Flip UltraHD Camcorder Review-Updated

The news was shocking to the community of Flip camcorder users. Cisco announced they were discontinuing this popular product. The last time I checked (November 2011), prices seemed to be rising on Amazon. For alternatives to the Flip, see the end of this article.

If you want to capture high quality video when the moment strikes, and if you care about every ounce of weight you carry around, then you may want to check out a pocket camcorder. In my world, technology is beautiful and small technology is even more so.

I recently got the Flip UltraHD camcorder as a gift and quickly got hooked. It was perfect timing because I was leaving for a trip overseas and the camera seemed so practical.

Now that I have one, I bring it with me anytime I’m going somewhere even mildly interesting. And I see why it’s currently the #1 product being sold in Amazon’s High Definition Camcorders selection.

Uses

Personal. In terms of personal uses, the Flip camcorders are built for mobility. They’re small enough to easily carry while traveling (I took mine to Northern Spain for a presentation) and you’ll tend to grab it when you’re running out the door.

Flip Lightweight Tripod

Work. I also think the Flip will be useful for work to record just-in-time videos. For example, I could imagine using the UltraHD while visiting a client’s organization to record interviews with experts or employees. It would also be great for capturing on the job procedures and processes that need to be taught, in order to remember how everything works. I know it won’t replace hiring a professional for complex productions—it’s a pocket-sized camcorder.

flip usb armConvenience Factors

USB Connector. Perhaps the coolest thing about the camera—aside from its compactness—is that it has a flip-out USB arm that connects directly to your computer. This  allows for easy video uploads.

Battery. Another convenience is that the rechargeable battery (which gives you 2 hours of recording time) can be replaced with 3 AAA lithium batteries. Like an iPod, the camera recharges while connected to your computer or you can buy a power adapter for use with a wall socket.

Accessories. There are a lot of accessories that expand the capabilities of the Flip UltraHD. Inexpensive accessories include very small tripods, HDMI cables, a power adapter and storage pouches.

Video Quality

High Definition. The most important aspect of a camcorder is the video quality and here the Flip really delivers. Its high definition video is crisp and the color is excellent. See the sample below that I shot in Spain—hope you’re not prone to dizziness. I laid a music track in the background with Final Cut Pro.

For Geeks Only. As to the specs, the high-end model (8GB 4 hours) uses the high def 720p scan rate (1,280 x 720) at 60fps. The framerate of the lower model is 30fps. The video compression standard is H.264 and files are in the MP4 format.

Audio

External Mic Capabilities. The high-end Flip UltraHD (8GB 4 hours) now comes with a connector at the bottom, the FlipPort, for adding accessories. It’s difficult to still find accessories, such as microphones, that fit this port now that Cisco has discontinued the model.

Internal Mic. The Flip UltraHD uses an internal mic and provides decent sound quality, but not professional quality. The audio compression is AAC, which is a standard in most new devices.

Really, I’m not obsessed with carousels, but coincidentally, I recorded a carousel in DC. Now you can hear the audio quality of the camcorder’s internal mic. (You may want to turn down your volume first—it was a loud scene that day.)

Other Details

Size and Weight. The high-end model of the UltraHD measures 4.16” x 2.11“ x 0.88”. Some reviewers used to complain about the 1.2″ thickness of the camera, but they’ve slimmed this model down even more. I have a slightly older one and have to say that the thickness feels good, like it’s not going to slip out of my hand. The rubbery coating improves the non-slip quality even more. I guess if you wanted to carry it in trouser pockets, it could be bulky though. For a super thin pocket video camera, check out the Panasonic Ultrathin. It’s slimmer and lighter but I don’t think the video quality is quite as good.

LCD Screen. The LCD screen is a good size for a small camera. It measures 2″ on the diagonal and the resolution for watching videos on the screen is 320 x 240.

Memory. This model comes with 8GB of internal memory, which provides up to 2 hours of recording.

Controls and Connectors

The Flip controls are spare and well-designed. The camcorder powers up quickly with a “Ready” message. Pressing the Big Red Button on the back starts the recording process. Other controls include a trash can for deleting, Play button to view the video, volume controls, and arrows for searching through your recorded videos. The zoom is 2X and it works well, but a more powerful one would be nice.

On the side there’s an HDMI output for HDTV connections. You can choose to get an HDMI cable by purchasing through Amazon and getting it as a free accessory.

Sharing

The software that comes with all of the Flip products, FlipShare, provides unlimited private video emails, video greeting cards and direct upload to  MySpace and YouTube. I haven’t been inclined to try the software yet, because I’m so used to doing everything manually. So I can’t report on its quality.

The Competition

If you’re looking for a camera that’s not discontinued so that you can get continued support, here are a few options:

Amazon is still selling the 3rd generation Flip UltraHD, however.

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Comments

  1. says

    I didn’t know what all the fuss was about until a friend of mine showed me his Flip camcorder. Press big red button to record, press it again to stop. Hi def video, surprisingly good audio, USB connection – what’s not to like? Maybe the MP4 output format, which might require a conversion depending on your audience.

    [Reply]

  2. says

    Hi Ryan,
    I know. The surprising part is how easy it is to use and yet the video quality is so high. Usually you have to suffer in some way to get high quality of anything. =D
    Connie

    [Reply]

  3. says

    I am so pissed off with the Flip HD.

    I requested my girl friend’s aunt based in the US to purchase Flip HD because I want to start to produce high quality videos. Her grandma brought the original Flip a year ago so I was amazed of the quality of that gadget.

    However, when the package arrive there are a number of flaws:

    1. The battery does not charge, it says it is too hot when charged in a PC or laptop through the USB

    2. The unit cannot be turned off using the “on/off” button on the right side. I can turn on the unit but I cannot turn it off. I have to remove the battery just to turn the stupid unit off.

    3. Customer support says it is not already covered by warranty because it was purchase on March/April 2010.

    My dilemma is that I am here in the Philippines and I can’t do anything about it. I just wasted 250USD for that useless gadget.

    [Reply]

  4. says

    Sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had with the Flip, Ronaldo. Sounds like you received a defective model as I haven’t experienced any of those issues. Many companies watch their reputation on social media. Perhaps you should try publicizing your issues and perhaps they will respond. It’s a thought, anyway.

    [Reply]

  5. Ed Julian says

    I like most features of my Ultra HD except the fact that it cuts off after 15 or 20 seconds of non use. This gets to be a hassle, cutting it on all the time. I thought the Pause button would do just that — pause it until I was ready to begin videoing again.

    [Reply]

  6. Sophia's Mom says

    I am getting the 3rd Generation Mino HD Flip. Does anyone have any thoughts on this camera? Is size the only difference b/t the Mino and the Ultra?

    [Reply]

  7. says

    Hi Sophia’s Mom,
    The 3rd generation (if you get the 8GB version) has more memory, which means longer recording time and the FlipPort, where you can add accessories, like an external microphone.
    Connie

    [Reply]

  8. Rob Akkermans says

    Do not buy a third generation Mino HD (type M3160)
    I bought for my schoolclass four 3rd generation Flip Mino HD cameras (Type M3160).
    I was unhappily surprised that this camera cannot be charged through any usb wall power outlet (ac adapter).
    So now I cannot store the cameras in a locked place, while charging them with a usb power adapter.I must leave each of the Flips connected for several hours to a different computer in the unattended computerclassroom before they are fully charged; with the risk of theft, damage a.s.o.
    I have ten Flip Minos 2nd generation and they will charge through any usb ac adapter without any problem.
    I mailed Cisco about this, the only comment was: 3rd generation can not be charged by any usb wall power outlet( ac adapter).(is not compatible- incredible!)
    For me no more Flips whatever

    [Reply]

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