Head-to-head: iPod Nano video vs. pocket camcorders

How well does the new iPod Nano's video camera compare to a standard-definition pocket camcorder? Take a look at samples shot with a Nano, a Flip Mino, an iPhone 3GS, and a Kodak Zi8.

iPod Nano: Low-Light Test

Pure Digital Flip Mino: Low-Light Test

iPhone 3GS: Low-Light Test

Kodak Zi8 (1080p Mode): Low-Light Test

The Verdict

Though the iPod Nano's video quality is nothing to write home about, its video camera is a welcome addition. Don't expect to get the same quality as you would from a pocket camcorder, a point-and-shoot camera, or even the iPhone 3GS.

The Nano shoots better video than most cell phones do--as long as you're in a well-lit setting--but it can't quite compete with a pocket camcorder such as Pure Digital's Flip Mino. High-definition pocket camcorders such as the Kodak Zi8 trounce the Nano, but the Zi8 is also the best pocket camcorder I've seen in regards to video quality.

Then again, with the Nano's camera, IMAX-quality movies aren't the point. Apple products are all about fun, convenience, and simplicity, and the addition of a video camera on a device of this size will be a draw for many people.

You'll find a few goodies and surprises in the mix, too: Pressing and holding the center button after you select 'Video Camera' from the Nano's main menu brings up a list of 16 video effects. You can get trippy (Kaleidoscope and Twirl), robotic (Cyborg and Thermal), or classic (Film Grain and Sepia) with the effects, which the Nano applies to your footage as you shoot. That's something we haven't seen in a pocket camcorder yet. The effects menu even previews what your video will look like while you're deciding on a filter to choose.

The lens, though small, also has strengths: It's the widest-angle pocket camcorder we've seen by far, and it also does a nice job with macro shots. Business cards and other objects placed within an inch of its lens appeared sharp in the resulting footage.

In the end, the Nano won't replace a dedicated pocket camcorder, just as a pocket camcorder won't replace a full-size video camera. But the Nano has its benefits, namely ultraportability, fun features, and the fact that it's an iPod. Though its overall performance isn't stunning, the included video camera will only sweeten the deal for prospective Nano buyers.

iPod Nano Video Strengths

  • Extremely wide-angle lens as compared to pocket camcorders.

  • 16 video effects to choose from.

  • Macro mode is surprisingly good.

  • Small video-file sizes.

  • Nano is much smaller than any pocket camcorder on the market.

iPod Nano Video Weaknesses

  • Awkward lens placement.

  • Shoots only video; no still images.

  • Bad low-light footage.

  • Can apply video effects only before you shoot video.

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Tim Moynihan

PC World (US online)
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