A little over a year ago the local FOX outlet sent the general manager, some tech staff and two on-air sports anchors out to our local Chicagoland television educators meeting to introduce us to their student video upload program. As an afterthought, the manager showed us an iPod sized camcorder they were considering for on the spot interviews and breaking news when they couldn’t get a whole crew into the field. It looked interesting enough, but nothing that would replace my 3 chip camcorder. By this year’s NECC the buzz had grown and rumors I had heard about import problems for the PC and Mac were dispelled, so I took the plunge and bought a Flip Mino. In order to give the best overview possible, I thought I’d do some serious field testing in Disney World. I got the grandbabies along with their parents and convinced two younger brothers to bring their families along for some serious comparison and field testing (and if you REALLY believe that was the reason we all went down to WDW, I can get you a good deal on a couple of bridges in the NY area).
It was no contest. The Flip was so convenient from the moment we got on the plane in Chicago that the mini-DV camcorder never even made it out of its case during the trip. There is no doubt that my 3 chip camcorder gets a much better, near broadcast quality image, records good stereo sound with its built in mic, and can gather hours of footage depending on the number of tapes I have and how long my two batteries hold their charge. That said, the Flip’s quality is more than adequate (surprisingly even) for my home movies and just about any school use.
With great convenience comes some trade-offs. The Mino model I have can store up to 60 minutes in its 2G of flash memory. You can erase clips to make space just like you can dump any photo at any time from a digital still camera. And like a digital still camera, you can watch what you’ve recorded immediately. That was a great feature for keeping my granddaughter occupied in line a couple of times. It has a built in rechargeable battery that, like an iPod, can only be charged through its flip out USB plug connected either to a computer or an iPod charger. In full days of park visits the battery never went below half and the only time I filled up the memory was when I forgot to delete the previous day’s footage after saving it to my laptop. The two original models take AA batteries, but still need access to a computer for saving video.
There are three models to choose from. All have a 60 minute video capacity, but the Flip Video (MSRP $129) saves it to 1G of memory while the Ultra (MSRP $149) and Mino (MSRP $179) have 2G internal memory. I found my Flip Mino for less than $150.
Educators can get a $15/unit rebate when buying at least three Ultras or Minos at a time by September 30th.
I have to think this would be a great, economical way to equip a school for basic movie making without the hassle of tape or mini-DVD disks. Keep in mind too that the Video model can’t be mounted on a tripod and none of the models can take an external mic. But other than that, it’s basically point, shoot and plug into any computer to import into your editing software or the software supplied (Mac and PC) right on the camera. Here are a few examples. The quality suffered a bit converting to Flash for YouTube.