I'm looking for the least-expensive camcorder I can get my hands on.
January 11, 2008 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the least expensive camcorder I can get my hands on.

As previously stated, in a few months I'm going on a road trip with a friend. I'm thinking it would be cool to have some sort of camcorder to record the highlights of the trip. What we're going for here is "cheap", and maybe "durable" - doesn't need to be high-quality or have a lot of features.

I'm intrigued by the Flip Video - simple, looks like it would get the job done, only records half an hour of video at a time, but if I dumped it onto my laptop every night, that space would get freed up again, right?

Does anyone have experience/feedback on the Flip Video? Am I going to find anything cheaper than $120? Any other suggestions?
posted by Quidam to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used either - but I have been looking at the ATC2k by Oregon Scientific, its $119 like the flip. It does the same frame rate 640x480 / 30 FPS as the flip, but as a bonus takes a 2gig flash card. It doesn't have a screen, but it is durable and waterproof to 10 feet. Its designed more for action / extreme sports, as you'll see on their web site, but the extra recording space might work for you. The web site has sample videos.
posted by reckman at 3:43 PM on January 11, 2008

My boss bought two FlipVideos for his kids this Christmas, and so I got a quick peek at one. I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality -- it was very good. At least as good as the mic on my old Canon ZX60 dv camera. I didn't see any video dumped from the device, so I'm not sure what sort of resolution it films at, but it looked great on the screen. Clearly, you're not going to get something that'll produce film-quality video, but I think if you just want something to do a little YouTube highlights reel, it'll probably fill the bill.
posted by fishfucker at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2008

posted by blue_beetle at 3:52 PM on January 11, 2008

I have the Flip Video. It also comes in a 60-minute version, which is definitely worth the extra change. Video quality is mediocre, but for a simple, cheap way of grabbing some travel video it has worked very well. The screen makes it easy to preview and share clips on the fly. The camera has proven to be durable, and the lack of cables (it connects the the computer using a flip-out USB plug, and batteries are standard AAs) is a big plus when traveling.

It stores video in AVI format, if that makes any difference to you. I use iMovie, and the files import with no problem.
posted by itstheclamsname at 3:53 PM on January 11, 2008

You might try a used Sony DCR TRV 110, which was a surprisingly good camera for what it did. It digitally recorded on hi8 tapes, included firewire so you can dump it (as well as s-video and ntsc). You can also use it as an editing deck-it responds well enough to computer control through the firewire. If you can get it for under $100, it should give you much more bang for the buck than the flip cams.
posted by plinth at 5:15 PM on January 11, 2008

AVI is just a container, you want to know the video format, so read the specs carefully and stay away from MJPEG (note the "J"), it's bloated and has intrinsic quality limitations, but a lot of cheap solid-state video recorders use it because it can use the same imaging engine as a digital camera. You want one that records MPEG-2 or MPEG-4.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:39 PM on January 11, 2008

I've got the $132 Aiptek MPVR which has VIDEO IN! I use it to record helmet cam footage. It's not the cheapest but the video in is freakin' awesome.

(Needless to say it's a flimsy plastic piece of shit in every other respect, but hey).
posted by unSane at 5:49 PM on January 11, 2008

(and the Aiptek records Mpeg4 video)
posted by unSane at 5:50 PM on January 11, 2008

I have the RCA version of the flip phone = the Small Wonder and I love it. I think I paid just under $100 (I just googled for best price - found about a $30 variance). It's quite a cool little deal. It's easy and small and actually quite fun. Plus it has the option of recording onto an SD card. You could absolutely dump from the camera and/or SD card and renew your recording space.
posted by susandennis at 10:02 PM on January 11, 2008

If you'd be happy with a VHS or VHS-C camcorder, and you're not leaving today, you ought to be able to get one for nothing, or close to nothing. Sign up for Freecycle, keep an eye out at thrift stores, put up a flyer or two at the local art school and put the word out to your friends.

Alternately, my digital camera also records video. I believe most of 'em do, these days. The quality isn't amazing, especially in low light, but, again, the price is right.
posted by box at 1:17 PM on January 12, 2008

If you can invest a little time, there's this article:

Hacking the CVS Disposable Camcorder
posted by yohko at 7:56 AM on January 14, 2008

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