Creative Vado HD
Singapore-style point and shoot camcorder
Review After a long period in which Creative Labs seemed to do little other than sit back and spend the $100m that it won from Apple in a lawsuit over the iPod, the Singaporean giant now appears to be stirring from its slumbers. Promising “some cool stuff on the horizon”, a Creative spokesman recently delivered unto Reg Hardware a whole heap of gadgets, including the latest version of its Vado HD pocket camcorder.
Creative's Vado HD in its third generation guise
The basic design of this third-gen model hasn’t changed drastically. It’s about the same size as its predecessor, measuring 60mm wide, 100mm high and just 15mm thick. However, the lens on the front doesn’t jut forward quite as much as it did on previous models, while the buttons on the back have been reduced to just a single ‘Record’ button.
Surrounding the record button is a group of five touch-sensitive controls that lie flush with the surface of the unit. These allow you to adjust the digital zoom and exposure settings, and to preview your saved videos and photos on the 2in screen. The overall effect is to give the new Vado HD a more streamlined look and feel, and we found it quite comfortable to use during our tests.
There’s a mini-HDMI port on the right-hand edge for connecting to an HDTV, and a "multi-function" jack on the top-left corner that provides AV output for non-HDMI TVs, as well as headphone audio output and the option to connect an external stereo microphone as an alternative to the basic built-in mic. The bottom edge of the camcorder houses the pop-out USB connector and a tripod socket. Creative also includes an HDMI cable in the box, along with a USB extension cable.
No optical zoom, just 2x digital
This new model has the same 720p resolution as its predecessor, and Creative told us that it will cost £130 with 4GB of storage. It’s not on sale in the UK until this week, and Creative’s website still lists the second-generation model at £180 with 8GB storage. However, shop around online and you can find that old 8GB model for about £90, so it might be worth waiting to see the what's on offer for this new model in the coming weeks.
Sample Stills and Video
We were somewhat surprised to hear that still image capture is a new feature in this model. Creative told us that previous Vados could only capture video, so you had to copy individual frames from video clips in order to create still photos. Another new feature is a motion-detection option that automatically starts to capture video if the Vado detects continuous motion for more than three seconds – which will no doubt give rise to a multitude of embarrassing YouTube videos shot on Vados hidden in college dorms.
We wouldn’t expect a compact device like this to match the quality of a more expensive HD camcorder, but the video clips we shot were sharp and detailed, and the Vado HD also coped well with the poor light on the grey and cloudy day when we conducted our tests. The autofocus works well and allows you to just point-and-shoot quickly when you want to capture the moment.
Vado Central software included for Mac and PC
However, you’re not given much control over the camcorder settings. There’s a manual exposure control, a 2x digital zoom, and you can switch the capture resolution between VGA, 720p HD, or an ‘enhanced’ HD mode that uses a higher bit rate, but that’s about it. We wouldn’t have minded a macro option, as the Vado HD did seem to struggle with the focus on some of the close-up photos that we shot.
The rechargeable – and replaceable – battery pack lasts for about two hours, which is also the maximum length of video that you can capture using the standard 720p mode. However, the enhanced mode doubles the bit rate for video capture, producing a noticeable increase in sharpness but halving the recording time to one hour. YouTube aficionados who are happy to snap away at VGA resolution can cram four hours of video into the Vado’s 4GB memory.
Easy to use, takes stills too, what's not to like?
Once you’ve finished shooting you can use Creative’s Vado Central software to preview your videos and photos, transfer them onto your computer, and upload to sites such as YouTube and FaceBook. The camcorder stores video clips in MP4 format, and the Vado Central software also includes the relevant codecs to ensure that PC users don’t have any problems with playback. And, yes, the Vado software runs on Macs too.
Admittedly, the Vado HD is something of a ‘me too’ product with few features that are likely to worry any of its pocket camcorder rivals – although the motion detection option does have possibilities. Even so, it works well as a point-and-shoot device that allows you to quickly capture decent quality photos and video with minimal effort. ®
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