Flip cameras have been around for several years now. I first purchased an SD one in 2007. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pocket-sized digital camcorders. They’re made to be very simple to use. (Here’s a clue: That big red button means “record.”)
Cisco, the company behind the cameras, decided last year to shut down the Flip line. They’re not quite as popular as they once were, due to the proliferation of HD video-capable smart phones.
So when we bought a new Flip recently for recordnet.com video, it was at a great price. The MinoHD captures up to an hour of video (in mp4 format) – more than we need for a solid 1:30-2:30 minute video. The intent is to send it out with reporters, particularly for new features like our Business Spotlight.
One of the disadvantages of Flip cams is of course stabilization. Shaky hands make for disjointed video. We tried to avoid that by purchasing a flexible mini tripod that screws into the camera. It can be placed on tables or wrapped around trees – whatever’s at hand. That gives it an edge over my iPhone (though you can also buy mini tripods for iPhones).
There are other disadvantages. Audio is a big one. There’s no input for an external mic, so the camera picks up a lot of background noise. It can be tricky getting close enough to the subject to ensure quality audio and still maintain a good angle.
The zoom isn’t great, either, and the autofocus can be problematic.
But there are a lot of advantages, too. It’s very easy to understand, even if someone has no video experience. It’s more portable, meaning you can carry it with you to capture breaking news on the spot, rather than lugging larger equipment with you all the time. And pulling files from the device is as simple as plugging in the USB, clicking and dragging.
We brought the Flip along the other day for a story about a local camera repair shop. The owner took one look and said “That’s your camera?”
It’s certainly not going to compete with our more expensive high-end cameras. But it is a great tool.