updated 04:35 pm EDT, Tue June 17, 2008
F. Look: Flip Video Mino
The growing popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube has encouraged people to post their own videos for others to view and pass around. However, capturing and sharing videos has often been cumbersome using ordinary camcorders. Not only must you master the multitude of options on a typical feature-laden camera, but you must also lug it around whenever you want to capture a scene. Since carrying a full-fledged camcorder is impractical most of the time, one option may be Pure Digital's Flip Video Mino.
The unit comes in a choice of black or white colors. Physically it's no bigger than a cellphone (4 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and 0.6 inches thick), and it weighs 3.3 ounces. Since the device can slip into a shirt pocket, you can comfortably take it wherever you go, allowing you to capture spontaneous moments such as the aftermath of a car accident or a child's first steps.
Choose between a black or white version
Ease of use is the byword with the Mino, as getting footage is as simple as slipping it out of your pocket, aiming, and pressing the record button.
With 2GB of built-in flash memory, the device can record up to 60 minutes of video. You can't expand this capacity though, or store video on a removable flash drive. This limitation keeps the device's cost and complexity down at the expense of versatility.
The front of the unit contains the lens and microphone; the back sports a 1.5-inch LCD, two speakers, a big red Record button, two recessed buttons for playing, pausing and deleting video, and four flush buttons for zooming in and out, rewinding, and fast-forwarding.
The parts of the Flip Video Mino
While recording a video can be as simple as aiming and shooting, as mentioned earlier, you can also screw the device into a standard tripod when you want better composition. After you've recorded a clip, you can review your sample and decide whether to keep or delete it. Plug an optional cable into the device and you can preview your videos on an ordinary TV set.
Despite the Mino's small size, video quality is surprisingly good, captured in 640x480 resolution and at 30 frames per second. Its automatic sensors, meanwhile, do a remarkable job in capturing clear images in various lighting conditions. Perhaps the one major drawback is that zoom capability is limited to 2x digital, forcing you to stay fairly close to a subject. This may be fine with people, but not when dealing with the likes of tigers in zoos.
The device's built-in lithium-ion battery lasts approximately four hours on a single charge, which should provide more than enough time to record, view, and delete anything the Mino can hold. To recharge you just press a button to flip open the camera's USB connector, which normally stays hidden inside the top.
Charging and file transfers run simultaneously off the same cable. To make viewing files simpler, the camera comes with built-in software that runs on Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X. The first time you connect the device, in fact, an installation is mandatory.
Using the application, you can view all your stored videos and selectively edit a clip by trimming the beginning or end.
Perhaps the most useful feature of the app is the ability to share your videos over the Internet. The program offers three options in this regard: e-mail links, online greeting cards, or websites.
For extra convenience, the program provides one-click access to popular sharing sites such as MySpace, YouTube and AOL Video, although you can upload your material to any site you specify.
At $179 the Flip Video Mino may be a little pricey, but its convenient features and portability make it unbeatable if you like recording without the hassle of a normal camcorder. Similarly, if convenience is indeed more important to you than video quality, then the Mino may also represent the best way to capture video for sharing online.