I got sucked into a spontaneous purchase the other day at Wal-Mart. I was walking by and saw they had an Aiptek Action HD Camcorder. It has several key features that had caught my eye in the previous weeks:
- It’s cheap ($199)
- It’s HD
I was in the market for a cheap, small, HD camcorder, and this seemed too good to be true. I wanted something I could use to take advantage of SmugMug’s HD video capabilities. I also wanted an optical zoom, and something that was able to accept a SDHC card. I was excited to find everything I wanted at a price comparable to a FLip camcorder.
First off, a few corrections/clarifications to their specs on the box. The official name says “Aiptek Action HD 1080p Camcorder” which is inaccurate. Technically, it does support 1,080 lines of vertical resolution, however 1080p is generally accepted as 1920×1080, not the camera’s 1440×1080. Also, the box repeatedly says that 1440×1080 is a 16:9 aspect ratio, which it’s not (that’s 4:3).
Once nice thing for me is that the camera records to a Quicktime movie using the h.264 codec. Perfect for displaying in Flash, and also editable by iMovie. It’s small, remarkably light, and charges over USB. It comes with a case, mini tripod, remote, wall charger, and all cables you could ever need. It powers on when you flip the LCD screen open, and is ready to record almost instantly. The camera connected to my Mac perfectly using a USB cable, and both the built-in storage and the SD card showed up on my desktop as mass storage devices. Normally, I’d say use a card reader, but since this charges over USB, there’s no harm in never taking your SD card out of the camera.
Shooting video is a snap. Open the LCD screen, hit the record button, and you’re off. It can’t take pictures while it’s recording a video, but I never intended to take pictures with this device. The zoom controls are easy to use, however, the zoom is pretty much useless. The auto-focus constantly searches around at any focal length greater than around 10mm. I’ll try again in daylight, but I’m not sure if that’s going to make any real difference.
Here’s a few video samples:
As you can see, the quality is really perfect for web viewing. The Macro mode performs well, and the LED lights on the camera actually do provide enough lighting to shoot in darker places. Uploading to SmugMug was a snap… All I had to do was upload it, and SmugMug did the rest.
Overall, I rate this camera as a great deal, for use as a camera for posting video online.
Expect a followup review once I’ve had awhile to play with this some more.
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