VIDEO THE EASY WAY

We finally broke down and bought the world’s best-selling video camera: the Flip. It costs $150 for the regular version, but we went wild and sprang for an extra $30 to get the “ultra” version, which has higher resolution and more memory.Either way, the cost is about a third of what other video cameras sell for. The mainFlip Video Camera reason seems to be that it doesn’t have all those attachments and obscure, hard-to-use features that the higher-priced cameras have. That means you can’t charge as much. High-tech is a strange business.

The Flip has 13 percent of the world market for video cameras and is far and away the No. 1-selling camcorder at giant online retailer Amazon.com. Why? Because it is the video equivalent of point-and-shoot.

The “flip” that gives the camera its name is a finger that flips out of the side of the camera. You plug the finger into a USB socket on your computer. Right away, a menu comes up with some easy choices: save to computer, e-mail the video, upload to sites such as YouTube, Amazon and MySpaceTV.com.

No more cable to carry around, no more rewinding a tape or “finalizing a disk.” You do need an extra cable if you want to watch your Flip videos on a TV, but it comes in the box. If you want your video burned to DVD, you can take it to a retail store that will do it for you (see theflip.com/dvd ) or use the software that came on your computer.

A button on the side turns it on. Push the big red button on the back to start recording video and sound. A screen above the button shows you what you’re recording. To play back what you recorded, hit the play button that’s next to the red button. That’s it.

Flip is the same size as a cell phone, only thicker and fits in a shirt pocket. It runs on two AA batteries.
There are limitations, which wouldn’t bother most users but would make it unacceptable for others. The main one is a recording limit of one hour. That seemed like plenty to us, but if you’re a video fanatic, you want more. You can’t stretch the one-hour limit because the memory is built into the camera and you can’t simply add a larger compact flash card. When your hour is full, or anytime before that, you can unload the memory contents to a computer and start over with another hour. The Flip is also not so good for zooming. You can zoom in 2X (two times closer) but the result is a little blurry.

The Flip works with Windows or Mac and you can see lots of reviews and comments on use with a simple web search on “Flip.” Joy said it’s the first time she’s had a video camera she actually wanted to use.

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