We said this new style of camcorder is more about sharing and less about features, but the Flip really takes the concept to the extreme. It doesn’t have any menu system at all, so there are absolutely no settings to deal with. The buttons let you zoom in and out, although this is a digital zoom and it reduces image quality quite obviously. You can play videos back and delete them. But that’s it – even less than Creative’s Vado.
So the Flip is entirely focused on point-shoot-share. The fun can be extended with the range of custom accessories, which include an action mount enabling you to attach the camcorder to a helmet or bike handlebars (£14.99) and a sealed underwater housing (£29.99) so you can shoot whilst swimming or diving. There is also a USB cable extension and tabletop tripod available, both with colour matching for your particular Flip, although at £14.99 they’re not exactly cheap.
The drawback with sub-£100 camcorders in the past has always been video quality, particularly in low light. The Flip is still not going to be posing a threat to Canon, JVC, Sony or Panasonic in this department. But it is much more capable in low light than the Creative Vado. The image quality does soften and become grainy, but the colour and brightness are maintained at noticeably lower illumination. In full sunlight, the colours are vibrant and heavily saturated, with plenty of detail and no jarring signs of compression. However, areas of bright colour blow out in bright light, and the fixed-focus lens means that the image isn’t always sharp. Nevertheless, the quality is still better than any cameraphone and some digital still cameras.
The Flip gets its name from the way its built-in USB plug flips out of the side of the unit, ready for connection. You simply plug it in, and the built-in software loads automatically. But where the Vado’s on-board Vado Central only lets you preview and upload your clips to the Web, the Flip incorporates much more elaborate features. There is Mac software included, too, unlike the Vado.
Of course, the primary focus is still on sharing. You can upload directly to YouTube, AOL Video, myspacetv.com, or use the Flip Video Upload Assistant. But this just gives you the same three options, plus posting an Amazon.com video review. We would like to see Facebook added to the list, as this is so popular now in the UK. When uploading to a video service, you simply fill in your login and password, and state whether the video is to be private or public. If you want to add further information and tagging, you will need to log into the website directly.