Teeny new Nano comes with a video camera

Physics, schmysics: That's what Apple seems to be saying when it comes to the company's latest iPod Nanos.

The new Nanos are pixies, just like their predecessors. As before, I suspect most buyers will use the Nano mainly for music, though it can also show movies, TV shows, pictures and more.

In this latest go-round, however, Apple added a video camera, FM radio, voice recorder, low-fi mono speaker and even a pedometer.

You can see just how many calories you've burned while traipsing along with the music and, upon synching with a PC or Mac, send the workout data to the Nike + iPod website.

The new Nanos come in nine colors. They start at $149 for an 8-gigabyte version that can hold about 2,000 songs or roughly eight hours of video. Apple says the music playback time on a fully charged battery is up to 24 hours; video playback is up to five hours.

I've been testing a 16-GB Nano for several days. My reaction to a couple of the new features:

•Video. Camcorder functionality is the headline addition here. But the video quality, while certainly decent for the playground-type scenarios you're likely to try to capture, is not going to win you any awards.

Of course, you can't beat the convenience. To add a little pizazz, Apple throws in 16 special shooting effects, which you can access by pressing the center of the click wheel. These include "film grain" (like those old movies), black and white and – my favorite – kaleidoscope.

At the Nano launch, Apple made a point to target competing pocket video cameras, notably the Flip, some versions of which capture high-definition footage. For its part, the Nano shoots standard definition VGA (640 by 480).

When I first started shooting, my finger would inadvertently cover up the lens, obstructing most scenes. I had to constantly remind myself to take care of where I was positioning my finger.

In most situations, you'll likely shoot the Nano by shooting in landscape. This orientation makes it less likely that you'll inadvertently cover the lens, though on occasion I continued to do so. In this position, you're meant to hold the Nano at its four corners, which I found just a little bit clumsy.

When you think about the camcorder in terms of being an add-on feature to an iPod, you tend to forgive some of its shortcomings.

•FM radio. Nano is by no means the first portable music player to add an FM radio. I thought Apple might include an HD Radio like the one in the new Microsoft Zune player. While the company did not, it does have a "Live Pause" feature that lets you pause and rewind a station for up to 15 minutes.

Nano also has a feature called iTunes Tagging that lets you "tag" some of the songs you're listening to so that you can preview them and buy them later via iTunes. Tagged songs show up in the iTunes source list. The feature only works with songs that are available in iTunes, and on the still relatively few stations that are participating, notably those from Clear Channel.

For FM reception, you'll have to plug in headphones. The headphone cord doubles as an FM antenna. Given the low quality of the built-in Nano speaker, that's how you'd want to listen anyway.

By Edward C. Baig

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