One of the most popular products in video from the last year or so isn't an advanced, high-quality camera; instead it's a tiny, no-frills digital camcorder that makes it very easy to shoot video and share or post it online.
Pure Digital Technologies' Flip Video camera is about the size of an iPod, is inexpensive and uses a switchblade USB jack to make it very simple to connect it to a computer in order to access the video. Traditionally the focus for the Flip lines has been more on ease of use than on high-quality video.
But with the release Nov. 12 of the Flip MinoHD, Pure Digital Technologies is providing high-definition video while still maintaining the same (or even better) usability.
The Flip MinoHD looks exactly like the already existing Flip Mino device; in fact, the only visible difference is the word MinoHD on the back. The MinoHD has the same touch-sensitive controls on the back, the same small preview screen and the same big red Record button.
The biggest difference is in the video the camera shoots. The Flip MinoHD shoots at a resolution of 720p, and when you watch the video on your computer it will be in a widescreen 16-9 format rather than the standard 4-3 that the older Mino shoots in. The format of the video has also changed, with it now being in MP4 format as opposed to the 3ivx AVI MPEG 4 in the older versions.
I shot video side by side using the MinoHD and my older Flip Mino, and there was a definite quality improvement. Colors seemed brighter and sharper in the MinoHD and small details less blurry than in the older version. File size also increased, with videos from the MinoHD being close to three times the size of videos from the Mino. To maintain the Flip's traditional 60-minute shooting time, the Flip MinoHD has been upgraded to 4GB of internal memory.
From a usability standpoint, the biggest improvement in the Flip MinoHD is in the software department. The MinoHD ships with the new FlipShare software preinstalled on the device, and I found this software to be much improved over the older version.
The old software had an almost toy-like feel and its lack of menus made it hard to find exactly where certain tasks could be done. The new FlipShare is more like a traditional application, with menus, easily accessible features and an overall chrome look to the interface.
With this software it was much easier to manage and edit videos, share them online or through e-mail, and even create DVDs of videos. Best of all, users don't need to purchase a Flip MinoHD to take advantage of this new software. Current Flip users can download this version for free here.
At a list price of $229.99, the Flip MinoHD is about $50 more than the Flip Mino. If your main use for the Flip is posting videos to YouTube, this may not be worthwhile as an upgrade. However, if you plan to use videos in other ways, the improved video quality may be well worth it.
For more information on the new Flip MinoHD go to www.theflip.com.