I know of many people now who have been won over to the convenience and quality of the Flip range of portable video cameras. I bought my Flip Ultra HD about 14 months ago after attending a number of IT conference type events where I wanted to capture various aspects of the show and perform interviews which I could then publish up on to TechHead.
I have been very impressed with the quality of the video produced from this small relatively inexpensive video camera and have often recommended it to friends, family and fellow bloggers. If you’d like to see some examples of the quality obtained check out my repository of videos on Vimeo which can be found here.
What I like about my Flip Ultra HD is it’s simplicity of use, rugged build quality, very good video capture ability (at least for what I need it for) and the fact that I can use normal AA batteries in it when the rechargeable battery funs flat during a busy day of filming.
I don’t currently own a Flip after giving mine to my Mother who was looking at buying one, so I opted for using a Kodak Zi8 which I bought as it was similar in specification to the Flip Ultra but had an external microphone input. My thought was to use the Kodak Zi8 as my primary camera but to be honest I have never really found the video quality that great when compared to the Flip especially in low light situations. In hindsight I’d rather have the video quality than the audio as I am currently exploring more innovate ways of audio capture for my videos which involve a separate standalone digital audio capture device.
I only really have one gripe with the Flip and that is none of the Flip models have the ability to plug in a 3.5mm microphone input, which seems like a pretty straight forward feature to me for those times where you want to add a better quality or situation specific (eg: lapel mic) microphone. Now don’t get me wrong, the audio quality on my Flip Ultra is pretty good though I do find myself, often at blogger events, wanting to use an external microphone so I can pick up clear audio from the speaker at the front of the room and for this the inbuilt microphone of the Flip isn’t the best. Although not a gripe, my Flip Ultra wish list also has on it the ability to add a wider angle lens for those times where I’m trying to capture more of the room or stage during a presentation.
So you can imagine my delight when I read this announcement from Cisco, the owner and manufacturer of Flip, announcing an update to the Flip models which now allows for accessories such as a wide angle lens and maybe, although I haven’t seen any confirmation, the ability to add an external microphone – hurray!
The new update to the Flip Ultra and Mino sees an improvement to the video quality with enhanced 720p video resolution and includes as default hardware based image stabilisation which is available and permanently enabled on the new 8GB Ultra HD, 4GB Mino HD and 8GB Mino HD models (see chart below). The update also provides up to 60 frames per second.
With the new 8GB Ultra HD model of the Flip there is included something new called a ‘FlipPort’ which is “a proprietary Flip-designed connector enabling new add-on options as part of the newly announced Designed for FlipTM accessory program”. This is where I hope will see the inclusion of an external microphone port option – though why not just build this 3.5mm jack port into the side of the camera in the first place? Taking a look at the Flip accessory store there isn’t any sign at the moment of any add-ons that take advantage of this new FlipPort as yet though there is a rather nice looking Bower Wide Angle Lens.
Another point of note is that the Flip Ultra ‘2 hour’ 8GB model now takes 3 x AAA lithium batteries instead of the usual 2 x AA batteries found in the 4GB ‘1 hour’ and 2nd generation models of the Flip Ultra. Cisco/Flip also make a note that these 3 x AAA lithium batteries that can be used, instead of the rechargeable battery pack that comes as standard with the camera, only provide power for a “limited period of time”. This note isn’t applied to the Utlra ‘1 hour’ 4GB HD model which is the only other model that can also take standard disposable batteries, this leads me to believe that the permanent image stabilisation feature is consuming the extra amount of power. In fairness this is only to be expected due to the extra processing required.
At the time of writing this post the new Flip series of cameras appear to be only available in the US and Canada from the Flip web site or from Amazon (Black Model & White Model), with them going on sale in the UK in just over a month (November 2010). On the US Flip site there is also a nice feature now which allows you to customise your Flip with an image(s) of your choice – nice touch as I’d quite like a ‘TechHead’ Flip Ultra.
My Kodak Zi8 will be finding its way up onto Ebay in the next couple of days whilst I try and get one of the new Flip Ultra ‘2 hour’ 8GB models sent over from the US. Lets just hope Cisco come through with their promise of extra add-ons via the FlipPort.
I’d be interested to hear from other Flip owners out there about their experiences with their Flip and what features or accessories they’d like to see included.