They may be tiny, but pocket camcorders are a gigantic force to be reckoned with, thanks to the rapid growth in popularity of Pure Digital's Flip line of video cameras. In 2007, nearly one million Flip cams were sold in the U.S. alone according to IDC Research, and an NPD Research report named Pure Digital's Flip Ultra the top-selling camcorder in that country last June.
Big-name companies are taking notice — Cisco acquired Pure Digital for $590 million in stock in March, and major players are trotting out small, cell-phone-size pocket camcorders to chip away at the Flip's throne, armed with the same dead-simple operation, easy sharing features, and cross-generational appeal as Pure Digital's pioneering moviemaking device.
These ultraportable camcorders make uploading and sharing videos very simple, usually with flip-out USB connectors and on-board software. Though the clips lose a lot of quality once uploaded to the Web, the pocket camcorders tested here are all high-definition models. That gives you greater flexibility with the source video — you can choose to view it on an HDTV or upload it to an HD-friendly Web service.
None of these models can replace a fully-fledged HD video camera, of course (see the latest examples at our AV Enthusiast Centre). But you don't have to read a manual to use one, and all are built for quick-and-easy video sharing, are in the $100-$200 price range, and are small enough to tuck into a bag, pocket, or purse.
So can any of them beat the Flip Mino HD at its own game? We tested competing high-definition pocket camcorders from Creative Labs, Kodak, and Sony against the Flip to see which offered the best video quality, the most cinematic footage, the nicest feature set, and the most colorful clips.
In video quality, the Creative Vado HD outshone the competition, and its wider-angle lens is a great touch; but its microphone is one of the weakest. Flip's MinoHD is a great low-light performer and captures filmlike footage, albeit with a yellow tint; its rigid flip-out connector may not play well with your PC's USB-port arrangement. Sony's Webbie HD MHS-PM1 has the best feature set-for a great price, too — but its video quality is middling. Kodak's Zi6 and Zx1 offer the best frame-rate options, but the Zi6 often produced oversaturated colors, and the Zx1 has a weak microphone.
Here are links to the rest of this package:
Slideshow: HD Camcorders That Fit in Your Pocket