New Flip camera to the rescue

posted at 12:00 pm on October 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

I’m heading home from Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel this weekend.  I spoke to the general audience about tax reform, but spent most of my time on Bloggers Row, which had comfortable digs in a convenient location — but unfortunately, spotty Internet access.  However, this was not as much of a problem as one might think.  The situation allowed me more time to interact with other bloggers, watch speeches, and use my new Flip Ultra HD video camera to conduct interviews.

I bought the camera this week as a backup for my normal Ustream setup, but I was a little skeptical of flip-style cameras.  A couple of years ago I bought a less-expensive camera and was not able to use it as I’d hoped to get good quality recordings of live events.  It turned out to be less rugged than I had hoped as well, and the audio was especially a problem.

The Flip Ultra HD performed well on all counts.  I did interviews with people in noisy and quiet environments, and the audio holds up better than I’d thought.  The picture quality is good even in low-light environments, which my traditional camcorder doesn’t handle as well.  The Flip’s size makes it extremely convenient; it fits easily into a shirt pocket, and it’s light enough that holding it steady for several minutes is not a problem.  I could have purchased a rechargeable battery for it, but I ran the camera through the entire conference on two AA batteries and it’s still going.

The Flip Ultra HD comes with its own software, although users can simply transfer the videos off as files in Windows when connecting it to the USB port through its swivel arm.  (That arm worries me; I’d rather have a USB port instead of the arm, as it would make it work around other USB connections on the laptop, which became a problem with my network and power cables.  I’m also wondering whether that will break long before the camera outlives its usefulness otherwise.)  The Flip software works very well, connecting me to my YouTube account and handling the upload task within the application.  It also has an easy interface for splitting videos and doing some other basic editing tasks.

I paid $162 for the Flip Ultra HD, with its 8 GB internal memory and 120 minutes of video recording capability, which makes it a great deal, especially for bloggers.  It won’t replace a full-featured HD camcorder, but if you don’t need that much power and have to travel light, the Flip Ultra HD is a great bargain and a solid performer so far.  I’ll be at Western CPAC in two weeks, and I expect to give it an even harder workout then.

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Thanks for the review! Good to know.

Philly on October 4, 2009 at 12:02 PM

I saw some reviews that gave the new Kodak minicam higher marks than the Flip. Did you do any research before you bought, because I would like to get one of these little baby’s too but could use some extra real-world advice.

Bishop on October 4, 2009 at 12:04 PM

Buddy of mine got one of those a couple weeks ago…nice little camera. Think he said he paid about $180 for it. I’ll be putting that on my Christmas list this year (hint hint)

JetBoy on October 4, 2009 at 12:08 PM

Another good choice is Creative Vado Pocket Video Cam HD. I bought one a few weeks ago, based on reviews like this, and I love it. The only thing it lacks, imo, is an audio in jack for an optional external microphone, tho the sound from its internal mic is not bad.

petefrt on October 4, 2009 at 12:12 PM

Get a USB cable with a female end. It’ll save the arm from breaking off.

mmorgan21 on October 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM

I have one and love it. I bought a short male/female USB cable for about 6 bucks to avoid plugging the camera directly into a USB port.

mikefln on October 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM

(That arm worries me; I’d rather have a USB port instead of the arm, as it would make it work around other USB connections on the laptop, which became a problem with my network and power cables.  I’m also wondering whether that will break long before the camera outlives its usefulness otherwise.)

Ed, I have an older non-HD version with that USB arm, but solved the problem with an adapter cord I got at, I think, a Target.

I’m gonna get this one, thanks to your review. They oughta cut you in for commisions.

TXUS on October 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM

Ed, would a USB extension cord help?

petefrt on October 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Shirt pocket? hehe

strosfan on October 4, 2009 at 12:23 PM

its articles like this that add that special charm to Hotair. I’ve been looking for a good camera, and this sounds like a solid deal thanks for the tip Ed

angelwing34215 on October 4, 2009 at 12:24 PM

i want one.

Spathi on October 4, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Love mine, and a USB extension cord is a good suggestion, I bought a pack when I purchased mine, flip sells a pack of three actually, usually can find them with all the other flip accessories at ny store that sells flip, and of course if you can’t find flip’s you can get any brand.

ohellno on October 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM

YES! I work for a medium circulation local newspaper and our photo department bought two of these last year. They are AWESOME, easy enough that we staff writers can use them when a photog is not available to go out to something, but with enough memory that we can shoot plenty of B-roll for them to have fun editing. They’re also small enough to hide behind a notebook, and quiet enough that people don’t always hear that they’re recording…

das411 on October 4, 2009 at 12:34 PM

I have the standard def Flip. I’ve used it at concerts, races, political rallies – never been disappointed. It’s a nice piece of hardware. It would be great if it supported high cap SD cards. I plan on getting the HD version when the price drops a little more.

alilianstrom on October 4, 2009 at 12:34 PM

Ed…buy an Usb extension cable.

Joe Caps on October 4, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Is it small enough to use for sting operations?

Darth Executor on October 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM

Shirt pocket? hehe
strosfan on October 4, 2009 at 12:23 PM

It replaces the ball-point pens. :-)

Thx for the review Ed. I have a Flip without the HD. That feature really makes a difference.

The arm is a problem. Thanks for all the tips on getting a cord.

conservative pilgrim on October 4, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Sold!

Great write up. Looks great. If only I had a Mac to make it all worth it, I’d be making unwatchable YouTube videos right now.

Just have to wait for next year’s bonus, and I’m saying “goodbye” to my PC, and one virus after another. To be fair, if I’d had McAfee (sp?) instead of CA virus protection, I probably would have been happier with the PC.

doufree on October 4, 2009 at 12:42 PM

ohellno on October 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM

I guess Ed’s is a common complaint, as my Vado manual mentioned the USB extension cord had been included for that reason.

The picture quality really is remarkable, isn’t it.

For a job like recording Mary Katherine Ham’s address, a 3-4 foot tripod might be helpful. Even though Ed has a steady hand, still it takes full attention to keep a little camera like that from rocking and rolling.

They make 4-6″ table top tripods for them, but I haven’t seen any floor tripods. I suppose you could get the same height by putting the 6″ tripod on a four foot plant stand. Or maybe attaching the little tripod to a larger one.

petefrt on October 4, 2009 at 12:43 PM

users can simply transfer the videos off as files in Windows

Also, the software works just fine on Macs. I still have to upgrade to Snow Leopard, so I don’t know if there are any bugs. I’d assume it’s fine though.

conservative pilgrim on October 4, 2009 at 12:48 PM

For my middle school we’re going to get the new zi8 from Kodak. It has a bit better video but the big deal is that it has a plug in microphone (3.5mm) jack. With a cheap lapel mic and a long enough cord it will give you much better audio. You could even use a wireless mic if you wanted to spend the bucks. The zi8 also uses memory cards so you don’t run out of memory.

Mojave Mark on October 4, 2009 at 12:52 PM

I spoke to the general audience about tax reform, but spent most of my time on Bloggers Row, which had comfortable digs in a convenient location — but unfortunately, spotty Internet access.

Thanks for the heads up, but sounds like Americans for Prosperity had their own Obamateurism. Bloggers Row had spotty internet access??? Hello?

Christian Conservative on October 4, 2009 at 12:53 PM

I have a slightly older version, with 1 hour memory.

I’ve been very satisfied with it, it simply works and takes perfectly good video. I used it during the Boston tea party:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qXcW1WkT1o

even in full screen the quality is plenty good enough. For the price, it cannot be beat.

And if you’re using Windows, Microsoft has a free video editing program:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/updates/moviemaker2.mspx

Which works well enough.

Rebar on October 4, 2009 at 12:56 PM

I bought last year’s model for my daughter and she loves it.

HellCat on October 4, 2009 at 12:59 PM

My wife and I went to Greece last year and we used these cameras throughout our trip. They worked great and I would recommend them to anyone.

World B. Free on October 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM

Ed, this might be a good day to go visit Woot and pick up a nice little tabletop tripod, cheap.

Pablo on October 4, 2009 at 1:04 PM

Sigh…. First there was allahpundit and his iPhone… Now it’s Captain Ed and his New Flip camera…

doriangrey on October 4, 2009 at 1:13 PM

What kind of resolution does it provide for still pics? Or is this camera really not intended for decent stills?

Spiritk9 on October 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM

If it connects as a regular usb mass storage device then it will work for Linux users as well. I’ve been looking for something to record my spouse’s gigs, but I’m guessing the audio would be insufficient for that purpose?

VerbumSap on October 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM

Shirt pocket? hehe

strosfan on October 4, 2009 at 12:23 PM

But, will it fit inside the pocket protector?

Vashta.Nerada on October 4, 2009 at 1:21 PM

I have last year’s model. Fantastic, reliable, ultra portable, low price point. Revolutionary product. I’m going out to get the HD.

marklmail on October 4, 2009 at 1:32 PM

But, will it fit inside the pocket protector?

Vashta.Nerada on October 4, 2009 at 1:21 PM

email Kurt Lammon, he may be able to do something with it

http://pocketprotectors.com/?p=7

Chris_Balsz on October 4, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Give the new lithium batteries a try with it. I put them in my digital cameras and they work great with them. They last really long plus they don’t drain and go dead the way alkaline batteries do.

http://www.energizer.com/products/hightech-batteries/lithium/pages/lithium-batteries.aspx

OxyCon on October 4, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Will this become the blogger’s modern equivelent of the old Pocket Protector for geeks? :)

michaelo on October 4, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Thanks for using your blog to pitch shitty products, Ed.

How much are they paying you?

Xolom on October 4, 2009 at 1:48 PM

The upside of this is great. I was looking for a good camera and wasn’t sure what to buy. The down side is since this review went out on HotAir, I bet the price will go up 20 more bucks!

JellyToast on October 4, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Also, the software works just fine on Macs. I still have to upgrade to Snow Leopard, so I don’t know if there are any bugs. I’d assume it’s fine though.

conservative pilgrim on October 4, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Hmm, $162 is frighteningly cheap, I wonder if it plays nice with FreeBSD or Slowlaris, as I don’t use either BGa(pron. “Bee-Gay”) or SJo(pron. “Saint Jobs”)’s pants operating systems.

fronclynne on October 4, 2009 at 1:58 PM

NEW – Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera.

Record High Definition video (1080p at 30 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio)
Also 720p at 60 fps!

Integrated image stabilization

Expandable SD/SDHC card slot up to 32 GB; Rechargeable batteries and charger included

Vibrant 2.5-inch viewfinder; Watch footage on HDTV with included cables

Make audio awesome–the external microphone jack lets you record in stereo. Hook your own microphone up to camera – that alone is reason to buy it.

5 MP 16:9 widescreen HD still pictures

Swing out the USB arm to upload, share and charge

Amazon: $179.95

Mine is arriving Monday.

albill on October 4, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Thanks for bringing this up Ed. I’m in the market for a video camera and had no idea these little guys existed. I’m gonna go with the Kodak Zi8 though.

Look at the picture quality.

David Combs on October 4, 2009 at 2:31 PM

I love my Flip…I feel like a spy. It’s very handy to whip out and video some jackass yelling at me at a tea party!

Catherine Wilkinson on October 4, 2009 at 2:48 PM

What concealed camera did O’Keefe use?

PattyJ on October 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Is it small enough to use for sting operations?

Darth Executor on October 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM

Try one of these for a sting operation.

FYI: Ed, I used your aff. link and bought one. Thanks!

VibrioCocci on October 4, 2009 at 3:17 PM

I have a couple of the Vados HD. I think they all compare pretty well, but for those of you that don’t think you would use one, you would. They are awesome.
Definitely agree that you should buy a USB extension cable.

JeffinOrlando on October 4, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I purchased the Flip camera last month and it has been a great little video camera to have. I carry it everywhere and now have video of events that in the past I would not have wanted to carry a cumbersome camera to.

InquiringMind on October 4, 2009 at 3:58 PM

I’d rather have a USB port instead of the arm, as it would make it work around other USB connections on the laptop

As others have pointed out, you can get a USB extension cord for a few bucks.

If you lose the extension cord, or it doesn’t work correctly, you would still be able to plug it directly into a USB port to transfer the files, even if that meant leaving something else unplugged for a few minutes. With a port instead of the arm, you wouldn’t have that option. No cable, no connection.

The Monster on October 4, 2009 at 4:01 PM

The Flip needs to be built into an unobtrusive Pimp Coat, so you can get those neat candid shots us conservative yearn for, and have people making really good jokes about your USB flip plug to boot — like how it needs an extension cord to be long enough to do anything.

unclesmrgol on October 4, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Sold!

Great write up. Looks great. If only I had a Mac to make it all worth it, I’d be making unwatchable YouTube videos right now.

Just have to wait for next year’s bonus, and I’m saying “goodbye” to my PC, and one virus after another. To be fair, if I’d had McAfee (sp?) instead of CA virus protection, I probably would have been happier with the PC.

doufree on October 4, 2009 at 12:42 PM

If you get a Mac, you are trading one owner for another. One word for your PC laptop’s OS: Ubuntu

No virii, built in firewall, execution protection. Add noscript and adblock plus to your Firefox install, and you have a whole new experience in prophylactic computing.

unclesmrgol on October 4, 2009 at 4:38 PM

unclesmrgol on October 4, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Any downside?

CWforFreedom on October 4, 2009 at 5:02 PM

Any downside?

CWforFreedom on October 4, 2009 at 5:02 PM

Yes.

A) Ubuntu is probably not supported by your PC’s manufacturer. You are the waranter of its correct operation. I say “probably” because some laptop companies (like Lenovo and HP) do offer laptops with Linux (RedHat/Suse/Ubuntu) support.
B) There is no place to call for service. You can get help on Ubuntu’s web-boards, but there’s no phone-in support unless you get a support contract with Canonical (the company offering Ubuntu).

The combination of (a) and (b) are that you are the warranter of your PC’s correct operation.

I checked out Ubuntu by replacing my laptop’s hard drive and loading Ubuntu (laptop is an HP DV9000 17″ media laptop). It worked perfectly, including the WIFI card (which until recently was a problem with Linux laptops, until the chip vendors (e.g., Atheros) started supporting Linux).

(C) The OS is neither MacOS nor Windows, which means learning new ways to do things.

There’s plenty of Ubuntu books at your local Barnes and Noble or via Amazon, so documentation (either online or offline) is not an issue.

My HP DV9000 seems much faster under Ubuntu (the DV9000 has two hard drives, and it was the first one I pulled for the install, and I put it back afterwards, not trusting Ubuntu to do the right thing). I have it set up to dual boot to either Windows or to Ubuntu, and I spend most of my time in Ubuntu. When I have a bit more time, I’ll probably configure Xen so that I can boot Windows under Ubuntu as a virtual machine and have both OS’s running at the same time.

(D) Certain apps (like Microsoft Office or Photoshop) won’t run directly under Ubuntu, so if you ware wedded to Microsoft or Adobe for getting things done, Ubuntu is not a good choice. If you can replace Microsoft Office with OpenOffice and Photoshop with Gimp, you are good to go. I need Photoshop because I have a large collection of custom scripts, so I haven’t moved over completely.

Those are the downsides (A)-(D) that I see. But if you are going to throw the laptop away, I’d give Ubuntu a good shot first. You may be surprised at how responsive and virus-free a laptop can be.

unclesmrgol on October 4, 2009 at 5:18 PM

I’ve had my Flip mino for about 6 months. I concur with Ed’s observations. Great camera for thh price.

watson007 on October 4, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Re Flip price, got mine from its website for $199 including the rechargeable battery pack and the soft case. If sold separately, the battery pack is priced at $29.99 and the soft case at $14.99 (per Best Buy). Case is much overpriced by Best buy.

Its HD is good only for 720p, not 1080p.

Amadeo on October 4, 2009 at 5:46 PM

My Kodak Super 8mm with built in mike-boom fits neatly in the pocket of a kangaroo.

Time to upgrade?

Thanks for a handy insight Ed!

profitsbeard on October 4, 2009 at 5:53 PM

Re Flip price, got mine from its website for $199 plus tax, which includes rechargeable battery pack and soft case. Best Buy has same basic price but charges extra for battery ($29.99), power adapter($29.99), and another $14.99 for soft case. The last one way too overpriced.

Its HD is only 720p, not 1080p.

Amadeo on October 4, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Nice review. I would like to get one of these and use it at my local ACORN office when I show up posing as a hit man for hire.

Mr. Arrogant on October 4, 2009 at 6:05 PM

I LOVE my Flip Ultra HD. I’ve had mine for about 6 month’s and paid just over $200. Two hours of record time, but make sure you bring extra batteries! Don’t plan on using the 2x zoom either. It degrades the beautiful 1280×720 resolution picture. Yes, the audio does surprisingly well as well. Here are a couple of videos I’ve shot using my Flip Ultra HD. The high quality really shines through, even on YouTube:

I Am the Mob

Signs of the Times

I edit with Final Cut Express on my MacBook Pro.

Ordinary1 on October 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM

I looking for the O’Keefe/Giles Model……Any Info?

BigMike252 on October 4, 2009 at 7:35 PM

If I were someone who belonged in front of a camera, I’d get it. In fact, I might still get it.

steveegg on October 4, 2009 at 8:39 PM

Get the small flexi tripod and the steadiness of the hands is no longer an issue. Instead of holding the camera, I hold the folded tripod legs, and that has given me stable video with my Flipcam.

SilentWatcher on October 4, 2009 at 8:58 PM

Ed- Always appreciate your reviews whether it’s books or technology! Thanks!

DrewVT6 on October 4, 2009 at 11:50 PM

OT, I just bought a Panasonic LX3 point and shoot with a Leica lens (same camera as the Leica D-LUX 4 essentially) and it’s just fantastic, the best pics I’ve ever taken with a p&s. What a lens!

Sharke on October 5, 2009 at 12:21 AM

H.A. is now the shopping channel?

Jeff from WI on October 5, 2009 at 5:37 AM

Thanks for the tip. I have been looking for a video camera that was reasonable easy and played well with computer and internet. Not a lot of folks who post useful info on the good equipment when they find it. That type of info is a state secret for some reason. The only problem is that this product was British in origin at one point and I do no business with those kind of people.

Jerricho68 on October 5, 2009 at 10:04 AM

These cameras are pretty cool. We received one for a wedding gift. Easy to use, almost idiot-proof.

Almost. I’m sure the world can build a better idiot.

ynot4tony2 on October 5, 2009 at 10:37 AM

I have Kodak’s version of that camera-it does basically the same stuff-for about $60.00 less.
It’s come in very handy at 912 rallies etc.

annoyinglittletwerp on October 5, 2009 at 12:07 PM

allbill
Sorry-didn’t see your post.
My Kodak’s a Zi6.
I love it.

annoyinglittletwerp on October 5, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Oddly enough this is one of those “handy little toys” for geeks. My son bought one to use for school stuff where he doesn’t want to carry his high end camera gear and it works great.

2nd Ammendment Mother on October 5, 2009 at 1:31 PM