Money Supermarket is always a great place for fun blogger challenges. After challenging us to give of one of the rooms at The Madhouse a mini makeover with a maximum budget of £50 in the Room For Improvement blogger challenge, they also asked us if we'd like to review one of their shortlisted top budget travel accessories. They explain : "We want to find out which cheaper travel gadgets can live up to their more expensive counterparts. [...] Each blogger will be asked to review one of the market's most frugal, yet effective travel gadgets from a selection of the top 5 most packed holiday tech items, so we can see which cheaper alternatives should be getting packed in suitcases in 2013!"
There was a choice between a tablet, an mp3 player, an e-reader, a portable DVD player or a camcorder. I almost went for the tablet but in the end decided to go for the camcorder as it also doubles up as a camera and is designed to make sharing photos and videos online a piece of cake - ideal for a blogger then.
The model that we received is the Philips Esee HD CAM295BL Pocket Camcorder. It is slightly larger than a mobile phone but small enough and light enough to sit snugly in your hand. At first view, I would actually think it was a first generation mobile phone rather than a camcorder because it's so compact.
The instruction booklet is extremely simple - worryingly so in fact, because it makes it look incredibly basic ! - but it is really easy to get to grips with intuitively, without reading the manual.
It flips open and, as soon as you switch it on the first time, asks you to set up the date and time.
After choosing the language, you just use the tactile screen to follow the prompts - I thought the screen felt a bit flimsy and was worried I needed to push too hard but it seemed to survive ok. It's certainly simple to set up.
And you're ready to go ! The screen pivots so you can film in whichever direction you want. There's a button to switch between the video or photo option, which again is really simple to work, so it would be ideal for teens or anyone who's never used a digital camera before.
Quality wise, for the photos and videos, I was impressed. The 3" screen makes it easy to see what's in shot and, if you're a "point and click" kind of photographer (as I am), it does a lot of things for you, such as automatic white balance and exposure, flash, auto focus, face and smile detection (which sounds great, whatever that is !). If you like to play around with your photos, there are some effects that you can add - Normal, Sepia, Black and White, Negative, Seventies, Analogue, Colour filter. For the videos, there is also a very clever feature that can be turned on so that you record in dual format simultaneously - high resolution (1080p) for watching on a HD TV or lower resolution (240p) for sending by email without having to compress it.
Now, be honest, how many times have you had to rummage all over the house to find the camera charger ? Quite a few, if it's anything like our house ! Well, one handy feature of this camcorder is that it has a USB plug built-in that flips out so that you can plug it straight into your computer to charge or transfer files.
While it does hold itself in place by itself, it doesn't look very safe so you'd be better off propping it up on a book or box next to the computer while it charges ... especially as it can take a whopping five and a half hours for it to charge fully.
As this is a budget item, costing a very reasonable £51.99, it doesn't come with any added extras, including some which are pretty much essentials. You will therefore have to buy a memory card for it - the internal memory is only enough for a few seconds of film and three or four photos - and a protective case would probably be a good investment too.
If you want a cheap and cheerful piece of kit for taking on holiday, giving to a teen interested in photography or for vlogging, you could do a lot worse. For the price, overall I'm very impressed.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £51.99
Disclosure : This is my entry for Money Supermarket's Inspect-a-Gadget blogger challenge. I received the product in order to write an honest review.
Other reviews you may be interested in :