The bestselling pocket camera goes HD with improved software. (November 23rd, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Pure Digital
- HD a boon for HDTV enthusiasts or simply future proofing.
- Simple but excellent FlipShare software loaded on the camera.
- Very straightforward on-camera control.
- Good low-light sensitivity; detail kept in most individual video frames.
- 4GB of memory built-in enough to handle likely uses of HD without an add-in card.
- No removable storage or battery.
- Images occasionally subject to purple fringing or poor light level transitions.
- Battery life is just 'good enough.' - Software lacks clip trimming or other editing besides clip selections and music.
- Needs optical zoom to truly rival larger, more expensive cameras.
Conventional wisdom would have had Pure Digital's Flip camcorders wash out because of their limited features, but it's precisely this which has led them to seemingly overthrow the budget camcorder market. Their dead-simple controls and narrow focus have made them ideal for a generation growing up on YouTube and video blogging. The Flip Mino HD promises to do the same for high-definition video and with even simpler editing. But does it live up to this promise?
design and controls
Those who have seen the standard-definition Flip Mino won't see much changed in the HD version; it's fundamentally the same camera on the outside.
This isn't necessarily a weakness. As with the earlier design upgrade, the new model is very pocketable and manages to be lightweight without feeling cheap or flimsy. It also has a number of thoughtful touches that you might not expect on a video camera built to a price: both the power button and USB connector toggle are designed such that you won't trigger either by accident but also aren't difficult to use. A port to screw in a monopod or tripod is at the bottom and likely to be appreciated for those worried about stable shots, though curiously Pure hasn't included HD video output. A mini HDMI-to-HDMI adapter would have been valuable versus the low-resolution RCA carried over from the earlier cameras.
You can also personalize the Flip Mino HD with an outer skin either pre-designed by Pure or sourced from one of your own images. It's a small component, but it does help the appeal of a device which is likely to be owned both by a younger crowd and which actually has a design flat enough for large images. The test unit is a simple black model, which is attractive in an understated way but which might also pick up some dust if left out in the open for awhile.
The improvement the new Mino could stand center around the lens. It could use a lens cover, either automatic or manual. While there's a helpful carrying pouch to prevent damage, there will invariably be owners who forgo the pouch or who otherwise accidentally scratch or smudge the lens surface. And as always, a true optical zoom lens would be appreciated, though this might compromise the relatively thin shape; it's hard to say whether this might over-complicate the camera.
There's no expansion on this Flip, which uses 4GB of built-in flash memory. That's regrettable, but with about an hour of HD recording isn't that out of line with higher-end camcorders. An SDHC card slot would nonetheless have been nice for the truly ambitious trying to capture a wedding or a similarly long event.
Using the camera proper is likewise surprisingly pleasant for something with so few controls. Again like the original Mino, the camera controls are all touch-sensitive and helpfully light up to show you which actions are available in context. There isn't much you can do: you can only choose to record, adjust the digital zoom, and (when outside recording) browse stored videos to either play or delete them.
While unfortunate for those who would hope to launch into serious video editing with a budget camera, the truth is that there's still a refreshing simplicity to it. The only artistic concerns are framing shots and knowing when to record. It's easy enough that a child or a complete novice could produce video, and that speaks volumes for Pure's knowledge of its audience.