The good news is that the Memmoir looks like a camcorder. There may not be any inspired design flare in play here, but the construction feels solid. The hinge on the flip-out display has a nice, smooth action and the touchscreen is responsive for its limited purpose. For AU$339 you won't be surprised to find that some of the slicker touches of more expensive cams are missing; the lens cover is a manual cap attached by a thin, black lanyard and the battery cover feels a bit shaky, but it should do the trick if you're careful with it when extracting the battery for charging.
All of the camera's controls are located on the back of the unit or under the side door of the touchscreen. Aside from the obligatory power button, zoom rocker and record key, the Memmoir also features a dedicated still photos shutter button, a mode switch and a five-way settings adjustment knob. One feature common to all of these buttons and switches is that they all sit loosely in their grooves, each button rattles gently when touched, which again is probably to be expected with a product at this price.
Under the lens cap you'll find the 12x optical zoom lens and an LED photo light and flash. Above the lens you'll find a stereo microphone, though there is no input for an external mic, and on the base is an attachment for a tripod shoe adapter. The Memmoir takes SD and SDHC memory cards up to Class 16 16GB cards. For connections to PC, the Memmoir has a mini-USB port with software for Windows Vista or 7 only.
Millennius makes some fairly lofty claims with the Memmoir Gold; the box the camera ships in is literally covered in numbers claiming one thing or another. There are the key promises of 1080p resolution video at 30 frames per second and 20-megapixel stills taken on a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor (meaning the camera is capable of doubling the image resolution using a software algorithm). The Memmoir features a limited range of manual controls, including a dodgy manual focus using the zoom rocker.
This is a lot of camera for the AU$339 asking price, especially when you include the 8GB SDHC card, which comes in the box. Switching between the shooting modes is simple and intuitive, and the touchscreen viewfinder offers quick access to a range of basic options: image quality and resolution, a few white balance presets, etc. The Memmoir shoots in one of six resolutions, including a range of 720p options, and you can choose from five still photo sizes as well.
Photos are taken in JPEG format, which is mostly standard, while videos are captured in a less common H.264 AVI format, a file type often used on mobile phones and compressed web videos.
Facts and figures aside, how does this budget-conscious camcorder fare in regular use? All things considered, we've been reasonably impressed with the basic quality of video. Outdoor shooting is fine, with reasonable colour reproduction and an acceptable level of image noise. In low light, the camera did a a decent job of illuminating subjects too, though the LED photo-light is a pretty useless addition. All in all, the Memmoir is great for creating YouTube videos — the video looks its best with the pixels compacted into a 640x400 box on a computer screen.
Autofocus is a major shortcoming with this simple camcorder. During our tests we saw the autofocus repeatedly struggle to find focus, especially when zoomed in a few notches or with moving objects. We also struggled with the clunky zoom rocker, which really only has the one zoom speed — fast. If you can imagine any time you might prefer a smooth, slow zoom-in on a subject then you'll be disappointed with what you can achieve with the Millennius. There's a bunch of other niggling issues we've encountered as well; for example, the recording button doesn't have priority in the menus. This means that if you are busy setting up the white balance and your baby takes his first steps, you can't just press record and immediately start capturing the action, you have to exit the menus and start recording as per usual.
Still photography is definitely worth overlooking in your considerations when buying this camera. The 20-megapixel image quality is remarkably on par with photos taken at the sensor maximum of 10 megapixels, but this isn't saying much. The pictures we took are like enormous mobile phone pics, full of image aberrations, focus issues and barrelling. If you ever needed evidence of the fact that more megapixels don't equal better photos, than look no further than the Millennius Memmoir Gold.
For the money, you get an HD-shooting camcorder that would suit someone with very basic recording needs. If you imagine your usage would be limited to family picnics, seaside holidays or police-taunting ransom messages, then the Millennius Memmoir Gold should pass muster. Its poor autofocus and unresponsive optical zoom mechanism will really challenge anyone who hopes to achieve more from this camcorder. Also, the abysmal still photos it takes will have you wondering why you didn't save your money and use the camera on the back of your mobile phone instead. There's no doubting this is one of the cheapest 1080p recording cameras available, but if your video capture needs are so simple, then its AU$339 price tag is money you probably don't need to spend at all.