Monday, June 7, 2010

Aiptek AHD - H12 Test

The saying “you get what you paid for” describes Aiptek’s latest digital camcorder perfectly. I purchased the AHD - H12 during Memorial Day weekend for the reasonable amount of $200. Even though I had my suspicion that, for this price, the image quality cannot be too good, I went ahead and purchased it anyway. A full HD video camera for this price was just too darn good to let it get away. I figured, if I can get a decent 720p quality out of 1080p, it was already worth it!

Upon opening the package and inspecting the physical quality of the product, I was hopeful. The AHD - H12 is a well manufactured, good quality camcorder. It is small, weights less than 3 pounds, yet feels sturdy and resembles good craftsmanship. It certainly feels and handles like a name brand and not what you would expect from a $200 no-name camera.

After turning the unit on, I remained optimistic. The screen looked amazing, and the device delivered features that are not normally expected from cameras in that price range. To name a few, the AHD – H12 features:

-          Full HD 1080p resolution at 30fps, and 1080i/720p at 60fps,
-          12x Optical Zoom,
-          Image Stabilizer, and
-          Face Detection and Tracking

    My disappointment came when I actually started using the device. The zoom, for instance, functioned at only one speed which, in my opinion, was way too fast. Nice and slow zooms, therefore, were firmly out of the question. As I was filming, I also noticed the auto-focus sometimes having trouble maintaining image sharpness. This was even noticeable on the 3” LCD screen in 1080p. Not a good sign, but I was willing to live with it, as long as the image quality remained good. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a disappointment as well.

    After recording a few daylight footages, I was eager to examine my work on the big screen. Upon uploading the files to my computer and replay them, however, I became very disillusioned. The image quality, nicely put, was barely any better than what one might expect from a standard, sub-HD video camera. Even in 1080p, the picture remained fuzzy—under optimum, daylight conditions!

    Later that night, I went out to shoot some night shots but, by then, I knew what to expect. With little light, the camera was almost worthless. The expected blurry image was further deteriorated by the bad lighting conditions, causing the auto-focus to engage in a constant struggle trying to keep the image sharp and making my night shots basically useless.

    I received my camera Friday afternoon, and Monday morning it was already on its way back to the manufacturer. Nevertheless, I am not going to trash it entirely. This camera has its good qualities: it is of sturdy construction and has some nice features. And, for this price, there will be plenty of people out there who will be willing to settle. For me, however, image quality is the only thing that matters in an HD camcorder, and in this regard the AHD - H12 failed.

    Rating: 4 / 10

    Update: Kudos for Aiptek's customer support. They are fast, efficient, and friendly. Received my refund already.

    Below is a 1080p test video I uploaded to YouTube:


    1. Nice review. Any suggestions for a decent quality at a bargain price if that's not an oxymoron.

    2. I ended up buying a Panasonic SD60, and even though it is "only" a 1080i camcorder, I was very pleased with the quality (check out my video on the Sequoia National Park).
      You can find one for around $400. Although it is close to double for what you would pay for a cheap camcorder like the Aiptek, the quality and functionality of the device will more than make up for the higher price.
      If you are willing to go higher you can buy a true 1080p camcorder that will probably serve you well for years to come.