Product Type: Flip Video digital camcorders
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Record in high definition with this hand pocket sized camcorder
Flip Mino High Definition Camcorder - 2nd Generation
Member Name: andyLDN
Flip Mino High Definition Camcorder - 2nd Generation
Advantages: Pocketable, low cost, simple to use, goes places a normal camcorder can't!
Disadvantages: Poor picture quality in low light, shaky footage common and small screen
When choosing a camcorder, it's a good idea to think about the purpose you wish it to serve. If you want to record family memories in the best quality possible, I'd recommend paying £500+ for a full sized camcorder. However, there are many situations where a handy pocket camera such as the Flip Mino HD is more appropriate. In this review I'll compare the Flip with more expensive camcorders and the recording capabilities on mobile phones.
This camera is a very simple device. It records directly into it's own inbuilt hard drive, which is 4 or 8GB and that will store 1 or 2 hours footage. The footage can then be transfered directly to any computer (PC/Mac) using it's own in built software. The USB port is also used to charge the device's inbuilt Lithium-ion battery which lasts about 90 minutes on standby. It really is so easy, no annoying charging / transfer cables and no need to buy extra batteries or memory cards like you would with a standard camcorder. It comes in a smart black box (similar to the iPhone's) and is supplied with a little drawstring pouch and a wrist strap.
FUNCTIONS & APPEARANCE
The camera has very limited functions. start and stop recording, view and delete clips. But really that's all you need. Anything else can be done in post production using the free software (more later). The camera measures W5cm x H10cm, is 1.73cm deep and weighs only 136 grams. It's held vertically,and the 2" anti-glare display screen is used as the viewfinder or to replay your clips, which is OK but mobile phone users will be used to a larger screen with perhaps horizontal touch functions to control recording. (I'd expect to see this kind of camera from Flip and other suppliers in the future.) The camera has a tough plastic coating with a chrome effect front and grey plastic rear, the USB connection flips out at the push of a button and there's a tripod connection underneath. It looks like it should survive a drop onto a hard surface, but the likelihood of this happening is slim if you always use the wrist strap.
The device records in 1280 x 720 resolution at 30 frames per second (widescreen 720P), in the H.264 high definition format. However whether the image appears to your eyes as high definition or not will depend on the lighting conditions you're filming in. When shooting outdoors, particularly on a summer's day, the quality is beautiful. Indoors it's just okay and in low light I'd go as far to say that it's poor. Unfortunately the processing power and lens on a cheaper camera will rarely give good results in low light, so it's important to be aware of it's limitations. The colours it reproduces are surprisingly true to life, and only sometimes undersaturated on occasions if I were to make any criticism. The biggest problem with this camera is the 'shake'. You have to hold it very steady if you don't want your family picnic to appear like it was shot during an earthquake. One option is to attach a tripod or rest it on a flat surface.
One thing I like about this camera is that I can take it anywhere and not worry. I went to Universal Studios last year and wanted to take some film, but my proper camcorder is too bulky and expensive to risk. This was perfect, it just slipped it in my pocket and could shoot quick clips when I wanted. It's also handy if you want to be inconspicuous, perhaps if you want to film in a non-touristy area without being spotted by the locals! The size also gives you options you wouldn't have with a full sized camcorder. For example you can get a mini 'grip' that allows you to attach it to a cycle helmet or handlebars allowing you to get some really interesting shots.
I often use Apple's Final Cut or iMovie to combine footage taken with different cameras, but the included in-built software provides all the tools you need to edit, organise and share your masterpieces. It's very simple and allows you to edit together sequences, add music as a soundtrack if you wish and upload to social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. You can also take 'stills' as jpeg files. As it's inbuilt, you can do this on any computer, If you were a young person traveling it would be an excellent small device to capture your memories and edit and share your clips from an internet cafe with no fuss.
Many phones now allow you to record video in HD, and with the iPhone4 being a popular device I just thought i'd compare the recording functions. Both devices record at 720P, but the Flip Mino HD wins hands down on picture quality. It copes better in low light and the picture quality is fairly true to life. Footage on the iPhone4 I've found to be very over saturated. Of course the iPhone4 has a much bigger screen, but for filming, the Flip Mino feels more secure in the hand, especially with the wrist strap. Apart from this they offer similar functions. On the iPhone4, you can edit and upload the footage you take directly using 3G or Wifi, but overall the iPhones camera does not compare in terms of quality to the Flip, and certainly no way near a full sized camcorder.
I'd certainly recommend this camcorder on the basis that it reaches places a full camcorder can't and for a far lower price. If you have the ability and the luxury of having a full sized HD camcorder and can combine the footage you can edit more daring clips into your holiday video. Optional accessories such as the bike clip and underwater casing only increase the range of uses for this camera.
the 8GB version of the Flip Mino HD is available on Amazon (and other sites I'm sure!) for £120.40 currently (Dec '10)
Summary: An excellent little gadget for filming HD on the go!
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