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Flip, Kodak Bring HD Video To Go, For Less

One of the fun parts of my job is seeing how (make that, if), gadgets can grow up. Less than a year ago, I reviewed a simple, stripped-down video camera, Pure Digital's Flip Mino. It had some shaky software and produced recordings that could only be called VHS-quality, but it was a lot easier to use than most other video cameras.

In today's column, I review a descendant of that Flip camera, as well as a competing model. The Flip UltraHD and Kodak's Zx1 can both record high-definition video and provide far more storage than earlier models but remain affordable. Click after the jump to see a sample high-definition clip from each.

kodak_flip.jpg

On a lot of traditional gadget scorecards, the Kodak would rank higher: It offers expandable storage, it has more video-recording options (you can choose between standard, the default 30 frames-per-second high-def and 60 fps high-def, plus a still-image option) and it's smaller and lighter. Kodak also throws in the HDMI cable you'll need to connect the camera to an HDTV, while the Flip does not.

And yet... the Kodak's software is just awful. The company took a third-party program and made the minimum number of changes necessary to get it to work with the Zx1's video. It would take a massive rewrite to get this application into shape to compete with Pure Digital's simple FlipShare software.

flipshare.jpg

The flaws in the Flip's software, meanwhile, doesn't need nearly as many changes. One is already in the works: The company is working to add support for YouTube's high-def option. I'd also like to see it stop hiding videos saved to your computer in encoded form inside a FlipShare Data folder; it's weird to see FlipShare report that it's saved a video to a "May 2009" folder when you can't see any such folder on your hard drive.

Both cameras' programs, of course, could stand to link to more video-sharing options online. For instance, the Facebook social-networking site (perhaps you've heard of it?) would be a logical option.

Speaking of other options, here are a few other reviews of the Flip, the Kodak or both:

* The Orlando Sentinel's Etan Horowitz compared the UltraHD to Flip's MinoHD in his column two weeks ago.

* CNet's David Carnoy reviewed the UltraHD and the Zx1 in separate stories.

* CBS News's Rafe Needleman wrote an interesting comparison of the Flip UltraHD and digital cameras with HD video capability from Canon and Casio. (Note that this review includes the same error that I made in one version of mine, a statement that FlipShare can't trim a clip; although it has no "edit" button to flag this feature's existence, the scissors icon at the bottom right of each video allows you to snip footage from the start or end of a clip.)

If you've got other questions, post them in the comments or in my Web chat, starting at noon today. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a few questions: Have you bought a Flip or a similar video camera? If so, how's that been working out for you? If not, are you instead relying on your digital camera's video mode or a "real" digital camcorder?


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This clip shows the Flip's performance (it should play in YouTube's high-def mode, but if it doesn't click the "HD" button):

And here's the Kodak's footage:

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 15, 2009; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Video  
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Comments

Hey Rob, thanks for the review! I was just looking at both of these units - we're expecting our fist baby in September! We use a DSLR with no video mode for stills, and so a solution like this seems much better than a typical bulky camcorder which will hardly ever leave the house and only come out to record hours of useless birthday party footage. Couple questions:

Is there any reason you need to use either camera's software? Could I just pull the clips off the camera manually and import them to iMovie/some other editing program and upload them to YT/FB manually if I want? I've never found any software included with a camera that I've actually *wanted* to use!

Second, any noticeable difference between the two camera's screens in either size or quality? It looks like the Kodak's is bigger, but it's tough to tell how much difference that really makes.

Thanks for your great (and in this case, timely!) reviews!

Posted by: kgoggin | May 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm bummed Kodak dropped the macro filming mode from it's less sexy looking Zi6 predecessor (and I never actually used the bundled software).

Posted by: davezatz | May 15, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating footage. You can use the timer to run them simultaneously and get a pretty good idea of the quality differences. Over all, my impression was that the Kodak footage seemed slightly clearer. But that may have something to do with whether you are left-handed or right-handed! It's hard to tell.

Posted by: TrochilusTales | May 17, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Rob, good reviews, and the side by side comparison is always helpful. Any reason you didn't look at the Creative Vado HD? It is a bit harder to find, but I recently bought one, and it is a terrific little camera (love the wide angled lens).

Posted by: johnrad | May 18, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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