The Skinny On My $30 Drugstore Camcorder

I’ve received a few emails from folks wondering where I got a camcorder for $30? A little explanation is necessary, because it’s not quite that simple.

CVS and Rite Aid (among others), sell minimalistic camcorders made by Pure Digital. This camcorder has just a few controls – record, play, delete. There’s no fast forward or rewind and no ability to review or delete what you’ve recorded, except the last shot you took.

The camcorders are advertised as one-time-use. The idea is, you shoot your video and then return the camcorder to the store where, for some more money, they’ll plunk it on a DVD. They they recycle the camcorder.

Someone, much wiser than me, figured if the drugstore can get your video off, so can you! You need a special cable (make it yourself or buy it online) and special software.

None of this is particularly difficult, but when seen in the aggregate, it’s a complex process best suited to nerds and geeks.

Finally, after all that is done, you need to download and install the XVid codec. Without that, the video is invisible to your PC.

So, $30 camcorder – yes. But, there’s a lot of work after you give CVS or Rite Aid your cash.

Here’s the ‘hangout‘ for all the people using these. Unfortunately, the good info is poorly organized and hidden within rambling conversations and pleas for help.

All this being said, you might ask why am I using this little POS&#185 camcorder? Simply, it forces me to concentrate on the basics. I have to think about every shot. There’s no zooming. With a relatively long lens, panning is prohibitively shaky. On top of that, you can only capture about 25 minutes of video.

It is a challenge, plain and simple. That’s the fun!

&#185 – In reality, the camcorder is very solidly built and the video quality is superb.

The $30 Camcorder

I am too much of a geek for my own good. I can’t look at any kind of technology without wanting to play.

It’s a sickness. It’s my sickness. Maybe there’s tech rehab?

Within the past few weeks I’ve bought a wireless remote to help with some PowerPoint presentations I’ll be giving, a USB Bluetooth dongle and a $30 camcorder.

The AirClick USB remote control works perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased. Hopefully tomorrow, when I administer “Death by PowerPoint,” it will serve me well.

The drivers for the Bluetooth dongle&#185 will not install in my Windows Vista laptop. The dongle is made by some anonymous Chinese company that isn’t answering my emails… of course they might not speak English.

I bought the dongle with the intention of using my Bluetooth headset with Vista’s new voice recognition technology. Meanwhile, the dongle currently has paperweight status.

I’ve just begun to play with the $30 camcorder. This is a more interesting story and really does play to my geek spirit.

CVS, Rite Aide and a few other places sell one-time-use camcorders for $30. They record 20 minutes of reasonably decent quality video with no tape necessary. For another $15, or so, the drugstore will download your video and burn it on a DVD.

The camcorder itself is a little bit larger than a pack of cigarettes and easily fits in your pocket. There are few controls and no zoom lens and a nice 1.5″ LCD screen on the back. It’s basic.

I said it was a one-time-use camera, and that certainly was the manufacturer’s intention… but there’s the Internet. Hackers have figured out how to accomplish what the drugstores do – offload the video and reset the recorder for reuse.

Though I probably could have soldered it myself, I bought a cable on EBay from a guy in Syracuse. $17 (with shipping) and my camcorder is complete! I’ll post some video samples a little later.

It’s not like I need this camcorder. We have a perfectly good Samsung DV recorder at home with a nice zoom lens and excellent video quality.

This camcorder is a challenge. That’s what the geek life is all about… at least to me. I will not allow the technological world to pass me by.

&#185 – I didn’t make up this name, but it does sound positively filthy, doesn’t it?