Friday, May 7, 2010; 12:00 AM
Suddenly, it's easy to enjoy your 15 minutes of stardom, even if these days it seems more like 15 seconds. Thank portable, value-priced digital camcorders like Kodak's Zi8 and Sony's Bloggie MHS-PM5, which have made it possible for any small business owner to become an overnight YouTube sensation. But ironically enough, Cisco's Flip line, which practically invented the category, has become just one of many players today in an increasingly competitive space. Now that online video pieces of all sorts--testimonials, how-to segments, product demonstrations, expert interviews, etc.--are suddenly de rigueur for any brand or social media communicator, it begs the question. With the company's latest model, theFlip SlideHD, selling for $279 (nearly twice as much as more cost-effective rivals that offer extras like an all-important external microphone input), is it still a viable contender?
Our best guess: The answer depends on exactly what you plan on using the device for. Offering roughly four hours of filming time, more than enough to bring customers highlights from your latest live demo or a tradeshow floor, its main innovation is a 3-inch slide-up tilting LCD touchscreen. As such, it's possible to not only record sharp-looking 720p high-definition footage to the device on-demand, but also screen it anytime, anywhere for a captive audience. Designed for tabletop viewing, it's possible to set the camcorder up on a desk and let multiple watchers crowd around for a sneak peek at your newest segment. Even so, given limited screen size and resolution, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which you'd care to give clients a look at your production company's reel or quick service restaurant's latest television spot right on the device, especially when you consider how much better a showpiece for digital video the iPad's gorgeous 9.7-inch monitor makes. But for entrepreneurs who'd like to get a more immediate and better sense of how well clips they shoot on the go will look to the end-user when ultimately viewed online, it may prove a helpful asset.
Case in point: Should you not like the lighting on a particular shot, or accidentally catch a competing rival's banner in the background, it's theoretically easier to notice than on competing video cameras with smaller screens. That way, you can quickly shoot any retakes or film from alternate angles as needed. But despite the gizmo's user-friendly controls, the quality of footage it captures remains decent, not awe-inspiring, and far from best-of-breed, especially when you consider the minimal digital zoom features and lack of image stabilization options offered. Still, it's a solid everyday solution that you wouldn't feel self-conscious about whipping out at a conference or using to film the behind-the-scenes goings on at your startup's office. Tech enthusiasts will note that its predecessor, the MinoHD, offers a sleeker, smaller and more professional-looking industrial aesthetic. Alas, style is the trade-off for functionality here, as the device sacrifices fashion sense for the ability to let you scroll through clips with the swipe of a finger.
So, even with an HDMI port for optional video output to HDTV built in, is it ultimately worth shelling out the cash, or should you stick with the MinoHD or any of the other countless cheaper options available to aspiring budget filmmakers out there? The answer is a big maybe. Those producing a large volume of videos on tight turnaround (e.g. daily bloggers, social media personalities, teams looking to output a steady stream of content from a topical event) may find the Flip SlideHD an asset. But most entrepreneurs are better off taking a pass, we'd imagine, and choosing a more practical and cost-effective solution instead.
TechnologyexpertScott Steinberg is the CEO of high-tech consulting firmTechSavvy Global, and a celebrated gadget guru andvideo game expertwho frequently appears as atechnology analyston ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN, and has contributed to 400+ outlets from The New York Times to Playboy and Rolling Stone.