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Video Cameras

Samsung Miniket VP-M110

Q: What in the world is a Miniket? A: A tiny wee camcorder that has a few other tricks up its sleeve

Here we go again -- another cute mini six-in-one device that no one has thought up a good name for yet.  

This time it's Samsung's turn. In March, it is launching a pocket device called the
Miniket VP-M110, a tiny multi-function device that combines a camcorder, still camera, MP3 player, voice recorder, Web camera and portable storage.

Ricoh ventured into this territory last year with its Vivitar eek and DVR390H -- neither name gives you any clue as to what the gizmo does. Sorry Samsung, I think Miniket falls into the same category.

(Note to self: must run a competition to invent new terminology -- surely CNET.com.au readers can come up with something better...)

Upside
With that little naming rant off my chest, the Miniket does show some potential. Of its six capabilities, it is first and foremost a tapeless mini-camcorder.

Weighing in at just 150 grams including the battery, the MPEG4 AVI camcorder (720 x 480, 30 fps) features one-button capture, a 10x digital zoom and an 800K movie-optimised CCD. It utilises the oversized CCD to incorporate an Electrical Image Stabilizer (EIS) to remove shakiness from handheld video, which could be a real problem for a unit that's only as big as a credit card.

For still photography, it's restricted to 800 x 600 SVGA resolution, but it is PictBridge-enabled and includes an onboard flash.

On the plus side, Miniket incorporates a built-in 1GB flash memory, which should record up to 60 minutes of high-quality video, 240 MP3 songs or 18 hours of voice recordings.

And if that's not enough memory, it also accommodates a Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro slot for added storage capacity. As a neat trick, the Miniket can easily transfer files back and forth between the Memory Stick and its built-in memory, so transfering images, songs and other types of files becomes a very straightforward task.

It also connects to a PC via USB 2.0. In addition to transfering files, this also enables its transformation into an instant Web cam. The Web cam works with Windows XP NetMeeting and in the demo we saw the set up was a very painless procedure. The cradle that connects and supports it in Webcam mode also serves as a recharger -- great for those on the road with a notebook.

Downside
The biggest risk in these multipurpose gadgets is that they do none of their functions terribly well. We won't tar the Miniket completely with that brush, but of course, single purpose devices are always going to have more features and produce better quality.

Currently the weakest link in Miniket's chain is its digital camera mode, as now many of the newer mobile phones on the market, such as the Sony Ericsson S700i, are capable of taking snaps at double the resolution of the Miniket. Indeed Samsung itself has a phone in Korea with a 5 megapixel camera on board and local Samsung execs alluded to this Miniket shortfall in mentioning that upcoming versions of Miniket will include better still image capabilties.


Strap the Miniket lens to your helment next time you skydive.

Outlook
At $999, you'd have to be a real estate agent, private eye, or serious gadget hound to invest in the Miniket VP-M110. More tempting a product is it's Miniket Sport sibling that Samsung says is coming another two months down the track. With a black rubberised body and detactable lens, it's aimed at adrenaline junkies who want to video themselves snowboarding, skateboarding, bungy jumping… whatever. Capture the blood vessels in your eyeballs bursting as you plunge headfirst down a gorge -- now that's pretty cool.

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