We heard about this marketed-to-mums, easy-to-use camcorder wayyy back at CES, but today's the day we finally got our sweaty hands on it at some strange press event at the Zoo. And we realize that it's a variant of the Flip Video camera launched this same week. Both have a 640x480 resolution and no advanced functionalities, save puny digital zoom. It's not for pros, but that's ok. Tapeless camcorders are all about convenience, not quality, and having a USB connector built in just makes using it that much easier. So which is better?
First and foremost, they both have the same lightweight, toy-like shell, but the $US130, 1GB RCA camera has an SD slot, while the $US150 1GB Flip video cam doesn't. That right there is the major point in the RCA's favour.
There's a ~3.8cm screen on the back of both, but only the RCA's screen pivots. And according to Flip Video, their camera has improved low-light sensitivity, which testing showed to be trueâ€”we're sure that's the case for the RCA, too, but can't confirm it. The Flip has the advantage of also offering Mac software (RCA doesn't), and claims to have a direct link to YouTube uploading. Sounds cool, but it's not really true. Basically, when you click the share with YouTube button, it takes the MPEG-4 file, and squeezes it down to a smaller WMV file on a PC. (It records in 3vid , which I had problems viewing in Windows Movie Maker even with the codec installed.) Then you have to upload it to YouTube yourself. For the record, most digital cameras will record in MPEG-4 that you can directly edit in the free programs that come with Macs and PCs, and that format will natively go to YouTube. So what we have on the Flip video is an easy to use, branded solution, and a workaround for their use of a strange video format. So it's better for your technophobe relatives than you. I'd be much happier with a standard MPEG-4 camera than the Flip and RCA. But the price is stunning. I'd buy either of these for a niece or nephew who is a budding Spielberg, in a heartbeat.
Also, according to Gizmodo videographer Richard Blakeley, the bright recording light "makes it a horrible upskirt camera," so RCA and Flip totally lose the mums-who-film-mums demographic. The RCA drops in the US at Circuit City on May 8, everywhere else in June. The Flip Video cam is here.
Product Page [RCA]