Review: The Flip video camera

Why do video cameras have such terrible UIs? In the early days of analog video cameras, it was kind of expected -- the only people who could afford them were pros or enthusiasts, and it made sense to have knobs to control color balance, aperture, audio levels, and other factors that they might need.

Thirty years later, practically every other home has a cheap camcorder or digital camera that can shoot video as well as still imagery. And they are still weighed down with these extra features and controls. Not only are they unnecessary for most home users, they make the devices a pain to use, and ultimately hamper the creation of video content. Seriously -- when was the last time you adjusted the white balance, or hunted through the tiny LCD menus to change some obscure quality setting?

That's why I was so pleased to find a video camera that does away with the extra buttons and unused features, and lets people quickly and easily shoot, play and offload digital video. The device is the Flip Video "Ultra" series, manufactured by Pure Digital Technologies. I've never heard of this company, but after trying out the Flip, I have a lot of respect for what they've accomplished -- making a well-designed and inexpensive little camera that produces good-quality video.

I've made a short review of the Flip and its basic functionality, which you can see below or on YouTube:

The quality of this camera is good enough for some of the video projects we're doing here at Computerworld. Don Tennant, the editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld, used the camera to shoot an interview with Bill Coleman, the co-founder of BEA Systems. I also used the Flip to shoot some of the footage used in Computerworld's holiday Gift Guide, and next week I will be taking it to New Jersey to shoot footage at a data center. It's perfect for quick 'n dirty projects where we have quick turnaround times and/or can't afford to be weighed down with camera crews and lots of gear.

Of course, when we need to do a professional-quality shoot, we'll use the pro gear and the talented videographers we have on staff. But for everything else, we'll be using the Flip.

(John C. Havens from BlogTalkRadio showed off the Flip at the 2007 Online News Association conference in Toronto -- many thanks to him for the tip!)

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