Flip weighs in with pocket-size HD

The folks who brought you the original pocket-size, one-button Flip camcorder have now released their high-definition version. For the last couple of years I’ve expressed skepticism at both tape-less video recording and the true viability of HD in inexpensive cameras. But recently I’m coming around to the idea, primarily because the cost (under $250) is starting to jive with both the utility and convenience of these camcorders for all sorts of independent media production purposes.

Kodak made the first salvo in the pocket HD-cam arena with their Zi6, which has received decent reviews. Flip’s new Mino HD camcorder just received praises from the New York Times’ gadget reviewer David Pogue. The reliable Camcorder Info also gives it a positive review, ranking it ahead of Kodak’s HD cam.

While it doesn’t seem to offer HD on par with what you’ll see on DTV or with one of the HD camcorders from a major player like Sony or Canon, both reviews emphasize the higher quality than any of the standard-def pocket cams. One strange design choice that both reviews note is that there is a video out jack for standard-def video, but not for high-def. So you can watch your videos directly on your TV, but not in HD. To view HD you have to download the video to your computer.

Each time I write one of these posts I say something like, “I’m going to have to check one of these out.” But I’ve yet to do so. Maybe the holiday season will lead to some super discount deal online that I can exploit, though buying a camcorder is not high on my list at the moment.

Since there is no manual control or microphone input, these cameras are best for recording video in situations where a typical camcorder would be too unwieldy, inconvenient or impossible. However, I think that paired with one of the new-generation digital audio recorders (like a Zoom H2) you might be able to do a decent job recording a lecture or similar event. Just put the audio recorder up close to the subject (or near a PA) speaker, then sync the sound in your editing application, like iMovie or Premiere. Sure, the audio recorder is one more thing to carry. But together with the camcorder they’re still smaller than a typical miniDV, DVD or hard drive camcorder alone.

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