Smaller camcorders are increasing in popularity, and at the forefront of this is the Flip Video Ultra camera which is already a big seller. In addition to shooting video it allows users to directly upload their clips to YouTube using the supplied software and can store up to an hour of video.
At first glance the Flip Video may seem an expensive way of shooting the MPEG4 movies it creates, something that is possible with most new mobile phones. However the video quality is much better with the Flip than with any mobile phone we have seen. The maximum resolution is a decent 640×480 pixels has good exposure levels and impressive low light performance. The Flip Video outshines the Creative Vado in both of these respects. Sound, although only in mono rather than stereo, was also very clear.
Using the Flip was simple, there’s a single button to start and stop recording and one for playing back videos. Recordings can be played back in full screen on the computer or on a television. The cable needed to do this is supplied, along with a soft pouch, Creative doesn’t supply either with the Vado. With these, we think the Flip’s higher price $30 more than the Vado is justified.
The Flip is powered by two AA batteries, as opposed to the Vado’s rechargeable battery and it doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries or a charger. The screen is about an inch smaller than the Vado’s, which means some may struggle to see details on it. It’s also chunkier and heavier than the Vado, giving it a toy like appearance compared with its sleeker rival.
The supplied software makes it easy to have fun with videos by automatically inserting effects and transitions based on a chosen theme. Unfortunately, it crashed several times during our testing, so it’s not particularly stable. It is also Vista compatible. Video quality was fairly impressive, although these smaller camcorders are never as good as their full size rivals. All in all at around $130, the Flip Video Ultra is a well designed video camera that performs well, but it’s not perfect.
The Creative Vado differs from conventional digital camcorders in that it doesn’t use tapes or discs. Instead, up to two hours of video can be saved to its internal memory. It has the looks of an old iPod rather than a video camera, but a design that makes it easy to carry in a pocket.
Although moulded in plastic, the device has a high quality feel and its shape means it fits well in the hand. The battery is removable, so can be replaced when it reaches the end of its useful life. It charges up in just two hours over a USB connection and gives up to two hours of recording.
The Vado very straight forward to operate, recording is simply a case of switching it on and pressing the record button, simplicity that will appeal to those who find conventional camcorders confusing. The camera’s 2 inch screen is bright and clear, and doesn’t suffer from any flickering as the camera is moved around. The Vado’s 2x digital zoom, however, is not so impressive and was jittery and caused a drop in video quality.
In standard mode the camera can record up to two hours of video, but we weren’t particularly impressed with the quality using this setting. Using the high quality setting improved things considerably and we were able to shoot reasonably clear and detailed video which could be played back in full screen on a computer.
Transferring video to the PC was as simple as connecting the device to a USB port and using the software that’s supplied and installed on the camera’s own memory so the Vado can be used instantly on any PC and is Vista compatible. There’s also an option to upload videos to Youtube or pictures to the Photobucket website in one click (once you’ve set up your accounts).
As a fun way to shoot decent quality video while out and about, the Vado is a good choice at around $100. However it has no memory card slot for expansion. If you can afford $30 more, though, we think that the Flip Video Ultra (see review above) is a better choice.