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Video Cameras

Photos: Flip Video Mino hands-on

Our spies got their hands on the eagerly-anticipated Flip Video Mino ahead of its public debut on gift website Firebox, with the tiny camcorder boasting a few changes over the popular Ultra

Flip Video has carved itself a niche with the first of its hugely popular low-cost camcorders in the past year, and we've been eagerly awaiting version 2.0: the Flip Video Mino, which is smaller and now sports a rechargable battery. Although it's not on the site yet, our Crave spies spotted the Mino at a Firebox Christmas preview above a bookshop in London's salubrious West End. We had a quick play about with it, captured some pictures on microfilm, then smuggled the images out of Soho in a diplomatic bag. As you can see, it measures a teeny-tiny 100x50x16mm, with a 38mm (1.5-inch) colour screen.

The Mino, like its predecessor the Ultra, boasts a 2GB built-in flash memory, which holds up to 60 minutes of video. Footage is saved in MPEG4 as AVI files.

And, like the Ultra, currently available from Firebox and riding high in Amazon's bestseller list, simplicity is the watchword. Apart from a 2x digital zoom, there isn't much in the way of options to distract you: focus is fixed at 1m to infinity, size is fixed at VGA resolution 640x480, and frame rate at 30 frames per second. You just point, press the big red HAL-looking button, and shoot.

This simplicity continues after you're done shooting: there's built-in software for instant viewing, editing, and one-click emailing, with integrated video upload to MySpace, YouTube and similar video-sharing sites.

Other features include a Child Safe mode, designed to prevent accidental deletions of clips by button-pushing nippers. Meanwhile the slightly dubious-sounding Silent mode allows for recording in 'sensitive situations' -- like funerals, advance movie screenings, hiding in changing rooms and other such places where the use of a camcorder is highly inappropriate. Needless to say, our spies like the sound of Silent mode a lot.

The Mino isn't available here just yet, so we don't have any word on UK pricing, but our spies reckon it'll be in the region of £100 and should be big in the run-up to Christmas. For more spy shots, make sure nobody is tailing you then sneak over to the next photo. -Rich Trenholm

Update: Our people on the inside have let us know that the Flip Mino will be available from mid-November for £119.95. You can read our full Flip Video Mino review here.

The signature flip-out USB arm has moved from the side of the Ultra to the top of the Mino. This plugs into the computer for file transfer, and now charging too. The Mino replaces the Ultra's AA batteries with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which should last for four hours. An optional Flip Video charger you can plug into the wall is coming soon. Expect a full review later today.