The company that pioneered the pocket-sized flash video camera has taken it a step further with the MinoHD, a pint-sized camcorder that shoots 720p high-def video, in a case that’s no bigger than the original, super-slim Mino. But can a camera that’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes really deliver on the promise of HD quality? Consider us quite surprised. But at $230, it’s no bargain.
Features and Design
As mentioned, the MinoHD comes in the exact same form factor as the original Mino, which measures roughly four inches tall, two wide, and 0.63 inches deep. Front pocket, back pocket, even hipster-jean pockets, it will fit. It’s also lighter than many cell phones, with a weight of just 94 grams.
A 1.5-inch screen built into the back supplies a rough cut of the footage you’re shooting, while all the controls are immediately accessible by thumb below.
One of Flip’s most well-known features are its built-in USB connectors, which eliminate the need to carry any cables. The MinoHD has one that pops out of the top like a switchblade when you tug the release switch on the side of the unit. It’s mounted fairly well, which it needs to be, since it supports the full weight of the camera once plugged in.
Though our Mino came in gloss black, Flip actually offers a number of style options. You can choose from a handful of colors and designs, build your own using a pattern generator, or even upload a photo and have it slapped on the front of your MinoHD.
The first generation of Flip cameras catered to amateur videographers who just wanted a cheap and simple way to upload assorted clips from their lives to YouTube with minimal hassle. Though the hardware has improved, the process hasn’t needed to. Just hit the side power button and press the giant record button on the front, and you’re capturing footage. Pop out the USB connector, plug it into a free jack on your computer, and you’re ready to transfer it to the computer. It truly can’t get much simpler.
Video quality is a mixed bag. If you’re expecting the performance of a $1,100 Sony camcorder, move on now. If you’re expecting the muddy mess that passes for cell phone video, you’ll be blown away. The 720p footage captured by the MinoHD captures an amazing amount of detail for its size. Point it out the second-story window of a parking lot and you can count the spokes on the wheels of distant cars. Point it across the room and you can read the month from a wall calendar. Point at it your friends, and they’ll cringe and swear when they see it played back in full resolution. If this camera lacks anything it isn’t resolution.
That said, it does suffer from some of the other problems small cameras typically have. Color isn’t anything to write home about, and you’ll frequently encounter blown out highlights and inky black shadows as the camera struggles to manage exposure.
Motion can also be a problem – though it’s as much a user issue as it is one with the hardware. Handling such a tiny little camera just makes it incredibly tough to keep it still. You’ll have to brace the camera against solid objects and make a point to pan extremely slowly if you hope to shoot footage that won’t induce motion sickness. Trying to follow a target while you walk takes some serious practice – and a funny gait, too.
Though that’s all a matter of skill to be mastered with using the camera, Flip hasn’t done much to help, either. The MinoHD has no image stabilization – optical or digital – to smooth out those bumps and bobs. So while your best videos will be punctuated with moments of extreme clarity, the worst moments will be a whir of motion and blurriness.
Since the camera also has a fixed focus of one meter to infinity, you’ll also be unable to shoot any detailed macros.
Flip Mino HD
Flip makes it easy to do basic photo management with its FlipShare software, which can be installed right from the camera. You can use it pull clips from the camera, publish them online, e-mail them, and even do basic editing, like adding titles, fades, music and credits. It was completely intuitive to use for us, and though it doesn’t offer many advanced options, that’s also a strongpoint, since it’s hard to get lost or confused using it.
Flip Mino HD
Though image quality has taken a dramatic step forward from previous Flip camcorders, the MinoHD remains the kind of camcorder you will only likely use for short clips and capturing tomfoolery due to its lack of adjustability and real camcorder features, like focus and zoom. That said, its image quality took us completely off guard for the size and weight of the camera, and now that YouTube accepts clips in 720p, all that detail will reach your final audience, too. But with a price tag of $230, a point-and-shoot cam with similar 720p video capabilities might be a better investment. You can pick up Kodak’s V1253, for instance, for $250, and it will shoot 12-megapixel stills, too.
- Ultra-slim and pocketable
- Excellent detail in videos
- Incredibly intuitive
- No image stabilization
- Poor color
- Pricey for its features