We got to make a new Swede this weekend (more on that later), but instead of using a real camera we used a Flip Ultra (provided to us by Cisco).
I know a lot of people have been going crazy about this little camera, but I never understood it until this weekend. To give you a bit of background: in the years I’ve played with a lot of cameras both professionally and personally. We had a Sony PD-150 (mini DV) at our company ED-ME in 2005, and I had a Sony HDD digital video camera in 2008. You would assume I would view the Flip as nothing but a toy, and have to admit I did up till now.
So what is the Flip? It is a little video camera that you hold like you’d hold a cameraphone. It’s actually quite similar to cameraphone as it’s about the size of one (an old one) and as light. There is a big red button on the back for turning recording on/off , and a four-way control for some of the “advanced” videos. When you managed to record your video you just plug in the Flip into the USB port of your PC with the nice flip-out USB connector (hence the name).
If you are a Windows user, you’ll get a nice bit of software that’s actually loaded and run from the Flip itself. It allows you to quickly edit and share your videos to major video sites. If you are on a Mac you can use iMovie or any other bit of video editing software.
The great thing about the Flip is that the digital files that it records your video to are actually editable in most software packages without needing any conversion first, unlike the kind of files you get on most JVC or Sony HDD cameras. So over are the days of Mini DV to digital conversion, or trying to figure out what to do with that .mod file.
There are some downsides to the Flip too. First of there is no image stabilization in the camera, and add that to the very unstable way of holding the device it makes for pretty shaky video. Most people probably won’t notice, but some might. Add to that the fact that there is no way of extending the camera with other accessories like lenses or microphones and you have a very limited device. The internal Mic is great but very limited, and if you ever want to add a better microphone to your camera you’re stuck with getting a new camera.
But inherently that’s not what this camera is made for. This camera is made for people that want to have a quick record-edit-upload workflow at a great price.
Making sense of Flip Ultra vs Flip Mino
The guys from Pure Digital who make the Flip have 4 models of it in production. There is the 4GB Flip Ultra, 8GB Flip Ultra HD, 2GB Flip Mino, and the 4GB Flip Mino HD. It took me a while to figure out what the differences are, but I figured it out. The difference between the Flip Mini and Flip Ultra is the form factor. The Mino is smaller and lighter and therefore can hold less capacity than the Flip Ultra. The Flip Ultra is also designable.
The biggest difference though is that because the Mino is smaller, it can only hold half the amount of video (60 minutes) as its bigger brother. Both the Mini and Ultra come in a larger capacity High Definition version which has the same form factor and video capacity as the normal versions (60 mins for the Mino, 120 minutes for the Ultra).
Where to buy?
I almost forgot! The best thing of the Flip is the price. The simplest model is about £95, the Mino HD is about £150 RRP. All and all a lot cheaper and easier than most other cameras.