Useful improvements make this the iPod of pocket video cameras
With the original MinoHD, we were impressed with Flip Video’s ability to pack 720p video into a truly pocket-size cam. But we nonetheless wished the product offered a bit more, such as more recording time, HDMI support, and a bigger screen.
Those are three of the top improvements Flip Video made to its new MinoHD 8GB. Recording time has doubled from the original’s one hour, a mini HDMI connector lets you play your videos on a large high-def display, and the device’s screen now pushes two inches, up from the postage stamp–size 1.5 inches in the original MinoHD. The transflective screen isn’t just bigger, either; it also increases pixel count from the original’s 528x132 resolution to 960x240. Side by side, it’s obvious that the new screen is a major improvement.
There's a reason the MinoHD is popular with celebrities: It's kept simple for stupid.
Flip didn’t stop there in its MinoHD upgrade. The lens is slightly wider than the original’s, which makes it easier to frame two people without having to back way up. The newer version also features a brushed-aluminum façade and feels more solid than the older model. Startup seems slightly improved, too, taking just a little over two seconds. Features we’ve always liked about the Flip Video cameras live on in the newer version: Plug the device into a USB port and it auto-launches the FlipShare software to let you view, import, edit, mail, or burn your videos. The app is kept simple for stupid folks, so even if you’ve never edited a movie or uploaded to YouTube, you will find it incredibly easy to use. Heck, the camera is so simple, you could hand it to Fredo without worrying he’d botch a shoot like he botched the hit on the Don in Cuba.
That strength is also a weakness, as it doesn’t take long for you to outgrow the app. That simplicity also cuts out more-advanced features, like the ability to take still images, lower the resolution, or increase the frame rate. The MinoHD 8GB is, like all of Flip’s cameras, a truly dummy-proof device. Flip even borrows a feature from Apple’s playbook by using a non-user-replaceable battery in the MinoHD—we guess that’s to keep you from hurting yourself.
Video quality is good for this class of device. The H.264 files are not overly compressed and the auto white-balance is decent. Low-light performance is also OK, thanks to its F/2.4 lens. The output is far from what you would get with a typical HDV camera or a good-quality AVCHD cam, but frankly, this camera is perfect for spontaneous moments, like when a classmate is streaking the quad. Audio is also quite good and is now stereo instead of mono. Unfortunately, you can’t change the audio recording level, but again, if you could do that, you’d only screw it up, right?
So, what’s not to like? First, there’s no HDMI cable. For $230, you’d expect the cable to be thrown in. And maybe a charger, too. But Flip has never included a charger, assuming we all have a USB port handy at all times. These are minor problems with an otherwise handy video camera. It’s not for advanced users by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still a hoot to use and have around.