RCA EZ201 Small Wonder Camcorder

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If RCA's goal was to build a stripped-down camcorder, one void of all but the most essential features and providing the bare minimum in picture and sound quality, then it has succeeded. The EZ201 Small Wonder is the last camcorder anyone serious about video and audio quality would choose to save a family's ceremonial events. Then again, that's hardly the object of this particular exercise. The RCA EZ201 Small Wonder camcorder - a device clearly pitched at the youth market - is actually intended as a compact, affordable option for quickly capturing everyday moments and either emailing them to friends or posting on the Internet, where video quality does not seem to be a high priority for most people. Considering what passes for acceptable amateur quality on the Web these days, the Small Wonder is more than wonderful. Hey, it was good enough for my own first YouTube posting.

SETUP If you were expecting a rechargeable battery and an AC adapter, image stabilization and optical zooming, you're reading the wrong review. But the Small Wonder does include two AA batteries. Insert them in the camcorder, press the On/Off button, and you're ready to watch the 1.5-minute demo that pretty much covers all the features. The built-in speaker is a necessity, since the single A/V output won't accommodate your earphones. You can insert your own SD card for extra recording time, but you may not need one since the camcorder's built-in memory is sufficient for between 25 and 30 minutes in the HQ ("high quality") mode and up to 60 minutes in the LP ("long play") mode. A tab on the side of the camcorder switches between them.

One of the Small Wonder's most interesting features is a pop-out USB connector that lets you plug the device directly into your PC for uploading your videos. A standard extension cable is provided in case of adjacent port congestion. (An attached EZ201 needs to clear 6-inches in front of the USB port.) You also don't have to worry about misplacing the Small Wonder applications CD-ROM (there isn't one) or an Internet connection to download them, because they're built into the camcorder and upload directly to the PC when you connect the device (sorry, no Mac support yet). And the USB port supplies power to the camcorder, which should put your mind at ease over the disposable batteries petering out mid-transfer.