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Flip Video Camcorder

Flip Video Camcorder
Flip Video Ultra Camcorderflipimage

http://www.puredigitalinc.com
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Pure Digital Technologies, Inc.
30 Maiden Lane, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 445-7626

MSRP $119.99 for 512 MB 30 minute recording to $179.99 for 2 GB 60 minute recording
Prices when I looked varied from $99 to $149.99, online at partner sites or at partner brick-and-mortar stores.

What comes in the package:

  • Camera (Silver, black, orange, red, or green)
    • 4 ounces; 4.12" x 2.25" x 1.25"
    • 640 x 480 resolution
    • 2x zoom fixed focus .8 m to infinity
  • 2 AA batteries
  • TV connection cable
  • The second smallest manual I’ve ever seen. The manual is a double-sided 3.5 by 15 inch card, at least a quarter of which is taken up with graphics

I imagine that the audience for this camera is split into 2 main contingents. The first is denizens of MySpace and YouTube--who have the time and interest to play with cute new gadgets and some technical savvy, but not a lot of money or interest in delaying gratification. The other logical audience is their grandparents, who have time, money and the expectation that results may take time--but not a whole lot of tech savvy or patience with newfangled contraptions. The former probably don’t need even the minimal manual, whatever its format. The latter need it in larger print.

The camera has a built-in USB connector on an easily-operated flip-out arm. A large graphic of the Remove Hardware Safely icon on both sides of the USB connector would be a very helpful touch.

The camera itself is what it’s name says: a point and shoot video camera. Press a button to turn it on. Press another to start and stop recording. Leave it stopped, but on, for a minute, and it turns itself off. At 4 ounces, it comes in at half the weight of my still camera and about a quarter of the weight of the battery for my tape video camcorder.

Where this camera shines is convenience and ease of use. It has a grand total of 8 buttons. ‘Play’ and ‘Delete’ are clearly labeled and the ‘On/Off’ and arrow symbols are standard and relatively easy to see. The specs for the camera say that I have 30-minutes of recording time. When I took a lot of short clips, that was true. Don’t know if it mattered that I replayed many of them as I went. When I let the camera run for longer periods, I got up to an hour plus before the Camera Full message popped up on my screen. I got nearly 2.5 hours of recording time from the included AA batteries before.

In Ready mode, the screen note about how much official recording time remains is clear but unobtrusive. I found the blinking display of the length of the clip being recorded to be a bit more bothersome.

Played back on my monitor and my TV, the picture quality was more than acceptable. The audio was surprisingly good, depending on the sound system of the replay device.

Did you notice that there’s no software listed with the product? There is no software to load. The camera uses built-in software to communicate with the computer through the USB port. The hardest part of setting up is orienting the batteries correctly.

flip-screenshoot

I like the size, weight, ease and convenience of use, both in recording and in downloading. I prefer devices that use AA batteries, since those are easily available. With a couple of clicks, the built-in Muvee software combines selected clips into an acceptable blend. The clips import as .avi files, opening me up to hours of wasting time, er, editing with my choice of third-party products. The option of taking the camera to one of over 9,000 stores to have it’s contents transferred to high-quality (Note: not suggested for email) DVD is a nice thought, though this didn’t work out for me. My local vendor left me on hold for 15 minutes when I called to find out prices and procedures.  Pure Digital does not sell directly. One is directed from their website to a selection of online and brick-and-mortar vendors and becomes subject to their service policies.

The manual and instructions are not my favorites. I never found the camera weight in any of the listed specs. While the press materials listed a price ($12.99) for having one of the partners make a DVD, I couldn’t find that information anywhere else.

The fixed focus and limited zoom are a show-stopper in some applications. Folk dancing is one of my interests. A way you learn is to make a field-recording of folks you hope are authentic, and study it over and over and over. The 2x zoom just won’t let me get in close enough to the best dancer’s feet without getting tromped on. The other place where functionality was sacrificed for simplicity more that liked was the inability to add memory–thereby increasing recording time.

Given these few limitations, the PureDigital camcorders are an amazing advance. With the holiday season coming, one of these handy cameras will fit into most stockings.

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