Which Flip should I buy?

Posted on 12th January 2010 by

UPDATE:  I rewrote this in October 2012. To see new views please go here.

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It’s a question I’m often asked.   May I start with something simple.  I’m assuming you want something that is easy to use, easy to carry and makes video which is simple to edit and very quick to upload to the internet.  If so buy this one, the Flip Mino – but not the high definition one.

If you are going to but a flip get this one

If you are going to buy a flip get this one

Why?

It is light and very easy to carry in a pocket or a bag.
I’ve used and owned the larger ones but found that the red record button was prone to stick.  On these it works like a dream.
60 minutes is plenty of recording time.
The built in usb connector is darned useful.
It does wide screen, which is nice.
There’s no point in buying the high definition one because the lens is the same and the files are just bigger and take ages to upload to the net.

Tip:  the white one if often cheaper than the black one and you’ll rarely find any for less than they sell on Amazon.

What if I want something like a Flip that isn’t a Flip?

At the moment the best reason to do that is because you want better sound. The Flip does perfectly decent sound in straightforward conditions – but make it very noisy and you start to struggle a bit.

Oddly there are not that many sensible choices. There are growing number of high definition flip type camera  that allow you to do what you can’t do with a flip – plug in an external microphone.

Dave Briggs has this very informative explanation of why it’s worth buying a Kodak Zi8:

What Dave says is right, but the point of the Flip is simplicity.  Once you have to add an external microphone, plug it in,

Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera - almost but not quite

Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera – almost but not quite

mess with it, hope it doesn’t drop out then – to keep the file size down, remember to reset the video recording quality to less than HD (for upload speed) I’m not convinced the more complex camera will be better. It does have one advantage – you can take stills.

It is still simpler to buy the Flip and ask someone to step into a quiet room to talk to them.

However sound is all important in online video so there’s a more expensive but better solution.  I bought one a few weeks ago and love the new Zoom Q3.  You can record just audio if you wish ( a still photo combined with an mp3 makes great content) and will record very simple video with great audio. There’s a built in USB connector, you can use and sd card and the file sizes are weeny – so whizz up to the net.

This is what @documentally says about it – and I agree with him:

What then is special about it?:

Robust
Same ease of use at the Flip
Great sound without needing an external mic
Low resolution video – hence small file sizes.
Does just audio in great quality

So for for me the almost ultimate is the Zoom Q3 – give me widescreen yet low def video on the Zoom Q4 and I’ll be a very happy man.

29 Responses to Which Flip should I buy?

  1. Tony Molloy says:

    I think the Sony Bloggie will also be worth a look when it’s released in the UK – http://bit.ly/6FN8hu

  2. Dave Briggs says:

    Do Sony still use those crappy file formats which don’t play nicely with Macs?

  3. [...] Booth has just published a nice post, where he recommends the Flip over the Kodak for ease of use. Share this [...]

  4. Tony Molloy says:

    Looks like it uses MP4 – there’s a review with more detail here http://www.photographyblog.com/news/sony_bloggie_pm5_pm5k_cm5/

  5. Ed Moore says:

    Great post. I think the Holy Grail for these would be one with an incredibly simple, plug-and-play, combined mic/wireless transmitter with built in tie clip.

    Clip it out, stick it on someone’s clothes and the camera takes the audio from that and interviews (vast majority of use for these cameras I think) sound much better, with no cables to worry about.

    Stick it back in the camera, and the audio recorded comes from the normal built in mic.

  6. James says:

    I recently bought a Kodak Zi8 (£117 on Amazon) and I’ve been very happy with it so far!

    The audio has been ok even in a moderately noisy setting (New year’s eve party – drunks & music!) and the HD video quality is great. Stills aren’t bad too.

    The main reasons I bought this over the flip were the external mic option, the fact is uses SD cards so you can swap them in/out if your card is full (you can also use a card reader instead of overusing the ‘flip out’ USB stick), and the fact that it has anti-shake & face recognition built in – neither of which the flip has.

    Plus Kodak have been making cameras of one sort or another for a long time – and in my experience the longstanding manufacturers tend to make good quality products!

  7. Right – so what about video on phones? I’m very happy with my Nokia N95 – even if I’ve dropped it so often it’s on its third case!

  8. Why do I need a USB thingie [TM] when my phone has bluetooth and a net connection?

  9. Ed Moore says:

    @Andy – well for one thing the HD Flip and Kodak minicameras have a bitrate of about 9Mbps and Bluetooth cops out at about 750Kbps with 3G internet probably in the same region on an extremely good day, so you’re going to be waiting a while to transfer if you want to take advantage of the full quality of the camera.

    That said, there are clearly existing services that tailor their video bitrate to the capabilities of the mobile networks and let you stream live from your phone – ustream, qik et al.

  10. Donato says:

    Great reviews here. Was thinking of getting a Flip, but it looks like the Kodak may edge it!

  11. Mark Walker says:

    Great article and still an annoyingly difficult problem to solve

    We want to get something for our Community Reporters project and my tuppence is that my iPhone is just great for the community reporty and family stuff I do:
    - reasonable quality video
    - use the mic on the headphones to improve audio on interviews
    - it has a two click ‘upload to Youtube’ process when it’s on wi-fi
    - it does stills
    - you can install the audioboo app
    - it can integrate with twitter
    - etc etc

    so that’s my wish list for something that isn’t tied to a £35/month contract

    I’ve been working through similar choices to those above and one that hasn’t been mentioned is the iPod Nano which has a built in video camera and you can use the mic on the headphones to record video

    Downsides are that it is video only – no stills – and that I think you need to load it in via iTunes and then bring into iMovie or MovieMaker for edit and then upload

    anyone else tried this?

  12. Mark Watson says:

    The main issue for me in community reporting is having something that is easy for the majority of the public to use, and ideally something that a number of people can share. So this means PCs and Windows, and not macs.

    The project we’re workign is giving social work staff Flip Minos to staff and service users etc. The Mino saves in .avi and people can use Windows Movie Maker to edit.

    The problem with the Zi8, which I have, is that it saves in .mov which Windows Movie Maker doesn’t like, and also the other flips also use .h264/.mp4, which WMM doesn’t like.

    I’m not a tech expert, so if my understanding of the codecs etc is wrong, do let me know

    • Nick Booth says:

      Thanks Mark. One of the reasons why I like the flip is that the software for topping and tailing is all including on the camera – so for simple stuff people can learn to use the flip software and then – where ever they plug it in – they can use it.

  13. I too went for the Kodak Zi8, I got in Raspberry which matched my netbook nicely – the missus particularly appeciates that.

    From a tech perspective I often do interviews in noisy conditions (gigs, clubs etc) so the flip was never going to work.

    I’ve recently also recorded a bike journey which I tried on flip and the sound was just blustery wind. I’m trying to edit this together now, I’ll let you know when it’s up on youtube. One major bugbear as Mark Watson pointed out is getting the files reformatted to edit.

  14. I put that video of me on my bike online.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UVT7fkbK-g

    I think my clothes were a little over the mic but you get the idea.

  15. I’ve been battling for weeks to turn my Sony Ericsson Satio into a useful video camera i.e. using the handsfree kit as a clip-on mic instead of the internal one, but the sound (whilst excellent quality) quickly falls out of sync, and gradually gets worse.

    I am loathe to buy a new handheld when I have such a high quality video recorder on my phone(the ultimate gadget) but the sound is making it unusable.

    I’m now torn between the Zi8 and the Zoom Q3. Decisions decisions.

  16. I went for the Zi8 in the end, although not being able to use it with Movie Maker is a bit of a bind.

    I’m currently rattling through a free trial of Sony Vegas Pro 9.0 which I am getting used to.

    I also purchased a clip on mic which is incredibly useful!

  17. Andy Mabbett says:

    A similar discussion has arisen on the Museum Computer Group mailing list, with some additional information: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind1101&L=MCG#2

  18. [...] to help get your story across. It’s very simple and cheap to make your own video – see this article here for information on what you can use to shoot simple but effective videos which you can send [...]

  19. [...] couple of years ago I wrote what turned out to be an often visited post answering  the question: “which flip camera should I [...]

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