The pocket camcorder market has enjoyed successes over the past year, more recently taking the step up to high definition and offering better overall quality and performance than many mobile phones would offer. Medion have now joined the race with the Life S47000, an all-weather pocketable which appears to be a reskinned DXG model.
To differentiate itself from the likes of the popular Flip Ultra HD models or Creative's Vado HD, the S47000 pitches itself as a sports camcorder, offering a degree of protection against the ingress of moisture. Despite this, the dimensions are still relatively compact measuring 65 x 105 x 23mm.
The overall design makes it comfortable in the hand and it looks good too, with sporty touches like the top attachment point a practical consideration. Grip seemed secure enough too thanks to the profile of the black trim edging the camera, although we'd have perhaps chosen to make the main recording button a touch larger to make it more appealing to those using gloves. The bottom of the camcorder has a standard tripod mount.
The S47000 offers a usable internal memory of 85MB, which equates to less than a minute of video capture. Your main memory option is provided by the SD card slot hiding under the flap on the side, sharing the same bay as the rechargeable li-ion battery. A memory card is not provided, so you'll have to consider one at the point of purchase.
In terms of accessories in the box, the S47000 really does Medion credit, expect for the lack of SD card of course. You get the camcorder itself and the battery, the battery charger and a case. On top of this you get an HDMI cable, AV cable, USB cable and a set of headphones, which rounds out the package nicely.
The camcorder therefore offers connection points for all these cables, with the mini variety of HDMI lurking under a flap along with the AV/USB connection. You don't get an onboard USB plug proper like the flip offered but the trade-off is a more compact overall package.
A 3.5mm headphone jack will let you check the quality of the recorded audio, or playback your movies without disturbing others, but it doesn't let you do live monitoring of the audio – it's a playback feature only. And before you get excited, no, it doesn't double as an external mic input.
The screen on the back is 2-inches, so you have plenty of space to see what you are doing and watch back your movies. It will playback MOV files from other cameras as well as view JPGs from the SD card, but we found the folder interpretation was rather random. Dumping MP3 files in a Music folder will mean you can playback tracks as well, so if you need something to keep you entertained whilst sitting on the chairlift, this should sort you out.
On the back you get a central four-way controller, with the main record button in the centre. A Mode button lets you switch between playback and recording, with a power and delete button for erasing files. Menu entry is toggled through a simultaneous press of the Mode and Del buttons.
Menu choices are kept to a minimum, which keeps things simple. You get regional options so you can switch between NTSC and PAL and 50 or 60Hz, set the date or format the memory, but chances are you'll not touch these options once the camera is set-up.
Video capture is fixed at 1280 x 720 pixels, so qualifies as HD, if not earning the Full HD tag. You don't get the option to turn down the resolution, but its unlikely to deter anyone and does save you from accidentally recording at settings lower than optimum. The output is 16:9, so it will fit nicely on your HDTV at home via the HDMI.
It is a fixed focus camera, which does limit your creative options, but suits recording on the fly. There is no option for macro focus like on the Kodak Zi8, so you won't be able to get too close, but for everyday shooting that might not be a problem. A digital zoom gives you 2x zoom, but as with most digital zooms, you probably want to leave it alone.
Startup is relatively fast, so you'll be recording in about 2 seconds. The S47000 copes with changing light conditions fairly well, but as with most camcorders of this ilk, there is a slight delay as it adjusts from dark to light. It is a F/2.8 max aperture lens, so low light performance is pretty standard for this class of camcorder. Shadow noise is prominent and noise shows all over as the light drops.
The S47000 records at a fairly solid 30fps, so the results are generally fairly smooth and free from judder. Purple fringing and highlight blowout seem to be the biggest problems that the camera faces in normal shooting conditions, with high contrast scenes presenting the biggest problem, but that's no different to rival devices.
Quality is good overall, giving you a noticeable boost over the VGA offering of most mobile phones give you. Colours are reasonable, perhaps lacking the punch that the Flip HD offered, but supplying vibrancy and definition.
Audio capture is generally good, with some noise coming in from manipulation of the S47000 in the hand. The range on the mic is limited, meaning that audio capture drops off over distance but works fairly well for close subjects. The mic is exposed, however, so wind noise will soon blight things.
We managed to get a couple of hours from the battery, which is average for this class of camcorder.
Overall we were impressed with the performance of the S47000. If offers a slightly different proposition to some rivals, giving a touch of environmental proofing and a complete package in the box that comes in at an affordable price, offering better value for money than rivals.
Music and JPG support means that you can do a little more than on some other devices. The move away from the convenience of the type of device that comes with an integral USB connector is perhaps less of an issue because of the use of an SD card.
Sure, better quality HD or Full HD video is offered by some of the more expensive rivals, but at under £100, the Medion Life S47000 looks like a winner.