One of the problems Mac users have with video cameras is file formats.
There are about a dozen video file formats in today’s less expensive video cameras, some of which require a laborious transfer or conversion process for Mac users.
Guess who has the latest and coolest new mini video camera? None other than stodgy old Kodak. Mac users rejoice.
First, a mini primer. Small pocket video cameras are hot these days. Some are about the size of a fat iPod classic, record video without video tape, and even provide instant upload to YouTube.
One of the most popular is the Flip Video and the companion cameras, the Flip mino and the Flip ultra. They’re small, tapeless, have decent video and audio quality (the target is the YouTube crowd so you get what you pay for).
I have a rather expensive Sony DV video camera that records in both miniDV and DVCAM. It’s huge, clunky, intimidating, but the video quality is very good. It uses DV tapes and plugs right into my Mac to unload the video for QuickTime, or iMovie, or FinalCut.
Did I mention it was huge and clunky and anything but handy for quick family and vacation videos?
The Flip video is remarkably popular for a video camera without television commercials. It costs less than $200 and it works with Macs. Kinda sorta.
It comes with a few gigabytes of internal memory and can record up to an hour of video. The video format is Advanced Profile MPEG-4 AVI. There’s the rub.
Apple lets all Mac users edit, via iMovie and Final Cut, in the H.264 standard. Think High Def. Few inexpensive video cameras record in H.264, but the brand new Kodak Zi6 does.
I was sorely tempted to buy the Flip mino until I read about the Kodak model. It’s about the same size as the flip; a little longer and wider and thicker than an iPod classic. It comes with a battery charger (AA).
There’s a close up lens built in, a standard tripod mount, a large LCD screen on the back. It’s easy to use, elegant, and the video quality is remarkable considering the size of the lens, the video chip, and flash memory.
Did I mention that the flash memory is removable? I simply inserted an SHDC flash chip, 4 gigs from The Mac360 Store for about $15. The Zi6 $180, plus shipping.
Even better is this. The Zi6 plugs right into a Mac’s USB port and the movies can be uploaded to iMovie for editing. No conversion is required.
Even better is this. The Zi6 also records video in either 30fps or 60fps in 16:9 aspect ratio, at 720p. Again, perfectly editable on iMovie in your Mac. The LCD screen is 2.4 inches and looks good, though not as good as the screen on an iPhone.
The advantage for Mac users is convenience. The Zi6 fits in a pocket or hand bag. Operation is simple. Turn the camera on with the top switch. Press the red record button on the back below the screen to start recording.
Press the USB button to open the USB connector and plug the camera into your Mac. How does the video look? With most video cameras you get what you pay for, though in this case the Kodak Zi6 is inexpensive yet delivers a surprisingly crisp video.
When comparing the Kodak with the Flip I noticed that the camera lens was not as wide and the resulting video not as good in low light, though not bad in close up mode. Your mileage may vary.
$200 gets you a pocket video camera that records and plays back H.264 video (up to 720p at 60fps in 16:9 aspect ratio). The camera comes with cables to plug directly into your television or your HD TV. The quality is remarkable for such an inexpensive device.
iMove users rejoice. H.264 has made it to prime time and your Mac is ready. Plug the Zi6 into your Mac’s USB port. It mounts in the Finder, then simply drag and drop the movies to your Mac, or, use iMovie to import directly from the camera.
It doesn’t get much easier, cheaper, or higher quality for the money.