Aiptek Pocket DV5900

While attractively priced at under $150 (Iíve seen it sold retail for $99) this is hardly a high end camcorder, but it does pack some interesting features and concepts that makes it noteworthy.

First off, itís a multi-function device that serves as a digital camcorder (of sorts), a true 3 mega pixel digital still camera with the ability to extrapolate up to 5 mega pixel images, it is a PC web cam, a digital voice recorder and an MP3 player.

As with most recorders in this realm is uses the very common and inexpensive SD/MMC chip for storage (and it has 32 MB of internal memory -- enough for 20+ pictures or several minutes of low quality video), which means there are no moving parts for recording audio or video, which a lot of people find interesting.

On the downside, as with most low cost digital still and web cams this unit uses CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) technology, which is noisy. CMOS is finding some uses in high end cameras such as the Sigma, but as a rule most digital still and video camcorders are still using the CCD (Charged Couple Device) sensor for image capture, which has less noise, introduces fewer artifacts, but is most costly than CMOS technology.

The frame rate for video is also lacking as is the aspect ratio. You get a matrix of 640 x 480 which is shy of the 720 x 480 matrix used by true camcorders. What this means is your image will get spread out over the TV set a little more. You also get reduced to as low as 11 frames per second (FPS), which is about a third of what true camcorders deliver (30 FPS in the US and 25 FPS in Europe). You can drop the quality to 352x288 (which is like a Video CD you can burn on any CD burner from an MP2 file) which is medium format web cast quality and get up to 30 FPS or you can drop it to general web cam quality of 160x128 and also get 30 FPS with far more recording time. The recording is done in MP4 format, which is what will be used for high definition DVDs (MP2 is currently used for standard DVDs).

You also donít get optical zoom, only digital zoom (cropping). Unlike still digital cameras, however, you can use this zoom while making videos. Most still cameras wonít zoom at all in video mode, while the Aiptek has no problem offering this digital feature.

Finally for MP3 users there is mot much in the way of tone controls or equalizers so you better be able to live with the sound as is and the little speaker isnít good for much, so itís a headphones only device. Much like an entry level pocket radio or simple ďwalkmanĒ CD player. In short, this ainít no boom box, although it does make the IPod look a little impotent, as that very expensive unit canít take moves or still pictures. In fact the makers of IPods and MP3 players are worried about the future generation of cell phones that take movies, still pictures and will play MP3 (in additional to letting you phone home)!

This does what it does well. Itís a good first camera/camcorder for a child. It can be a potentially low cost and effective tool for a professional like a real estate agent who wants to make walk through videos of the homes they are listing and put them up on the internet. Itís a good knock around camera for someone in the news business like me. Itís good for back packing and rock climbing. It actually is good enough to capture your kids birthday parties so long as everyone doesn't move around a lot or you donít pan the camera too much.

There is a two position manual focus so you can get in somewhat closer for portraits or stay back at the ď5 foot to infinityĒ level.

Another plus with this unit is you can use it in both the U.S. and Europe as it will deliver both an NTSC (U.S. TV standard) and PAL (most of Europe, except for France and Russia) signal from the same file. This means itís multi-national and a good tool for the student doing a backpack trip through the European ďhostileĒ scene. First, it wonít break them if it gets broke or stolen. Second, they can show their video and still pictures on TV sets in England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Australia or in the U.S. Next, you can upload them with the USB 1.1 cable to your computer and let the people back home see what you did today in The Netherlands.

It has a self timer and tripod socket (and it comes with a table top tripod packed in the box) so you can easily get into your own pictures and videos. The camera is so small and light (about the size of any pocket dictation recorder) you only need a simple little $20 tripod that is small and easy to carry.

Entertainment acts and bands may also find this interesting. It is cheap enough that each member of a band can buy one and you have a 3 to 5 digital camcorder shoot at almost any venue! If you want to web cast your band select the middle setting and youíll get true, full motion at an aspect ratio that will easily work with Real Video, Quick Time and Windows Media Player, provided you have the editing tools to combine these together and export them in the format (and Premier, Video Vegas or the newest Studio Deluxe will accommodate all of this).

The medium quality setting is good enough to produce a decent VHS video copy in full motion and these cameras are small enough, light enough and cheap enough to take to any gig, on any cruise ship or to any outdoor venue. No power required (they use AA batteries). No wiring. Built-in microphone.

You can put one of them near a PA speaker and point it towards the stage. That will easily catch the sound and visuals as the audience experiences the performance. The rest of the cameras can simply be used for ďother angles and shots.Ē

This has the potential to be a delightful tool provided you are not doing serious work. It will not render a broadcast quality video for travelogues, infomercials, TV commercials or even cable TV shows, except when edited as a ďband videoĒ and possible cut in with other materials (such as interviews) shot with at least a home DV camcorder.

Small wedding chapels can even use this tool, as could the family of the bride on a budget. For less than $600 you can do a three camera shoot for up to 30 or 60 minutes depending on the quality level. You can transfer this to a computer and burn the files onto CDs and DVDs or you can connect it to a VCR and make VHS copies from the A/V cable that is supplied!

Primary and middle schools can now start teaching video production without having to get a major grant. Almost any teacher who ďcaresĒ can invest $125 and get a little camera that shows the 4th graders how to make TV shows. Get some software for the computer and you can edit this! The music teacher or sports coach can now shoot your games and concerts on a low budget.

Live stage people can now video their productions real cheap! Itís scratch video, just enough to show you what it looks like from the front row.

Even with the limitations there are a lot of interesting potentials with this type of camera and when this technology goes into the higher end a lot of people may find MP4 technology to chips (instead of tape or disk drives) interesting!

Just donít expect this camera to deliver the quality of a still image that a $100 Kodak 7300 does, as it probably wonít, even though itís 3 MP (it will, however, beat out the 7300 for video). Donít expect this camcorder to deliver the video image of even a VHS-C unit like those from JVC for $200. Donít expect this to deliver the sound of an IPod. But also remember, itís priced a lot lower that each of these items and you get all of them wrapped up into one little package that uses 2 AA batteries and a common SD card, which makes it a flexible value and far better than some of the little junky kids digital or web cast cameras you find hanging on the store racks!

Our 2005 Video Special continues with these offerings::

Video Special 2005 | Intro To Digital TV | DVD or DV Camcorders?
High Definition DVDs | Future DV Mediums | Aiptek 5900 MP4 Camera
New HDV Technology from CineForm and RedRock Micro | Three Low Cost DVD Camcorders
64 Bit Computer Technology | New Fall 2005 US Prime Time TV Shows

Our video special continues with these offerings from 2004:

Camcorders 2004 | Capture Cards 2004 | HD-DVD
Digital Theatrical Movies | JVC HD Camcorder | Sigma SD9 and Foveon Technology
Color Imaging Technology | V-Chip | 2004 Network Prime Time TV Shows

From our archives with these offerings from 2003:

Camcorders | Hi-Def TV | Promote Ur Videos | Future of DVD | Computer DVD Burners
New US TV Shows for 2003-2004 Prime Time

From our archives we have these articles from the 2002 Issues:

Doing Video On Your Computer | The Pinnacle Capture Card | ATA Hard Drives
Hard Drive Terms | Western Digital Drives | Producing A Scripted iMac Video
Audio For Video | Lighting For Video | Digital VHS | Removable Hard Drives

From September 2001 Issues:

Buying a Camcorder | Producing A Cable Access Show | Producing Broadcast TV
A Technical Look and History of Film, Video and TV | Stream Video and Webcasting

HDTV | Capture Cards


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