Video Essentials

The Flip Camera Is Gone; Will a Smartphone Do the Job?

Cisco shocked the tech world by axing the beloved Flip video camera on Tuesday. The Flip started a revolution in consumer video cameras, as it was compact, inexpensive, incredibly easy to use, and recorded great video.

But the Flip wasn’t only used by consumers. Plenty of businesses relied on it, too, even for video they were going to post online. While the Flip didn’t have optical zoom, aperture settings, or any of the advanced features found in prosumer or professional cameras, businesses enjoyed the same affordability and ease-of-use that consumers did. Employees didn’t have to be trained on how to use them, which was a plus.

Now that Cisco has decided to fold the Flip line, businesses both large and small might be wondering what their best option is for simple video recording. The common wisdom on the Flip’s demise is that it was a victim of the smartphone, so is a smartphone the best replacement?

It’s worth noting that the common wisdom might well be wrong here. In a blog entry for the New York Times, David Pogue makes a persuasive case that Flip was popular and profitable, and that smartphones with high-definition video recording only make up a small percent of the population.

The first thing you’ll want to look at when deciding whether or not to record with a smartphone is resolution. The iPhone 4, to take the most popular example, records 720p video at 30 frames per second. 720p is considered high-definition, and those are the same specs found in the Flip camera lineup.

Two Kodak models, the Playtouch and the Playsport Zx5, however, both offer 1080p recording. While there are many companies that followed in Flip’s footsteps, Kodak enjoys the best name recognition. Kodak’s compact video cameras also offer audio ports for external microphones, a must for more professional results. That’s something the Flip line always lacked. The Playsport Zx5 is waterproof, for underwater or any weather shooting.

A smartphone has the advantage of always being on-hand. Finding and clicking the correct app might take a few seconds, but you can rely on a smartphone for impromptu shooting. If you want to use a tripod, you’ll need to buy a case such as the Xshot, which adds a tripod mount to an iPhone.

If you’re looking to do budget video, we recommend a Kodak compact video camera, which offers all the ease of a Flip plus a few more perks. But if you need to record at the spur of the moment, you’ll likely be satisfied with what your smartphone can do.


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  1. Great post, I agree – Kodak offers many advantages. I’ve heard some people complain about the sound quality, with the built-in microphone on the Flip – But I absolutely love it. Here’s an example of Flip video, shot outside (handheld and using the built-in microphone). Sound quality is pretty good:

    Posted by Chris Westfall | April 25, 2011, 10:25 am
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