Toys R Us has recently launched a mini camcorder for families, and they gave us the chance to try it out.
The Aiptek Pencam Trio HD Camcorder is a high definition camcorder that is similar in size to a highlighter pen and extremely light - the picture you see here is life sized, and I weighed the pencam on my kitchen scales as 80 grammes.
There are three main functions to this gadget: using a simple one touch recording system, you can record up to 100 minutes of high definition videos via its internal 4GB memory. It also features a 5 mega pixel still digital camera.
The little 2.8cm (1.1″) OLED display on the back also allows users to preview their recording. As well as video and still pictures, its third feature is a voice recorder - useful for business meetings or just reminding yourself about that very important thing you must not forget.
We took the Pencam with us on a family day out to the park. We did have a slight hidden weapon in the shape of my partner John who is a TV producer/director and knows his way around a camera. He's recently been directing Castle Farm for Five's Milkshake, so he knows what a decent camera picture ought to look like.
So how did we get on?
Well, my ten-year-old daughter absolutely loved this gadget and found it very simple to use. My six-year-old son was less keen on a gadget that doesn't play games, but then he did get a bit spoilt by everything the Kidizoom Pro camera has to offer.
My daughter filmed us all around the park, so watching back what she'd shot was an interesting exercise in seeing things from her perspective. It turns out that when I am flapping about something or other, she is muttering "Take a chill pill mum" under her breath - which the microphone duly picked up. And which we later had words about. I can see this device having potential for unleashing your inner spy.
Available in purple or black, this mini camcorder has a waist clip and is rechargeable from a PC or notebook via a USB cable. We had to charge it for around six hours from our computer before first use.
You get everything you need to get you started including a USB cable, software, HDMI lead, composite cable, wrist strap and headphones. And you will need those headphones, because the sound does not automatically play back - a little annoying.
The size and portability of this device are its big selling point. You can keep it in your pocket, and whip it out when you want to film something. Yes I know you can do that with your phone as well, but the difference here is that the picture quality is so much better. These images are something you'll want to keep.
Focusing is automatic, so all the user really needs to do is point and shoot.
After our day out, we watched back the film on our TV using the HDMI lead included. We were impressed that this was included for the price of £89.99, since these leads are about £20 to buy and don't always come as standard (we recently bought a Blu-Ray player that didn't have one). The picture was somewhat jumpy, which I guess is inevitable when you have an excited child holding a tiny camera. Methinks some camera skills training might help with this. Inevitably, the stiller you hold the camera, the better the pictures you get.
This is a fun gadget for older children, teenagers and families on the move. There's software included so you can upload clips to YouTube easily, so if you have footage you want to share, it's easy to do so. Bloggers could make great use of this. TV director John gave it a thumbs up, and feels that for the price, it offers good value and decent picture quality.
The Aiptek Pencam HD Trio is available exclusively from Toys R Us, RRP £89.99