The headlining Flip camera gets HD and is better for the move. (June 5th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Pure Digital (Cisco)
- HD video at a still-affordable price.
- Good form factor; HDMI out is new.
- Very user-friendly hardware and software.
- Much more storage; longer recording than Mino HD.
- Replaceable battery.
- No optical zoom; same image quality as before.
- FlipShare is quick but still limited.
camera controls and longevity
Pure's user interface for the Ultra HD is very simple and easy to pick up quickly. There are only seven buttons so recording, playback and on-camera file deletion are all easily found. The up and down buttons operate the digital zoom during recording and change the volume during playback; the left and right allow you to sort through recorded videos during playback. There's little mystery to using the camera in the field, and it remains one of the strongest selling points.
With a heftier battery to go with the upgrade to 8GB of storage, the new Ultra is the first HD-capable Flip to have more battery life than it does recording time; it can hold two hours of video but lasts about 2.5 hours before the battery gives out. While we don't expect many owners to ever use their cameras for long enough to test these limits -- that's not what it's intended to do -- it's a welcome change that ensures the camera will almost always have enough energy to fill the memory to the brim. Eventually, Pure will hopefully provide enough storage and a powerful enough battery to last the duration of a particularly long event, but that's dictated more by price and size than anything under the company's control.
The Ultra HD uses the same imaging engine and basic lens technology as the Mino HD, so videographers should know what to expect. Video from the camera is sharp but, given the budget, isn't terribly advanced. Fast movement has a tendency to blur (if tolerably so), and transitions between bright and dark scenes often lag a few seconds before the camera adjusts to the new light levels. These are all to be expected given the price -- one low enough that many standard-definition cameras struggle to reach it -- but it doesn't change what can be done.
Colors are flat and even dull at times, but also balanced. Unlike the Kodak Zi6 or some other pocket cameras, there's no deliberate "punch" added to make the image superficially more appealing. Newcomers may be frustrated, but more experienced users may actually be quite pleased: the overall neutral output is better-oriented towards those who want to play with colors themselves.
The real limitation, as could be expected, is the lens. An absence of optical zoom and a limitation to 2X digital zoom prevents the more ambitious from cropping the shot or simply from bringing a subject into greater detail. While adding zoom would detract from the simplicity, the Ultra HD as Pure's range-topper is the model that would most deserve better optics, and it's somewhat disappointing not to get that here.