Monday, December 15, 2008

Review of Flip Video

I'm a gadget freak. I like devices with lots of buttons and settings and flexible enough to do things they weren't even meant to do. If you're like me, then the Flip Video camera by Pure Digital Technologies isn't for you.

However, if you like a device that's simple, automatic and that does just one thing fairly well, the Flip Video may indeed be for you.

The Flip Video is a dedicated video camera that takes 640x480 video at 30 frames per second. That's it, nothing else. Nope, not even stills. Your inner Star Trek Ensign won't appreciate only 3 buttons on the back either.

I found the video to be clear with good color and and smooth video. It was reasonably sensitive, although I was mostly filming in an office environment so I didn't test it's full range of sensitivity. The sound is a bit quiet, but very clear. I was able to boost the sound up quite a bit in Premiere Elements 7 without hearing any noise.

The zoom is completely digital and leaves something to be desired. Some day I would like to see a camera manufacturer use the higher resolution available in most imaging chips to offer a full resolution zoom. It seems a dedicated video camera such as the Flip Video would be the perfect platform to implement this on (but apparently, if I thought this, I would be wrong).

The camera has a built in USB connector that flips out the side at the touch of a button. It was handy to not have to carry extra cables around, but you might have some trouble if your notebook or computer has a USB plug that's oriented in an unfriendly-to-the-Flip Video way (like my T61, which I was forced to place on my lap so the flip could hang over the side). Still, a USB extension cable would solve this problem for a computer with the nerve not to conform to the expectations of the Flip Video, so the convenience of the build in adaptor is probably worth it.

The Flip Video uses two AA batteries. An unusual feature in today's camera market that's dedicated to the employment of battery engineers through offering custom rechargeable batteries for every device being sold. However, battery life was good. I filmed over an hour of video on one set of batteries and they were still going strong. The convenience of having batteries that can be inexpensively purchased anywhere is a plus, in my opinion.

I was somewhat annoyed to find out I had to install a codec (3ivx) to view the videos. But, the codec was included right on the camera, which is handy. Once the codec was installed, the video played fine in any player. However, the sound was always out of sync with the video in the preview window of Adobe Premiere Elements. The video rendered fine, but it was quite annoying to try and edit video with the sound off. Elements was also very unstable while I was editing video from the Flip Video, but I hesitate to pin the blame on the video files or codec since any number of things could have freaked Elements out.

The camera also comes with some viewing software preloaded on the camera. I didn't try the software out since I despise most custom software that comes with devices. For all I know, I'm missing out on the best software since Microsoft Bob. But I doubt it.

Small, automatic, simple and it just works. I would think there's definitely a market for a product like this. Excuse me now, my inner geek insists that I go find something with a satisfactory plethora of buttons and a manual the size of a phone book (which I refuse to read, of course).

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