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Video Cameras

Aiptek AHD Z500 Plus: HD bargain camcorder

The Aiptek AHD Z500 Plus is the latest high-definition budget camcorder. We took a look, and tried to think up a name for this growing market

When the Eee PC kicked off a new trend for tiny, budget-priced laptops, the media went into a frenzy thinking up names for this new segment. Are they mini laptops, ultraportables or netbooks? Similarly, the camcorder market has recently seen a surge of small, affordable video shooters, such as the uber-simple Flip Video. But this is no race for the bottom, as some manufacturers are combining the punter-friendly principles of simplicity and cheapness with the high definition goodness we all want these days. Enter the Aiptek AHD Z500 Plus -- but what do we call it and its accessible, decently priced brethren? Mini camcorders? Too obvious. How about minicorders? Hmm. We'll keep trying.

The Z500 is a full high-definition shooter, like its predecessor the Z200. 1080p AVCHD footage, with a resolution of 1,440x1,080 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9, can be shot with a frame rate of 30 frames per second. 720p video, at 1,280x720 pixels, will go up to 60fps. Aiptek quotes recording times of 2 hours of 1080p footage on to an 8GB SDHC card, or 8 hours on a 32GB card. The battery probably won't last that long, but we'll get the Z500 for an in-depth review and check it out. Footage is saved as .mov H.264/QuickTime format, so it's Apple-friendly.

If that sounds rather complicated, the Z500 keeps things simple on the controls front. You turn it on and off by opening and closing the 60mm (2.4-inch) swivel-mounted TFT LCD screen. Couldn't be any easier. Simplicams? Convenicorders?

The Z500 packs a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor, which should offer decent stills. A 3x optical zoom gets you up close, or you can use the 5cm macro mode. Not getting anywhere with a name for the market segment, though. My First HD Shooter? Snappy, but not quite on the money.

But enough of the boring specs. How much does it cost? The Z500 will hit shops in July for a very reasonable £250. So all your shooting will be cheap shots. Cheapshots! That's it! We hope it catches on. -Rich Trenholm