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Flip Ultra HD 3rd gen review

Seth Barton
13 Oct 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
160
inc VAT

Not all the changes are improvements, but with 50fps video and image stabilisation, we still think that this is the best Flip yet

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Specifications

1/4.5in CMOS sensor, 1,280x720, 0.0x zoom, 127g

It was Flip that pioneered mini camcorders, but it has never sat on its laurels, with updated models appearing regularly. This latest incarnation of the Ultra HD has a host of improvements, including 50fps video and image stabilisation. In the past, mini camcorders have struggled with quick motion – either on the part of the operator or the subject – and so we had high hopes for this new version.

When you’re holding the camera still or making slow, smooth panning motions then the stabilisation is evident – making your footage easier to concentrate on and more professional in appearance. When walking, it effectively dampened the shakes caused by our footsteps. Equally important is the move from 30fps to 50fps, though. Motion within the frame is noticeably smoother and panning actions produce far more palatable results.

Our video produced an average bitrate of 9.2Mbit/s, compared to 8.8Mbit/s from previous HD models. It’s a very small rise given the extra data required for all those extra frames, and it makes us suspect that picture detail had been sacrificed in preference of smoother motion.

Flip Ultra HD 3rd gen

In head-to-head testing, the old 2nd gen HD models (Ultra or Mino) produce an image with superior contrast to this updated one. The 3rd gen Ultra makes compromises in exposure to try and get extra detail from every pixel, while the 2nd gen models contains darker shadowy areas to greater effect. The 3rd gen’s higher exposure levels also generate more picture noise, without little more actual detail apparent. This is more obvious in low light conditions, which are again lighter but noisier.

Surprisingly, Flip has changed the colour balance too. The newer model has richer reds, which made the bricks on buildings near our office look darker than in real life. It looks more vibrant overall, but again we prefer the older model’s slightly more realistic rendering. It’s worth noting that none of these differences are huge, and we still prefer this 3rd gen Ultra to most mini camcorders. However, viewing the footage side-by-side we definitely prefer some aspects of the older model.

At first glance the new Ultra HD appears very similar to the old one, but in the hand it proves to be both slightly slimmer and slightly lighter. It feels better built too, with none of the minor creakiness of the old model. A switch on the bottom secures the front panel in place; behind this, the old twin AA battery slots are gone, replaced by three AAA slots. As usual, a custom-shaped rechargeable Li-ion battery is supplied, which lasts for just over an hour and-a-half – leaving the AAA option only for emergencies.

Many of the key specifications are unchanged. It has the same 2in display on the rear, and the same 1/4.5in CMOS sensor behind an identical f2.4 lens. The old models mini HDMI port is gone, replaced by a micro version – you still need to buy your own lead unfortunately and these are available for around £6. Nestled next to the port is a new connector, Flip’s proprietary FlipPort. Accessories are already being announced for this, the most intriguing to date being a Bluetooth condensing mic from Scosche.

This latest update isn’t all good then, but we reckon many of our complaints could be fixed by simply tweaking the firmware, returning the exposure and colour balance to the old model’s settings. Even if you have to live with these, it’s still at least equal to its predecessor (unless you shot most of your footage from a tripod), thanks to its superior ability to capture motion, even when on the move.

Basic Specifications

Rating*****

Recording

Optical zoom0.0x
Digital zoom2x
Sensor1/4.5in CMOS
Sensor pixels2,200,000
Widescreen modenative
LCD screen size2.0in
Viewfinder typenone
Video lampNo
Video recording formatH.264
Video recording mediaflash memory
SoundAAC 48KHz mono
Video resolutions1,280x720
Maximum image resolutionN/A
Memory slotnone
Mermory supplied8GB internal
Flashno

Physical

Digital inputs/outputsUSB
Analogue inputs/outputsHDMI
Other connectionsFlipPort
Battery type3.7V 1,300mAh Li-ion
Battery life1h 32m
Battery charging positioncamcorder
Size106x52x23mm
Weight127g

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£160
Supplierhttp://www.play.com
Detailswww.theflip.com

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