Flip Video has a new take-anywhere camcorder, now able to shoot in 720 HD video - the Flip Video MinoHD.
After much malarkey about when we were allowed to post our review of this product, it seems today is the day we can finally tell you our thoughts about the not-so-secret Flip MinoHD (it came out in the US months ago and has been available for preorder on gadget sites for weeks).
So what is it? Well, the Flip Video MinoHD is a 4GB high-definition video camera that is lighter than and no bigger than a mobile phone. It's called a Flip because of the way the USB connector at one edge ‘flips' out and enables it to attach directly to a laptop or PC USB port for footage to be downloaded. A ‘trigger' on the left-hand side of the Flip Video MinoHD releases it.
In a masterstroke of simplicity, it has a single big red Record button and a couple of recessed fingerholes that you press to either play a clip or to delete it. To skip back or forwards through a clip or jump to the next one you press the relevant illuminate arrow button.
While recording on the Flip Video MinoHD, you can zoom in and out using plus and minus buttons above and below the record button. There's a 1.8in colour LCD on which to view recorded clips or to preview what you're about to record, a speaker and lens round the back and an on/off button on the right. If you want, you can screw the Flip Video MinoHD into a tripod to add stability and there's a loophole for a camera strap.
Such is the straightforwardness of the Flip idea that it's been much mimicked. The original Flip camcorder went onsale in the US in 2007 and has sold millions of units. The HD version ups the storage capacity from 1GB to 4GB, reflecting the greater space that high-definition footage takes up. Even so, you can happily record up an hour before running out of space.
Because the Flip Video MinoHD weighs only 92g, we found we were far more inclined to stash it in a bag and take it with us than we would have with a chunkier camcorder or, it's fair to say, one that cost several times more.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the clips, and the clarity of the audio in particular. While there's no directional microphone, the Flip Video MinoHD picked up dialogue around such that we were able to easily make out every word of a conversation without having to strain to hear what was said.
There's no flash or provision for low light on the Flip Video MinoHD, which means it isn't ideal for taking to parties, nor does it have any facility for taking still photos. This function is offered by the Flip software for the PC, though.
When you attach the Flip Video MinoHD to your computer, all the clips on its memory are proffered via a Flip-branded interface where you can play each clip, assign it to a new or designated folder on your hard drive and import it for archiving. You can play, pause and take a snap as you go and can specify whether or not the footage should be deleted from the camera once saved to PC.
If you're used to using a decent digital camera or a camcorder with a wide angle, you'll find the amount you can capture in a frame very limited - we took the Flip Video MinoHD househunting and found it near impossible to capture an overview of even the largest of rooms using this device. However, the Flip Video MinoHD comes into its own when shooting from a distance where you've a whole vista or a proper scene to record, rather than a cramped interior.
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