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Amazing HD video from a very small camcorder
Right before Christmas my wife started dropping hints about what she wanted. Aside from the usual requests this time she had a new one, and unusual for her.
She asked what I thought of 'the Flip'. "The Flip?" I asked. "You know, the Flip HD camcorder," she replied. Stunned I sat and listen to her mention all its features, how long it could record video, that it was high definition, that it was inexpensive and that the website is www.TheFlip.com." Now thoroughly convinced my non-techie wife had been taken over by pod people from Mars, I figured I would at least play along.
"We already have a digital camera I said. Our still photo camera takes digital video, and we have a Canon DV camcorder as well." "I want something simpler and that does HD," she said. "You know it can record an hour of HD video and that it has a USB connection to the computer?"
The Flip MinoHD
The camera has its own internal rechargeable batteries, and charges when connected to the computer's USB port. Since my computer's USB ports are all on the front panel, I found it best to use a USB extension cable to connect the camcorder to the computer, otherwise the popup USB port on the camera would have caused it to stick out and possibly fall or be knocked out of the port - highly possible with our kids running around.
Since this camera is not designed to be used in a professional setting, I didn't subject it to the type of analysis suitable for a pro video camera. Instead I approached the evaluation strictly on its merits as a consumer camcorder.
The video itself is a compressed HD format, at a resolution of 1280x720 (720p). The quality is exceptional, although you do need adequate lighting to get the best results. It's extremely easy to get the video over to the computer using the supplied software or just opening the device and copying it directly onto your hard disk.
One thing I did was shoot the same scene using a variety of different cameras, starting with the Flip MinoHD, my Canon DV camcorder, a 10MB Panasonic digital camera that shoots VGA quality video, and even a Cingular 8525 smartphone that shoots video. You can view any of the video or even download it later in this review.
Here is a quick comparison showing the relative sizes of the video each device produced. (Each was scaled down the same so that the HD frame will fit on this page yet continue to show relative sizes. The scaling value was 46.875%).
You can easily see the resolution advantage of the 720p HD video over DV. In terms of file size, the HD video shown below is about 20MB, while the DV is only about 5MB, so DV has a clear storage advantage. But DV, as good as it is, is no match for HD in terms of visual quality. (Speaking of storage it is interesting that the VGA video which is only 640x480 resolution came off the camera at 24MB yet is only 1/4 or so the resolution.)
So What Is There Not To Like?
There are a couple issues with the Flip MinoHD. For one, there is no internal storage expansion option. It would have been nice if you could insert a 4GB or a 16GB SDRAM card, and extend your recording time. Of course you would need longer lasting batteries for that to be useful.
Another is the small size, which is both a positive and negative. Being small it fits in your pocket or purse, which is great. But it doesn't have much in the way of image stabilization, and such a small camera makes it easier (at least for me) to have some wavering/movement when shooting by hand. However you can use a tripod with it, so if that is an issue get the tripod. (The one on their website is only $14.99, and you can also get an Action Mount to attach it to handlebars, helmets, etc. for $14.99.)
Final quibble, there is no optical zoom (it does have a 2x digital zoom). But in all honesty this camcorder will be used for family events, for close ups and for similar type of recordings. Like I said it is not a pro camcorder, its a consumer HD camcorder.
Ok, once more with feeling! This is simply one great product! There is nothing else like this in terms of price, quality and ease of use. Its well worth having!
Go on to next page for the fun stuff...