With increased accessibility it is now easier than ever to capture memorable moments wherever we go. Most mobile phones offer embedded still and video cameras, as do the current wave of tablets sweeping the country. However, huddling around a small screen, dealing with glare and short battery life can diminish the fun of group sharing.
3M’s latest product is an excellent attempt to simplify the rigmarole of sharing digital photos and movies with colleagues, friends and family. As its name suggests—there’s no ambiguity here—3M’s Camcorder Projector CP45 (£299.99) is just that: a digital camcorder and DLP projector all-in-one. Think of it as mash-up between a Kodak Playsport and Flip Mino HD.
Designed for consumers, businesses and gadget-savvy audiences (hence the high-gloss white finish), the CP45 is compact (125x61x24mm, 190g) yet manages to cram in a decent quality mobile projector and digital camorder that captures HD videos (720p) and 5-Megapixel stills at the touch of a button.
The 5-Megapixel sensor can also deliver 3- or 8-Megapixel digital stills, and there’s built-in automatic light compensation to adjust the sensitivity of the LCoS image sensor depending on the light conditions you’re shooting in. The multi-step zoom is digital rather than optical, so it’s actually best avoided.
Shoot ‘n Share
The CP45 is all about convenience and making the process of sharing digital images quick and convenient—in no way should professional digital content producers consider the CP45 a replacement to a quality digital camera, camcorder or projector.
The CP45 is impressively small and light and is certainly small enough to fit into a pocket or handbag. Indeed, it has a similar footprint to the majority of smartphones currently available—albeit bulkier and heavier. It is also capable of projecting a 10- to 65-inch image at 20 lumens brightness on virtually any flat surface (wall, ceiling, whiteboard etc)—a decent performance by Pico projector standards. No downloading, no syncing, no waiting for warming up and cooling down—just press a button to start the show.
Featuring a 2.4-inch integrated display, 2GB of internal storage and a microSD memory card slot for additional expansion (up to 32GB), the CP45 also boasts a built-in microphone, mono speaker, USB 2.0 port (for transferring files to and from a computer), 3.5mm AV input (for receiving composite video and stereo audio signals via the provided adapter), and a mini HDMI output (no cable supplied).
Regular PC users should note that’s there’s no straightforward way to connect the CP45 to a computer (no VGA or DVI), but it can be done with the right adapters. Videos and images are captured in MPEG-4 (H.264) and JPEG formats, though popular file formats supported using the bundled software include AVI, ASF, DAT. MOV, MPG, MPEG, MPE, RMVB, WMV, PPT and PPS.
You’ll struggle to get through a whole movie on a single charge as the CP45’s fixed lithium-ion battery is good for just 1.5 hours—enough to shoot up to 1,000 still photos or 25 minutes of video using its 2GB internal memory. Of course, this can be upped by reducing the capture resolution or slotting in a memory card. Projection time is claimed at 100 minutes, though you shouldn’t expect more than 90 minutes out of the device with the brightness turned up.
Operating the CP45 is a little trickier than I’d have liked, due to the built-in screen/viewfinder being just 2.4-inches wide, which is small compared to modern smartphones, and the ambiguous menu system doesn’t make it clear which of the unit’s 10 soft-touch buttons you’re supposed to press. If there was ever a device that begged for a large touchscreen, this is it!
Thankfully there’s a dedicated on/off switch on the side of the projector to minimise accidental operation and the expansion ports are sealed with protective flip-open covers. On the underside of the projector is a thread for screwing the unit horizontally to an optional tripod, a necessity for movie playback.
Image quality is reasonable from the CP45’s 5-Megapixel camera and 720p videos are perfectly suitable for YouTube. Disappointingly, the projector’s maximum output resolution of 800×600 is at odds to its 1280×720 capture (720p), so videos are never displayed at full resolution. Furthermore, the 4:3 aspect ratio restricts image projection and isn’t as appealing as the widescreen format we’re accustomed to.
The CP45 isn’t the brightest projector either, so you’re going to need a darkened room to get the best from it—using it in a daylit room is fruitless. In reality it produces perfectly adequate image quality and only tech buffs will be left wanting.
The biggest criticism of the CP45 is that there are plenty of smartphones that capture better quality videos right up to Full HD (1080p). Having said that, 3M’s Camcorder Projector CP45 might just be the most fun way to capture and share footage of your kid’s school play, your best friend’s wedding or your family holiday. You’ll have to have a really specific need to justify its cost as a business expense.
To succeed in this extremely competitive market, 3M needs to up the camera resolution and projection resolution to Full HD, as well as include a much larger (and touchscreen) display and better connectivity. Only then will it really appeal.