Lightning Review: Flip Mino HD

MinoIt fits in the palm of your hand and it's light as a feather. It doesn't look like a camcorder. It shoots pretty good 720p. But that's not why I love the Flip Mino. I love it because this is the very essence of ease of use. The ideal gadget for the anti-gadgeteer.

Here's a device you can give to your grandmother, who will insist she couldn't possibly handle one of these newfangled gadgets. At which point you pick up the remote she carries around for the garage roller door and say: "Nan, if you can operate this, you can shoot high-def video".

Well, OK, so 720p ain't the highest def of high-def, but the video format offers a nice compromise between image quality and file size. Speaking of which, for those who simply must know, the output file from my test unit revealed the Mino shoots off its 1/4.5in sensor to deliver H.264 video at 1280 x 720 in millions of colours, with 44.1Khz AAC audio, with a data rate of 10.45Mbits/sec. That's a lower data rate than a handy camcorder such as one of Sanyo's Xacti pistol shooters, and it shows in side-by-side comparisons, but it provides perfectly adequate quality for remembering life's Kodak moments at 30fps.

Which brings us back to nan. Australia's grandparents are the great unpaid workforce in the nation's daycare industry. The high cost of daycare and limited placements mean that many parents of daycare-age youngsters lean on their folks for support. Yeah, so? So if you want to actually have video footage of your priceless cherub taking their first steps or saying their first words, there's a very good chance that it's nan and pa who will capture it for you.

Here's what you tell them about the Mino. See this button on the right side of the box? This turns it on. See the red button on the front? That starts and stops recording. Press once to record. Press again to stop. See the plus and minus signs above and below the red button? That's to zoom in and out, though it's probably just as easy to get closer to the subject if you need to. If you're not recording, you can see a "play" sign, that's the little triangle, just above and to the left of the red button. That plays the video you just shot. And the left and right buttons let you select the clips you want to look at.

You don't even need to tell them about the flip-up USB connector that makes it easy to plug into a computer and mount as a USB drive to drag clips to wherever it is you want to have your way with them. Just grab the Mino, bring it home, do your thing. And doing your thing would probably include punching the contrast up with your editor of choice. If there's a niggle about the Mino, it's that footage shot under conditions other than optimal (ie bright, sunny) looks a bit flat. Also, in low light, noise is pretty obvious.

The Mino has 4GB internal memory for about one hour of recording time and comes in black or chrome finish. Should you want to plug it direct into your TV, there's a video out port but as the signal is sent out via composite video, the picture quality is lost in translation. If you want HDMI-out, you'll need to buy the Flip Ultra.

The Mino's minor minuses are forgiven when you consider the price. We're talking about $400 for a pocket camcorder that shoots 720p at a more than acceptable level of quality. It's a pretty good deal. The only reseller I know of in Australia is Edsoft.

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