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.
image and sound quality
Naturally, the single largest addition to the Flip line is the boost to 720p (1280x720) HD video, and the difference is quite apparent just on a cursory glance of the video: the image is noticeably larger and sharper. In an era when it's virtually assumed that more and more camcorder owners will also own an HDTV or a widescreen computer, it would be hard to go back to the older Mino knowing its shots would appear comparatively blurry and use only part of the screen to show the final image.
Actual output quality is mixed but definitely in line with or better than one would expect from a camera at this price. The sensor preserves a surprising amount of detail when the camera is near-still or moving at a fairly slow pace, though it adds a decidedly visible amount of blur under many other circumstances; this isn't a camera for action shots. Colors are also somewhat subdued -- likely due to a lower contrast -- but certainly acceptable.
Low light performance isn't quite as spectacular as Pure might claim. It's true that the camera has a better sensor than earlier Flips and will capture video in moderately dark rooms, but our experience showed more blurring than usual in these conditions. It's also not as graceful adapting to rapid changes in lighting as could be hoped: it took a second or two for the camera to switch from a dark room to a view of the daylight outside, resulting in temporarily blown-out white light until it settled back down. All video cameras are affected by these factors to some degree; it's just that the Flip is more sensitive to this than a traditional camera.
And as before, the lens does play into the final output. The relatively small lens size produces a sometimes noticeable amount of chromatic aberration, or the "purple fringing" that occurs when objects are set against a bright background like the daytime sky. Likewise, without real optical zoom, there's no way to center in on a subject while adding detail. Digital zoom only crops and scales the shot, so users in most cases are better off just leaving the camera at default zoom levels unless absolutely necessary.
Audio is similarly basic; it's just a single-channel microphone. However, Pure has now added omni-directional sensitivity, and in a crowded shopping center it was clear the camera was picking up sound from the wider scene rather than just a particular field.
It also has to be reiterated that the Flip Mino HD costs $230. That's less than many basic standard-definition camcorders, and it's hard to fault the device's creator when it still produces entirely watchable HD at this price.
There isn't much to say about the runtime of the camera other than to say it's good enough for the intended purposes of recording video for the web or for small-scale personal use. Pure rates the battery at two hours of continuous use, which is half as much as the regular Flip Mino but still twice as long as the actual recording time. It only becomes a concern when the Flip is left idle a long time without a charge, and then only for those ambitious enough to record up to the limit. Until the Mino HD comes with 8GB of memory, or enough to use those two hours of runtime, the battery won't be a primary concern.