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FlipLive: The Camera That Might Have Been

Cisco announced this week that they are shutting down several parts of its consumer business to refocus on four of their “key company priorities.” These include core routing, switching and services, collaboration, architectures and video. Their priorities do not include the Flip video camera we all know and love, though. Cisco has pulled the plug on the popular device and will no longer be working on their newest version, the FlipLive. The little camera that could will no longer, and that makes this geek very sad.

My Flip Ultra HD may not produce the highest-quality video in the world, but it certainly does a decent job. It’s light and small – perfect to throw in my pocket when I’m out and about. You cannot argue about how simple it is to use, which is what made this device so beautiful. Anyone could use it – including grandma shooting videos for the first time when the kids come to visit or a youngster just beginning their journey into the world of technology.

The FlipLive would have been pretty damn sweet, I think. The same little video camera you know and love would have allowed you to also stream live from any HotSpot you could find! Yes, yes – my iPhone can do that. Your device can do that. But can they do it well? Can they do it in a manner that’s simple enough for anyone to figure out right out of the box?

I honestly think Cisco has gone a tad bit loco with this move. Of course there are other devices and gadgets out there which can do the same thing. However, ease of use with any product is one of the key selling points, and the Flip camera had a lock on that arena. Am I the one who has lost his marbles? Do you think this was a bad move by the company, or do you feel that the market is saturated enough that no one will really notice?

Still Image Quality from the Best Video Cameras

“musicmaster890” was awestruck by the scenery in Seattle (specifically, the landscape shot in my recent video camera field test). He decided to take high quality stills and sew them together into single panoramic photos. I say the results were quite striking – further lending credibility to my argument that the Creative Vado balances color better than the Zi6 and the Mino HD.

I’ve uploaded these images to my Flickr account (obviously, opting to embed them in this post as well). If you’d like to view a higher resolution image, simply click the thumbnail. They were all taken from the videos in this series. No, I don’t live on a lake; the mirror effect was added for artistic purposes. The photos were not retouched in any other way.

  • Pure Digital’s Flip Mino HD is, as expected, a bit washed out. Yes, all it needs is a bit of contrast and saturation adjustment, but this was lifted directly from a video. Wouldn’t you have better colors from your video camera without needing to edit in post?
  • Kodak’s Zi6 does fairly well with contrast, but the sky is a tad oversaturated (almost looking like the Mino HD’s sky – minus the Mino’s inexplicable green tint).
  • Thanks to its wide angle lens, Creative’s Vado HD captured much more (vertically) compared to the other two devices. The sky’s blue and the clouds’ orange seem true to my memory of the scene, too.

Which one looks best? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One thing’s for sure: I love my backyard!

Kodak Zi6

Kodak Zi6 Stitched Landscape.jpg

Creative Vado HD

Creative Vado Stitched Landscape.jpg

Flip Mino HD

Flip Mino HD Stitched Landscape.jpg

Best Video Camera: Creative Vado HD vs Flip Mino HD vs Kodak Zi6?

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First, I got the Kodak Zi6. Then, I got the Flip Mino HD. A few hours ago, I received a recently-ordered Creative Vado HD and decided that instead of doing a full-on review of it, I’d compare it directly against the Mino HD and the Zi6 – in a short video shootout.

  • Flip Mino HD Likes: small and lightweight; has decent software that runs on both Mac OS X and Windows; decent “foreground subject focused” audio in noisy situations.
  • Flip Mino HD Dislikes: Touch controls are too sensitive; there’s a plastic protector that flips out along with the USB connector; colors are always washed out; flat video quality; white balance is impossible; tons of noise in low light; my skin tone never looks right indoors; built-in YouTube uploader decreases quality automatically; tiny LCD screen; cheap plastic wrist strap.
  • Kodak Zi6 Likes: decent saturation; decent audio; great LCD size; uses AA batteries; uses SDHC media; macro switch; great quality when not blurring.
  • Kodak Zi6 Dislikes: unpredictably blurred recordings in low light; no clear audio when noisy; no Mac software support; can be oversaturated in certain scene; heavy construction.
  • Creative Vado HD Likes: great balance of color and saturation in the average shot; tends to favor skin tones; wide angle lens; can record two hours; replaceable / rechargeable battery via USB; lightweight; sharp definition.
  • Creative Vado HD Dislikes: included skin doesn’t accommodate battery replacement / hard reset; audio is treble muted from behind (in narration); skews to light which isn’t always neutral; has a wrist strap slot but doesn’t come with a strap.

The Flip Mino HD is the worst of the bunch to my eyes and ears, and I’m looking to sell it (hardly used) at a good price. The Kodak is completely unusable in artificial light (due to uncontrollable blurring), which rules it out for where I’d need it most. I don’t think Flip is going to fix their problems with a software update, but I’m holding out hope for a Zi6 fix. Kodak has to get its act together – so does Pure Digital.

For my money right now, it’s the Creative Vado HD. The wide angle lens is absolutely essential when you’re trying to get closer to a subject – or if you want more in the scene. That’s all you need to know – and all the reason to go with a Vado HD over the others. Even if you think the Zi6 isn’t bad, the Vado’s wide angle lens trumps it. You have to be much further away from your subject to get the same shot as you can with a Vado (closer, and with MORE in the frame). Keep that in mind the next time you’re in tight quarters, or when you have to take three steps back just to get the shot you wanted.

Plus, the Vado does a much better job with skin tones and saturation (generally) compared to the other two in indoor situations. The HDMI cable may be another win for you and the Vado, but I seldom use video out in these cameras – so that’s just a value add. Hardware controls are comfortable on the Vado, and I like how its USB connector is flexible.

Now, you can watch the following videos inline – but I’d also recommend viewing them on YouTube (where you can watch the original 1280×720 as recorded and uploaded without editing). I’ve linked to the HD versions in the list above. Understand, too, that the Zi6 was at least six inches behind both the Flip Mino HD and Creative Vado HD in this test – even though it appears as though the Creative Vado HD was the furthest away. I’m telling you: that wide angle lens is AWESOME.

Flip Mino HD

Kodak Zi6

Creative Vado HD

Kodak Zi6: Best Portable HD Video Recorder?

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For once, I’m doing a product review while using the product itself. The new Kodak Zi6 is designed to turn you into a paparazzo simply by turning it on. It takes high quality videos that you are able to upload instantly.

Become an instant celebrity or paparazzo! This sleek pocketable design is built for easy video—there is no lens cap, no dials to turn, or settings to set. Just turn it on and hit record to capture the action, adventure, and all the juicy details in stunning HD! Make your cinematic debut on any HDTV. Or just pop the USB in the nearest PC and you’re ready to share the fun on YouTube™. Edit, add music, and personalize your flick and easily share with your adoring fans. There’s no such thing as “you should’ve been there” with the Zi6.

Features include:

  • Capture HD quality video (720p at 60 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio).
  • Record hours of video with the expandable SD/SDHC card slot that can hold up to 32 GB.
  • See it all on a vibrant 2.4 in. LCD screen.
  • Catch the highlights with slow motion playback right in the palm of your hand.
  • Choose the video quality that works for you: HD at 60 fps, HD at 30 fps, or VGA.
  • Upload your videos to YouTube™ quickly and easily using the built-in USB and software.
  • Experience your videos on an HDTV in stunning HD quality with included cables.

Much like the Flip camcorder, it has a little button you push on the side to make the USB plugin pop out. The thing that’s really nice is that the button you push to pop out the USB plugin also is a mirror. This way, I can see that I’m getting the right angle. It’ll fit in your pocket, and it’s super lightweight. It shoots really high quality HD. For that to be able to fit in your shirt pocket is in itself reason enough to buy one.

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