We all like the convenience of the Ipod. We like our cell phones. In short, we like small things when we’re on the go. Digital cameras have gotten super small. And now, video cameras have as well.
The Flip Video is a super small video camera that retails for only $150. In fact, it is easily small enough to fit into your pocket. I had an opportunity to give the Flip Video a try. So, is a compact, sub $150 video camera any good?
What makes the Flip Video unique is that it is super tiny and uses internal memory. This means you have no memory cards to worry about. This is convenient, but of course you have the tradeoff of being limited to only what is inside the camera. But, the Ultra Series (and you shouldn’t consider anything less given the price) comes with 2 GB of internal storage, providing for up to an hour of video footage.
The camera comes with a 1.5″ LCD screen on the back. Yes, this is small and it would be nice to have a larger screen. However, a smaller screen keeps costs down.
The camera records at 640×480 resolution using a 1/4″ VGA CMOS sensor. It records at a full 30 frames per second and records in MPEG4 AVI format. The lens can zoom in only 2X. This isn’t much, of course. But, this is a cheap lens with fixed focus. A camera in this price range just isn’t going to compete with a real camcorder.
The camera’s interface is USB (pictured above). The USB connector simply flips out (pun intended) from the side of the camera and you plug it into your computer. The connector is not connected to any internal cord so there is no flexibility. When I connect the Flip to my Mac Pro, the Flip just hangs out there stationary in front of the computer. You obviously could not easily connect this to a USB port on the back of your computer.
Lastly, the camera runs on a couple of AA batteries (included). This is nice because you can easily just flip any kind of AA battery into it when they die. I have yet to kill off my batteries, but the specs show that it will last 2.5 hours on a pair.
The camera pictured above is in orange (obviously), however the line comes in silver, black, red as well as light green.
Using the Flip
The selling point of this camera lies very much in the software. The Flip is obviously not going to compete with a real camcorder. However, it is meant to be extremely convenient. The bundled software is no exception.
When you plug the Flip into your computer, it is automatically detected just like a standard USB drive. On the drive would be stored your video files, any images you took, as well as the Flip Video software (which comes in both Mac and Windows flavors). Since I am using the Mac, I just dragged the Mac app over to my hard drive and ran it from there. Nice and easy. For Windows, I assume you would need to run an installer.
Once you’ve launched the Flip software, it will interface with the camera and scan for any videos stored on it. You can then save the videos to your computer (in AVI format), share the videos (by emailing, creating a greeting card, or sharing online using sites like Youtube). The software has built-in support for Youtube and AOL Video, but . The software also makes it easy to create quick movie mixes using your video footage. If you want an actual DVD of your movies, you can burn a DVD of your movies or set it up to have a DVD created at a number of retail locations.
The software stores everything in albums under a directory on your computer called “My Flip Video Library”. You can organize all your videos there in whichever album structure you want.
Once you’ve got the footage on your computer, you can do anything you want with it. You don’t necessarily need to use the Flip software except to pull the videos off the camera and put them on your hard drive. From there, they are just AVI files and you’re free to do what you want.
The performance of the camera is great for a camera this cheap. It has very quick power up so you’re ready to record quickly. It has great sensitivity to light and it picks up good video quality both in high and low light levels.
The 2X zoom isn’t much. When you do zoom up on an object, too, I’ve noticed that the image can get a little bit blurry. Picture quality is definitely best when you don’t use the zoom feature, but it is there when you need it.
Previewing and managing videos on the device itself is self-explanatory. You can flip through your clips, play them (with audio) and delete them directly from the device. The picture quality on the 1.5″ screen is acceptable.
This Camera Is Great For…
Anybody who wants quick access to video. If you’re the kind of person who carried a digital camera around for that “just in case” moment, you might enjoy the Flip Video.
But, we also know that video is big on the Internet. I am a blogger. What is more convenient for a blogger than a simple, slip-in-your-pocket video camera you can carry around and capture video whenever and wherever? And the video quality is more than enough for online use. So, bloggers would definitely be a niche market with definite use for this camera.
In fact, I wanted one bad enough where I actually went out and bought one – BEFORE the folks at Flip sent me their review unit to check out. Call me impatient, but I now have two of these things.
Driving With the Risley’s
To illustrate usage of the Flip Video, I recorded some random footage (with my wife’s cute review of the Flip Video) a few weeks ago while we were driving back home from an outing. Here you go: