Ever since "happy slapping" caused a media furore in 2005, video on the move has been in the public eye. But filming with a phone is such a bore and camcorders are too big and expensive. What’s the solution? Well Flip Video think they have the answer, so we get filming to find out.
With dimensions a little larger than your average mobile phone (32 x 55 x 106mm), the Flip Video Ultra is a pocketable camcorder for capturing movies on the move. But this isn’t designed to take on the big boys like Canon and JVC, no, this is pushing its way into a corner of the market mostly dominated by mobile phones and digital cameras.
The simple design sees a lens on the front, power switch on one side and the flip-out USB connector on the other as well as a TV out socket. The rear sports 1.5-inch LCD screen and the controls. There is no lens cover so it could be prone to scratching - perhaps it would have been an idea to double up the power switch with a lens cover.
The controls are very simple and this is actually something we like on a device like this – no faffing around with settings – it is literally point and shoot. The controls consist of a central record button, surrounded by a four-way button, for your minimal zoom; you also get playback and delete buttons.
As for options, the Flip takes a simple approach. There are none. You record video, you play video, you delete video. That’s the raison d'être for the Flip. You don’t want to be encumbered with white balance and settings and messing around. No, you just want to whip it out and get on with it.
For those wanting the tech specs, the Flip films VGA (640 x 480 pixels) resolution at 30fps and has an in-built 2GB memory, which will give you 60 minutes of MPEG4 filming. There is a built-in speaker for playback and the screen is perhaps a little small, but you can, with the provided cable, hook up to the AV connections on your TV.
To view your video, you can either watch it on that tiny screen, or pull down the catch and flip out the USB connector and plug it straight into your PC (or Mac). The on-board software launches giving you a number of options – save, share, make movie and delete, as well as straight-up viewing.
Sharing is one of the major sells here, with a variety of options including shortcut links into YouTube, AOL Video and MySpace TV, which means several clicks and you are done. It would have been nice to be able to edit these shortcuts, or set-up your favourite sites, such as Facebook.
You can, however, choose a generic web-upload option, that converts your video and dumps it on your desktop for uploading to your site of choice. The software prepares and re-sizes your videos for you, which makes things simple.
There is also an option to create basic movies, powered by Muvee, which is a bit of fun and allows you to stitch together your individual files with the option of adding background music from your PC. The software is logically laid out, simple to use and help is never far away with a “Help?” option on each page. Although the software is straightforward, we did experience a couple of crashes whilst in testing.
We also found random background buzz on playback of videos as though some internal function was causing a degree of audio distortion. You don’t notice it in a noisy video, but in a quiet scene it is quite apparent.
This is a concept we like – it is so simple to shoot and share video with this pocketable device. The approach is easier than using a mobile phone and the results are better, so you are more likely to do it. Also, you can go from pocket to filming in seconds, so you don’t miss the moment.
There are also a range of accessories available, from tripods to handlebar mounts for your bike.
The price is perhaps a little high, at £99 this could be beyond the reach of some, considering the duplication of existing phone or camera features. A replacement for a camcorder this is not, but for capturing those passing moments and having fun with video, it’s a great little device.