Category: Camcorders

Flip Video goes all-HD, adds image stabilization

The Flip UltraHD 2 Hour

The Flip UltraHD 2 Hour

If you still inhabit a standard-definition world, the folks at Flip Video would like to know why. Or at least that seems to be the sentiment now that they’ve released their new line-up of camcorders – all of which now record in 720p HD.

Many of the features that have made the Flip such a popular product are still a part of the picture, including the swing-out USB arm that enables file transfers to a PC as well as battery recharging, simple one-handed operation, built-in editing and sharing “FlipShare” software and decent image quality. But on today’s Flips you’ll find some other goodies too: mini-HDMI-out is now standard on all models, and if you look closely at the bottom of the new UltraHD 2 Hour model you’ll see a second jack – this is the FlipPort, a connector that should do for the Flip what Apple’s standard dock-connector has done for their i-devices, namely establish an ecosystem of accessories designed and sold by third parties.

Flip has already announced the first batch of these “designed for Flip” FlipPort gagdets including an external storage unit and a wireless microphone, both of which go a long way to answering the two most common complaints associated with the Flip: no memory card slots and no external microphone jack. Other accessories include wide-angle lenses that adhere magnetically to any of the Flip models, and a very cool underwater housing designed just for the UltraHD models. At $260 USD it isn’t cheap, but even when you throw in the cost of the Flip itself (starting at $159 CDN) the whole package is still way less than base-model traditional camcorders. And if you’re crazy enough to go diving with some of nature’s perfect killing machines, shouldn’t you spend a little extra and capture the footage?

But perhaps the most important improvement is the addition of image stabilization to the two top-end models, the UltraHD 2 Hour and MinoHD 2 Hour. In using several of Flip’s previous models of both the HD and SD variety, one thing always bothered me. Actually two things. But the big one was the jerky quality of the video. You needed a very steady hand indeed – or preferably a tripod – to get a smooth result, otherwise video clips all tended to have a “shaky-cam” feel that traditional tape-based camcorders haven’t suffered from in over a decade. And while the image stabilization on the new Flips isn’t at the same level of refinement as you’ll find on the latest full-size camcorders, it’s a huge improvement over the non-stabilized Flips.

You can find the new line of Flips at http://www.theflip.com/en-ca/ or by dropping by any The Source locations.

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Sony backs SD format: it's about time

800px-SDHC_memory_card_-_8GBMemory_Stick_Front_and_BackToday I was delighted to read about Sony jumping on the Secure Digital (SD) memory card bandwagon. All I can say is: what took you so long?

I understand that 10 years ago, when the SD format broke onto the scene and made its play to replace the similarly-shaped Multimedia Card (MMC ) the flash memory landscape looked a lot different than it does today.  Support for one format was non-existent. Devices were being built to make use of Compact Flash (CF), the now-defunct Smart Media card (SM), IBM Micro-drives, MMCs and of course Memory Stick.

That was then. Today, despite the expansion of the flash memory universe from a format point of view (Olympus and FujiFilm introduced the xD format in 2002), the market share of devices that use these formats has shifted to favour the SD format by a wide margin.

In our household, some of the many memory-card using gadgets are:

  • Nikon dSLR
  • Canon PowerShot Camera
  • Sony Cybershot
  • Wii
  • Archos media player
  • Two photo printers
  • Fisher-price digital camera
  • Panasonic TV

All of these devices with the exception of the Sony CyberShot use SD memory. And though we didn’t necessarily choose them for this shared capability, I am constantly reminded how convenient and cost-effective it is to have a single format. Not to mention how irritated I get when I want to swap files from the Sony camera onto another device.

So I congratulate Sony on their decision to support SD. It may not be better than Memory Stick or any other format for that matter, but it’s as close to a standard as we have, and with any luck, the rest of the electronics industry will throw their support behind it as well, at least until the relentless march of innovation forces the development of a new standard.

I’m very tempted to stay on my soap-box and give my thoughts on the lack of USB-cable standard… but that’s another post, for another time.

Update: Check out Marc Saltzman’s video coverage of the new Sony Bloggie – one of the first Sony products to accept an SD card.

OWLE's Bubo turns your iPhone into a full-on camcorder

The OWLE Bubo as seen from the front. The iPhone snaps into a space on the back of the frame.

The OWLE Bubo as seen from the front. The iPhone snaps into a space on the back of the frame.

I’m not sure what’s more impressive: the fact that this iPhone accessory takes a humble cellphone and turns it into tripod-mountable camcorder, or the fact that the team behind it went from concept to fully-finished and available for shipping product in a little over 4 months.

The Bubo is deceptively simple. It’s basically a smooth piece of anodized aluminum that serves as a video platform for an iPhone. iPhones already have a built-in camera and mic, but what they lack is a way to comfortably hold them while you’re shooting, and there’s no way to add things like lens adapters, external mics or lighting units. The Bubo adds all of these features, plus several tripod mounting points.

When the Bubo goes on sale for pre-order on October 27th, The initial price will be $99 … fairly reasonable for what you get: Included with the OWLE Bubo will be a 37mm .45X wide angle lens, a high quality Vericorder boom microphone, and a silicon iPhone case. The price goes up to $129 after the initial launch.

Interested? Check out their light-hearted but informative video here:

and visit them online: http://www.wantowle.com/

Here’s a view of the back of the Bubo:

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