Forget the Vintage Point-and-Shoot, the Barbie Wireless Video Camcorder Is the Retro Handicam of Your Dreams

It's no secret that Gen Z has rediscovered the digital cameras of most millennials' youth. But while 20-year-old point-and-shoot cameras are fun and all, the realest camera of them all just might be the Barbie Wireless Video Camcorder.

Coming at you from retro-tech YouTuber The 8-Bit-Guy is a deep dive and teardown of the Barbie Wireless Video Camcorder, first released in 2001. I'm no stranger to kids' cameras, having taken an in-depth look at the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera a few years back, but the technology in this camera even predates digital cameras, using a wireless transmitter that plugs into a VCR and records to a VHS cassette tape. That said, the transmitter can likely plug into anything that uses the standard yellow/white RCA cables, since that's what the receiver appears to output to. It's entirely possible that with the right setup, this could become a direct-to-digital camera.

The camera is definitely a looker compared to the anonymous gray boxes that most digital cameras were rocking in the early 2000s. Its eye-catching white body is adorned with purple and pink accents and a ridiculous cheesy yet entertaining "viewfinder" that is entirely fake and flips out from the side of the body. Surprisingly, there is a microphone input and an included microphone that works. Not even a modern-day Canon EOS Rebel T7 includes one of those, and it's $399, as opposed to $99 for this camera in 2001 (or about $167 in today's money, an expensive toy camera for a kid, actually). It's kind of a perplexing inclusion, but perhaps they were encouraging young girls of the time to perform karaoke or pretend to be a reporter?

There are so many filters for photos and video in modern apps to make footage appear as if it's been shot on and old VHS tape, but thanks to interference from modern-day WiFi signals, much of what the Barbie video camcorder shoots has plenty of hiccups, lines, and distortions as a result. As The 8-Bit Guy points out, back in 2001, WiFi interference was far less common as the technology was only a few years old and most people were still plugging in ethernet cables or using dial-up to get onto the internet.

Image quality from the camera, interference aside, actually looks pretty good and is probably similar to other cheap camcorders of the period. It's hard to judge, as most footage from around then looks equally bad because of the low resolution. If one wanted to make vintage videos or photos (via a screengrab, perhaps), this might be one of the more entertaining ways to do it.

Me? I'm going to go dig out my Sony Mavica now.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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Haha it's even worse than I was expecting

Oh wait until you see the review of a camera I got coming up soon ... I won't spoil the surprise.