The Flip is a handy little video camera that could be much more

If the digital world is going video, then the Flip Video Ultra series from Pure Digital will definitely be along for the ride. However, were it not for a few minor shortcomings, the Flip would be leading the charge.

Designed to make video portable and simple, the Flip is a small, hand-held video camera that fits in your pocket and puts a premium on ease of use. The 2GB internal flash hard drive records up to 60 minutes of video in MPEG-4 format at 30 frames per second, in VGA resolution (640X480).

The Flip interface is quite intuitive, and I had no problems getting started without reading the instructions (that would be cheating, after all). There’s an on/off button on the side, and a large red button both begins and ends recording. A four-way navigation button allows for zooming in and out while recording, and when playing video it allows for volume control and scrolling through clips. A sharp colour screen on the back acts as viewfinder and playback screen.

The method of connecting to your PC to download videos seems to be where the Flip gets its name. Pull a latch on the side and a USB connector flips up, for connecting to your PC’s USB port. Here you may find a USB extender cable (not included) a handy accessory as, depending on the layout of your PC and its USB ports, with the connector not protruding far from the camera connecting can be tricky.

The Flip comes with software for downloading video from the Flip, updating the firmware, light video editing and loading video to YouTube and MySpace. I found this software slow to load and cumbersome, and only used it to download the video from the Flip before moving it to other programs for editing.

The Flip recorded acceptable video quality for the size and price of the device, but you should keep some tips in mind when using it. You should stick to the outdoors or well-lit rooms for best results. Also, if you’re recording a conversation, get as close to the person as possible and try to minimize ambient noise, as the built-in microphone isn’t overly sensitive.

This brings me to a few of the Flip’s shortcomings that, if addressed, would really make this a much more powerful device. For example, add a connector for an external microphone. This would really increase the device’s utility. Secondly, the Flip is powered by two AA batteries. For a modern piece of electronics, an internal battery rechargeable by USB would make much more sense, and be more convenient. The Flip Ultra does include a tripod mount, something I understand was missing from previous models.

The flip does include a port and cables for connecting to the video in/audio left and right in ports of your television, allowing you to watch your videos on your television directly from the Flip.

The Flip gets high marks for its usability (a colleague’s young children had it mastered in a minute), its portability, and for bringing decent-quality video down to an affordable price-point, at $159.99. With a few minor improvements though, the Flip could pack so much more of a punch.

The Flip is available now through the channel, including Wal-Mart, Future Shop and Best Buy.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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