Forgotten Camera – Aiptek ISDV2, an early SD-Card camcorder.


In back to the Future, Doc Brown was really
excited about Marty’s camcorder from 1985, but that camcorder is looking just a bit outdated
these days. So, just imagine what doc would have thought
had he seen a smartphone, which has pretty much taken the place of the camcorder for
day to day video recording. However, we didn’t make that transition
overnight. In fact, I want show you an interesting little
forgotten piece of camcorder history. And, I’ve had this device in my possession
for about 13 years, or since around about 2006. And, to understand why it’s such an interesting
piece of technology I need to kind of set the time period for you. If you look at a rough timeline, in the year
1980 people were still using Super8 film cameras to record motion video. It wasn’t until around 1983 that camcorders
like the one Marty used in Back to the Future actually appeared on the market, which is
crazy to think that was just 2 years prior to when the movie came out. By 1990, we were still using these sort of
cameras, although not for long. By 2000, camcorders had shrunk a lot and were
using a variety of different cassette formats, with Mini-DV being the most common on the
high end. And then 10 years later in 2010 we were using
memory card based camcorders. And finally, a decade later the smart phone
has more or less killed off most other still cameras and camcorders, because everyone has
one in their pocket and the video quality is good enough for most consumers. But I want to focus on a little slice of time
right around 2005. So realistically speaking, if you wanted to
record video during this time you could go for a regular Mini-DV camcorder. For those that are too young to remember,
these recorded to little cassette tapes, but the information was stored digitally and the
quality was generally pretty good. You could also get a camcorder that recorded
to DVD. Both of these products produced video that
was pretty good quality, but was also generally expensive and bulky to carry around with you. Thus they were used mostly for special occasions. Many digital cameras of the time also had
the ability to to record small video clips. The trouble is, they were often very low resolution,
slow frame rate, limited to usually around 15 to 30 second clips, and often didn’t
even include audio. These are some clips I personally took on
various such cameras back in the day. Most cell phones of the era also included
cameras, and a few even had the ability to record short, low resolution video clips. Remember there were no smartphones on the
market at this point, at least not any that would resemble the ones we used today. And one other option was a USB webcam attached
to a laptop computer or something. However, from around 2005 to 2008 there were
a variety of no-name brands that introduced a variety of little cheap devices like this
that could be used as camcorders. Aiptek was one of the leading companies in
this regard. It may be pronounced AIPTEK as I’ve never
heard it pronounced by anyone else. AIPTEK stands for affordable, innovative,
personal, technology. Now, whether thats an acronym or a backronym,
I don’t know. Anyway, they produced a variety of little
camcorder type devices. I have one of them here with is the IS-DV2
model, which came out for the Christmas season of 2006. And while the website and company itself seems
to be long gone, you can still check out the website using the way-back machine. So, you can see that the IS-DV2 model was
selling for $129 dollars at the time. But if you fast forward to the next year,
you’ll see the price had dropped to $89. And I believe I paid $69 for mine sometime
around that time. So, let’s have a closer look at this one. Mine is a little beat up because it saw quite
a bit of use for a couple of years. So, it actually runs on a couple of double-A
batteries. And, we’ll need an SD card. Believe it or not the largest card it can
handle is a 2 gigabyte card, and that is the smallest one I could find around the house,
so that worked out just perfect. I’ll go ahead and insert that here. Now, let’s open the screen here and have
a look. The screen is smaller than you would probably
think, watching this video. It’s actually about the size of a postage
stamp. In fact, I highly suspect they used an off-the-shelf
screen that was common at the time on the outside part of the flip style cellular phones,
like this. I also think they used an off the shelf CMOS
imager from a web-cam at the time. So, let’s have a brief overview of the main
menu. In here you can set the resolution, self-timer,
and a whole bunch of other features you wouldn’t expect to see on a toy camera. And while it does have white balance settings,
you can’t do a custom, you have to use one of the presets. It also has a video light, which uses a couple
of LEDs in the front. They aren’t super bright, but they are good
enough to illuminate objects that are only a few feet from the camera. On the mode screen, you have camera mode,
obviously, and then playback mode, and then MP3. Yep, this also doubled as an MP3 player, albeit
not a very good one. It was also a voice recorder, but I should
also say not a very good one. And then in here you have settings where you
can configure things like NTSC or PAL, format an SD card etc. And in playback mode, you can see some of
the video clips I’ve taken and watch those. Ok, so let’s mount this thing to a tripod..
another feature I might add that a lot of toy cameras lacked at the time. OK, so this is some video directly from the
camera. Now, I wanted to give you like a comparison
with something you’re familiar with or used to seeing, which is this studio. I mean, I show it in every video. So, I thought this would be something interesting
to show. Now, keep in mind it’s 4 by 3 aspect ratio,
so it’s not going to fill the widescreen format that youtube wants to have these days. Also, you’re hearing the audio from my overhead
microphone, which is what you always hear in my videos, but just for the heck of it,
I thought I’d let you hear what the audio sounds like from the camera itself, keeping
in mind that the camera is about 6 or 7 feet away from me. And, to be fair, you don’t normally hear
the audio from my regular camera either, because again, you’re always hearing from above. But, anyway, let’s take the camera around
town and see if we can find something interesting to take video of. I took the camera down to our local Kennedale
town center to have a look at the clock tower and all of the colorful flowers underneath. Here’s our 9-11 memorial, which has an original
piece of one of the twin towers, along with a momument showing the names of all the people
that died. Now, while the video quality is questionable,
even by the standards of 2005, it can also take still photos. And honestly, they aren’t bad. As a still camera, it was actually pretty
decent for the money and was much better than cell phone cameras of the time. In fact, using the macro mode, I took this
photo of my daughter back in 2007, and the depth of field makes it look like a pretty
fancy camera. Looking at some other old footage, I took
this video of me washing my car back then. So, yeah, that’s what I was driving in 2007. That’s actually a 1995 model Eagle Talon
and it was already 12 years old at that time, but I took good care of it. I’m sure its in a junk yard or been recycled
by now, though. So, looking at these files, you’ll see the
videos are stored in the old Microsoft ASF format. Fortunately, VLC player will play these. I wanted to take a look at the media information
and see what we can find out. So let’s click on codec details. So, it is an MPEG-4 video stream. And it is 640×480, which is what it is supposed
to be. It says 30 frames per second, but I have my
doubts about this, which we’ll look into later. And the audio is mono, and 11 Khz sample rate,
which partially explains why it sounds so bad. Anyway, I can’t even import these videos
into Final Cut Pro, so I have to use a program like this first to convert them over to something
more modern. So, let’s take a look at this in Final Cut
Pro. I’m zoomed in right now to the point that
you can see single frames. So, if you look where my mouse is, you’ll
see these little gray boxes that light up, that’s an individual frame. So, lets go to the beginning of this clip. Ok, so new frame. And look here. These two frames are identical. So, new frame, new frame, new frame, new frame,
and here we go again, identical frames. So, by my estimation, it really does about
24 frames per second, and it actually gets much worse in dark environments because it
leaves the shutter open longer. I also wanted to see if their claims of megapixels
was accurate. You see, it was advertised as a 6 megapixel
camera, which to be honest, was quite a claim to make back in 2005 even for a professional
product. But looking at the specifications in the manual,
you may notice here that it says sensor effective resolution is 3 megapixels, and interpolated
resolution is 6 megapixels. What does this mean? Well, this was a common deceptive practice
back at that time, particularly for no-name brands. That is, they would put a substandard CCD
or CMOS imager in one of these devices and then claim that it had twice or three times
the resolution that it did. And the way they achieved that is by upscaling
the picture in software. It would be really no different from me taking
a low resolution photo into a paint program and then doubling the resolution in the paint
program and re-saving it. I didn’t add any additional detail to the
photo, but it is now a bigger image, right? And since 99% consumers probably didn’t
know what interpolation was, they probably just assumed, like in the case of this, they
were getting a 6 megapixel camera. Now, keep in mind, AIPTEK was by no means
the only company that used this deceptive practice, but I will say that I rarely ever
saw that practice used by brand name, or recognized brand-name cameras like Panasonic, Sony, Nikon,
and things like that. They typically advertised the exact resolution
of their sensor. Still, I thought it would be interesting to
put this to a scientific test, so I mounted the camera on a tripod and put it macro mode. According to the specifications in the manual,
the optimal distance is 60 centimeters. Then I took one of these camera test patterns
and taped it to the wall. However, the resulting image was kind of blurry. So, I decided I’d have to just experiment
until I found the optimal focal distance myself. I started by setting the resolution to 1 megapixel,
then taking a picture, then taking a picture in 3 megapixel mode, and eventually in 6 megapixels. And so here we are. The idea is I’ll want to zoom in and compare
pieces of this chart from all three modes. Now, these numbers themselves are meaningless
for this particular test, but they are good for making relative comparisons. So here I have all 3 resolutions, with 1 megapixel
on the left, and 6 megapixel on the right. So, if you look at this convergence test,
you’ll see it starts to get blurry around the number 4, and by 5 if it just a big blur. Moving over to the 3 megapixel image, you
can see an improvement here and even by 5 there are distinct lines. However, when we go over to the 6 megapixel
image, I can’t see any difference at all. Here’s another test. Some people on camera forums back in the day
used to argue that you should still use the 6 megapixel mode because even though the resolution
is fake, there is less compression noise, because a larger file size is allocated. This does appear to be possibly true since
I can see less compression noise around the actual numbers themselves, like 4, 5 and 6. But there is certainly no extra detail. OK, so even though the specifications didn’t
live up to their claims, in fact I’d go so far as to say that a VHS based camcorder
could probably produce superior results, at least with the video aspect of the device,
despite that, these devices were still pretty cool because they were small enough to fit
in your pocket and they were also cheap enough that you could carry them with you wherever
you wanted without worrying about them getting broken or stolen. And, it was super convenient to be able to
record directly to SD cards. As a result, I have a lot of videos and still
photos from the time period that I would not have otherwise had. And while many people laughed at me for carrying
around what was essentially a kids toy, complaining about the video quality, the reality is the
best camera to use is the one you have with you. Today, that’s your smart phone. But 13 years ago, for me at least, it was
this device. I often had it with me and so I got a lot
of video of my daughter and other family events that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, even
if the quality isn’t super great. One interesting tidbit though… It has a jack that doubles as a headphone
jack or composite video jack. When connected to an old CRT television, the
video quality actually looks surprisingly good, since the resolution is lower on the
TV, it hides a lot of the artifacts. So, for playing back your videos in this manner,
it wasn’t bad. I’d say this product is the 21st century
equivalent of the Fisher Price PIXL camera from the 1980s, or the Tyco Camera from the
1990s that I reviewed a while back. And was actually sold for around the same
price as what you would have paid for the Tyco camera back then. So, this product sort of rides the line between
a kids toy and a real camcorder. Well, I hope you enjoyed seeing this little
piece of forgotten technology, that really wasn’t all that long ago in comparison to
a lot of the videos I do. The first nail in the coffin for devices like
this was probably around 2007 when a lot of name brand manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic
started making memory based camcorders that used SD cards, then I think the final nail
in the coffin was when all of the smart phones started to have video recording capability. I mean, after all, if everybody already has
a video recording device in their pocket, there’s not much market for a separate device
to do that. Anyway, so that about wraps it up. So, as always, thanks for watching.




Comments
  1. Oh I remember them and cameras..
    I had a Fuji s3500 (3.5mp) that I shot a wedding on in 2003/5. I went out and got a pro camera all of 6mp.
    The Interpol was always what people went by, it was in the early phones. I recall a *120 Rez on one I think 70 was the other number.

    2mp was okay for small photos it wasn't till you get to 3 that you could really print. But the consumer way, was more megapixel, on the same size sensor that ended up making them worse.

    The early SD card would barely make TV (500*) and would often be less. They had artifacts in doors in reasonable light. I got so cheesed off, that I went out and got a real video camera (miniDV).

    The small camera in the video style, were often sold as cameras not video cameras, at the same time video was being added to cameras and just coming off clip only recording.

    NB. Just sold my mini DV camera and bought another pro mini DV and did a comparison of pro and newer HD tech on my channel. I'll do a better one later…

    The turn of the millennium doesn't actually seem that long ago to me.

  2. That moment when an item you bought NEW finally makes it onto 8-Bit Guy…well, the Polaroid version…getting old

  3. +adric AIPTEK was pushing the state of the art in affordability with the ISDV series. As of 14 May 2019 I've the problems of (1) upgrading a KYOCERA® C6530N to date/time stamp new JPEGs (the function is not available in the stock Camera app); and (2) replacing an entire lens assembly on a SONY® DSC-HX1 (the stock unit is seized in the deployed position, may have been dropped in use).

  4. I have no "smart" phone yet. Currently a $16/mo flip phone and an Aiptek HD with 3x optical zoom for home video & stills.
    The drone rig has a 4K gimbal cam and when flying I record the ground view with a cheap action cam.

  5. i like your videos but why iPhones and apple stuff just why do you use things from apple which screws it's consumers over and over again

  6. this is super cool! i have an aiptek 1.3 PENCAM 1.3M SD from 2003 or thereabouts and it also takes great still shots in ideal conditions—a japanese photographer showed it off here https://lab.hendigi.com/aiptek-pencam-1-3m-sd/

  7. You COULD get decent video quality from a digital stills camera in 2005. I used to have a Canon Ixus 50 (Powershot SD400 in the US) that took 640×480 Videos at 30 fps but with around 400€ back then it was a pretty expensive "toy"

  8. Have to disagree with the statement that smartphones where not out by 2005. The Motorola a1000 was out in 2004 and featured video calling and a touch screen as well as 3g,, it was quite capable also compared to the first iPhone.

  9. You could use ffmpeg to convert the container with mpeg4 passthrough. The software you were using probably did a re-encode lowering the quality even further. Not that it would be that much better lol.

  10. I still rememeber owning one of these cameras as a kid….. It broke because the lens shattered when I dropped it😢…. I also owned it for abt 2 years….

  11. My mom used to have one of these.
    I tore it apart to see what it runs internally. (I found an UART port on the board)
    It runs some kind of RT-OS (using DOS-like drive letters) with a shell on the UART. So I connected a modified Nokia data cable to the respective pins and started poking around.

    I found a command called "mp3on" which enabled a MP3 playback feature which actually kind of worked (although the internal speakers were not soo great for this lol)

  12. definitely not forgotten..I used this camera in my 11th and 12th grade years in highschool for it's mp3 uses and camera capabilities, I still have alot of the images on photobucket still.

  13. I genuinely remember wanting to make films as 10 year old, and constantly scouring for a camera that would be both practical and economical, so that it could be bought for me. Looking back I realise what a sink hole of technology the 2005 era was D: I now have one less regret in life. Thanks 8-BIt Guy. 37,643 to go!

  14. My aunt bought the SONY DSC-P73 camera back in 2005 when she visited London and that camera had a 4mp sensor and 640×480 resolution video and the video was similar in quality like your old camcorder.

  15. well, nokia phones were smartfones in those days, they had Symbian os. Also the camera in those phones was very good . I'm saying this because you listed in the video the motorola razr v3 which is a 2004 pone with the worst camera ever lol

  16. 4 months ago?!?!?!? How come it just popped in my recommendations/home tab 😠 darn YT and its retarded (literally) notifications!
    No wonder I thought "why hasnt 8-bit-guy uploaded in like 6 month's"? Arrgg.

  17. I feel like I had one of these (briefly) because I remember the styling of it and I do remember having an Aiptek of some sort — and yes I pronounced it the same way you did (like Ape Tech). I think maybe mine was dead on arrival though because I'm sure that I never used it. My first videos which remain were from an old Flip Mini camera (not even the HD version) which was a dead simple point and shoot video camera with surprisingly decent video and alright sound.

  18. honestly i kinda want one of those, haven't heard of a 24fps camcorder before,

    I could shoot a really cool dogme film with that!

  19. I had some crap stuff for recording it worked no one else had one. Sad that I lost almost all from it should of backed up hard drive died.

  20. Sounds like it's about the same as a Jazz DV140. You can still get those new in Wal-Marts, though they do have a few less features.

  21. It's nice to nice on how old school Camcorders worked. I recently picked up a Samsung SC-DC173U DVD Camcorder for $5. But the only problem is that I need to pick up a AC Adpater for it and potentially a new 🔋

  22. I used to have this when going trekking some mountains the videos and pictures is CRISP.
    .
    too bad it was stolen.

  23. Yo tengo una genius G-Shot DV 813 muy interesante peron no buena para interiores. Es de 4.0 mega pixels y esta aclarado en las espwcificaciones tecnicas quw alcanza 8.3 interpolados

  24. 1:54 I don't think you have the proper perspective on the MiniDV and MiniDVD camcorders. Their quality was great, compared to VHS-C. Their size was smaller than VHS-C. They had the ability to hook up to a computer and copy the videos to your local drive. Not having good cell cameras, you still needed a camera or camcorder, and these were great. They recorded NTSC, which everything recorded at the time. Yes, they were a separate device, but at the time, you used a separate device, and some MiniDV camcorders were exceptionally small.
    But yes, you are right. The Aiptek in your pocket beats the Sony on your dresser. Having it on you meant you got the memories.

  25. As far as the FPS test: It's possible the program you used to covert the videos or even Final Cut Pro itself, upon import, reformatted the files in such a way to double up frames.

  26. "Best camera to use is the one you have with you" and really, great words! =)

    Thank you for the video!

  27. I remember buying a refurbished Pocket DV 3100 from Aiptek's website around 2006, and being really happy with it before I lost it. I also purchased a numbero of GO-HD variants over the years. I hope the news about them going out of business isn't true

  28. I got my first digital camera in 2005 for my 22nd birthday and it had 8 megapixels. So 6 megapixels wasn't too far off for that era.

  29. To tell the truth, the fact that it takes fairly decent pictures reminds me of my second digital camera – that still works to this day: my Nikon Coolpix 2100. It took great quality pictures, but the movies it shot were awful.

  30. I had the AIPTEK Pencam and also one like yours, different model. It’s somewhere in my closet so I can’t remember exact model but the Pencam is still sitting in my desk. I thought I was only one who remember this company.

  31. I had TWO Aiptek Hi Speed HD cameras 2007 — 2009! I bought them from a home tools shop for ca 100 euros each. It looked really cheap those days. I used to use a MiniDV camera which cost 1000 euros (and I spent this money when I was still a poor student in 2001!) with SD resolution. But 2007 I bought a tiny Aiptek camera and this had 720p HD resolution! It was amazing. The main problem was the SD cards were really tiny, the biggest one was ca 9 GB and it was pretty hard to record some longer video.
    Another problem was the camera didn`t like wet and broke down soon in Estonian weather.

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