Making technology easy, simple, and convenient to use is no mean feet. Get it right, and millions will beat a path your door. Get it wrong, and even the most advanced invention will perish (no matter how many experts laud its praises, as I’m all too well aware).
It’s with this idea in mind that RCA has just introduced its Small Wonder digital camcorder. The $129 EZ201 is sheathed in iPod white and is a little larger than a deck of cards and weighs 5.25 ounces. It’s powered by two standard AA batteries and stores about an hour of video in its on-board memory. That’s the easy part.
To shoot a video, you simply turn it on with a push of a button, hit the red record button, and you’re shooting the kids at the zoo (which is where, incidentally, RCA demonstrated the Small Wonder for the press). You can see what you’re recording in its 1.5-inch LCD viewfinder. That’s the simple part.
If you want more recording time you can add more memory using the Small Wonder’s SD memory card slot (a 1 GB SD card is only about $20 nowadays). To connect the camcorder to a computer, there’s a retractable USB plug, so there’s no need to haul around a set of cables. RCA is even offering a free online video sharing site called Box.net for owners. That’s the convenient part.
One drawback is that the camera shoots relatively low resolution VGA video, meaning that your vacation shots will look grainy on a TV screen but are good enough for sending and sharing over the Internet. Furthermore, the RCA folks claim that unlike a cell phone camera or other low-priced camcorders, the Small Wonder works well in low-light interior situations. With only a few minutes of hands-on testing, their claims seemed to be borne out; a quick video taken inside during the presentation was bright and clear. Although some of us had trouble making out what was on the LCD screen in bright sunlight.
The Small Wonder may be a great option for parents who want a camcorder that doesn’t require its own camera bag and one they don’t have to fret about the kids spilling juice on. Indeed, an RCA representative threw the Small Wonder I was testing down on the floor, hard —and it survived unscathed. I wouldn’t try that with a $1,000 camcorder.