So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Kogan Technologies Full HD 1080p Video Camera
Cheaper than chips
- $369! $369! $369! $369! $369! (Did we mention it's $369?)
- Terrible optical zoom, below average audio, poor low-light performance
Kogan has made a career out of undercutting big-name vendors with cheap hardware, but the Full HD 1080p Video Camera really takes the biscuit. Despite a cavalcade of flaws, it remains insanely good value for money. A full HD camcorder for under $400? Yes please!
Price$ 369.00 (AUD)
It’s not every day that a high-def camcorder comes along for under $1000 — or even $1500 for that matter. But less than $500? That’s completely unheard of! With a reality-defying RRP of $369, the Kogan Full HD 1080p Video Camera is three times cheaper than the average high-definition camcorder. Sporting a Full HD recording mode and an image resolution of 8 megapixels — plus high-end features like optical image stabilisation and face detection — it is unquestionably the best-value camcorder on the market. Hell, it even comes bundled with a free carry pouch and an 8GB SD memory card.
Kogan is leaving nothing to chance with the Full HD 1080p Video Camera: everything a consumer needs to know is right there in the product name. Being a flash memory–based model, it records HD video to SD/SDHC memory cards, which currently have a maximum capacity of 32GB. With its revolutionary price tag and magic marketing number (i.e. 1080p), it is destined to appear on countless Christmas wish lists. But is it actually any good?
When we first laid eyes on that too-good-to-be-true price tag, alarm bells started ringing in our cynical ears. Surely something so ridiculously cheap would need to cut plenty of corners to break even? While it’s true that the product falls short in several key areas — including sound, low-light performance and optical zoom — it is still better than a sub-$400 HD camcorder has any right to be. For the asking price, it truly is an astonishing product, provided you don’t expect it to compete with market leaders like Canon or Sony.
Despite its bargain-basement price-point, the Kogan comes with some surprisingly good components and features. Foremost is an impressively large 1/2.5in CMOS sensor with a gross pixel count of 5000k (5 megapixels). It also comes with an optical image stabiliser (OIS) — something many of its more expensive rivals lack. This will help to ensure your handheld footage remains smooth and shake-free, though you will need to record at 720p to use this function.
As has become customary for all modern camcorders, the Full HD Video Camera also offers a still image mode, which provides a maximum resolution of 8-megapixels (via interpolation software). While it doesn't match the quality of a dedicated stills camera, it remains more than adequate for occasional happy snaps, with inbuilt face detection and red-eye reduction lending a helping hand.
All up, we were very impressed with the Kogan’s video performance. It records AVCHD video in the H.264 (MOV) format for superior rates of compression. Colours were sharp and vibrant in our outdoor footage, with plenty of fine detail in complex images. We did find the autofocus to be a bit erratic at times, but you won’t be using the Kogan to shoot award-winning video; consequently, a little blurriness here and there shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
As you'd expect from a budget point-and-shoot camcorder, manual functions are quite limited. There's a macro mode and options to adjust the exposure and white balance, but that's basically the lot. Curiously, the LCD displays a histogram while in shooting mode, despite the camera’s budget leanings. This is an interesting touch, though it may confound novice users who are unlikely to know what it represents or means. Thankfully, the graph can be switched off in the menu, along with the annoying beeping noise that accompanies menu selections.
Now let's talk about to the bad stuff. When we tested the Kogan in low lighting, the results were unsurprisingly poor. In addition to the usual influx of noise (which was more prevalent than usual) the camera often struggled to capture anything at all. In dark rooms, our footage was almost completely enveloped in shadows, making it impossible to see what we were recording. To assist nocturnal shooting, Kogan has included both an inbuilt light and a dedicated night mode, but neither work particularly well. By contrast, the Canon HF11 captured crisp, noise-free video in the same environment. Then again, it also costs four times as much.
We were also left unimpressed by the Kogan’s audio capabilities. Instead of a traditional microphone placement (above or beneath the lens), it sports a tiny stereo microphone on the outside of its LCD display, similar to what you’d find on a webcam. This is obviously less proficient at capturing audio, especially in noisy environments. There’s also no external microphone jack, which means you’re stuck with the inbuilt mic. You’ll therefore need to look elsewhere if sound is a big priority.
But these are small quibbles compared to the product’s worst offence, which is its terrible zoom function. In addition to being underpowered (a mere 5x optical) it is also unbearably sluggish. Closing in on a subject seems to take forever, as if the camera is wading through a thick pool of honey. This makes it impossible to capture quick close-ups from afar. (Indeed, we actually got faster results by standing up and walking towards the subject.)
We could probably mention a few other faults (including a garish user interface and short battery life), but to do so would be needlessly critical. If you want to own a high-def camcorder without paying through the nose, the Kogan Full HD 1080p Video Camera is the deal of the century.
The Full HD 1080p Video Camera can only be bought directly from Kogan’s Web site: www.kogan.com.au. We suggest you snap one up before they sell out.
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