The Camileo Clip is a semi-ruggedized pocket camcorder from Toshiba whose main attraction is its build-in clip, which allows the device to be attached to clothing, straps, or other surfaces for hands-free operation. Meant for shooting on the go, the Clip shoot full HD (1920 x 1080p at 30 fps) video and snap 16 megapixel photos. It is currently going for $99.99 on Toshiba's website and is available in a variety of colors, including white, red, light blue, and dark blue.
We originally laid eyes on the Clip earlier this year back at CES, and now we've gotten to spend some time with the final product. Does Toshiba succeed at creating the perfect pocket camcorder for your active lifestyle?
Build & Design
Like a pocket camcorder should be, the Camileo Clip is incredibly small, measuring only 3.1" x 1.8" x 0.6" and weighing in at 2.5 ounces. It's about as compact as camcorders can get and perfect for pocketing.
The Clip's build utilizes a mixture of materials to create a somewhat ruggedized device, with the front and sides coated with a matte finish, while the edges and parts of the back are rubberized. The little bumps that cover the edges and the back part of the camcorder's clip are a nice touch too, providing some extra grippiness to the device.
I was also happy to see that the clip well-implemented too, as far as the build goes. It doesn't stick out too far, which keeps it from being intrusive or giving it a clunky shape. In fact, it's very tight and close to the body of the camcorder, allowing it to clip snugly onto all but the thinnest of materials.
The rest of the build is very standard fare, with the microphone and speaker on the left and right sides of the lens on the front of the camcorder. On the top edge is a secondary record button, as well as an LED indicator light, while the back of the device plays host to just about everything else. Back here, you'll find the 1.5-inch display, a four-way d-pad surrounding the primary record/confirmation button, a menu button, and a button to switch between photo and video.
The power button is located on the right side of the Clip, while an attached rubber plug covers the microSD, mini USB, and HDMI ports on the bottom of the camcorder. Also down here is a hook for a wrist strap and a tripod socket.
I really missed the inclusion of a built-in USB dongle here, which eliminates the need to carry around an extra cable for file transfer or viewing purposes. I suppose it just wasn't possible given how small the Clip is, but it was still a pain for me to have to hunt down a USB cable whenever I needed to plug it in (and a mini USB cable, no less, for a port size that is becoming increasingly uncommon). The only other issue I had was with the microSD card slot, in which the memory card got jammed on more than one occasion during my time with the camcorder.
Ergonomics and Controls
As I mentioned when I got some hands-on time with the Clip back at CES, the rubberized casing on the back of the device wreaks hell on the controls. The d-pad is squashy and doesn't even issue any sort of click or response when pressed. Thankfully, the menu, photo/video, and confirm buttons click, but they still require a rather deep depression before it registers.
Button placement is generally very good, however, with the Clip easily operable with a single hand. It's small enough that all of the controls on the rear of the device can be reached with your thumb, as can the power button on the right side. The smartest design choice, given the nature in which the Clip is meant to be used, is the inclusion of the secondary record button on the top edge of the camcorder. That way, when users already have it clipped to something and the primary button is therefore inaccessible unless the device is unclipped, they can instead just press down on the top of the device to begin recording.
As is the case with many pocket camcorders that aim for a truly compact form factor, the display on the Clip is painfully small. The LCD screen measures a mere 1.5 inches, and combine that with the black bars that line the top and bottom of the display to create a "widescreen" effect and you're dealing with barely enough real estate to frame a shot.
The display's diminutive size isn't its only issue, either. The image is surprisingly gritty considering how small the screen is; you'd think with all the pixels squeezed into such a small space, that wouldn't be possible, but somehow Toshiba managed it. The viewing angle isn't great either, and -- perhaps most importantly, given Toshiba's encouragement to use the Clip in outdoor situations -- the display's brightness and ability to counteract glare leave something to be desired.
Menus and Modes
The menu set up on the Camileo Clip is something I bemoaned after experiencing it at CES, namely because it has two separate sets of menus for the video and photo modes. So if you want to see your photo gallery (or change photo settings) while you're in video mode, for example, you need to completely back out of the video mode menus, switch over to photo mode, and re-enter the menus. It's not only clumsy and awkward, but it makes it difficult to keep track of which settings are where. The only good news is that some setting adjustments carry over, like the video and photo effects of scene setting, filters, and white balance.
Equally frustrating is the actual navigation of the menus. I don't know about you, but my natural instinct was to use the menu button as a back button, so if I was in a sub-menu, I would hit it to go back one level. Unfortunately, this is not how it actually works on the Clip, as a press of the menu button while in the menus closes them entirely.
Instead, you need to use the d-pad to navigate the marker to the top of the screen to a back arrow. It's not like it's impossible to get used to, but it's a little unintuitive and allowing the menu button to serve as a back button would have been more desirable, especially considering you never need to go more than a 2 or 3 menus deep.
But there is a decent amount of both video and photo options at your disposal with the Camileo Clip, which include:
The setting options on the Camileo Clip are very basic, including turning chimes on and off, selecting TV format, choosing the language, setting the date and time, formatting the memory, and restoring default settings.
Don't expect a wealth of manual controls here since the Camileo Clip is, after all, just a pocket camcorder. Zoom is limited to 5x digital and, with the exception of one alternate ISO setting, some preset white balance choices (no manual adjustment), and a few different video effects, you basically have no choice but to let the camcorder handle everything else for you.
But that's fine, because you don't need grid lines or zebra stripes or manual focus, exposure, or white balance adjustment. That's the point of a pocket camcorder: stupid simple settings that are handled automatically. So basically, all you need to do is point the camcorder and hit record.
As mentioned, what few manual controls the Clip does have are a bit of a hassle to get to and enable thanks to the clumsy interface. But for what it's worth, you probably won't need to access them all that often since they're mostly just gimmicky features rather than anything all that practical; how often are you going to shoot video with the "Negative" or "Classic" effects on? The point of a camcorder like this is ease and convenience, to be able to pull it out of your pocket and shoot spontaneously, and the Clip has that covered in spades.
I appreciate the fact that, given how small the display is, the HUD mostly keeps things simple and uncluttered so as not to take up what little real estate the screen has to offer. Information across the top of the screen tells you what your current resolution is, which mode you're in (photo or video), how many photos or minutes of video you can capture with your remaining memory, and a battery gauge (which is admittedly a little vague; no percentages, just a meter with a few different levels of fullness). And that's all you really need. It's not totally perfect, though; unfortunately, a rather intrusive bar with a timer and colored dot pops up at the bottom once you begin recording, taking up a bit of the screen.
The battery life, meanwhile, is a disappointment. After shooting 54 minutes and 27 seconds' worth of video (not continuous), the camcorder died on me while just browsing through the device's menus for a few minutes. In other words, the Clip can handle about an hour of shooting and a bit of standby time before dying. That's not very good for a pocket camcorder, and it doesn't hold a candle to the battery life of competing pocket camcorders like the Bloggies or even some of the ones from Kodak.
Video, Stills, and Audio Performance
The sharpness of the Clip's video was one of the first things I noticed about it. Obviously it isn't going to rival that of a full-on camcorder or even video from a DSLR or compact system camera, but it's great for a pocket camcorder and definitely on par with -- if not better than -- most smartphones' video quality.
Colors, unfortunately, were noticeably oversaturated in the videos, and the auto white balance, while decent overall, still had a tendency to be a little off base at times. The auto exposure was not handled well, with sunlight washing out certain areas of shots all too easily. It adjusts eventually, but it's a slow process and even then, it doesn't always look great.
But other elements, like the camera's image stabilization, low-light shooting, and autofocus performed reasonably well. Don't get me wrong, there's obviously still plenty of camera shake when you're walking (or riding) around with the Clip attached to your clothing or backpack strap, but it's not as nauseating as you might think.
The real problem with the Clip, though, is that it's always going to be angled downward whenever it's attached to something, no matter what it's clipped to. Even in our sample video in which our editor clipped it to the crossbar strap of his backpack -- which was pulled as tightly as possible -- before going on a bike ride, most of the video was looking down at his handlebars and wrists.
And think about it: if you were to clip this on a shirt pocket or the like, the weight of the camcorder is obviously going to pull the fabric down and it will no longer be shooting straight ahead. It's an interesting idea in concept, sure, but the execution is flawed. The best solution here would have been for Toshiba to angle the lens upwards themselves, or perhaps include some sort of wheel or knob that allows users to physically move the lens and angle it however they feel is necessary.
Thankfully, the color saturation issues that are present in the video don't carry over to photos taken by the Clip. Outdoor shots are respectable and can even produce a decent picture when shooting in direct sunlight.
Unfortunately, the nice things I have to say about the stills end there; while low performance is decent in terms of the contrast of the picture, it seems to do something funny to the camera's ability to focus. Whenever I shot indoors with the camera or in mediocre lighting, all of the pictures came out in a soft focus (see sample image). The images also take a noticeably lengthy time to process, so much so that you need to keep the camera still for a full second or even two to ensure that the picture doesn't come out extra-blurred.
The audio quality in the Clip's videos is actually quite good for a pocket camcorder. Pocket camcorders have a tendency to pick up lots of background audio and ambient noise, but this wasn't the case with the Clip.
It did a great job of isolating voices, even in noisy environments; considering how the Clip is meant to be used, this was probably something Toshiba made a concerted effort to achieve. A test video in which one of our editors wore the Clip during a bike ride home captured his voice very clearly, rather than letting it be drowned out by the sound of traffic and passing cars. Even excess noises like the ruffling of his shirt (which was, of course, right behind the camcorder) and the wind were only picked up very, very minimally.
Operation and Extras
For a pocket camcorder, the Clip comes with a decent amount of accessories, including a CD with video/import editing software. It's just the same ArcSoft suite that Toshiba usually sends out with its camcorders -- and it's very basic -- but it's still good that it was included.
Since the Clip's onboard capacity is an extremely limited 128 MB, the camcorder ships with a 4 GB microSD card. Equally welcome is the inclusion of a microSD to SD card converter, making it easy for users with the appropriate slot to pop the expandable memory straight into their computers rather than having to connect via USB to move files. However, as mentioned, that option is available, and the Clip ships with a USB to mini USB cable (also the only means by which you can charge the camcorder).
Other accessories that users will find in the box include a lanyard and a microfiber cleaning cloth, though why you would need a cleaning cloth for such a dinky, non-touchscreen display is completely beyond me.
The Toshiba Camileo Clip means well; it makes sense to release a semi-ruggedized pocket camcorder for shooting video in slightly more hazardous situations. Smartphones take decent video these days, but nobody in their right mind is going to attempt to use their phone to take video while bike riding, mountain climbing, playing sports, etc. The Clip is a small, marginally tougher, hands-free solution.
At least in theory. The reality is that the Clip doesn't work well in practice, since it's usually sagging from whatever material that it's clipped to, resulting in video that's usually angled downwards and rarely of the intended subject. Combine that with flawed video -- the wildly oversaturated colors are a particular source of concern -- and mostly throwaway photo quality and you've got a pocket camcorder that probably isn't worth its $100 price tag. It may be a relatively low price point, but it's still too much to pay for what essentially amounts to a gimmick.