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Movie Studio In Your Pocket

I have a really good digital video camera that cost several hundred dollars. Trouble is, I almost never have it with me when interesting moments arise. And even if I do have it around, it always takes me a few minutes to reacquaint myself with the controls before I can start shooting - and that's assuming that I have a blank tape handy and a sufficiently charge in the battery.

When I'm done shooting with my fancy DV camera, I then have to find the right cable to transfer it to the PC or Mac and remember how to use the software to edit it. And while all Macs have the necessary FireWire port to import video from a digital video camera, many Windows PCs lack that port.

But I had none of those problems last weekend when I attended my wife's family reunion at the Asilomar Conference Center near Monterey. When videoworthy moments popped up, I reached into my pocket for the little Point & Shoot Video Camcorder from Pure Digital Technologies ( that the company loaned me to review.

Getting the camera ready to use is a simple as installing the two AA batteries it came with which are sufficient for about two hours of shooting. There is no tape to install (or get tangled up). The $129 camera, about the size of a small pocket digital camera, can store about a half hour of video on its internal 512 megabytes of memory.

And when I was done shooting, transferring the video to my PC was really easy – and does not require any cables. All I had to do was to swing out the USB connector that's built into the device and plug it into my PC.

And the device didn't even come with a CD. The necessary software to view, caption, save and email videos runs automatically when you plug the camera into the PC or you can access the camera's memory as if it were a disk drive and copy the AVI (that is, video) files to your hard disk. You may then use whatever software you have on your PC or Mac to edit or view the video clips.

Compared to my other camcorder, using this camera is a snap. It's more like a point-and-shoot still camera than a complicated camcorder.

There are only four buttons directly below the camera's 1.4 inch LCD screen. The power button turns it on and off, a red button starts and stops the recording and a rocker switch that surrounds that button lets you zoom in and out or go back and forth between clips in the camera's memory.

When you find a clip you want to view, you can hit the play button to see it on the screen and hear it on the camera's small built-in speaker, or you can use a supplied cable to watch on it a TV.

If you decide you want a DVD to play on a computer or a standard DVD player you can use almost any video editing and burning software or take the camera to a CVS, Rite-AID and other participating retailers to have them to create a DVD for you.

Pure Digital Technologies, the company behind the Point & Shoot camera, also makes disposable "one-time use" video cameras.

For anyone who is serious about video quality, this camera is not a replacement for a high-end digital video camera.

It doesn't have an input for an external microphone, and the 2X digital zoom is a far cry from the 12X optical zoom you get with many mid-range camcorders: unlike an optical zoom lens, a digital zoom can distort the picture in some situations.

The camera also lacks a slot for additional memory, so you're limited to the 30 minutes or so you can store on the internal memory until you transfer the files to your PC.

But there's one thing about this little camera that makes it a lot better than the more expensive and bulky higher-end cameras. You're more likely to use it because it's small, simple to operate and – so long as you have a couple of AA batteries handy – always ready to go. And at a price as low as $110 (after the $20 mail in rebate that expires July 15th), it's easier on the wallet, too.

A syndicated technology columnist for over two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid