Shortly after we released our article comparing webcams to Flip mini camcorders, Cisco announced the decision to shut down their Flip video camera division. We decided a second article was in order and began researching mini camcorders. What we found are several sound alternatives to the Flip that can accommodate both business and personal use.
New to the market this past year, the Bloggie brings the goods (1920 x 1080p MP4 HD video with 5-megapixel stills). It’s small, lightweight design is perfect for handheld, on-the-go videos. To counter the video shakiness often associated with handheld cameras, Sony equipped the Bloggie with Stableshot image stabilization technology. Like the Flip, it comes with a kick-out USB adapter to quickly connect to your computer for video downloading. The Bloggie offers 4GB of built-in memory for up to 2 hours of recording and comes in several models starting at $149.00
Kodak Zi8 and Playsport
Kodak handheld video cameras have the bells and whistles you want and some nice extras too. They’re small, lightweight and have large record/playback screens. The Zi8 captures HD quality 1080p video and 5 MP still photos all in 16:9 ratio. The expandable SD/SDHC card slot holds up to 32 GB for as much as 10 hours of video recording.
The Playsport takes video to the extreme (conditions, that is). Outdoor enthusiasts will love it’s rugged shockproof, dustproof and waterproof (to 10 feet) design. It’s more than just a tough exterior though. The Playsport boasts full 1080p HD for vivid video playback, as well as 720p for fast action or super slow motion playback.
Both the Zi8 and the Playsport have image stabilization and smart face tracking technology for clear, well lighted videos. Onboard software allows for easy video sharing to YouTube, Facebook and more. Both video cameras retail around $179.00
This 1080p HD video camera is even more compact and lightweight than the Zi8 and Playsport and is priced around $140.00. Video quality is excellent as is the video sharing option. Some folks may find the video screen a bit too small and the USB arm is somewhat difficult to access, but the price may be a sufficient offset.
We include this video camera, for personal use, because of it’s attractive price. At somewhere between $30-$60 the Snapp has visual similarities to the Flip (the red record button, sleek black design and kick-out USB). Beyond that, there is little of comparison. The internal memory only records up to 20 seconds of video, making the optional SD/SDHC memory card more of a requirement. The 1.44″ display is the smallest of all the cameras reviewed here and it only operates on non-rechargeable AA batteries, providing up to 1.5 hours of power. Customer reviews we found indicated video quality was average to poor but audio quality was fairly good. Based on the feedback we found, the Snapp is best as a starter video camera.
While the Snapp may not be the answer consumers are looking for, the Sony and Kodak models have a lot going for them, and the Flip’s demise may offer an opportunity to market these video cameras to a larger audience.
Beyond Mini Camcorders
Some smartphone users are already creating high quality videos. In fact, it was the burgeoning video capability of smartphones that played a role in Cisco’s decision to drop Flip production. As phones take on more functionality, they are quickly replacing other products (watches, alarm clocks, GPS units, etc.). Video cameras may end up the next casualty as more people purchase smartphones (and other devices) with many or all of the same features. Examples include:
iPhone 4, iPod Touch and more
The iPhone 4 and iPod Touch have front and back cameras that can take 5 MP stills using an LED flash. Depending on the model and how much storage you’re using for photos, music and apps, you can record up to 4 hours of HD video. They also come with easy social network sharing. Of course the prices on these devices is higher than the video cameras above, but you are getting so much more, all in one place. Many Android phones also have video recording capability. Features and functionality vary by model.