Approximate time to read: 5 minutes
Selling itself as the “world’s smallest digital video recorder” the Xenta Mini Videocamera is indeed small, measuring just 55 x 18 x 21mm. Made of black, glossy plastic the build quality is not very good, it has to be said. There are 3 buttons – power, start/stop and mode. The device has it’s own internal battery (non replaceable) which is charged via a provided mini USB cable. Xenta stated that the battery should run for an hour after a charge.
The camera sensor is a relatively low 1.3 MP with a video resolution is 720 x 480 (framerate of 30 fps). Files are created in .AVI format and stored on Micro SD (not included). Sadly, it only supports cards up to 8GB, so you’re restricted to recordings totalling up to about 2 hours 15 minutes in length per card. Camera stills can be taken at a resolution of 1280 x 1024.
In the box is the camera, mini USB cable, software CD, silicon cover, wrist strap (which loops through a raised section on the back of the camera) and 3 different mounts…
- The first mount has a clip on the back – useful for attaching to clothing, for instance. This should be one of the most useful but I found the clip to be loose (it’s possible to tighten it but it’s very difficult to do) and after not many uses the top section, which grips the top of the camera, snapped.
- The second mount connects to the first and converts the clip to a wall mount with omni-directional movement (the box shows this being placed on the front of a monitor to use it as a webcam). There are 2 screw holes for more permanent mounting but a sticky pad could equally be used.
- The third mount also has screw holes but provides a simple vertical hinge – why you would use this in preference to the second one isn’t obvious.
The aforementioned silicon cover is a nice idea but once fitted on the camera it doesn’t allow any of the mounts to be added – essentially it can only be used when the camera is handheld. It’s not comfortable or easy holding it in the hand, making the cover pretty redundant.
A CD is provided which contains software for Windows and a digital copy of the instructions in Word format ((which doesn’t make it every universal!)). There are no download links for this software on Xenta’s website and the CD is of the Mini variety. These don’t work with slot-loading drives, which is what most Mac owners will have, for instance. The box states that the camera works with Mac and Linux as well as Windows, which is true – just be aware that the provided webcam software, though, doesn’t.
Packaging, it comes in a relatively compact package but get beyond the outer cardboard box and you’re presented with two layers of plastic box, with individual items plastic bagged and, in the case of the cable, secured further with a tie. There’s a small paper manual. And let’s discuss that manual. Obviously translated from another language, it’s a hard slog – the translation is poor and it’s very difficult to understand. If Xenta are going to be pushing more of their products directly to the UK market, they really need to improve on this as, for me, it’s one of the biggest issues with this item.
One thing that is, it has to be said, quite hilarious is the ability to set the time on the device. To do this you have to add the current time into a text file (provided on the CD) and transfer that to the SD card. When the device is turned on it will set the time according to the text file. However, this file is then deleted and turning off the Xenta loses the time settings – basically, if you want your video time marked then you will need to update this file EACH time you switch it on. No thank you.
So, how is it used? You use the power button to turn the device on – lights on the front indicate status. Once one, pressing the power button once causes a still photo to be taken. Holding it down will turn it off. The start/stop button on top does, well, just that – starts and stops the video capability. The third button, mode, allows you to use “sound control video”. Basically, this means the camera will only record video when a sound is heard – it records for a minimum of 2 minutes each time until sound has stopped. This is useful for setting the camera up for security monitoring. However, there’s no way of controlling the sensitivity of sound that activates this so with sufficient background noise it wouldn’t switch off.
In use the camera isn’t particularly intuitive – different combinations of buttons and flashing lights to indicate what is going on. Also without any kind of screen it’s impossible to know where the camera is facing. The buttons too are fiddly and it’s difficult to read the symbols and text next to them in anything but good light.
Most importantly, what’s the quality like? Further below is a video I put together showing it in use in some different situations. In good light the video quality isn’t too bad with a sound quality to match. In poor light (the wooded scene in the video, for instance) it struggles. Still photos (examples also below), however, are particularly poor, especially considering the resolution is higher than the video.
The other way that this can be used is as a webcam, by connecting the camera to your PC via the provided USB cable. The provided software (Windows only) is named VideoPower and allows you to take static pictures and video. The software looks very old-fashioned and the options available are very limited. It allows you to take pictures at 8 MP (so I’m assuming that’s interpolated) and 480K videos in AVI format. Video recording turned out to be an issue as the audio was time-shifted – that is, it was a second or more out from the video. A video below shows it in use, although I’ve compensated manually for this audio issue.
I can see 2 instances where this device would be useful…
- Security. Set it up on a wall, use the sound control setting and it will record whenever a sound happens. It’s a shame there isn’t a similar setting for only recording when movement is detected.
- Driving. Set up on the dash with one of the mounts this would be useful for recording car journeys ((no, I don’t get it but it’s a very popular things to do!!)). If they’d included a simple windscreen mount then I suspect they’d sell them in their droves, as this would be a cheap method of doing this.
The following demonstrates the video recording capabilities of the Xenta…
The following is a recording taken with the VideoPower software using the Xenta as a webcam…
Still Photo Examples
Let’s be clear about this – it’s poorly built with serious limitation of storage and quality. However, currently just £19.95 at eBuyer it’s not very pricey either. If you have a particular need for a product such as this and the video quality is sufficient then it’s quite a bargain.
Disclosure of gift - I received this product at a discounted price in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.