Review: disgo Video Plus

A new video device

Video PlusA couple of weeks ago I saw a short news item on Tech Digest, which mentioned a new handheld USB camcorder called the disgo Video Plus (also mentioned on Shiny Shiny and Slashgear). Something similar has been available in the US since last year – the Pure Digital Flip Video – but that product is not available in the UK. The disgo camera has a flip-out screen which the Flip Video does not have, but in other respects they seem very similar.

I’ve been experimenting a little bit recently with video. This device seemed neat – it plugs in directly via USB and is aimed at YouTube-quality, quick video capture. The only thing I was concerned about was that according to the specifications, it didn’t support the Mac… unlike the Flip Video, which has full Mac and Windows support, the disgo product is only listed as compatible with Windows. I contacted disgo’s support team and had an excellent conversation via email where we established that it should just be a USB Mass Storage device, and I might have to do some fiddling to get the AVIs to play on the Mac, but I was willing to give that a try.

Impressions of the Video Plus itself

The camera is extremely neat. It takes 2 x AA batteries (a pair are supplied), comes with a soft carry case, and apart from that… it’s ready to go. The height is less than the size of my hand from the base of the palm to my fingertips, and it is about the same width as a classic iPod. It’s light, too.

ScreenThere’s a 1.5 inch screen (which, incidentally, is really nice and clear) that flips out sideways to enable you to see yourself if the camera is pointing at you – it doesn’t rotate on the axis, though. On the back there are a few buttons: on/off; play/pause; delete (which enables individual clips to be deleted on the device itself); a four way next/zoom/volume button; and a big red button to start or stop a recording. And that’s about it – this is simple stuff.

On one side there is the battery compartment, an SD/MMC card slot which will take up to a 2Gb SD card, and a slider which when pressed causes the USB connector to slide out of the top of the camera to the right of the lens. On the other side there’s a switch to choose between high quality or long play recording, and an A/V connector for hooking up to a TV. There’s a tripod screw connector on the base, and a mystery port on the top with a rubber cover, that I’ve not identified just yet.

It was dead simple to get going – switch on, hit record, and start making video clips. The onboard memory will store 30 minutes of video at high quality, or 60 minutes at lower quality; beyond that, you can obviously add an SD card to expand the capacity.

Using the disgo Video Plus with OS X

There was no CD in the box, and I’ve not plugged the camera into a Windows PC. When I plugged it into my MacBook, it appeared as a USB drive called ‘disgo’ on the desktop.

disgoVideo-1.jpg

Interestingly, although the disgo website does not say that the device is supported on OS X, the ReadMe.txt file included on the disgo’s internal memory does give information about how to access the video files (i.e. you can get them from the DCIM/100VIDEO folder you can see in the screenshot). It is not clear whether files on an SD card plugged into the camera will be able to be read in the same manner – I suspect possibly not, and that I might have to use an external SD card reader, but I’ve yet to try it.

The AVI files played without problems in Quicktime on Leopard. Thinking about it, I did have all kinds of codecs installed already – the camera appears to record an XVID video track at 640×480 resolution, with an mpga audio track – so I may just have been lucky, and it might be necessary to find the right codecs before this will work for anyone else. The files would not, of course, load into iMovie, since that application does not recognise AVI files.

The solution is very simple – transcode to a more Mac-friendly format like a .MOV file or MPEG. The free option for doing this is ffmpegX, but you can also use VisualHub, which I’d previously bought for other purposes and is rather more user-friendly than ffmpegX. Once I’d done that, I was able to use iMovie ’08 to quickly edit together a movie. iMovie ’08 is quirky, and possibly less functional than the previous version, but actually it was ideal for this kind of rapid editing.

Availability

The disgo Video Plus is available via Currys in the UK or direct from disgo.

More photos on Flickr.

Final thoughts

There’s only one way to do this, really…

(I’ve also put this on YouTube)

Update: rebranding, and Windows software

My friend Heidi notes in the comments below that the camera is available in the US as the RCA Small Wonder EZ201. According to this ZDNet review, the original Small Wonder was based on the same technology as the Flip Video, but now RCA have tried to differentiate more (which they seem to have done, in adding the flip screen etc.). However, as we established above, although the ZDNet article claims that this is not Mac-compatible, and the manufacturer doesn’t supply software for the Mac, it seems to work.

The Windows software is on the device itself (remember, I said there was no CD in the box). Inserting the camera into the USB slot on an XP machine, it appeared in My Computer as a USB device called disgo, and when I right-clicked there was an option “Manage your videos” which started the software. It has a few simple features – a grid or list view to access the AVIs and play them; the ability to grab a single frame as a .bmp or .jpg; a section for “editing” i.e. using just part of a clip, or splicing clips together; and a section to email your video to a friend. I’ve added a screenshot on Flickr.

Update: SD card support and UK retailers

I’ve now tried plugging an SD card in. This is treated as an additional device. When you first plug the SD card in the camera copies its software to the card and creates a directory structure. When you then plug the camera into the computer, it continues to see the internal USB flash memory as the storage device, but if you then press the red button while it is connected to the computer the device vanishes (nasty unsafe device removal message), and then the SD card gets mounted instead. So it does work with OS X, but not entirely seamlessly.

Oh, and it looks like Amazon UK have the same device, but branded a Busbi BUSVP0010R Video Plus (and looking at the Busbi site, it looks like they and disgo are the same company since they are both handled by cleverstuff.ie).

Update: other reviews

Paul Knight has done a very detailed video review including a comparison with other cameras including DV tape, and an excellent screencast of how to get the disgo working with a Mac. Shiny Shiny have a short review on YouTube, too.

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16 responses to “Review: disgo Video Plus

  1. hows the TV output.. the discgo specs list it as having the ability to push directly out to TV… the main reason being I’m looking for a small cheap camera to record my practice sessions for my magic.. normally you point.. record, monitor on a TV, and play back to watch it and pick up any mistakes etc.. The video quality certainly looks good..

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  2. Ah, that’s one thing I’ve not yet tested. Thanks for that, I’ll give it a try later.

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  3. I just sent you a direct message about the camera I mentioned seeing at the bookstore earlier. You’ll have to tell me what you think, but I think it looks almost exactly like this one. It’s cheaper than the Flip Video too. No wonder why I said I liked it earlier, I already liked it someplace else.

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  4. @heidi – you sent me a link to the RCA EZ201 Small Wonder which does, indeed, appear to be identical to this one. In fact I’m fairly sure the disgo is just a rebranded version of that camera, since there’s a reference to EZ201 somewhere in the manual, I think. It’s a little cheaper in the US than the disgo goes for in the UK, too.

    @naquada I tried it on the TV last night and the quality is OK – about as good as I might have expected from a 640×480 image scaled to fit a 28″ TV anyway.

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  5. … I just plugged it into a Windows laptop for the first time and it identified itself as a EZ201. Bingo.

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  6. Well then, being a Windows user myself, that might just be the camcorder for me 🙂 Not looking for anything too fancy anyway, assuming Alex lets me buy one…we’ve bought a lot of little gadgets here over Christmas time.

    In the store the price was about $100, which I didn’t think was too bad. Looks a little cheaper on Amazon, but I didn’t check to see if shipping was free for that item. I liked the size of it, and I did play around with the flip screen and recording with the store model, all seemed to be pretty nice features.

    I’m glad I remembered the model when I came home!

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  7. Well this product seem so great.

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  8. Thanks so much for adding the comments on my blog, it’s appreciated.
    May be what we should do is set up a disgo group in Ning or something, and have colaborations and or a community? These little toys are amazing.

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  9. Hey Paul. It makes more sense to create a disgo/Busbi group on Viddler maybe. I’ll look at doing that for a start.

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  11. Joseph Galliano

    Hi Andy,
    I wonder if you can help me?
    I’ve got the Disgo, lovely little thing that it is, but I can only get it to download the pictures to my mac – It’s not bringing any sound with it. I can get it to play in Quicktime, Real PLayer, DImx et al – but all soundless!
    Best wishes

    Joe

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  14. Hi, I’ve had a Disgo Plus since 2008 which was fine until I got Windows 7. Ive been told its now an end of life product so cant launch it on windows. Im not a techno wiz and dont understand about codecs. Someone said they might be missing but Im lost! Is there anyway i can still use this camcorder. Thanks

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