Released today, the new progeny from Pure Digital Technologies (now part of Cisco) improves on its high def predecessor with double the memory and a larger screen. Behold the Flip UltraHD camcorder, retailing for only $200!
It is in most ways a better product than the Flip MinoHD previously reviewed. It’s a bit thicker with a pleasantly rounded front face and it has a 2-inch screen as opposed to the Mino’s 1.5-inch diagonal screen. The new screen is still not 16:9 in aspect ratio, but it works.
The bars above and below the screen temporarily display useful info to the user, such as when it is ready or recording and the amount of recording time that remains. In playback mode, these areas display recording time remaining on that video in the top bar and a progress bar on the bottom. With the added width the user also sees more, better, than with the models having smaller displays. It’s just that simple.
UP FRONT –
What’s hot? Pretty much the same as the previous model, only more so.
• Price point on new model is better than older one by $30
• Small size, convenient to use anywhere/everywhere
• Easy to operate
• Records in 720p high def
• Records up to two hours of video on internal memory
• Great on-board FlipShare software installs easily for Mac and Windows
• Easy sharing with FlipShare software including direct to YouTube, others
• Focus-free from about one foot to infinity
• Long per-charge battery life of about two hours from supplied rechargeable battery pack.
• Also may use two standard disposable AA batteries
• Easy recharge through USB or optional accessory AC charger
• Built-in mini-HDMI port to connect for instant viewing directly on your HD TV (YOU supply the cable, which can be purchased very inexpensively through www.monoprice.com.)
• Good low-light performance
• Difficult to impossible to hold steady – no image stabilization; expect shaky videos
• Image-degrading digital zoom only, and then only 2x zoom at that
• Lack of optical zoom limits suitability for many situations
• Limited zoom suggests best used for nearby subjects, not for capturing junior on the football field.
• Records audio in mono only (may not be important to most users)
• Rubbery feels-good external coating WILL attract fingerprints and smudges.
• Same or better high def video capability with 3x or more optical zoom available on many new digital still cameras starting at about $80 more, some with much smaller size, still easy to use, providing both still and HD video in one product. These new cameras can also play HD video direct to TV and have much larger displays.
Let’s get to the specifics. It does not get any easier to use than with this product and all Flip Video models. Once the simple one-time setup is completed to set the date and time, confirm tones or no tones with button press and telltale front light yea or nay to show subjects a recording is in progress, it’s show time! Power on with the right side button. Press the BIG RED button to start and stop recording. Rock the outside ring around the red button UP for zoom in and DOWN for zoom out. Rock the ring right or left and it takes the user immediately into playback mode, the same as hitting the right arrow above and left of the red button. Pressing the ring right or left toggles through each segment of saved video while pressing the right arrow starts and pauses each video in playback mode. The trash can button deletes videos, with a screen offering confirmation before dumping each selected video.
Videos may also be erased after transferring to your PC via the Flip Video software that is built into every Flip video product. The software is automatically installed on a Mac or Windows PC if it is not already there from an earlier installation that might be from a previous Flip video product.
Sharing is easy whether using an OS X Mac or Windows PC. YouTube accepts HD 720p short videos, too. There’s also one-click sharing with the other social networking sites where users are already connected. With 8GB of on-board memory, this camera records up to two hours, which is double what the MinoHD will do.
Battery capacity is no longer an issue. Charge up the supplied internal pack and if you’re not certain that will be enough, carry a set or two of disposable AA cells for extended use in the field as needed. It’s smart that the company makes it easy to swap out the rechargeable pack for disposables.
This new Flip (and the Flip UltraSD not reviewed) share nearly all design features with the only differences being one is HD with an HDMI jack and the other is standard def, or SD, with no HD connector. The SD model does not come with the rechargeable battery pack, either. Other than that, they are functionally and operationally the same. The SD model carries a suggested retail price of $149.
The addition of an HDMI port makes watching from the camera in HD as easy as connecting the cable you will need to buy for less than $10 to any HDMI-equipped TV. Of course, users still need to get that video off the camera, into a computer and then share online OR burn DVDs to preserve OR play via a my favorite little gadget for playing ALL your videos and more IN HIGH DEF on your TV or anyone’s TV. The gadget is from Western Digital, called WD TV, costing only about $100. Read details in my earlier Flip MinoHD article. Everyone with a camera taking high def videos needs one of these nifty gadgets!
And like all the little Flip products, these new ones ship with a drawstring closure soft sack that offers at least a tiny bit of protection against abrasion.
Still in the negative column for some users is the lack of image stabilization. That costs some dough and would certainly up the price to more than $200. Not having more than 2x digital zoom is, therefore, smart engineering and marketing. You will have shaky videos. Get over it.
On the other hand, nothing is more convenient to use, even, perhaps, my personal choice of a nice little digital still camera that includes the ability to record high def videos, such as the new Canon PowerShot SD780 IS that does as good a job with video as does the Flip UltraHD and maybe better, for a suggested retail price of $280. Go back and read my comments from the MinoHD review. That little Canon, by the way, is not much larger than a credit card, making it much smaller than any Flip video camera. Not at this price, but for more money, perhaps approaching the $500 price point can be found digital still cameras with optical image stabilization that is active even in their HD video mode. I know that the larger and very impressive $600 Canon PowerShot SX1 IS a fine digital still camera AND a very capable 1080p video camera all-in-one providing 20x optical zoom, stereo sound AND image stabilization in still and video mode.
On the Flips as well as on most digital cameras is a standard tripod mount on the bottom, the ultimate shake avenger! Get a Joby Gorillapod as a handy little tripod to steady your Flip. It’ll do the job very well and it’s fun to use! Find best prices for Gorillapod.
Don’t get me wrong. I like this new UltraHD very much. It’s handy and convenient to use. Would you get one of these OR get a new digital camera that includes high def video capability all in one device?
Or, maybe get one of these AND a higher performance HD camcorder with decent optical zoom and optical image stabilization for those special video moments. Many professional photographers who use a fine and expensive digital SLR also carry a simple point-and-shoot camera when they want to quick-snap photos not at their professional best. I can see this same usage model applied to families and individuals who will use this camcorder for life’s little and close-up moments and their “good” high def camcorder for times when better quality and a real zoom are needed.
Or maybe use one of these AND carry a small point-and-shoot digital camera that shoots better video with more optical zoom than this one AND optical image stabilization.
If FUN! overrides technical capability and better quality output, then this is the pocketsize video camera for you! I suspect they’ll sell a bazillion of these.
As I wrote in my earlier Flip review, the same applies here; it’s all about choices.