A Camera You’ll Flip For!
Similar in size and weight to a cell phone, the Pure Digital MinoHD camcorder records HD video at the incredible list price of $230. The MinoHD is Pure Digital’s first 720p HD camcorder-all of their previous models have been standard-def. The MinoHD offers spartan, but simple-to-use video controls as well as a pop-up USB 2.0 connector for easy video ingest. Simple editing software is built in.
Upon Further Inspection
The camcorder has an f/2.4 fixed focus lens. An omni-directional mic is inset next to the lens within the chrome trim and is surprisingly clear. There are no mic or earphone jacks.
The back contains a 1.5″ screen at the top, which is bright and quite useable even in full sunlight. On-screen indicators include the level of the battery (which recharges via USB and is good for about two hours of use), the amount of memory capacity remaining and the status of the camcorder (a green “Ready” when not recording or a red numerical minute/second display that times the length of each clip while recording).
The primary controls are the red start/stop button. and a set of touch-sensitive pads-the digital zoom controls are situated above and below the start/stop button, while the buttons to advance the clips forward or backward for review are on the left and right of the start/stop button. The play/pause and the delete buttons are positioned at the 11 and 2 o’clock position respectively. The power button and a slidin g switch to pop out the camcorder’s USB 2.0 connection are on opposite sides of the unit.
To record, simply press the red button. The digital zoom works well with little pixelization, although maxing out at 2x, the effect is minimal. You also cannot adjust the zoom setting before you start recording. Once recording has stopped, the clip can be immediately reviewed by pressing play.
Getting a steady shot is not as easy. The user holds the camcorder like a cell phone, with an arm far outstretched. Holding that position over time can make the arm shaky. Moving the camcorder closer to the eyes and tucking the elbow into the belly steadied things somewhat. Zooming introduces a fore and aft rocking motion to the video as we sometimes found ourselves rubbing the zoom buttons until we saw the image change. There is only one zoom speed as well.
The fixed-focus lens is fine for anything from about three feet to infinity. However, the automatic white balance is a weak point. In incandescent light, the video took looked orange even when the camcorder was pointed at a white source for a long period of time in an attempt to achieve a proper white balance. Outdoors, the colors in sunlight were true and accurate.
The camcorder uses a version of the H.264 codec, allowing the MinoHD to store up to 60 minutes of HD content within its 4GB of internal memory.
The handy size of the MinoHD is a big plus. Kept in a pocket or purse, it was hardly noticed until needed. In fact, we started taking it everywhere.
It’s Time for a Little Playback
The camcorder ships with a small velvet-like bag and a composite video/stereo analog audio cable for reviewing clips on a monitor or TV. The lack of a component or HDMI connection means the camcorder cannot provide HD output on its own-for HD output, you must watch your clips on a computer or burn a disc from rendered video. On the unit we tested, the TV output worked only intermittently. Wiggling the cable at the camcorder connection would sometimes fix the problem. When working, the playback was clear and crisp. The camcorder comes with a few incredibly clear demo clips, but we couldn’t replicate this video quality, despite shooting clips in all manner of lighting conditions, indoors or out. While the quality of the video we shot was very good indeed, it was just not to the level of the demo video. We also observed a vague “stuttering” to the images.
The software to process and ingest the video is contained within the camcorder itself, and supplied for both Windows and Mac OS X. Once the attached USB 2.0 connector is popped out and is inserted into the computer, the software auto-loads. Installation of the software is easy and straightforward. We had no issues when it came to loading our video clips into our computer’s hard drive, but we would have preferred a short USB cable instead of the pop-out connector.
There are many options once you transfer clips. You can just play back your clips. Choose “Create” and you can primitively edit the clips by placing them in order, one after the other, after trimming the beginning and end of each video segment. Simple titles may be typed in one font only at the beginning of each project, and a small selection of included music beds throughout. No transitions between clips are available. Clicking through the steps will eventually render the clip into a finished production after protracted rendering. While handy as a quick way to clean up the video for viewing, there are more versatile editing products available to most folks that offer far more creative options. However, the typical customer buying a camcorder such as this would be probably be delighted with the included software. The software also lets you share clips via email, creating a greeting card, or upload them to YouTube, AOL Video or MySpace.
Overall, impressive video and decent sound can now be had in a camcorder no larger than your TV’s remote control. This camcorder is a good example of the plummeting cost of the ticket into the world of high-definition.
Recording Media: 4GB internal flash memory
Data Format: H.264, 720p
Image Sensor: One 1/4.5″ CMOS, pixel count not provided
Interchangeable Lenses: No
Optical Zoom Power: n/a
Filter Diameter: No filter threads
Internal ND Filter: No
Shutter Speed: Auto
White Balance Control: Auto
Direct Iris/Gain Control: No
Zebra Stripes: No
LCD Monitor: 1.5″, 16:9 aspect ratio
Frame Rate Modes: 30fps
Color Bar Generator: No
Audio Modes: AAC
Standard Mic Input: No
VU Meters: No
Level Controls: No
Headphone Jack: No
Analog Video In: No
Analog Video Out: Composite
FireWire In/Out: No
Analog to DV Conversion: No
Other Digital Video Out: No
Wireless Remote: No
Battery Charging: Via USB port
Form Factor: Upright, rotated
Onboard Video Light: No
Accessory Shoe: No
- Small, handy size
- High quality video output
- Very simple and easy to use
- No mic or earphone jack
- Too-simple editing software
- Tough to shoot steady video consistently
- Poor automatic white balance
- No HD playback directly from camcorder
Overall, the MinoHD is an impressive offering for the very few bucks it may cost the consumer.
Randy Hansen is a TV news chief photographer.
Pure Digital Technologies
30 Maiden Ln., Fl. 6
San Francisco, CA 94108