The Flip Ultra in all its glory

The Flip Ultra in all its glory

When we bought our Pentax digital camera, we discovered that it had a nice little built-in video feature.  The movies it made were good, but not great, the sound was quite distorted, but the pictures were good enough that we could take little 30 second videos without hauling out the massive Sony Digital 8 camera most of the time.

Then we got our Canon Rebel XTi, and gone were the little videos (though the amazing pictures we’re taking more than make up for it).   Since last Christmas (when we got the Canon), our video production had dropped by quite a bit.

Then along came the Flip Ultra.

I had read a few reviews about the Flip Ultra, but it wasn’t until seeing it in action on videos from the San Diego Comic-Con that I REALLY wanted one.  Scott Kurtz of PvP online did a number of little videos with a Flip Mino that showed me the real potential of the device.

After keeping an eye out online, I found a Flip Ultra on eBay and ended up snagging it for $80.00.  I have to say that it’s $80 of the best dollars I’ve spent recently.  The videos are crisp and sharp (although since the zoom is digital it introduces artifacting), and sound is incredible.

What’s more, the videos it produces are awesome for sharing.  I’ve created a Vimeo account where I’m keeping all of my masterpieces.  With the Flip videos you just shoot a few seconds, and fire them up to a service.  You don’t need any extra cables, as the flip has a little USB port that swings out from its side.  There’s software built in to the device to do basic editing and uploading to either YouTube or a couple of other services.

The flip saves all video as MPEG4 .avi format files which allows you a lot of flexibility.  All video is shot at 640×480 at 30 frames per second and is shown on a 1.5 inch LCD screen.  The flip contains enough internal memory to hold 1 hour of video, and is not upgradable.

I’m going to pick up a copy of Vegas Video (hint to wife for anniversary/birthday/Christmas gift ideas) soon to start doing some more video editing, which is one of the things I miss from my TV and internet video superstar days.  In the short term though the Flip Ultra with Windows Movie Maker is pretty much all you need to make cute little videos like this one:

Kaylin rides a tricycle from Brian Garside on Vimeo.

Cool Geek Factors:

  • Cheap, incredibly portable camera that literally fits in your pocket.
  • Built in USB attachment means no lugging around cables.
  • Onboard software allows basic video editing.
  • 2 standard AA batteries means you can just grab more batteries if you run out (I’m currently using rechargables which get tons of life).
  • TV out jack lets you watch video on TV.
  • Tripod port on the bottom.
  • Videos saved as MPEG4 in .avi format
  • Flat bottom makes it easy to just set it up on any flat surface.
  • One button operation makes video recording simple.
  • 1 second boot-up means you don’t miss that cool shot.

Uncool Geek factors:

  • Built in software is kind of limiting
  • A little thicker than a regular camera
  • Pictures are only 640×480
  • No “bells and whistles”
  • No optical zoom
  • Digital zoom is kind of useless and makes video look horrible
  • Storage not upgradable

The Flip Ultra is an excellent little camcorder which can be thrown in your pocket and is great for those little 30 second videos that you want to take and quickly share with friends.  Video and audio quality is surprisingly good for such a tiny package.