In this product review I’m going to introduce you to the Creative Vado HD pocket camcorder.
The Vado HD is one of a long lineup of pocket camcorders that has recently hit the market. Last year I reviewed one of the first pocket HD camcorders; the Kodak Zi6. Since then, several other manufacturers have released their own product.
Creative is no a newcomer to the consumer electronics market – they have been making audio and video products for ages, and I still have happy memories of owning my first Sound Blaster audio card back in 1989.
As far as camcorders go, the Vado HD is tiny – at just 3.9″ x 2.2″ at just 0.6″ thick and 190 grams, it is one of the smallest on the market.
On the front of the camera is a small protruding lens, and on the rear is where you’ll find its 2″ display, D-Pad control and play/delete buttons. On the side of the Vado HD is an audio/video jack and a mini-HDMI connector hidden behind a plastic dust cover.
On the bottom of the camera is a regular tripod screw port and a flip-out USB connector.
The Vado HD is powered by an internal rechargeable battery pack, rated for up to 6 hours of video recording.
Inside the camera is 8GB of storage space, which is sufficient for about 2 hours of HD+ recordings. The memory is not expandable, so you will need to move clips to your computer when you are in need of more space.
As far as recording quality goes, the Vado HD is quite simply stunning. I’ve used several of these little cameras in the past, but none really produced anything I’d consider worthy of replacing a “real” camcorder. The Vado HD does 3 things I’ve not seen from any other camera in this class:
- Audio is impressive
- Low light recordings are actually usable
- Video quality really looks “high definition”
Audio is actually better than impressive – even when I used the camera in a really tough location (a large stadium with a dolphin show), it picked up all the noises brilliantly. As far as recording in low light goes – it still won’t be a replacement for a camera with night vision, but in a room with just a couple of regular lamps I was able to make a very decent recording.
The camera records video in 720p with the H.264 video codec format. When set to its highest quality setting, you’ll be able to record up to 2 hours in “HD+ and 4 hours in the regular HD format. When set to VGA (low quality), the camera can record up to 8 hours. Zoom is provided through a 2x digital zoom, which I don’t really recommend as it lowers the quality of the clips.
I’ve made several video clips showing the recording quality, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is quite acceptable for a $230 HD video camera. I’ve seen worse from a $600 DV (non HD) camera.
(Click here for the HD version of the clip, sorry for the poor quality and stuttering, YouTube does not handle HD clips very well).
As you can see – video quality is actually very good, not “professional HD camera” good, but certainly good enough for your vacation video clips.
The Vado HD retail package makes the camera even better. Creative include a Mini HDMI cable and a silicone case as well as a USB extension cable.
The camera charges using USB, so no additional charger is required, though they do sell extra batteries and chargers if you feel you may need some more juice on the road.
Once you have made your recordings, you have several ways to watch them. The first, and easiest is to plug the camera into your TV using the included HDMI cable. Playback over HDMI is of course in HD, and you only need a single cable for video and audio. The second option is what you’ll want to use to archive and edit all your video clips – using your PC.
The first time you plug the Vado HD into your computer, it installs Vado Central, a simple video viewing application. From within Vado Central, you can instantly upload your clips to Youtube, Photobucket or Box.
The best part about Vado Central is that you do not need to install anything on your PC – which means you should be able to use it at the local Internet Cafe, airport lounge PC or restrictive work laptop. Vado Central also has the ability to grab captures of video files and turn them into photos, as the camera itself does not feature still imaging.
If viewing and uploading is not enough, you can also install a basic video editing suite, which allows you to make quick but fairly creative videos in a matter of minutes. The application offers a couple of video effects and the ability to add some background music, but it is not as flexible as a full video editing package. Naturually you can also import and edit the clips in any third party video editing package capable of working with H.264 video files.
The Creative Vado HD costs $229 and is available directly from Creative.com or your favorite electronics retailer.