Pros: Compact and affordable high-definition camcorder
Cons: Poor manual; Need to provide your own memory card
Bottomline: A good introduction to high-definition video, at an attractive price
Vista compatibility: Yes
It wasn’t that long ago that you’d have had to pay £1,000 or more for even a basic high-definition (HD) camcorder.
Now, though, Toshiba has come up with the Camileo Pro HD, a small camcorder that offers HD for less than £150.
Not surprisingly, that low price does mean that the Camileo has a few limitations. It captures video at a resolution of 1,280x720 – which is the lower of the two resolutions that are considered to be high-definition. It also has a very small amount of built-in memory – just 128MB, which is only enough to record about three minutes of high-definition video.
Even so, the image quality is perfectly acceptable – the 1,280x720 resolution may not be the highest possible, but it’s still much higher than the 720x576 resolution of ordinary DVD video. The lens also has a useful 3x optical zoom, which is good for zooming in on action shots on holiday or at sports events. The lightweight and compact design will come in handy too – it weighs just 200g, so it’s no trouble to carry it around with you, or to quickly shoot clips while holding it in just one hand. Although it's described as pocket-sized, you might need to have relatively big pockets for that to be true.
The 128MB of memory would be a big limitation, but the Camileo has a slot for inserting a memory card to provide extra storage. You’ll have to buy the memory card yourself, but these aren’t too expensive – it's possible to get an 8GB card for about £25, which will store two full hours of high-definition video (or almost five hours of standard video, which the camera can also shoot).
Memory cards are actually available in capacities of up to 32GB at the moment, but the rechargeable battery supplied with the Camileo only provides about two hours of continuous recording time, so you probably won’t need more than the 8GB unless you’re a real home-video buff and you're shooting near a power socket, or if you invest in extra batteries.
The Camileo can also double up as an ordinary digital camera, taking photos with a resolution of five megapixels, and the memory card can even be used to transfer some MP3 songs onto the Camileo and use it as a music player (there’s a set of earphones included for this).
In the box are all the cables and software needed to connect the Camileo to a computer and to do some basic video editing. This includes cables that will display video clips on both standard and high-definition TV sets, as well as a little remote control for video playback. Our only minor complaint is that the skimpy manual doesn’t really explain how to transfer video clips onto the PC properly, so people that have never done this before might find it a bit tricky (some help is available online). Even so, the Camileo is good value – especially for people who want to start exploring high-definition video without having to spend too much.