Apple has launched a new iPod nano with a built-in camera - the 'fifth-generation Apple iPod nano', or 'Apple iPod nano video'.Apple's smallest screen-bearing iPod, the iPod nano, has evolved in impressive fashion.
A highly capable and affordable performer in its previous two iterations, the fifth-generation (5G) iPod nano adds useful and entertaining features such as a video camera and microphone mounted on the back of the iPod, an FM radio with buffering and iTunes Tagging capabilities, a larger screen, a built-in speaker, expanded accessibility support, and a pedometer for keeping track of your footsteps.
Additionally, the £115 (8GB) and £135 (16GB) nanos come in an array of nine bright colours: silver, black, purple, blue, green, orange, yellow, pink and [Product] Red. The Red nano is available from the Apple Store only.
iPod nano 5G dimensions
The dimensions of the 5G nano are identical to that of its predecessor, the fourth-generation (4G) iPod nano. Yet, hold the two side-by-side and the 5G iPod appears to be taller than its sibling.
Place them on a table and the illusion disappears. What creates this illusion is the 5G's 2.2-inch (diagonal) display - 0.2 inches taller than the screen found on the 4G nano.
The difference may not sound like much, but when you compare the two, you see that Apple has taken advantage of the extra space by enlarging the fonts and placing a little more space between menu items (as well as placing more items on the screen, in some cases).
To accommodate the longer screen, Apple moved the clickwheel down a bit as well as made it a little smaller. Its position and size make it no more difficult to use than the previous nano.
The obvious difference between the backs of the two models is the camera lens and microphone unit found on the bottom-left of the 5G nano.
And the bottom of the newest nano has the headphone port on the left of the Dock connector (as you look at the display) rather than on the right side (its location on the 4G nano).
The other difference you'll notice is that if you press Play without connecting your headphones, the 5G nano will play audio through a new, internal speaker.
Its sound quality is comparable to that of the iPod touch - very tinny and useful only for previewing songs or, if you're just this side of desperate, listening to the audio that accompanies the video you've just shot.
iPod nano 5G video camera
The feature that has garnered the greatest attention is the nano's video camera.
When Steve Jobs introduced the 5G iPod nano he compared it directly to Pure Digital's popular £120 Flip Ultra standard definition pocket camcorder. The idea being that, like the Flip camcorders, the 5G nano provides you with an ultra portable video camera that's incredibly easy to operate and is likely to be used in situations where you don't care a great deal about the quality of what you shoot.
Using the camera couldn't be much easier - though it's not quite as easy as pushing the Flip's Big Red Button. Just choose Video Camera from the nano's main menu, press the Centre button, and the nano's display becomes a viewfinder.
Press Centre again and the nano starts recording. Unlike most pocket camcorders, it does not display a red recording light on the front of the "camera" nor make a noise when it starts recording.
You can also add effects to video as you shoot it. Just navigate to the viewfinder screen and press and hold the Centre button. Doing so produces a screen that contains 15 video effects (plus a Normal setting).
Among the effects you'll find are the descriptively named Sepia, Black & White, Film Grain, Cyborg, Kaleido, Twirl, and Stretch. If you've ever used the video effects in Apple's Photo Booth or iChat, you have a good idea of what these things do. The effects are permanent, however - they are added as you shoot and can't be removed.
Press Centre again to stop recording and the video is added to the nano's Camera Roll screen.
Videos are organized there by date. Select a date, press Centre, and any videos you've shot on the selected day appear in a separate screen.
Choose one using the clickwheel, press the Centre button, and the video plays in the orientation in which it was shot. (If you shot it in landscape orientation, you can rotate the nano either to the left or right and the video will rotate along with the nano.)
To delete a video from the nano, just select it in the date screen and press and hold the Centre button. A drop-down menu appears offering Delete All, Delete, and Cancel options.
When you plug a 5G nano that contains recorded video clips into a Mac, iPhoto opens by default and offers to import the clips. Video is encoded in 640-x480 resolution using the H.264 video codec, with 44.1kHz AAC audio, at a total data rate in the range of 2,500 to 2,800 kbps.
You might think that the placement of the nano's camera will cause a lot of people to shoot video of the inside of their palms. Not so, if you're careful. If you prefer to shoot in portrait mode, just turn the nano upside down so the lens sits above your hand.
The nano understands that it's standing on its head and when you transfer the video to iPhoto, the clips will appear right-side up. Clever.
I did, however, manage to move a finger in the way when shooting in landscape orientation. To help prevent that, I vowed to rotate the nano to the right so the lens sits at the bottom-right (from the subject's perspective) rather than the top-left, where it's easy to obscure the lens with your right index finger.
iPod nano vs pocket camcorder
Steve Jobs was careful not to compare the quality of the nano's video to that of today's pocket camcorders, and rightly so. For its intended purpose - shooting videos of your friends and family and posting the results up on YouTube - the nano's video is acceptable.
But it's not as good as video shot by an iPhone 3GS, which isn't all that good, much less the video shot by most of today's dedicated pocket camcorders.
I compared the nano's video to that shot by an original Flip Ultra pocket camcorder. Outdoors, the nano's video was darker and bluer than the Flip's. Much of what it shot looked drab.
Indoors, under natural light, the nano failed to pick up detail and stuck with its blue tendencies. Under lamplight at night, its results were just poor - full of noise, washed out, and producing unhealthy skin tones.
But it's not a dedicated pocket camcorder - it happens to come with a fairly outstanding media player. I'm all for seeing Apple make improvements to this camera, but for a feature that emphasizes fun over quality, it's a perfectly acceptable addition and one - unlike bulky full-sized camcorders - that you're far more likely to have with you when you need it. (Note that you can't use the nano's camera to take still photos, only video.)
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