Right now the Kodak Zi8 has a lot of attention for being an excellent 1080p pocket camcorder with external mic options and all of the bells and whistles. What they don’t tell you on the packaging is that you have to supply the memory card and the battery must be charged and ready to go. I thought long and hard about which pocket camcorder to go with and found a perfect match in the 720p powerhouse, the Flip UltraHD. Was it the right decision? Let’s find out…
Right off the bat the first thing I noticed about the UltraHD when compared to other pocket cams currently on the market was its boxy frame. It kept the same thick frame of the previous generation Flip cams and it wasn’t until I opened the rest of the packaging that I understood exactly why. The camera comes with rechargeable AA batteries but you have the option to swap them out with your own regular AA batteries in a pinch. This means instead of buying a costly proprietary battery or even having no ability to swap the battery out at all, you have a reasonable method for making sure that your camcorder is ready to go as long as you need.
There is 8GB of internal memory but no expansion slot for additional space. This is where the UltraHD comes at a disadvantage. A 32GB SD card would make a world of difference in the amount of time you can record. With 8GB 2 hours is about the limit so if you’re recording something longer than that you may need to bring your notebook along to drag the files off. Batteries also last about 2 hours and 15 minutes so their space limit makes sense though when batteries are so easily replaced it is still a hindrance.
Once the power was in and the camera was free of packaging film, I hit the power button on the side and within 2 seconds it was ready to record. This is an impressive feat for any camera and one that is vital to capturing those important moments with little to no notice ahead of time. The interface is easy to understand. You point, you press the big red button and use arrow keys to control the 2x digital zoom. There isn’t much more to it than that.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/QeAT_ZsHxXA" width="320" height="240" wmode="transparent" /]
Video quality is entirely dependent on your circumstance for filming. In low-light (Video above) the image is grainy and reminiscent of very early YouTube videos. Thankfully, the footage taken in abundant lighting is also abundant in quality. I was blown away by how good the video looks when taken in the right environment. Below is an example of video taken just before dusk while walking my dog, Rocky. You’ll notice the lack of image stabilization and its effect on the camera when held.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VNeUQp0D1eA" width="320" height="240" wmode="transparent" /]
The software included with the camera is virtually useless. It works and might be perfect for a very inexperienced consumer but all you really need to do is plug the camera in to a USB port and drag the files to your local drive. It works just like every other digital camera on the market for the last five years.
Video comes in an MP4 packaging containing a beautifully compressed H.264 codec video. This is a perfect YouTube file ready for immediate upload or editing in your favorite Windows or Mac editing program. Kino on Linux also had little to no trouble editing this video format. At 720p and 30fps this camera produces exactly the kind of video that the majority of the consumer market is really needing.
Overall, the Flip UltraHD is a great choice for the Frugal Geek wanting a camera that’s portable and capable of capturing important moments. Be mindful of your lighting situations as low light produces grainy footage. It produces excellent results in capable lighting and could easily pass for a bulkier and more expensive camera when kept stationary.