Two holidays ago Google was kind enough to hook me up with a Flip Mino camcorder. It shot what appeared to be less than VGA quality video and transferring the footage from camera to my Mac was near to impossible. Since then Flip has improved their game and now makes two versions: the Flip Ultra and the Flip Ultra HD. I received the latter of the two last week and shot a variety of videos in a variety of lighting conditions.
The Flip Ultra HD isn’t heavy on features, but given its small and slender size it does pack a reasonable punch. Total recording time of the camcorder is 2 hours in a 720p resolution. You can review the recorded footage on the 2-inch (960×240) LCD screen, which also includes a built-in speaker, or plug it into your TV via the HDMI output. I would have liked to see a headphone jack, but then again the mic isn’t exactly high fidelity but most certainly sufficed given the type of scenarios I used the camera in. What’s especially nifty about the Flip camcorders is the built-in USB plug that flips out with the flick of a switch. This pretty much means you can transfer footage to any computer at any time as well as charge the device. This proved to be a god send last night when I was at a BBQ and suddenly realized I was running low on juice.
So who would have thought that a remote sized camcorder would have been able to shoot HD video. Check the video clips below for a true testament to the Flip Ultra HD’s quality, but shooting video with the camcorder couldn’t have been any easier thanks to its simple button configuration - any newb can use it right out of the box. Smack center on the back of the device is a big old red button, which clearly denotes the rec start/stop button. It’s surrounded by a navigation pad that is used to scroll through recorded videos, increase/decrease digital zoom and increase/decrease the Flip’s speaker volume. Just below the lens is a red light that denotes when it is recording, but this can be disabled in the setup menu (initial startup prompts you with this menu where you can also setup the time stamp and date) assuming you don’t want your ‘actors’ to know your recording.
The Flip Ultra HD is no doubt pocket sized and light weight, but with that comes some sacrifices, such as an optical zoom and the ability to pull focus. The Flip Ultra HD also lacks an AC charger, which means that you’ll either have to use your iPhone charger or find a nearby computer to power up the device. Fortunately, the battery life is reasonable but not totally stellar. After 1 hour of continuous recording the Flip UltraHD’s batteries were fully drained, but an almost full charge took about the same amount of time (this is contrary to Flip’s specs so it might be safe to assume I had a bunk battery). The Flip comes with 2 rechargeable batteries and since they they’re essentially 2 AAs, you could very well pop in any AA battery when in a pinch.
I’ll let the below videos do most of the talking, but as you’ll see the UltraHD can produce solid 720 HD video and is well suited for the likes of YouTube and other video sites of the same ilk. Unfortunately, and as you’ll also see, the UltraHD is sensitive to vibration since it lacks an optical image stabilizer and has a tendency to produce distorted images when panning or titling the camera quickly. Lastly, the UltraHD is capable of recording in low light situations but given its rather small optics will result in a rather noise heavy image.
The Flip UltraHD is by all accounts a steal. It’s small form factor, ease of use and ability to capture 720 HD video makes it a serious contender for a place in the family camcorder category. Although quick pan and tilt maneuvers lead to a slightly distrorted image (see some of the videos), this draw back and its other lacking features can easily be overlooked in light of its low price tag ($200) and super ease of use.
- High Def video
- Easy to use
- Rechargeable batteries work out the box & AA batteries
- Built-in USB plug
- 1 hour battery life
- Distorted images when panning too fast
- No optical zoom or any manual controls
- No external charger
You can buy it here for $199