Updated: May 9, 2015
Flip Video Ultra Camcorder ReviewWith the advent of YouTube and other online video sharing programs, the need and desire to capture digital video clips seems to have expanded exponentially. Traditionally, video camcorders have been used to capture video clips to tape. In recent years, hard drive based video cameras have offered another tapeless option for capturing and transferring video images to your PC. But video capabilities have expanded and found their way into cellphones and regular digital still cameras as well, making it easier and easier to grab video on the go, wherever you are, without worrying about dragging along the old camcorder. But once you have these video clips on your phone or camera, it can be a real hassle to edit or upload or share your video clips with your friends and family.. Enter the Flip Video camcorder line of products. In this guide, we will see why the Flip is making such a splash in the world of video capture and sharing -- learn how it works, how much it costs, and why you just might need a Flip Video camcorder in YOUR future!
How does the Flip Video Ultra work?The Flip cameras are made by a company called Pure Digital Technologies, a privately held company. At this point, they offer just 2 main products - the more basic Flip Video and the newer Flip Video Ultra Series. The Flip Video units come silver or black finishes, compared to vibrant colors in the Ultra units (green, orange.. where have we seen these colors before? hmmm... let's ask Apple!). The other major differences are as follows: Ultra come with 1-2GB of storage ($149 or $179) vs. 512K-1GB in the basic Flip ($119 to $149); LCD screen on Ultra has higher resolution (582x132 pixels); video bitrate doubled in Ultra to 4.5Mbps; slightly longer battery life in Ultra models. That's about it, pay about $30 extra for the Video Ultra models and get more memory and better screen and slightly better video. Once you get one of these things in your hands, the first reaction is usually -- "whoa.. where are all the confusing buttons?!". That's right, these things are actually pretty easy to use. There are no video tapes, no memory cards - just turn it on and start shooting. Video is recorded in 640x480 format -- not exactly HD, but perfectly fine for playing with on your PC or online. Compared to a cell phone, the video quality is 10X better. Well maybe not 10X, if the lighting is poor it won't look great, but overall the video quality is much better than we expected, and perfect for casual video users. The LCD screen on the rear was adequate even in outdoor sunlight when it came to reviewing what we shot. The camera itself is pretty small, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, fits well into pants or jacket pocket, or into a purse. Another positive is the quick response time of this little baby -- many digital cameras came with complaints about shutter lag and slow time for start up, but this thing is ready to shoot in about 1 second -- just flip the on switch and press record -- you won't miss a thing.
There are only 3 buttons and a 4-way navigation pad. The front of the camera has just the lens and the microphone (to record your video sounds). On the back is the viewfinder/display screen for seeing what you are recording or playing back your clips, a speaker, (on the right side is an on/off button), a record button, a play button, and a delete button. You use the navigation pad to zoom in and out and move forward and backward when viewing the video clips you have already captured. Compared to the average digital camera or camcorder with 2 dials, 5 switches, 4 special setting modes, 4 buttons, etc. -- this thing is easy, logical, and a breeze to use. Give it the grandma test -- we bet your grandma can figure it out in 10 seconds of instruction. When you bring it back to your PC, there is a flip-up USB connector that flips up from the side of the camera, so no special cables are needed to connect and transfer files over to your computer. The Flips run off simple AA batteries - no worries about running out of power or constantly having to recharge.
When it comes to recording video, the Flip compresses and stores about 30 minutes of video into 1GB of storage space. Files are recorded in .AVI format. When you plug your camera into your computer, you can either use the included software (Flip Video Program) package for moving, editing, and sending video clips, or you can simply access the Flip camera as if it were a hard drive to open, view, and copy any or all AVI files that are stored on it. The official site for the the Flip Video is TheFlip.com - you can check out the various models here, but if you really want to see how the Flip works, try downloading the Quick Start Guide (http://www.theflip.com/FlipUltraQuickStartGuide.pdf) -- it offers detailed instructions and information on how the camera works and what it does -- a great overview to get you started.
Unlike most cameras, there are no slots for adding or removing memory cards on the Flip camera - the memory is built into the unit and cannot be changed. There is also a TV playback port for connect RCA cables to connect the Flip to your TV for playing back your videos on a bigger screen. The Ultra comes with a tripod connector on the bottom, making it easier to get yourself into shots or for setting up a steady shooting position.