Creative Vado HD Pocket Camcorder Review

Pocket Worthy

The party is getting awfully crowded for the mini HD camcorders, with new entries from Sony, Kodak, and Flip. Creative has now put its best into the point-and-shoot video realm for a second time, and has brought us the Vado HD. It is a camcorder designed to be extremely easy to use, powerful enough to capture HD footage, and tiny enough to carry with you almost everywhere. With YouTube moments happening all around us, it is great for fast, easy, everyday use.

Out of the Box, Into Our Pockets

When we got our hands on the Vado, it felt very sleek and pocket-worthy. It weighs less than 3.4 ounces and measures 3.9 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide and only 0.6 inches thick. The smartphone-like size and weight make it easy to tote along for a day and quickly whip out when a friend is about to do something internet-worthy. Couple that with a 2-hour record time on the built-in 8GB Flash memory, add a rechargeable battery to match and you have a great start. We found that the form-factor fit nicely in small and large hands alike. The buttons are large and well placed, and the layout is extremely intuitive. We found them to have a very satisfying press that let us know definitively when we were recording or adjusting settings.

The Vado boasts a 1280×720 HD CMOS sensor for great color and contrast at higher resolutions and improved low-light performance. It records 720p H.264 files that are easily viewed on many media players. Together with the wide-angle glass lens, it offers sharp video in many lighting situations. We tested the camcorder in a dimly-lit room, and it produced fairly low noise images with decent color. However, the video was somewhat underexposed and therefore only mediocre. The microphone is located just to the side of the lens and is good at capturing voices and medium-level sounds. The same 2-inch 640×240 resolution screen from the first Vado is back and is still an improvement over some of the competitors’ smaller screens, though the vertical viewing angle somewhat limits over-the-head shooting. The 2x digital zoom is also back from the previous model, though it doesn’t stand out as a deal maker or breaker for this device. Along the side of the camera is the A/V Out jack and the HDMI Output. Further down at the bottom are the tripod mount threads and the magnetic fold-out USB connection.

One of the things that make the Vado stand out against the competitors is a noteworthy list of in-box accessories. Included are a silicone case to protect against minor drops and scratches, an HDMI cable to output 1080i straight to a high-definition TV and USB extension cable to help connect to the hard-to-reach ports. These are pricey add-ons for the similar Flip Mino camcorder and are refreshing to see coming standard in the box.

Record Something Spontaneous

From the first time we first used the Creative Vado, it felt familiar and intuitive. This led to immediate video recording right out of the box of anything nearby. It captured outdoor action crisply, and with fairly smooth motion. The wide-angle lens felt just right for everyday shooting. The contrast was accurate and the color looked good, though a slightly over-saturated at times. The image sensor had some trouble adjusting for backlighting in some of the more difficult outdoor exposures. Indoor shots were good, but left something to be desired in color and contrast. In lower lighting situations, the video became somewhat underexposed, though not too noisy.

When we were all done capturing, the built in PC software was there to allow us to easily edit the clips and upload our movie to YouTube, PhotoBucket, and Box.net. Also included was the ability to extract still images from the video. Being pre-installed onto the camera, the software doesn’t need to be installed on the computer. It simply runs off of the camera while plugged in to the USB port. The software was truly easy and fun, though basic in nature.

All Together

Creative had done a good job of delivering exactly what is promised; a small, simple camcorder for fun, quick movies to share. The quality may not be the greatest in all situations, but the Vado makes up for it in features and accessories, and fits perfectly into the point-and-shoot camcorder category. The 720p video will make sure that the once in a lifetime video clips of silly, important, or just plain crazy moments can be easily captured and shared in HD.

Tech Specs

Recording Media: 8 GB flash memory

Video Format: H.264, 720p, 30 frames/sec. (approx. 8.4 Mbps)

Audio Format: ADPCM, mono, 44.1kHz (approx. 177 kbps)

Image Sensor: 1x CMOS (size not provided); 1.3M pixels

Interchangeable Lenses: No

F-Stop: f/2.3

Optical Zoom: none

Focal Length: 3.6mm

Filter Diameter: Not threaded

Focus: Fixed

Max Shutter Speed: 1/60

Image Stabilization: No

Internal ND Filter: No

Shutter Speed Control: Auto, Program

White Balance: Auto, Program

Direct Iris/Gain Control: No

Zebra Stripes: No

Histogram: No

Viewfinder: No

LCD monitor: 2.0″, 4:3

HD Focus Assist: No

Face Detect: No

Color Bar Generator: No

Standard Microphone Input: No

VU Meters: No

Level Controls: No

Separate Level Controls for Each Channel: No

Headphone Jack: No

Speaker: Yes

Analog Video In: No

Analog Video Out: Composite (cable sold separately)

Digital Video I/O: HDMI out

USB connection: Yes

Wireless Remote: No

Battery Charging: On-Camera

Form Factor: Upright

Onboard Video Light: No

Battery type: Lithium-Ion

Accessory Shoe: No

Strengths

  • Small
  • Easy to use
  • Great included accessories
  • Good battery life

Weaknesses

  • No image stabilization
  • No expandable memory slot

SUMMARY

Although small in size, the Creative Vado is an easy grab-and-go camera. The buttons are easy to use, the battery life is long and it’s fun shooting big HD clips for such a small price.

Tom Cunningham is a video enthusiast and photographer working in the video and still camera retail industry.

Creative Labs, Inc.

1901 McCarthy Blvd.

Milpitas, CA 95035

http://us.creative.com

Upgrade $230

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