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Flip Camcorder Is No Flop--For Now

As a critic, I'm supposed to throw my opinion into the story, saying upfront whether I like something or not. But for today's review of the Flip Mino video camera, I had to step back a little from my own perspective.

The review I would have written for myself, or for people with my general level of tolerance for the foibles of digital video, would have read much like TechCrunch's curt dismissal of this gadget. I already own a phone that shoots mediocre video and a camera that records much better footage, so why would I want to drop another $180 on something with arguably inferior specs? Why would I want to carry around yet another gadget?

But I've seen how little help many cameras and phones provide when it comes time to get the video onto a computer. I've had to figure these things out--recording video is part of my job when I ship out to cover events like the Consumer Electronics Show--but many other people have neither the motivation nor the time to pore over the manual for their phone or camera.

The Flip, for all its faults, eliminates most of those barriers. As long as you stick to the tasks it's built for, you'll have a hard time finding an easier way to shoot and share video. The way its USB plug flips out with a satisfying click--like a nerd switchblade--is pretty cool too.

(Tune in to today's podcast to hear that click and learn a few more details about the Flip: listen/subscribe/iTunes.)

But Flip manufacturer Pure Digital Technologies really does need to do something about the Flip's balky video-editing application (based in part of muvee Technologies' just-discontinued autoProducer program). Forget about adding any new features to it--this software just needs to crash less. It wouldn't hurt if installing its 3ivx video-helper software didn't require clicking through three different User Account Control dialogs in Windows Vista either.

There is always the chance, as unlikely as this might seem, that camera and phone vendors will fix their own software--which could leave the Flip a fruitless branch of the gadget evolutionary tree, the Disc camera of this decade.

We can talk about this during my Web chat today, from 2 to 3 p.m. Meanwhile, I'll close with a couple of questions: What do you use to capture video on the go--with a camera, a cell phone or a video-only device like the Flip? And how often do you find yourself shooting your surroundings in this way?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 26, 2008; 11:34 AM ET
Categories:  Video  
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I am interested in the Flip, which is cheaper, or the Flip Mino, and have read elsewhere that one can easily use iMovie to edit Flip video. Can you substantiate that?

Posted by: Katherine | June 26, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I had a Sanyo CG65 which is similar in many respects to the Flip, but with much better specs. I left it somewhere in the South of France, and am replacing it with a Sanyo CG9, which is the update to the CG65. It has image stabilization (much needed), face recognition, a 5x optical zoom, and uses the MP4 format to store video. There also a camera option, for which Sanyo claims 9 megapixel resolution. With a USB card reader, I can transfer the recorded video or images to my Mac and use any Mac editing program, then save it or upload it. There are also suitable editing programs for Linux and Windoze. The Sanyo is $100 more than the Flip, but the video quality is much better. If I want to make a "serious" video, then the Sanyo is inadequate and I get out my Sony video camera.

Posted by: TonyW | June 26, 2008 10:23 PM | Report abuse

For me and my family, with young kids, videos are just an adjunct to taking photos. So the video feature on the digital camera is the right way to go. Sometimes I want a still photo, but for the baby's first steps or the first time she says "dada", I flip the camera into video mode. Then the videos and photos can be shared together with friends and family via Picasa and Picasa Web Albums. It's disappointing that Picasa doesn't have a simple way to edit video -- and all I mean is cut the 30-second video down to 15 seconds -- but that's a software problem that could be fixed if I bothered to learn some other software. I can't imagine needing a whole separate device to take videos.

Posted by: Doug | June 27, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Have no idea about these things but if you just want to convert the mpeg4 avi to flv for uploading to one of those idiot websites you might want to try this free program for Windoze: Media Converter SA Edition
IMHO converting to flv will degrade quality considerably no matter what you use to do it and of course getting an hr's worth of video out over USB1 will take a while.

Posted by: Bob | June 27, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The Flip is great for this grandpa. Outperforms indoors tremendously compared to older camcorders. Easy to transfer from computer to computer so my grand kids can enjoy their silliness at home often.

Posted by: Ray Oliver | July 6, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

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