For some reason I seem to get a lot of ICT products on my desk at school, apparently people there think I'm quite good with ICT... they obviously don't know me very well and indeed not as well as those people that read my reviews regularly which clearly highlight me as someone who is NOT good with ICT! In the past five years I can claim to have broken at least one DVD player and come within seconds of destroying various other devices at home. I'm a bit of a Bridget Jones when it comes to trying to operate technology, don't even get me started on the various kitchen implements! However in my defence I've managed to steer clear of any major disasters while at school, although I have nearly thrown several items out of the window due to frustration when trying to get them working. Yet they still keep on coming to me...
The latest products to end up on my desk were four Flip Ultra HD 3rd Generation Cameras which were bought with some sort of collectable supermarket vouchers (Sainsburys, Tesco... there's that many I'm not quite sure which ones were used)! The reason we decided to buy these were because they were advertised as being "child friendly" and the other video cameras we had were too complicated for many of the staff members, let alone the children! I'd set aside only half an hour to get to grips with these cameras before planning to use them in a lesson with the children so it didn't give me too long to become a master of the Flip Ultra HD video cameras! I was determined not to be defeated and felt that surely, for once, I could work it out...
The flip cameras come in a small box which shows a picture of the camera in use on the front and all the technical details on the back. Inside the box I found the flip camera and a wrist strap which could easily be attached to the camera for added safety (a big necessity when using them with children... or with me for that matter). The flip camera is extremely compact, it measures just 2.2cm by 5.4cm by 10.6cm making it much smaller than any other video cameras I've ever seen or used. It weights just 168g making it very lightweight and ideal for travelling with. It does require one lithium ion battery which is supplied with the camera and can be recharged using any computer; it takes about two to three hours to fully charge it.
In terms of appearance it looks very much like a toy video camera, albeit a very sleek one, for want of a better description. The fact it looked so simple actually reassured me when I first opened the box, I'm used to those bigger video cameras that have about sixty different buttons on them for various things! This model is largely black in colour with silver sides, on the front is a silver circular camera eye while on the back is a small control panel featuring just seven main buttons and a viewing screen so you can see what you're recording. The viewing screen has an anti glare colour display which is roughly a square shape with two inch sides. The flip camera powers up using a small switch and it takes about three to four seconds before it's ready to go.
Now here's where this camera really shines... in terms of simplicity of operating it. I have never used a video camera and not needed to refer to the instructions manual before using it, I can't tell you how easy this one is to get to grips with. A single red circular button is all you need to start or stop recording and I was literally operating the flip camera within about five minutes of opening the box. The only other buttons you need when recording are those surrounding the red button which allow you to zoom in and out. There's also two further buttons on the control panel which allow you to play back what you've already recorded if you wish to view it on the screen itself. That's really all there is to operating it... yes it may well sound too simple to be true but my eight and nine year olds use these cameras weekly now with no problem at all.
Obviously once you've finished recording you want to be able to transfer your recordings to the television or, in our case, computers so as to enable us to edit them or transfer them to discs. This stage really couldn't be simpler (again the children mastered it as quickly as I did), the camera has a USB stick which simply flips out of the side and allows you to plug the whole camera into any computer or device with a USB port. Once plugged in my laptop recognised the video camera immediately and I was able to view each individual file that I'd recorded, you should note that every time you stop recording it will then start a new file the next time you start recording. You can then go onto edit them if you wish or join them together too. There is also a HDMI output which means you can enjoy your videos on HDTV as well if you wish.
Now for the more technical information... The Flip Ultra HD 3rd Generation allows you to capture two hours of HD video using the 8 GB memory that is built into this particular model. It also features a smooth 50 frames per second recording speed (whatever that may mean), it has mechanical image stabilisation built in and also a wide range omni-directional stereo microphone too. The focus is advertised as being a fixed focus (1.5m to infinity) and it has a 2x digital zoom as well. The only possible downside is that this camera does not have night vision which may reduce its effectiveness at night; I've never used my ones at night so I can't comment on this. I should also mention that it comes with a rechargeable battery but you can also use standard AAA batteries with it if you wish, these last for about six hours I've found.
So what's the quality like? Well both the picture and sound quality of this camera is absolutely outstanding, initially I thought it looked a bit plastic and toy like which did lead me to worry about the quality. However when we uploaded our first set of videos onto a computer and watched them later through a DVD player it was like watching a television programme! The clarity of the colours is excellent, the edges of the images are crisp and there was no sound distortion at all. I cannot fault this little video camera at all - the size makes it ideal for carrying out, the black material has a really good grip to it so you don't need to worry about dropping it, the ease of use is amazing and the quality of the video recordings are excellent in my opinion. The only downside is that you can only record two hours on this based on the in built memory.
Finally I should just mention that it comes with pre-loaded Flip Share software which makes it easy to organise, edit and share your videos using Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. I also like the fact you can capture a photo using the snap shot feature which means you can grab a still image photo from the video recording. The Flip Ultra HD 3rd Generation 8GB Camera currently retails on Amazon for £177.29 with the 4GB one costing £99.99. I've also found it on a site called Pentagon GPS for just £131.99 so a little cheaper. I'd thoroughly recommend this video camera to any technophobes out there as it really couldn't be simpler to use, it's getting the full five stars today!
Thanks for reading!