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Initial Impression of the Flip Video Mino


By Louis Trapani - Posted on 13 June 2008

In 2005, I bit the bullet with the purchase of our first HD video camera. At the time, there was not much of a selection of HD cameras in the consumer or prosumer market. It cost a pretty penny, but it was needed for a movie we were shooting at the time. Despite the age, it is still relatively new and in working order. I will be tagging it along with me on the JumpCon tour which will begin in just a couple weeks now. So why the need to purchase another video camera? One word: convenience!

That is the main selling point as far as I am concerned with the Flip Video Mino camera by Pure Digital Technologies. Think of it as the iPod Nano (not the new stubby sized one) of video cameras. It's other major strength is simplicity. Pretty much anyone will be able to work this camera, it is no more complicated than a point-and-shoot digital still camera.

Because of the simplicity, don't expect too many features, though it does have some. To my surprise it does offer zoom... Nothing too drastic. It may be purely a digital zoom, but I am not sure at this point (again this is just my initial review).

Let's start at the beginning. It is packaged in a familiar way in a little black box... everything has it's place in the box. An obvious influence of the brilliant work by the crew in Cupertino at Apple. The design is fairly pleasing as well. I suppose the big HAL-like lens in the front is just to give the people in front of the camera something large enough to focus on, because the actual lens is a much smaller opening in the larger circle. The microphone grill in the front also doubles as a red-light recording indicator as well.

It is on either side that you will find the power switch and opposite of that is the switch to pop-out ("flip") the USB connector in a switch-blade like fashion. Also on the sides are the port to connect the camera to a television using the included connector cable (using RCA or composite connections on your TV). Opposite of that is a spot to connect a write band.

Underneath is the mount for a tripod or other accessories.

So what about the video and audio quality?

This is the good, bad, and ugly of the review. Everything mentioned so far, fits into the good category. For the most part, so does the does the video and audio. Mind you, this is not HD... it's not even 16:9 aspect ratio. But it is still relatively good good especially considering the size of the camera.

I've tested it in what would normally be considered low-light conditions, and the camera worked well with the existing lights (no additional lights were used for my tests). The camera does not have a video light, nor does it have a mount for one.

So all in all so good so far... Now the bad. Despite the name, the LCD monitor does not flip out. There is no way to see what your are shooting if you are shooting yourself in front of the lens. You can not monitor the LCD (unless you jury-rig some sort of mirror system to it I suppose). I found it difficult to keep myself in frame without being able to monitor the LCD. Mind you, I was just holding the video camera at arms length. There are those extension poles designed just for this use which could mount to the bottom of the Flip Video Mino.

The camera came with a partial charge, so you can get busy playing with it right away! No long wait for a full charge of the battery before using it. That is a nice change from almost every other rechargeable battery operated device out there. And that brings me to my next point. If having a device with a completely sealed rechargeable battery like an iPod is an issue for you, be warned, this is such a device. For me, this is simply not much of an issue. I am not sure if they have a replacement program like Apple has with the iPhone and iPod batteries. It is cheap enough ($179 (US) street price) not to have to worry about it too much.

Shoot some video, and then simply plug it into your computer's USB port. Even the software itself is located on the device itself (your computer will see the camera as another drive, just like a 'thumb drive'). You can run the software right off the camera, no need to install anything (though it insisted on installing a video codec on my system, but I am pretty sure my system was able to it's files as is, but I installed the recommended codec anyway).

Their software is fairly simple to use. That seems to be the goal of the company. They have succeeded in doing it. The videos play fine in their software.

The software does contain an option to upload your videos directly to an online video service such as YouTube, AOL, or MySpace. Or export it to be upload to any service. Since I plan on using this camera to do on the fly videos while on tour and uploading them to internet as I go, I saw this feature as a valuable one. Unfortunately the end results of using their software to upload to YouTube proved to be horrible. The video is a bit washed out and the audio is just downright horrible when viewing the uploaded video on YouTube. See examples below. The audio sounds overly compressed.

I tried uploading the video directly from their software as well as exporting it from their software and uploading it manually onto YouTube. The results are very similar if not identical.

Then I tested out doing the same but this time using Apple's iMovie to edit the video and upload it directly from iMovie. Here you can see and hear the difference in the resulting video on YouTube.

My three tests on YouTube:

The first YouTube posting using the Pure Digital Technologies software that comes with the Flip Video Mino:

The second YouTube posting this time exporting it from the Pure Digital Technologies and uploading it manually to YouTube, the results seem similar:

Finally, the results using the same video edited and uploaded directly using Apple's iMovie software:

I still need to do some more tests. Such as grabbing the video files directly off the camera and editing them in iMovie. It is just a shame that their own software doesn't result in better YouTube quality video and audio, especially the latter. Or testing the direct to TV output.

Still, for the price and convenience that this camera offers. Being able to simply carry it in my pocket just like an iPod, makes it well worth while to have and use. For on the spot video recording when needed, you can't beat this option.

One more final note which is a plus is that this Flip Video camera controls light up so you can see it better in darker settings. To my understanding the previous models did not. Also there is no audio jack. So if you wish to review your videos on the device, you can but you can not use headphones. You can turn the audio off if privacy is an issue -- you will not hear it either.

Am I flipping over the Flip Video Mino? Well, yes! Cartwheels? Not just yet.

Louis Trapani's picture

The day after the Flip Video Mino arrives, Alex Lindsey tweeted about the DXG-567G. Not only does the DXG do HD, but it is also less money than the Flip Video Mino. The features seem impressive. I wish I had learned of this product before ordering the Flip Video Mino now.

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