In multicultural Australia, the opportunity for home cooks to expand their culinary horizons is too tempting to resist.
Creative Vado Pocket Video Cam (pink)
Cool but mediocre
- Highly affordable (especially after $50 cash-back), user-friendly interface, attractive design
- Low grade components affect video quality, no external microphone jack, no memory card slot
If you need an ultra-cheap way to make movies for the Web, the Vado Pocket Video Cam is probably the best option on the market. Having said that, we're not entirely 'sold' on the Net-cam concept. For most users, an entry-level camcorder would be a better bet.
Price$ 149.95 (AUD)
YouTube has a lot to answer for. In addition to bastardising the English language with its odious comment pages ("OMG u r teh Suxxor!"), and championing good old-fashioned piracy, the video-sharing Web site has substantially lowered the bar for camcorder quality. What was once considered too rubbish for consumers has been cynically repackaged as 'the Net-cam' — cheap, low-grade camcorders geared towards Internet bloggers and their loathsome ilk.
The underlying principle behind these gadgets is that you don't need oodles of resolution to broadcast stuff on the Web. Practically anything will look acceptable on a small browser window, which allows vendors to cut down on component costs. High-definition is naturally out the window, along with the majority of modes and features you'd normally expect to find. What you're left with is a bare-bones parody of a video camera; a camcorder-lite, if you will. (That whirring sound is the Lumiere brothers spinning in their graves. Sacre bleu!)
The main advantage offered by these rudimentary models is that they cost a lot less than a proper video camera. This brings us rather neatly to Creative's Vado Pocket Video Cam, which is currently the cheapest low-grade camcorder on the market. With an RRP of just $150, it's certainly a lot more affordable than a fully fledged camcorder — and boy does it show! Still, when compared to other Net-cam efforts, we suppose it's not too shabby.
Creative has crafted a very handsome device with the Vado. It looks markedly better than the other Net-flavoured cams we've looked at, including Sony's monolithic NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam and the garish, boxy Flip Digital Video Camera. Although billed as 'mobile phone–sized', a more accurate likeness would be a multimedia player. In any event, it remains attractively slim and lightweight for a camcorder, measuring just 100x5x16mm and weighing 84g. It will easily fit into a jacket pocket (or a jeans pocket for that matter), which makes it ideal for bloggers-on-the-move. It also comes equipped with a tripod mount, which is a nice touch — particularly for friendless bloggers who have nobody to man the camera.
Anyone who has used a camera phone before will be at home with the Vado — simply point the device at your subject and press record. There are no fiddly controls to master, with the simplistic directional pad doubling as a 2x digital zoom. This is pretty much the only control on offer. In terms of image quality, the most charitable thing to be said of the Vado is that you get what you pay for. Don't even think about screening your footage on a widescreen TV: the results may scar and terrify you. This is strictly designed for video podcasts and playback on small, portable devices.
As you can probably imagine, the tiny inbuilt microphone is hard pressed when it comes to capturing clear sound; particularly from more than a few feet away. Unfortunately, there are no external audio options either. This pretty much limits your YouTube creations to close-ups of talking heads in quiet rooms. While this might suit the average blog, more ambitious videographers will be out of luck.
Getting your movies onto YouTube is as easy as recording videos. The Vado's on-board media-management software will automatically launch when you plug in the device, allowing you to upload clips in a few easy mouse clicks — a boon for novices and Luddites.
The Vado comes with 2GB of inbuilt memory, which will net you around an hour of video at the highest quality setting. While this might sound reasonable, we would have liked to see some form of removable flash memory included. As it stands, you're stuck with the onboard storage, with no options to swap and replace media.
Instead of taking AA batteries like the Firebox Flip, the Vado is equipped with a Li-ion battery that must be charged via USB. For most users, this will be less than ideal, as it means you always need a computer handy to charge up the device and you can't readily swap batteries. The inbuilt USB cable is also far too short for our liking. On the plus side, the reduced battery size has kept down the Vado's overall weight and dimensions.
At the time of writing, Creative is offering a $50 cash-back deal for customers who order the Vado from the Creative e-store (www.au.creative.com), which brings the RRP to $100. At this price, we have no hesitation recommending this product.
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