The most challenging part of owning a Flip Video camcorder is the stage known as “convincing the missus to let you buy it”. The Flip Video’s many merits are all entirely impossible to convey without actually owning one of the beauties. So best of luck with the convincing: “No, it does nothing except record video. Well, it records for an entire hour. At best. Nope, no zoom really. No flash. No fancy effects. And no, you really can’t shoot anything in poor light. Yes, but it will look smashing inside this new handbag no?... I thought as much.”
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The Flip Video camcorder may look deceptively simple. The one we recently procured via a relative abroad has all of one button and two switches on it. But there is a reason why, according to some estimates, that the brand has cornered around 13% of the world camcorder market. The Flip Video is ridiculously easy to use. Complete tech novices will be shooting clips and uploading them on YouTube within moments of unpacking the shiny device. That’s because the Flip is a complete video production studio in one ultra-compact package.
The good stuff
The Flip Video is not much larger or heavier than a small candy-bar cellphone. On one side is a video camera lens behind a nice protective shield. And on the other is the control panel which comprises the above-mentioned button and a small matchbox-sized display screen. Push the switch and your Flip is ready to record. One push of the red button to start recording and one more to stop. The version we use, the Flip Mino, has a few touch-sensitive points around the central red button that let you flip through clips, play or delete them, toggle volume and do some rudimentary zooming. All the functions are extremely intuitive and require no prior postgraduation in any engineering majors to understand.
But the best part is yet to come. Once you are done shooting your little clips of video, flip the other switch on the side and—what is this little thing!—a USB connector pops out. Yes, it’s actually built into the camcorder. Insert it into the USB port on your computer, run the software on the camcorder and you are all set to edit, title, add background music and upload your clips to YouTube. All with just a few simple clicks. No need for extra software, complicated editing or complex file format conversions.
While the video quality is passable, you can opt for one of the high-definition Flip models for TV-quality clips.
The very simplicity of the Flip means that you don’t get strong zooms or digitial effects while recording and though you can shoot in all light conditions, you have no chance of shooting sinister lounge-bar goings-on. Also even the most roomy Flip model, the Ultra, can only hold up to 2 hours of video. So if you intend to use it to record all-nighter weddings, you’ll have to lug around a laptop to empty it every hour or so. And desktop computer users should buy a cable to connect it. You can’t have the Flip hanging from your CPU by the USB connector.
There are four models in the series, starting with the chunky, older Flip Ultra at $149.99 (around Rs7,110) to the newer, sleek Flip Mino HD, at $229.99, which gives an hour of HD video (shop around on eBay and Amazon for better prices. You’ll have to get it shipped to India). The Flip Video is great for anyone—video bloggers and citizen journalists come to mind—who wants a better recording option than a mobile phone but doesn’t want to lug around an orthodox camcorder. This one slips nicely into the above-mentioned handbag.