The three-way tussle between Kodak, Flip and Creative for the pocket camcorder crown has reached boiling point. After Kodak’s Zi6 had the temerity to offer 720p recording, its competitors have been forced to introduce hi-def models – hence the imminent arrival of the Mino HD and now the Vado HD.
Creative’s effort has three big selling points. Firstly, it’s coated in water-resistant rubber, making it the most rugged of the three. It also has 8GB flash memory, and has a new HDMI output alongside the USB jack.
Camcorder in disguise
Like its foes, the Vado HD dispenses with conventional camcorder design, looking more like an iPod or mobile phone. This makes it slim and incredibly lightweight – it barely tips the scales at just 100g.
As before, the Vado HD keeps controls to a bare minimum – there’ s a multi-function keypad, a playback button and a delete key. Pretty much anyone above the age of three months could use it.
A USB port has been tucked away on the base of the cam, and is folded out when you want to connect it to a computer – this is also how you recharge the battery.
With the exception of an Instant Record function – which lets you wake the cam from sleep mode and start recording straight away – the Vado HD has few traditional features.
The focus is on sharing, so PC users get built-in software – Mac users will need to download some additional codecs to cope with the AVI format – that grabs stills from video, trims clips and lets you add music.
The software also creates the opportunity to publish movies and pictures to YouTube and Box.net at the push of one button, and is very simple to use.
The flash memory has been doubled to 8GB to cope with the space-hungry HD footage, and is good for two hours of recording at 1280x720 (twice as much as the Flip Mino HD). There are also two lower resolutions that increase storage to a potential eight hours.
It all comes out in the wash
But how good is the footage? Well, it’s something of a mixed bag. Compared to the Flip Mino HD and Kodak Zi6, colours look washed out with too much exposure and harsh skin tones make everyone appear too ruddy cheeked.
It is, though, the best pocket camcorder for fast action scenes, which are much smoother than its two foes, and it’s reasonably quick to adjust to low light situations.
This combined with the rugged finish makes the Vado HD the best of the three budget kings if you’re mostly shooting sports or other gnarly activities – just don’t expect to win any awards for your camerawork.