We all knew it was coming. When Steve Jobs said that there was "one more thing" at Apple's Rock and Roll event, I don't think anyone in the Yerba Buena theater was surprised when he announced that the new iPod Nanos would have video recording.
The new video-recording Nano is meant to be a direct threat to Pure Digital's Flip line of cameras--Jobs even showed a side-by-side comparison of the two. The Nano is thinner, lighter and has a higher capacity than the Flip. It feels comfortable in hand when scrolling through your library or setting the new pedometer feature.
Pocketability aside, there are a few design quirks I had to get used to. In some ways, its litheness was a detriment. Holding the sliver-thin Nano by its edges to shoot video is difficult: It kept turning and slipping in my hand as I was trying to shoot. Gripping it from the bottom doesn't work either as the lens is placed at the bottom of the device (when it is held vertically). You can't grip from the top either because then you won't be able to see what you're shooting. The location of the camera lens wasn't intuitive for me because I'm used to the lens being on the top, like on my iPhone 3GS. I think with some practice, though, I could get used to it.
Shooting video is as simple as clicking a button, however. You simply select "Video Recording" from the main menu and you're set to record. You can also opt not to record, but view your recorded videos instead by hitting the menu button on the navigation wheel. Recorded videos are also stored in a subfolder of your general video collection.
I was only able to shoot a few videos in the dimly lit hands-on area at the event. My videos looked a bit grainy but okay; I'm sure quality improves in better lighting. Playback on the Nano's larger display was smooth and I saw no signs of pixelation or ghosting in both the sample videos and my own clips.
The microphone was also a bit difficult to test as I was in a noisy room and had many people squeezed in beside me trying to get their hands on the Nano. It picked up whatever sound I recorded though and sounded okay, but still it is difficult to judge the sound quality fairly.
I didn't get a chance to test the FM radio since the antenna is located in the headphones. I didn't get to use the pedometer either. I don't think Apple would have been thrilled if I took a stroll around downtown with their demo Nano.
Overall, I think the new Nano is bound to give standalone digital video recorders a run for their money. Sure, it doesn't shoot HD video and might not have some of the extra fancy features other pocket camcorders have, but does the YouTube generation really care about that? The Nano might be more a little more grown-up, but it is still aimed at a younger set who won't care about the fancy editing features or high quality video. It is easy to use, ridiculously portable, and comes in even brighter candy-coated colors. Oh yeah, and it plays music, too.