Flip Mino HD Ambleside
Flip Mino HD
Weighing less than 100g, yet boasting high definition video recording, Flip's new Mino HD looks to challenge the assumption that portability compromises quality.
But the most striking thing about this device isn't its size, it's just how easy it is to use. Other than a 1.5in TFT viewfinder, the HD's pocket-sized frame is dominated by a big red button that starts and stops recording. Touch-sensitive areas above and below control the zoom while recording.
In playback mode, you navigate individual clips through arrows either side of the record button, and play or delete them using two recessed buttons above. It beats fiddling with the rewind button on a tape-based recorder. If small speakers either side of the tiny viewfinder don't provide the ideal playback experience, you can connect the HD to a TV using a supplied cable.
The only other controls are a power button on one side and a slider on the other that flips out a USB connector to connect to your Mac for transferring video and charging the built-in battery. Over a testing period of a fortnight, the battery provided a good couple of hours of recording and playback time, and took a similar time to recharge from a MacBook Pro. Our only hardware niggles relate to the unprotected lens: the way the HD is held will surely lead to occasional lens smudges.
The HD's 4GB of non-upgradable internal memory can store 60 minutes of video, enough for the sort of impromptu use for which the Flip is ideal.
We were pleased by the Flip's crisp video, which records 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps. Its only drawbacks are its fixed focus and meagre 2x zoom. Outdoors, detail and colour were excellent and indoor filming was better than expected - only in very low-light conditions did the camera begin to struggle. The detail of the capture allied to the slightness of the device heightens the need for a steady hand as the HD exacerbates camera wobble, but there's a standard tripod mount on the bottom.
The HD's tiny omnidirectional microphone produces good audio, too, managing to pick up foreground conversation at a distance without noticeable extraneous interference.
Flip bundles its FlipShare clip-management application. It won't usurp iMovie, but installed on the device itself, it can launch automatically when you connect the Flip to a Mac, and lets you work with video without first transferring it to your hard disk. Not only can you preview and batch-select clips to transfer, but alongside a rudimentary movie compilation tool, FlipShare lets you upload video directly to YouTube by dragging clips from the browser window.
You can also email video from FlipShare. Cleverly, rather than forcing you to embed it as a hefty attachment, the email contains a link to the video, which is uploaded and stored on Flip's servers. You can also create small image snapshots from video frames, which partly compensates for the lack of a hardware snapshot capability.
You can import clips straight into iMovie. It recognises the camera and lets you preview content before importing. iPhoto 09, on the other hand, didn't display clip thumbnails, making it impossible to accurately identify clips to import.
The Mino HD is ideal for the YouTube generation. Its wonderful portability and excellent video quality more than compensate for lack of high-end controls.
If you can keep a steady hand, the Mino HD is an ideal portable video recording tool.
Author: Tom Gorham