Copying video from the older camcorder to my computer is possible. In fact, I created a great movie of my daughter's wedding. However, the process was a bit complex. First, I had to find a computer with a Firewire connection, and even then it had to be a Firewire 400 connector. My primary desktop computer that I would like to use for video editing only has a Firewire 800 connector. Admittedly, adapters are available; but, that adds one more item to the list of complexities. Then I had to purchase a Firewire cable.
Next, copying from a tape-based camcorder to a computer is a bit awkward. I appreciate the fact that today's latest camcorders record to flash memory. The process of copying from a flash memory card to a computer is much, much simpler than the hoops I had to jump through to copy from tape to the computer.
I wanted to purchase a more up-to-date camcorder. There was but one problem: the checkbook was nearly empty. I didn't have the several hundred dollars required to purchase a modern Canon or Sony or other major-brand camcorder.
(Click on the small image to the right to see a larger picture.)Produced by a dividion of Cisco, the Flip series of camcorders is a group of inexpensive... okay, cheap... camcorders that provide friendly point-and-shoot operation. These are the modern-day video equivalents of the old Brownie box cameras. They are as simple as possible-- simple in design and simple to use. This is video photography at its simplest.
The Flip cameras are apparently designed for the YouTube generation: simple to use, very good video (but not outstanding), and a compact size. These cameras are available in a number of models, typically weighing from three to eight ounces. Each of them easily slips into a shirt pocket or a purse, with room left over.
The Flip cameras all record directly to built-in memory. There is no videotape or disk to fool with and no mechanical parts to break.
NOTE: We have another video camera in the house right now that was used only a few times, and then the tape loading mechanism broke. The repair cost apparently is higher than the purchase price of a new camcorder with even better features than the broken one. It strikes me that this older camcorder is a perfect example of a low-cost mechanical monstrosity: something is going to break, and it will be expensive to repair. Mechanical failures should not be a problem on the Flip camcorder as the only moving part is the USB arm that flips out when needed.Using the Flip camcorder is simple: press the POWER button to turn it on, press the big red RECORD button to start recording video, press the big red RECORD button again to stop recording video, and press the POWER button again to turn it off. I think I can handle that! There is a third button to play back videos on the camera's tiny 2-inch built-in screen. A fourth button is used to delete videos that are not worth saving. Four buttons. That's it. See? I told you it was easy to use!
The simplicity of use extends into the process used to copy video to a computer. The camera attaches to any Windows or Macintosh computer via a USB connector, which is mounted on an arm that "flips out" from the camera when a button is pushed. Hence the name: Flip. Even all the required Windows and Macintosh software is included in the camera. When you plug it into your Windows' or Macintosh's USB connector, the video and the software instantly become available.
The included software isn't much of a video editor, but it performs the basics and does allow the user to quickly and easily send videos by email (great if you are on vacation!) or to upload video clips to YouTube and some other video sharing services. The same software will easily allow you to copy all the videos to your computer's hard drive. The software also lets you extract still photos from your videos. However, I prefer to use other, more sophisticated software to perform video editing. I do that by copying the video to the computer's hard drive, then using any of a number of available video editing programs. For instance, iMovie is a free program included with every Macintosh and does a credible job of editing videos.
Flip offers a number of different models, and the specifications vary from one model to the next. All the Flip video cameras are “pocket friendly.” The Flip Ultra HD camcorder that I purchased records up to two hours of 720p (1,280x720) high-definition video in memory. It uses a set of AA-size NiMH rechargeable batteries, which you can charge in the unit by simply connecting the camcorder to the USB port on your computer. Alternatively, you can swap in a pair of standard AA alkaline batteries if you don't have time to charge.
There is an HDMI output connector on the side of the camera for HDTV connections, but no bundled cable. You'll need to purchase a cable elsewhere. Should you do so, you can copy directly from the camcorder to a VCR or video disk recorder, assuming that it has an HDMI input connector.
While the internal memory of the Flip Ultra HD allows for recording up to two hours of video, there is no provision to plug in any more memory. Once the internal memory is full, you need to offload some of the videos to another device and then erase all or part of the memory.
The Flip Ultra HD camcorder that I purchased originally sold for about $180 to $200, depending upon which discount store was selling it. However, it is “last year's model,” and I suspect that Flip has dropped the wholesale price to clear out remaining inventory. Since it fits my needs exactly, I was willing to pay the sale price of $99.
If you walk into a camera store today, you will see newer models of the Flip camcorders selling for $180 to perhaps $300.
So how well does it work? I'll let you see at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs63WUAyA5M or click on the image below.
This is a video that I shot recently at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I will warn you, however, that the video that I shot looks even better than what you see in the online video. The higher-quality video I created with the Flip Ultra HD had to be compressed and reduced in resolution in order to fit the YouTube format used for the online video. I also had to convert it from high-definition to less than standard definition video.
The audio you hear was also recorded with the Flip camera's built-in microphone. In fact, there is no capability to plug in an external microphone.
Of course, taking pictures of tombstones may not be the ultimate test of full-motion video! That leads me to the drawbacks of this camera:
- The Flip camcorder is great for outdoor videos made with lots of sunlight. It also works well indoors if there is plenty of light. However, it isn't designed for use in low lighting situations. Also, there is no provision for external plug-in floodlights such as found on higher-priced camcorders.
- The video becomes a bit blurry when recording high-speed objects. Then again, what $99 camcorder can do that? This is not the camera to take to the Indy 500! It works well for recording people and most normal-speed events, however.
- I had problems with the battery life. The internal memory stores up to two hours of video but the included rechargeable batteries only lasted about twenty minutes when recording video. The batteries last longer when playing video back on the tiny internal screen although I haven't made an precise measurements of battery life. I now carry extra alkaline cells with me when using the Flip camcorder.
I rather like my Flip camcorder!
For more information, go to Flip's web site at http://www.theflip.com/en-us/
For pricing, check the discount stores frequently. These things are frequently offered on sale.