Cisco has shocked the tech world by announcing that it is to kill off its famous Flip Video brand, closing down the business and ceasing production of all models. It's a bit of a shocker, as Flip seemed to be one of the dominant brands when it comes to pocket cams, but don't despair as there are still plenty of models around from rival companies.
If you were saving up your pennies for a Flip then you'd better get in quick and buy one now before they all run out but, if you'd rather get yourself kitted out with a pocket cam from a 'live' brand, then read on for our tips on the top alternatives out there. RIP Flip.
Sony Bloggie Touch
The Sony Bloggie Touch is something of a mixed offering. We like the fact that Sony has sensibly applied a large screen that you can use in landscape to capture the action. Overall the screen has been put to better use that the chief rival, the Kodak Playtouch.
The biggest downside is the noise that comes with the autofocus and the fact that there is no provision to get around it. An external mic jack would be nice to improve the audio capture. The Sony Bloggie Touch is worth looking at if you want a compact device that is simple to use and offers excellent quality video capture.
The Kodak Playtouch makes the right moves, but doesn’t delight with the final results. The Full HD video capture lacks the impact we really want and there are various compromises along the way. The focusing switch offers macro potential, but we’d prefer the simplicity of autofocus. The audio is poor from the built-in mic, but the external mic option is a real positive.
But the biggest disappointment is in the use of the screen. We want to film and see all the action, as it happens, on the large screen. That means flipping the device into landscape, something it won’t let you do. The Kodak Playtouch offers a heavy dose of pros and cons. The touch interface doesn’t seem worth it given that the screen isn’t put to best use and the quality isn’t quite good enough.
JVC Piscio GC-WP10
The WP10 is a good choice if you want a rugged pocket camcorder that you'll be using when in unforgiving conditions as it's waterproof. Image quality is pretty good, although it doesn't fare too well in dimly let conditions. What's more, the menu system is somewhat convoluted and takes a while to get used to.
Although the WP10 puts in a solid performance, there are plenty of cheaper camcorders around that offer a similar set-up. However, it does have a slight edge thanks to its reassuringly sturdy build quality and its resistance to water, making this a good choice for fans of sports that involve snow or water, and also for people that are just plain clumsy.
The Samsung HMX-U20 isn't perfect, but it punches hard in one of the areas that matters: the video quality is above par for this type of device, with both autofocus and optical zoom a step above the normal fixed focus options. You aren't overwhelmed with options and those you do get make sense, so it is a really easy camera to use.
The downsides are that low light capture is noisy and in darkness the focus doesn't work. The lack of an external mic socket is a shame for those more interested in vlogging and quiet videos will have the background clicking as the autofocus hunts around. But for your average holiday videos or something to get some quality footage of the kids in the garden, then the Samsung HMX-U20 works well.
Toshiba Camileo B10
Toshiba recently announced a new 'candybar' design pocket camcorder in the form of the B10. It's small and compact (weighing in at just 108g) and sports the Camileo Upload button that will upload your footage directly to YouTube and Facebook, among others. There's also a mini USB and a mini HDMI, should you want to hook the camcorder up to your computer or HDTV, but there's no handy flip-out arm as found on the soon-to-be-dead Flip pocket cams.
The B10 has a 16x digital zoom and will take 16MP snaps with the on-board 5MP CMOS sensor, as well as recording up to 1080p. The card slot will take SD, SDHC and SDXC cards up to 64 GB, so you should get a fair few videos shot before you need to pop a new card in. The front-facing button layout is pretty simple to get to grips with - there are controls for switching between still and video mode, as well as a playback button, a back button and a multi-directional control with an OK selector in the centre. In terms of features, the B10 also offers a 10s self-timer, face tracking, motion detection and video stabilisation to combat those shaky hands. The B10 is due out in May 2011 and although no price has been confirmed we would expect it to be around £100.
Creative Vado HD 3rd gen
The Creative Vado HD doesn't offer much that you won't find elsewhere in the pocket camcorder world, except in the option of adding an external microphone, something that a lot of people have been crying out for.
The Vado is simple to use and works out of the box without a hitch and we are grateful for the inclusion of the HDMI cable. There are a few things to complain about, like the lack of a macro mode and we weren't wowed by the video quality compared to its rivals. A few tweaks have been made, but the new Creative Vado HD doesn't really advance the pocket camcorder world by any great measure.
If you're after something cute and sexy in your pocket, then you're barking up the wrong tree here. What the Panasonic HM-TA1 offers is some really good imaging power packed tight into an incredibly convenient and small frame. It's a joy to carry around and it won't let you down, and it has got the inner most issues addressed.
Unfortunately, Panasonic doesn't seem to have brought the usability guys in on this one and there are just too many obvious niggles to make it an absolute winner. All the same though, you'd be a fool not to consider it, and at just £49.99, the price has come down a lot since it launched.