Digital video–cheap and easy

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Surprise: Digital video can be cheap and easy. The new Point & Shoot video camera from Pure Digital, also sold as the RCA Small Wonder, costs about $130, putting it at the low end of digital cams. Unlike other camcorders, it won't take still pictures, settings can't be tweaked, and it has no optical zoom.

Ah, but there's the beauty┬ľsimplicity. It runs on AA batteries, is about the size of a compact still camera, and has only four buttons. One is for power, another is marked "play," and a third "delete." The fourth is an unmarked red button. Yup, for recording. There also is a four-way rocker pad that did take some fiddling to figure out. It's for queuing up recorded videos, adjusting playback volume, or using the digital zoom.

Skip the zoom, as it just degrades image quality, and the video isn't great to begin with. The Pure Digital version records in VGA quality, which looks decent on a standard TV set if not as good as more expensive cams. RCA's version has less memory, meaning its images look a bit less sharp than Pure Digital's when played directly on a TV (cables are included for connecting to a television) ┬ľ but RCA's claims better battery life.

Either holds only 30 minutes of video, meaning this camera isn't about making high-quality epics. This gem is for grabbing a few minutes of your toddler dancing crazily and sending it quickly by E-mail.

That's where this recorder truly shines. A USB connector plugs into a Windows PC or Mac and automatically uploads software (it takes a couple of extra clicks on the Mac) that itself is a summit of simplicity, allowing you to resize videos for E-mail or download them to your PC for editing with another program.

But if you're serious enough to edit video, get a better videocam. The Point & Shoot is for grabbing fun moments on the run. And if you trip and drop the thing, there isn't so much at stake.