The popularity of video-sharing sites, such as YouTube and Viddler, coupled with the integration of video-capturing technologies into common consumer electronics devices, such as cell phones and digital cameras, has turned virtually everyone into budding videographers and documentary filmmakers. But perhaps the biggest push toward putting video into everyone's hands, started with the introduction of the inexpensive pocket camcorder in 2006. This new camcorder design did not resemble the size and shape of what we traditionally expect a camcorder to look like; instead it resembled a thick candy bar with a lens on one side and an LCD on the other.
Pure Digital Technologies started the pocket camcorder revolution when it released the Pure Digital Point and Shoot, which was to be later renamed the Flip Video camcorder. Pure Digital Technologies followed with additional pocket camcorder models in the Flip Video product line, and soon other manufacturers were releasing their own pocket camcorders, such as Creative, Kodak, and Sony. Most of these were sub-$200 camcorders, which suddenly brought the video camera well into the budget realm. Pure Digital Technologies claims that its Flip Ultra model is the "number-one selling camcorder in the U.S., while the Flip MinoHD, launched last November, is currently the top-selling HD camcorder in the country."
Pure Digital Technologies recently announced two new products in its pocket camcorder lineup: the Flip UltraHD (MSRP: $199.99) and the Flip Ultra (MSRP: $149.99). Both models build upon the existing Flip Ultra line by offering new features, such as two-hours of recording time and increasing the LCD size to 2.0-inches (diagonal). The Flip UltraHD also offers high-definition (HD) video recording (1280x720) and an HDMI Mini TV-out port. We spent some hands-on time with the Flip UltraHD to evaluate its capabilities.
White Balance & Exposure:
1/4.5-inch HD CMOS sensor (2.2µm pixels)
Ultra low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec) with automatic low light detection
Flip Video Engine 3.5
9.0Mbps (auto-adaptive algorithm)
H.264 video compression, AAC audio compression, MP4 file format
Automatic white balance and black level calibration, automatic exposure control with dynamic exposure compensation
Fixed Focus (1.5m to infinity), f/2.4, multi-step 2x digital
Removable Flip Video AA rechargeable battery pack (1.2 Volt NiMH rechargeable), rechargeable through USB; can also use regular AA batteries
Up to 2.5 hours of use between charges using included Flip Video AA rechargeable battery pack
Using Flip Video AA rechargeable Battery Pack: via computer USB port - approx 6 hrs, via (optional) Power Adapter - approx 3.5 hrs
2.0-inches (diagonal), 960x240, TFT
Built-in flip-out USB arm (USB 2.0)
Built-in wide-range stereo microphone
HDMI Mini port
Despite being the latest, highest-end pocket camcorder from Pure Digital Technologies, the Flip UltraHD is surprisingly not the most expensive camera that the company currently sells. The most expensive camcorder is the $229.99 Flip MinoHD. The Flip UltraHD and the Flip MinoHD share similar specs (they both use the same CMOS sensor and optics), but the Flip MinoHD uses a more compact design, has a smaller (1.5-inch) LCD, has only 4GB of internal memory (for 60-minutes of recording time), and its rechargeable battery is not removable. As the Flip UltraHD is a newer product, it uses a more advanced video compression engine (the Flip Video Engine 3.5, versus version 3.0 in the Flip MinoHD).
From a pure bang-for-the-buck perspective, the newer Flip UltraHD offers a better value. That said, if having your pocket camcorder as small and light as possible is your top priority (the Flip MinoHD measures just 3.94x1.97x0.63-inches and weight 3.3-ounces), the Flip MinoHD might then be the better way to go.