The Flip Mino HD Video Camera is a small cell-phone sized camera that shoots video in high definition, records to a 4 GB built-in memory, comes in an unlimited number of colors and designs, and outputs to your computer for easy email and Internet sharing. But the question is: Is the Flip Mino HD Video Camera really any good… and would I recommend it?
I purchased the Flip Mino HD (60 minute version) over a year ago and have used it for the last 15 months to document my travels (9 months in Europe) and a number of local events and activities (+ 6 months at home). In that time, I have discovered both the benefits and the drawbacks of this tiny HD camera and I’d like to share my findings with you today.
First of all, the camera’s basic features…
- Weighs only 3.3 ounces
- Claims to be the world’s smallest HD camcorder
- Super-slim, super-sleek design that fits into your pocket or your purse
- Simple user interface features one-touch recording and digital zoom, making HD video easier and more fun than ever
- Holds 60 minutes of HD-quality video on 4 GB of built-in memory; no tapes or additional memory cards required
- Convenient flip-out USB arm plugs directly into your computer to launch built-in FlipShareTM software
- Built-in FlipShare software lets you easily email videos, edit individual clips, make custom movies, capture still photos from video, and even upload video to sharing sites like YouTube and MySpace
- Internal Li-ion battery recharges through the built-in USB arm while you’re plugged into your computer
- Produces incredible HD 720p (1280 x 720 resolution at 30 frames per second; 16:9 widescreen) video you’ll be able to enjoy on your HDTV
- Records high-quality H.264 videos that work with most video-playing applications, including Windows Media Player, QuickTime Player, and iTunes
- Watch videos instantly on TV with the included connector cable
- Plus, you get instant playback, pause, fast forward, rewind, zoom, and delete functions
Why I Bought This Camera
I bought the Flip Mino HD because I was going to Europe and wanted to have a camera that was small, lightweight, durable, capable of shooting in high-definition, and was easy to edit and upload to the Internet. In many ways, the camera has held up to all of these expectations – except for one (which I’ll talk about in a moment).
The Camera Body
The image to the left points out the camera’s basic parts, which I will now highlight and discuss below.
The screen on the Flip Mino HD is small. Super small infact! It is only 1.5 inches across and because of its small size, it is often times difficult to tell whether or not the image you are shooting is in frame, in focus, or even visible. A larger screen would certainly be nice.
That said, the screen does a good job of being visible in both dark and sunny conditions. I’ve never had a big problem viewing the screen while out shooting on a sunny day. This is one area where the screen does excell.
The USB port is the camera’s main connection between itself and your computer. The port not only transfers files between the camera and your computer, but it is the USB port itself that is responsible for charging the camera. Just plug the camera into your computer and the camera instantly starts charging. This, of course, is a nice feature, but it would be nice if there were also a way to charge the camera without having to connect it to a computer. For example, what if you wanted to take an extended trip and did not want to bring your computer with you. It sure would be nice to be able to charge and/or offload the camera in some way without having to lug around a laptop or other such device.
The lens on the Flip Mino HD is a fixed lens, meaning that there really isn’t much to it. The lens is set to keep just about everything in focus and there is no way to adjust the focus after purchasing the camera. I found this out the hard way after the first camera I ordered was delivered with a broken, out of focus, lens. I was able to send the camera back and get a new one delivered to me at no cost, but it still gave me something worry about right from the get-go. That said, the camera I now have (the one with the working lens) has never had any problems with a shifting focus. Overall, however, the lens is weak and I’d love to see something with a few more options to it in future camera models.
At the bottom of the Flip Mino is a tripod mount, which I am both grateful for and have used hundreds of time. Being a solo traveler, it is the tripod mount on the bottom of my cameras that enables me to get in my own shots. This is a tiny feature, and understandably not one that everyone will use, but for someone like myself, this is a feature I am so glad the people and Mino decided to include.
Buttons & Controls
On the back of the camera are seven (7) buttons that control just about everything having to do with the shooting and management of your videos. The appeal of the Flip Mino for many people is it’s simplicity. There are no complicated options, settings, or controls… and many people will like this. The procedure for recording a video with this camera is incredibly simple: Click the big red button in the middle of the camera to start recording… and click it again to stop. Simple is good! However, I have found the simplicity of this camera to be quite restrictive at times.
For example, the zoom feature on the Flip is really quite bad. When you do zoom in, the movement is fast and choppy. On top of that, the zoom is a digital zoom, meaning that when you zoom in, you are losing picture quality. And when you zoom out, the movement is once again hard to control and much too fast. Being able to control the zoom speed would be nice… and getting rid of the digital zoom is an absolute must in my book.
Other buttons found on the back of the camera are for playback, pause, and video editing. Unfortunately, there are no real video editing features on the camera. The only really options are to start, stop, or delete the selected video files. I often times wish there was a fast forward button, so I could record a video and then watch it back by fast forwarding to the part I am most interested in seeing – rather than having to watch the entire video back from the beginning.
I also wish there were a way to make basic video edits from within the camera itself, so that I could cut off the beginning of the video and the end if needed. Because I travel by myself and have no one to hold the camera for me, I will often times set the camera up on a tripod, hit the record button, and then run in front of the camera as fast as I can. This, of course, produces a number of seconds of video where there is no one on the screen… and it becomes quite obvious that I am shooting these videos by myself. I wish there were a way to cut out these few extra seconds at the beginning and end of the video without having to export the entire video file to my computer, render the video, bring it into a video editing program, edit out these extra few seconds, export the video, and then finally upload it to the web. Being able to make these tiny edits from within the camera would make a huge difference and save me hours and hours of time. My digital still camera is capable of making these sorts of edits from within the camera itself… so why can’t the Flip do it?
There is also a small speaker on the back of the camera. It works well and there isn’t much more to say about it. You can control the speak volume with some basic plus and minus controls.
Other on-camera features include a power button, a place to mount an arm-strap, and a hole used to connect the Flip Mino HD directly to your television for instant video playback. The camera also comes with a lightweight, black, cloth cover, which I happened to lose in the first three days of owning the camera.
The overall video quality of the Flip Mino HD video camera is great – depending on the light conditions, the overall movement of the camera, and your own ability to properly frame your subject. The HD video quality is superb for such a small and basic camera… but there are some general problems with the video, which I’d like to point out now.
Mounted & Standing Still
When shooting a video that has been propped up on a tripod or is, for the most part, being used to shoot a still subject, the video quality can be quite excellent. Just look at the totally unedited video below, which I shot while in Athens, Greece in September of 2009. The camera is on a tripod, not moving, and the subject matter (me) is relatively still for most of the video.
As you can see, the quality here is quite astounding. But now watch the video below, which is a video I shot while walking through an old-world bazaar in Skopje, Macedonia.
Hand-Held & Moving
The video below was shot while I was walking through a crowd of people and street vendors. As you can see, the video is quite shaky and difficult to watch. I was doing my best to make the video as smooth as possible while I walked through the mass of people, but the end result was quite disappointing. If you look closely, you will also see that when there are moments of mass movement, the video becomes distorted and wavy. This is something I have noted repeatedly with the Flip Mino and is not something I am used to seeing on other high-quality video cameras. Movement, it seems, is the number one enemy of the Flip Mino HD.
Battery & Memory Life
The camera’s battery life is good. I haven’t tested it to see exactly how long it lasts, but that said, I have never run the battery out while shooting. The battery is automatically charged when the camera is connected to your computer, so this makes remembering to charge the device incredibly easy. The camera basically remembers to charge itself for you!
As for the camera memory, you can record about 60 minutes of HD video to the camera’s internal 4-GB memory card. This is a good length of time and I have rarely wished I had more time to record to. However, there have been times when the camera filled up and I was wishing there were a way to easily change out the memory card with another – so that I didn’t have to stop and waste a huge amount of time offloading the current content to my computer. It would be nice if you could simply swap out the existing memory card with another SD-like card, which could then be instantaneously used to capture more video. My still camera is capable of doing this… and it’s a feature I’d love to see in future Flip cameras.
The Flip Mino HD comes with some basic video editing and management software, which I have basically ignored. The software is so incredibly basic that it does not meet my needs. It may work for those who know absolutely nothing about video and basic editing software, but for me the included software is absolute junk. Not recommended.
Playback, Editing & Video Conversion
The biggest problem with the Flip HD video camera is that with older editing software you may not be able to pull the video files directly from the camera into your editing program. The MP4 format that the Flip records in is not supported by older editions of many video editing programs, such as Vegas or Premiere. With these older versions of software, you have to convert the video before you can import it into your editing software. This is a negative because 1) it adds an extra step and takes more time and 2) the conversion process degrades the video quality – not something you want from a a video shot in HD.
That said, newer editing software programs are compatible with MP4 formats and with these newer editing programs you can simply drag and drop your origional camera files straight into the editing softare and begin cutting up your video as you so desire.
While many users with older pieces of editing software may blame the Flip cam for not working with their current software, it is really the software that needs to be replaced – not the camera!
The best thing about the Flip Mino HS is that it is small, discrete, and easy to use. I love the fact that the camera starts charging as soon as I connect it to my computer and I am often times amazed at just how good the quality of this little HD camera really is.
That said, the Flip HD is incredibly limited in its options and I would love to see some basic features such as focus, zoom control, and basic in-camera editing being added to the device in future models.
I’d also like to have the option, much like my regular still camera does, of being able to record to an SD memory card, which I can then pull out and replace with a new card when/if the card even becomes too full.
My overall assessment of the Flip Mino HD video camera is that it is a nice little, amateurish camera that is great for travelers and home movie makers alike. If you are happy with simple point and shoot operations and don’t mind the sometimes shaky video that this tiny camera produces, then this is one HD camera you may very well enjoy. I love the size of this camera and I like the fact that it is so simple to use, but I just wish I were able to zoom, focus, and shoot video of moving objects.
My Overall Rating: 8 out of 10
Product Review Information: I purchased this camera myself and have used it for well over a year before writing this review. This review contains affiliate links to Amazon.com.