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How "good" is the iPod nano 5th Gen video camera? How does it compare to the Flip Mino or Ultra video camera in "real-world" use?
Please note that the iPod nano 5th Gen was replaced by the iPod nano 6th Gen on September 1, 2010. The iPod nano 6th Gen does not have a video camera.
A careful observer will note that Apple never refers to the quality of the video camera provided by the iPod nano 5th Gen and instead notes that it is provided "without any additional cost to the user" and is "small enough to take with your everywhere". It supports "H.264 VGA video, 640 by 480 pixels, up to 30 frames per second with AAC audio", which is standard definition.
Naturally, "good" is subjective, but given its SD resolution, the incredibly thin design of the iPod nano 5th Gen (0.24 inches at its thickest point) and the video camera's tiny lens and microphone, one would be amiss to expect the resulting footage to be particularly high quality. It cannot take still photographs at all, which some may find disappointing.
Nevertheless, only "real-world" testing can demonstrate the quality first-hand, and reviewers across the Internet weighed in with their opinions and provided sample videos shot with the iPod nano 5th Gen and other video cameras.
Though the iPod nano's video quality is nothing to write home about, its video camera is a welcome addition. Don't expect to get the same quality as you would from a pocket camcorder, a point-and-shoot camera, or even the iPhone 3GS.
The nano shoots better video than most cell phones do -- as long as you're in a well-lit setting -- but it can't quite compete with a pocket camcorder such as Pure Digital's Flip Mino. High-definition pocket camcorders such as the Kodak Zi8 trounce the nano.
Physical usability could be better, though. Much, much better. The camera is on the bottom, where your fingers naturally grip to operate the controls, so your fingers go smack on top of the lens and microphone, and you suddenly find yourself holding the Nano unnaturally to accommodate this misdesign. (Your hand blocks the camera unless you turn the iPod upside down or on its side.) Why a company known for perfecting design details would accept such a self-defeating arrangement of controls is baffling. . .
Image quality is pretty good for such a tiny device. A Flip Ultra or Mino is sharper (and the HD versions are, of course, higher resolution -- see our Flip Mino HD review from last year). The iPhone 3GS has about a 30% higher data rate and offers more detail.
The nano's video camera is not the best pocketable video camera on the market. The nano is, however, a very thin and light portable media player that is capable of taking good-enough SD videos for uploading to YouTube. Like the iPhone 3GS, you're not going to be shooting any award-winning documentaries on it, but when you already carry around an iPod, convenience often wins.
I have to admit that the video quality isn't as good as any of the inexpensive Flip Video camcorders I've played with. And unlike the Flip cameras, the iPod nano has no zoom and isn't as capable in low-light situations. But the Flip camcorders start at [US]$149 -- [the same price as the iPod nano 5th Gen] -- and while they're admittedly better video cameras, that's all they are. The iPod nano is a fraction the size of even the smallest Filp video camcorder and has half a dozen useful features in addition to shooting video. Which means I'm a lot more likely to have the iPod nano with me when a video moment occurs.
If the above reviews aren't sufficient, perhaps the best iPod nano 5th Gen comparison to a SD Flip video camera -- which shows footage from each side-by-side shot at the same time in exactly the same conditions -- is courtesy of NewTeeVee:
Ultimately -- as each of the above reviewers has observed and the above video makes quite clear -- the video camera provided by the iPod nano 5th Gen isn't particularly "good" compared to the Flip video cameras or the iPhone 3GS and it certainly isn't "good" compared to "proper" video cameras, even SD ones. However, it's convenient, fun, and essentially a "free" bonus and this no doubt makes it an attractive addition to the iPod nano line for many.