The Flip Video Ultra from Pure Digital has won over consumers with its simple design and straightforward operation. It’s tailor-made for the Internet era: a no-frills camcorder that spits out easy-to-upload video clips for near-instant sharing with family and friends.
Just like its predecessor, the Flip Video Ultra has boiled down video recording to its fundamentals. Black or white with either silver, orange, green, or pink accents, the camcorder features only four buttons: Power, Play, Record, and Delete. A four-way directional pad is used to shuffle between clips and engage the slight 2X digital zoom. The 1.5-inch LCD display is somewhat cramped considering it’s the only way to frame shots, and in bright sunlight it becomes nearly impossible to use.
The camcorder’s slim, lightweight body (4.2 x 2.2 x 1.3 inches, 5 ounces) is a pleasure, and the rectangular shape is actually easier to deal with than the seemingly ergonomic pistol-grip body of the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9. The Flip Video Ultra comes with 2GB of internal flash memory. Although this is double the storage of the previous, high-end Flip Video model, the 60-minute recording time remains the same. Rather than allow for longer videos, Pure Digital has set aside the extra memory to provide higher overall image quality.
The quality of the Flip Video Ultra’s 640 x 480-pixel resolution video is definitely good, perhaps not as vivid or highly detailed as the footage captured by the Canon ZR950 or the JVC Everio GR-D850 MiniDV camcorders, but still capable of satisfying users with reasonable expectations. The flash-based Sanyo Xacti VPC-GC9 can take simple videos made for uploads like the Flip but also lets users shoot high-quality clips, as well as 9.1-megapixel still photos.
Those extra features add about $150 to the price tag and eliminate the unfettered charm that makes the Flip Video Ultra such an appealing alternative to over-complicated camcorders. And while it’s $50 more expensive and almost twice the size of the Creative Vado, the Flip Video Ultra captures better-looking videos.
Shoot and Share
The software that comes with the Flip Video Ultra is a major selling point. It’s a slick suite of tools that helps users get the most from the camcorder, making it easy to save videos to the computer, edit clips, and easily upload movies directly to YouTube or AOL Videos. The software automatically optimizes videos for the Web and handles all aspects of the uploading process. The Flip Video Ultra runs on AA batteries, which give it between 2.5 (alkaline) and 6.5 hours (lithium) of life. While disposable batteries may be wasteful, it is easier to find replacements if you find yourself far from an outlet.
In this day and age, most user-generated video ends up as YouTube clips, a role for which the Flip Video Ultra is perfectly suited. It’s low price, portability, strong software, and remarkably decent movie-making capabilities make this an ideal Web 2.0 camera.