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The outstanding design feature of Kogan's 1080p Camcorder is undoubtedly the lightweight dent it'll leave in your wallet or purse; AU$399 for a full 1080p-capable camera seems like incredibly good value. The moment you pick up the camera, though, you'll work out one area where the Kogan camcorder has saved a few dollars in the design phase. Put simply, it feels like it's made of cheap plastic, and that's because it is. Pieces click, dials slip, hinges creak and the whole camera body feels slick under hand, rather than secure. The one upside to this is that it's very light to hold. The battery compartment on the side hides under a cheap rubberised flap, while an SD card — the only recording format on offer, with an 8GB SDHC card provided in the box — slots in the other side.
One area where it does stand out from the camcorder pack is that's it's totally bereft of manufacturers' logos. While the usual hyperbolic statements regarding resolution, zoom, and, of course, "HD" in big friendly letters are imprinted on the body, there's no big, shiny Kogan logo where you'd normally expect to see, say, a Sony, Canon or Panasonic emblem. If you're the type who doesn't particularly appreciate advertising a company simply because you purchased a product, that might be a big design plus.
Kogan doesn't hide this camcorder's other main selling point under a rock either, proudly stating its 1080p credentials as part of the product name. According to Kogan's website, the camcorder also offers optical image stabilisation, face detection, 5x optical zoom and a variety of shooting modes. So far, so good, but it's only when you delve into the Kogan's menu structure that you realise where, in a features sense, this camcorder skimps. There's are four resolutions on offer (1080p, 720p, WVGA and QVGA) but no details on, nor the ability to alter, the recording bit rate. Shooting modes on offer are sepia, black and white, and standard, and, umm, that's all. The one upside with such a simple and limited menu system is that it's very easy to get to grips with, simply because there aren't many choices on offer.
Image stabilisation is by default switched off when you first unpack the camera, and there's a none too subtle reason why. By default the camera is set to record in 1080p mode, but the manual notes that image stabilisation is only available in 720p and WVGA modes. If you're going to shoot in 1080p, in other words, use a tripod or grow a pair of steady hands.
The Kogan Camcorder features an built-in microphone and front mounted light source, with no capability to use any external peripherals for either purpose. There's no HDMI interface on offer, with the best output being component out. Again, it's not surprising given the asking price, but these are limitations that are well worth bearing in mind.
The generally low feature set and budget level build quality would naturally be entirely permissible if the shooting quality was up to spec. For the purposes of comparison, we set the Kogan 1080p Camcorder up against a Canon's HF11 1080p camcorder, to give us some visual benchmarks to play with. It is worth bearing in mind that you could buy four Kogan cameras for the single price of the Canon camcorder, and it would be truly surprising if the Kogan kept pace. And indeed it didn't, with a noticeable lag in most aspects, from the onscreen histogram that looks like it fell off the back of a Commodore 64, to the focus which simply can't deal with subjects moving at even a moderate speed.
The Kogan outputs MOV files encoded in H264 with AAC audio. That's acceptable for dumping into most consumer editing packages, although if you're serious about videography you'll find more flexibility in an AVCHD stream. Again, not surprising given the obvious target market for this camera. Quality was quite variable; for outdoor shooting scenes it performed quite well, but as soon as there was a dip in light quality (or, indeed, any rapid lighting changes) it struggled to keep up.
That AU$399 price point dangles over any consideration of the Kogan Camcorder. Not just because of the low impact on your wallet, but also because of what it's reasonable to expect at this price point. Ultimately, what you're getting for your AU$399 strikes us as reasonable value, but with some pretty sharp limitations. In the low end consumer market, that's largely acceptable — you really are getting what you pay for — but those who demand video fidelity and user configurable options will still need to look elsewhere and pay quite a bit more.