an optional stereo mic, its sound recording already seems better than average.
Sony included the Picture Motion Browser Portable 5.0 software with the camcorder. Except for Windows 7 Starter Edition, the software runs from the device once you plug it into your Windows or Mac PC. It allows you to upload your videos instantly to YouTube, DailyMotion, Picasa, Photobucket and Shutterfly after your initial setup of your username and password for each service. Considering overall the features and options this camcorder has to offer, we give it a score off 3.8 for Ease of Use and 4.2 for Control. Overall score for the Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5 is 4.0.
The next pocket camcorder is the Flip Video MinoHD from Pure Digital. It has a small 1.46-inch transflective LCD that allows you to view the display even in bright daylight. You can navigate the controls through its touch-sensitive buttons. A tripod sits on the bottom of the camcorder.
The MinoHD is simple and easy to use with its USB connector, which you can flip straight up. Once you connect the camera to the PC, simply push the red button to start and stop the recording or hit the playback button to view what you recorded. Unlike some of its competitors, it has no other complex settings to fiddle with aside from setting the date and time. The MinoHD packs with the FlipShare software. It gets a 4.2 for Ease of Use.
The MinoHD has its own drawbacks. It uses a non-removable rechargeable lithium ion battery, which can only shoot up to 2 hours of videos. It also has focus issues; you can’t get a sharp take if you get too close to your subjects. However, both the bright and the low light performance look good. Quality score is a 4.0. The lack of setting options and the use of a non-removable battery gives it a score of 3.8 for Control. Value score is 3.8 giving the Flip MinoHD an Overall score of 3.9.
Another pocket camcorder we will feature is the Creative Vado HD. One of its appealing designs is its 2-inch antiglare LCD together with its lens that extends out from the body. This Vado has a mini HDMI connector to play your 1080i video to your HDTV along with a standard composite AV output. It bundles an HDMI cable, but not a composite cable, and comes with an 8GB built-in memory. It has a flip-out USB connector for easy file transfer to your computer. This unit also recharges through USB. As you plug in the camcorder, the software automatically pops up and gives you the options of playing the video, uploading them to YouTube or Photobucket, creating a movie and stringing together some video clips. Value score for this camcorder is 4.0, and its great features earn it a score of 4.2 for Control.
The Vado is not a real HD camcorder, but the video quality is remarkable. You can view videos at full screen size on your computer, and they maintain their sharpness. The camcorder’s low light performance is decent and its mic can pick up sounds quite clearly. Quality and Ease of Use scores for this camcorder are a 4.1. Overall score for the Creative Vado HD is a 4.0.
Next in line is the Kodak’s Zi8. This high definition pocket camcorder records 1920 x 1080p video at 30 fps in H.264 format. It uses a 1/2.5-inch, 5-megapixel CMOS sensor with three lower-resolution setting options with 720p/60fps mode, 720p/30fps mode or WVGA mode. Nice additions to the Kodak Zi8 are the face detection, digital image stabilization and external mic input. Kodak has four dedicated buttons to access menu settings, delete videos and stills, return to filming and playback videos. We give this camcorder a score of 4.2 for Quality, Ease of Use and Control categories.
The Kodak Zi8 comes with a 128MB of internal memory, barely enough to record high definition video or stills. To increase the recording capacity, you can insert an SDHC memory card, which is not included in the package. The camcorder supports SDHC cards up to 32GB, giving you up to 5 hours of highest quality recording. The lack of a sufficient internal memory gives it a Value score of 3.9. Overall score for the Kodak Zi8 is 4.1.
The fifth pocket camcorder featured in this review is the Flip UltraHD, also from Pure Digital. The UltraHD records video at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps. Video and Quality scores for this camcorder is a 3.8.
Like the MinoHD, it’s easy to use with its record and play buttons. There are no complex menus and other functionality to get lost in. With its flip-out USB port and bundled FlipShare software, you can conveniently transfer your video to the computer. You can also view your videos on big screen using an HDMI port, but the cable comes separately. This camcorder scores a 4.1 in Ease of Use.
The biggest downside of the UltraHD is its small 2x digital zoom lens. Moreover, there’s no image stabilization and no expandable memory. After consuming the 8GB space of internal memory, you’ll have to transfer the video to keep recording. The lack of zoom and expansion capability gives this camcorder a score of 3.8 for Control. Overall score for the Flip UltraHD is 3.8.
Comparing the camcorders’ portability, the Bloggie CM5 at 6.9 ounces and 4 inches x 2.8 inches x 1.6 inches (L x W x H) will fit in big, loose pockets, but it’s more bag-friendly than pocket-friendly. It’s slightly heavier than the UltraHD, which weighs six ounces while the Kodak Zi8 weighs 4.8 ounces with battery. The Zi8 measures 2.4 inches x 4.5 inches x 0.9 inches (L x W x H), which is a nice size of a lean point-and-shoot digital camera. The Creative Vado HD, at 3.5 ounces, weighs less than the Bloggie, Zi8 and UltraHD. However, Flip Video MinoHD is more compact and weighs 3.3 ounces, making it the lightest among the five pocket camcorders.
Considering overall video quality performance, the Kodak Zi8 stands out among its peers with an Overall score of 4.1. It offers excellent video quality, ease of use, large LCD screen and strong features – such as digital image stabilization, face detection and external mic input – without burdening the camcorder with complexity. Though it has the smallest internal memory, it can easily support SDHC cards up to 32GB to give more hours of recording at its highest quality setting.