Flip UltraHD series
Editors' note: You may have heard that Cisco will no longer be producing the Flip camcorder products. However, as long as they're still available on the market, you may want to consider buying one anyway. If so, here are some issues you should consider, and if not, here are some alternatives.
Cisco's Flip Video is facing more competition than ever from camera and camcorder manufacturers as well as from multifunction devices like the iPod Touch and a bevy of smartphones. With that in mind, you might expect the latest version of its UltraHD mini camcorder to be oozing with innovative features. That's not the case, yet it's still one of the best pocket video cameras you'll find.
The UltraHD now comes in 1-hour and 2-hour versions, though there's more than just recording time that separates the models. The $149.99 1-hour version is basically the same as 2009's UltraHD, but with a smaller storage capacity. The UltraHD 2 Hour (2H) gets all the new features including improvements to video quality and a proprietary port for adding third-party accessories made specifically for Flip's cams. In the end, you get your money's worth for the $50 extra you'll pay for the 2-hour version.
However, if you aren't interested in accessories and would like things such as a mic or headphone jack, expandable memory, more than one shooting resolution, or the capability to shoot still photos or play with creative video filters, this and the rest of Flip's lineup are not for you. The camera's beauty lies in its simplicity: turn it on and press the big red button. That, combined with great embedded sharing software, good battery life, and excellent video, are why Flip probably isn't going away anytime soon.
|Key specs||Flip UltraHD 2 Hour|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.2 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.5 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||8GB, internal flash|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||1.6 megapixels, 1/4.5-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||2-inch LCD, 76K dots|
|Lens||Fixed focus, f2.4|
|File format (video, audio)||H.264 video, AAC audio (.MP4)|
|Resolution||1,280x720 at 60fps (progressive)|
|Recording time at highest quality||2 hours|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 2 hours; AAA (3)|
With the exception of a small Cisco logo on its back at the bottom, the UltraHD 2H's body follows the same look as the previous model, but is smaller; in size (and attractiveness) it falls between the bulky, entry-level UltraHD 1 Hour (1H) and the upscale MinoHD. It's available in matte black and white versions, or can be personalized when purchased on Flip's Web site. On the black version, the front, top, and bottom have a suede texture to them, which gives you a better grip than shiny plastic would, and the sides are a matte silver plastic so you don't end up with fingerprints all over when you hold it.
On front is the lens flanked by a mic and a red recording indicator light. On the right side is a small power button, and on the left is a switch for flipping out the USB connector. On the bottom are a threaded tripod mount and a lock for securing the battery compartment cover. Between them is a Micro-HDMI port butted up against another proprietary port, which together forms the new FlipPort.
The FlipPort gives third-party manufacturers the capability to create accessories specifically for Flip devices. These accessories would then be stamped with a "Designed for Flip" emblem. So though this UltraHD doesn't have an external mic jack, you'll be able to buy a Designed for Flip add-on microphone that will connect through the FlipPort (for example, this one from Blue Microphones). The port can also be used for things such as battery extenders or chargers or a portable pico projector. Cases, covers, and attachable lenses will be available under the Designed for Flip program, too. We generally like the idea because it allows you to build out the product to your needs. But it does add to the cost of ownership and if you know you're going to need an external mic, for example, you may be better off going with a model from another manufacturer.
Speaking of accessories, all that's in the box with the device is a rechargeable battery, a wrist strap, and a microfiber pouch for storing the device. If you want to take advantage of the Micro-HDMI output or need to connect to a hard-to-reach USB port, you'll have to pony up for the cables.
|Features||Flip UltraHD 2 Hour|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||None|
Again, one of the main reasons to buy a Flip is the easy operation. The control panel is the same one you'd find on all Flip video cameras; there are buttons for Play, Delete, Record, and a four-way directional pad, but that's it. When recording, pressing up and down on the pad controls the 2x digital zoom, while in playback it controls volume. Left and right navigate through your recordings regardless of mode. There is no menu system with the exception of some setup options: language, time, date, and turning on and off button sounds and the record light. This means that you can hand this device to anyone and he or she should able to shoot a video. Sharing your movies takes more effort, of course, but the embedded FlipShare software continues to be one of the best packages for doing it directly from the device.
Flip out the USB connector and plug it into your Windows (Windows XP SP2 or later) or OS X (10.5 or later) computer and up pops FlipShare. Once launched you can browse, watch, organize, and save videos; edit and create movies with your clips adding music and titles if you want; easily grab a still image from video; and upload to Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and now Twitter. Videos can be sent by e-mail (at a reduced resolution) or stuck into a greeting card. You can also upload to a personal Flip Channel and create a list of people you want to share your videos with. When you upload a video, people on your list will be alerted by e-mail that a new video has been posted. Flip also has an iPhone app that allows you or your friends and family to access those videos remotely from an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Once you've externally saved movies you've shot, you can then use the FlipShare software to reformat them to a smaller size and put them back on the device--all with a couple clicks. You can also use your storage for videos that others have shared with you through their Flip Channels.
Though you won't mistake the video for that of a full-fledged HD camcorder, we were once again impressed with the clip quality produced by this little cam; it was reasonably sharp with accurate and vibrant colors. The UltraHD 2H has electronic image stabilization, which does seem to help without degrading video quality. This model also records video at 60 frames per second, making for much smoother-looking video with less judder. If you intend to shoot moving subjects and do a lot of fast panning, you'll want to get this over the UltraHD 1H. Low-light video is noisy, but that's to be expected and all in all, it's not bad for its size. Generally speaking, the movies are great for Web sharing and very good for viewing on a large HDTV, but again, it won't compete with a regular HD camcorder costing hundreds more.