(Please note the YouTube Demo of the FlipMino HD is embedded below.)
As you can imagine, I shoot a lot of video. Usually, I find myself behind Panasonic equipment and have grown to like their P2 system and the incredible color they provide. But, let’s face it, none of the Panasonic P2 cameras tuck nicely into your back pocket. Earlier this year, I was watching something on Tim Street’s Blog and asked him what he was shooting on. Turns out he was using one of the Flip standard definition cameras at that time. Quick perusal of their website and I picked up a FlipMino HD. I’ve now shot some 20-30 interviews on the camera and plenty of other footage. What I have found is that I have some strong likes and dislikes about the camera. Here they are:
What I like:
- This thing is darn small! Truly it’s smaller than my mobile phone (a blackberry), so it tucks away nicely, even into tight pair of jeans.
- Especially in bright daylight, the clarity of the images is pretty spectacular. In the demo below, please note the incredible blue sky and silhouetted mountains behind the subject about half way through.
- The flip-out port/USB charger – on the ultra models you have to buy batteries, but on the Mino, the charge comes directly from the computer. (Please note that I once uploaded video from a hub, which didn’t provide power back to the camera and spent a day wondering what the heck happened to my new camera, which the hub had drained of power!)… This is a personal preference thing, but I like the fact that if I plug it in each night when I’m shooting, the camera is ready to go when I wake up in the morning.
- The software needed to make a quick video is located on the camera, meaning that if you have access to a computer and the internet, you can make a quick video edit and post it to the world from virtually any cafe in the world (save parts of China and Cuba, where they would be screened).
- Surprisingly, the camera is pretty good in lower light situations. In side-by-side comparisons with the Insignia, the footage from the flip was much better.
- This may seem funny, but I really like the handy little pouch the Flip comes in. Not only is a storage bag, but it doubles to keep the lens clean; excellent for yielding high quality images.
What I don’t like (or just bugs me silly):
- A red/orange light comes on the front of the camera when you are shooting. My finding is that this can unhinge a subject. We were shooting a public meeting one time and as soon we hit record, the public officials stopped talking. LAME!
- The codec – What I have been told is the way Flip fits so much video data into its camera is by shooting to square pixels. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know. What I do know is that the Flip video has difficulty when being edited outside of the Flip video software. I captured some excellent interviews earlier this year and wanted to marry them up with a cool intro for Rocket’s Tail. The Flip Video just wasn’t compatible. Additionally, I have tried to upload the movies to Youtube without going through the export process or it’s native (upload to Youtube) option only to have Youtube’s file conversion fail. So, while I like fitting so much footage into the camera, I want video that is more compatible with other systems (PLEASE NOTE: I also shoot on an Insignia, which comes at a similar price, and I find similar issues with it’s footage).
- The editing software – On the one hand, I very much like that there is editing software in the camera. On the other hand, some aspects of the software are limiting: 1). Low word count and/or control of the title screen and credit screen, 2). software only allows 4 pieces of footage to be edited together, 3). it doesn’t natively allow you to incorporate non-flip video in the edit (I know I keep coming back to melding video from different sources… but, it’s important to me!)
- The microphone is located on the operator’s side of the camera… this is completely weird. I have heard that newer versions of the camera have fixed this… but for now, when you watch a Rocket’s Tail interview that was done on the Flip… my questions will be louder than the subject’s answers.
I had the fun happen stance of unknowingly introducing Liora Mendeloff (InstantMediaKit.com) to Matthew Gill (Burn the Boats Produtions), one of her clients. After raving about his experience with InstantMediaKit, Liora did what any good marketer would do; she asked for a testimonial. She pulled out her Flip Ultra and I immediately pulled out my FlipMino HD. What I tried to do was capture various lighting and sound situations available in the moment. There are some close-up and perspective shots. At times the subject is in silhouette. You be the judge.
The FlipMino HD has some great applications, but it’s not great for every application. If you’re doing Gotcha! journalism, the record alert light is not going to help. However, it’s great for those on-the-fly interviews or footage that will be instantly posted through the system, the images are great. If Flip comes out with a camera that delivers footage fully compatible with alternate editing systems, I want to check it out! For versatility, ease-of-use (and pocket), the Flip takes the cake!