Flip Video

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SUMMARY: Fun, drop-dead easy, small camcorder – just don’t expect hi-def quality.

For Fathers’ Day I received a great present – a Flip Video Ultra Camcorder. This is a small, very portable, relatively inexpensive camcorder that is capturing significant market share. These are the same folks who make the CVS disposable camcorder which I reviewed/hacked February 2007.

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Key Features

  • 60 minutes record time, 2 GB storage, 640 x 480 resolution @ 30 fps, Advanced Profile MPEG-4 AVI format
  • 1.5″ LCD view screen
  • 2x Digital Zoom
  • f2.4 lens, fixed focus 0.8m to infinity
  • Powered by two AA batteries – estimated two hours record time
  • Size: 4.17″ x 2.16″ x 1.25″; Weight: 5.2 oz
  • Includes speaker/microphone, TV Out (NTSC) and tripod mount
  • Built-in video editing software including
    still frame capture

  • Includes soft pouch, TV Out cable, QUick Start Manual, wrist strap and 2 AAs – 90 day warranty

Cable

There is a sliding power switch on one side to turn it on:

Power

The other side has the USB and TV Out ports:

USB

Slide the switch down and the USB arm swings out:

USB out

You will most likely need a USB extension cable – most PCs will not have a USB port which lines up exactly with this arm. I would expect future versions to go with a port and a cable – much more durable and less likely to break with use.

The base has a tripod socket and slide switch to open the battery compartment:

Base

Batteries

Powering it up and you get a “Ready” indication:

LCD On

The left button plays stored videos, the right deletes them. The Red button starts/stops recording. In use I found that the Red button does take some getting used to – it seems sensitive to how long you push it. The plus and minus activates the 2x digital zoom, among other functions.

Overall, a compact, light-weight package.

Included Video Software

One cool thing that the Pure Video has done is to include a software suite which includes video editing software (very limited and slow) built into the camcorder. Every time you connect up with the USB arm, the software is available (note that you don’t have to turn the Flip on – it will power up through the USB port). This is not a bad feature for travelling – it allows you to use any PC to save your videos and free up space (however, it does require some files to be loaded onto the PC). This is the opening screen once recognized (Windows XP):

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The splash screen…

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And then the Main screen:

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The edit function is easy to use but quite limited:

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The only video editing you can do is cut pieces from the beginning and end – not from the middle; you can also save individual frames as jpgs. There are help screens available:

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Don’t expect a video tutorial – text only.

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I happened across a nice tutorial Making Movies from your Pure Digital Flip Video Camera and Windows Movie Maker which is a great “How-To” worth a look. It also includes a link to a detailed tutorial on Windows Movie Maker – if this is what you plan to use, definitely worth a look. Movie Maker is not the end-all-be-all video editor, but it’s WAY better than the Flip editing capabilities.

If you want to make a DVD, there are links to accomplish this locally:

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You can also make a movie by selecting videos – basically it stitches the clips selected together:

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This is a subset of software from Muvee, which you can upgrade:

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No surprises with save:

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Share allows you to upload videos to various venues, including You Tube, etc:

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You may be better off saving videos to your PC and uploading directly – I uploaded the same short video using Flip and directly from my PC (21 seconds):

Loaded directly from Flip Video:

Loaded saved video from PC:

The sound was from a radio and the video was shot through a window – note that the sound is better on the video loaded from my PC.

2x Digital Zoom

The Flip Video includes a 2x digital zoom – you’re better off getting closer – this is a snap from a normal frame:

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Normal Pic

And this from a 2x zoom frame:

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Zoom Pic

Although it depends on what the context is (if it’s zoom or nothing, zoom), you will lose picture quality.

Problems

The only problem I had was when I deleted videos directly (without using the included software), I lost recording time. Thankfully there is an FAQ on the Flip site which indicated how to correct this problem (hook up the Flip and permanently delete the videos from the trash can). The only other issue I can foresee is that there is no lens cover – this I don’t like.

This is not a problem but the lack of additional storage capability would be a very nice feature to have – lacking this, you either live with 60 minutes of video or save videos to a PC to free up space.

CONCLUSIONS

This is a fun product – don’t expect hi-def and lay off the zoom. The Flip is limited in what it can do, but for a take-anywhere camcorder, the price is right. MSRP $150. Use the included software for downloading videos and deleting them – there are better video editing packages available at no cost.

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