The Short Form
|Price $130 / rca.com / 800-336-1900|
|A no-frills point-and-shooter for a family inclined to capture video clips spontaneously for posting on a Web site or emailing to friends and relatives.|
|•Small enough to carry in pocket
•Camcorder attaches directly to PC's USB port
•Built-in speaker and tripod thread
•Anyone can use the editing software
|•Difficult to see what's on viewscreen in bright daylight
•No external microphone input or optical zoom (only 2x digital zoom)
•Mediocre video quality
•Camcorder can't take stills
|•Foldout 1.5-inch display/viewfinder
•Up to 30 minutes recording time at HQ (best) quality via 500 megabytes of internal memory
•SD/MMC slot for more recording time
•Editing software uploads to PC from camcorder
•Outputs: Popup USB connector (extension cable provided); A/V jack for composite video and stereo audio
•2.5 x 4.5 x .75 in; 5.25 oz
For my first video subject, I decided to capture the maiden voyage of a radio-controlled flying insect, the FlyTech RC Dragonfly from RadioShack. The EZ201 turned out to be a true point-and-shoot camera. Because the LCD is tough to make out in bright daylight, and there's no hood or dedicated viewfinder, I found it more useful to point the camcorder in the general direction of my subject and simply shoot. That way, I could use my full vision to track the erratic flight path, and, luckily, my aim must have been pretty good: On playback, the Dragonfly stayed in frame. The built-in microphone captured my nearby voice too well as I shouted, "Watch out for the branch," drowning out the buzz from the fly. There's no way to attach an external microphone.
The next day I used the EZ201 to record my niece blowing out her birthday cake candles. Inside, I had no trouble seeing the screen, and the camera was able to capture faces in the dim light even after the candles were extinguished.
I connected the EZ201 to my 50-inch HDTV using the included composite-video/stereo-audio cable (the only A/V output provided on the camera). Bumped to a big high-def screen like that, the video quality in the HQ (best quality) mode reminded me of a VHS EP (Extended Play) tape, while the LP mode was just about unwatchable. Though both HQ and LP modes deliver video at 30 frames per second, HQ resolution is just 640 x 480 pixels and LP a meager 448 x 336. The EZ201 uses MPEG-4 to capture video at 2.5 megabits per second (HQ) and 1.4 Mbps (LP). I made a run for my computer.
The EZ201's best feature may be the Small Wonder Memory Manager application built into the device that uploads into the computer. Editing down the funniest parts of the Dragonfly clip was a matter of dragging start and end pointers along the clip's time line. I then posted the clip to YouTube, which you can view at http://youtube.com/watch?v=D85oyx166Oc. And I emailed the birthday clip of my niece to all the relatives. The Memory Manager software converts files to the Windows Media Video (WMV-V9) format for upload at 320 x 240 pixels (250 kbps) and email at 240 x 180 (160 kbps).
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