Flip UltraHD Camcorder Review (U2120): Trash or Treasure?
Although I’ve always fancied the idea of shooting video at festivals and backyard barbecues, the thought of lugging a camcorder around often prevented it. Only rare moments are worth shooting, but it’s certainly nice to be prepared when something interesting unexpectedly takes place.
We’ve entered the era of slacker cinematographer. Today it’s not so much about video quality is it is about portability and ease-of-use. It is hard not to love a gadget that fits in your pocket or purse. Flip has been leading the way in this approach over the last several years. The latest in the line is the UltraHD U2120.
Today it’s rare for newer models to get bigger; however that is exactly what has happened to the new Flip. The MinoHD that came before it is sexy and supermodel slim, making it the world’s smallest HD camcorder of its time. To compare, the UltraHD has pulled taken up the lifestyle of the late Elvis. It’s bulkier, larger all-around and perhaps a touch tacky. The disappointing factor is definitely the extra junk in the trunk. There are good reasons for the larger frame, so let’s explore them.
First off, the UltraHD has a screen that is two inches larger than the MinoHD. The quality of the video is a huge step up from its predecessor, with great brightness and vibrant colours. Composing shots and keeping up with the action is easier and more enjoyable because of it.
The UltraHD captures 720p (1,280 x 720) high-definition video at 30fps. Since it uses the same 1/4.5in CMOS sensor as the MinoHD, the video footage from either model looks identical on your computer. You’ll get the best results by far in daylight or well-lit rooms. It performs better in low-light than previous generations before the MinoHD. Such recordings show some grain, as this is to be expected with any camcorder, especially budget portables. Keep in mind that although it looks like a still camera, you don’t have the advantage of flash to light up a dark area.
Another notable change is that this model comes with a set of AA-size NiMH rechargeable batteries. The recharger is built-in so you can connect the Flip to your laptop’s USB port. This explains some of the increased bulk of the unit. The last-gen MinoHD has an internal Li-ion battery that isn’t user replaceable, ala iPod. The use of AA batteries makes it a good travel camera. If the rechargeable batteries should go dead when you’re nowhere near your laptop, alkaline batteries from a local store can be used in a pinch. Alternatively, you can of course have backup rechargeables on hand.
The casing has a unique rubberized matte finish. The large controls are a welcome addition as is the giant red record button. Even after doing a keg-stand, operation shouldn’t be a problem. Imitation chrome trim on the sides look slick but are fingerprint magnets.
The onboard 8GB flash drive stores up to 120 minutes of HD video. This is where the UltraHD really outshines the MinoHD as the previous model has half the storage capacity. 120 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, but it would still be nice to see a SD slot in future models. Then again, that might increase the bulk even more.
An HDMI output is included below the flip USB connector. There is no cable included so keep that in mind when comparing it to something like the Kodak Zi8 which does include one. A HDMI cable should set you back an extra $25 or so.
Included software makes the Flip one of the most Web-friendly camcorders on the market. FlipShare allow you to e-mail videos without having to worry about file size as it is uploaded to a private video sharing page online. All your buddy needs to do is to click on the link in your e-mail. Uploading your creations to social sites like YouTube and Facebook can be done right in FlipShare. The video editing capabilities are adequate for casual videos. If you find yourself neck-deep in the wonders of editing you can always upgrade to a dedicated application like Apple’s Final Cut Express.
If you don’t mind a bigger budge in your pocket, the UltraHD is the best
Flip camcorder to date. The ability to record something about as long
as a feature film is a welcome addition as the 60 minutes capacity of
the MinoHD is too slim for anything other than short comedy clips. New
support for AA batteries, rechargeable or alkaline, ensures that you can
keep it shooting anywhere in the world. Not but not least the screen is
The disadvantages are that the Flip’s bonbon habit has led to a fat profile, and that the video quality hasn’t improved over the MinoHD.