Chancellor’s Choice Award: Flip Video Camera

This award will be no surprise to long-term SMUGgles (especially those who have completed Blogging 130), but the Chancellor’s Choice award for low-cost video cameras goes to: The Flip.

Among its Advantages:

Strong video quality, particularly in relatively low-light conditions. 

Speed. Using a camera with miniDV or other tape, you have to play the tape to feed into your computer for digitizing, which takes just as long as the original shoot did. The Flip, by contrast, creates a digital file directly and saves to its memory card, and with the built-in USB connector that flips out (hence the name), you can transfer the video file to your computer for editing and/or upload to YouTube, Facebook or another video sharing service within seconds after shooting. 

Simplicity. It’s literally a point and shoot device, with a single red button to start and stop recording. So easy, even a caveman… (er…uh…sorry guys)

Savings. Ranging from about $70 for 30 minute standard definition to $230 or so for an hour of HD, these cameras are quite affordable. (More details on that below.) I’ve purchased miniDV cameras previously for $400 or so, and for many uses the Flip quality is just as good.

Situational (OK…that’s stretching the alliteration too far.) There’s an old saying in video that you can’t edit what you don’t shoot. Because the Flip fits easily in your pocket, purse or laptop bag, you can have it with you in virtually any situation. This enables you to catch those moments you’d miss if you had to remember to bring your video camera bag. I carry my Flip almost everywhere I go.


Sound. There is no external audio jack, so you can’t use a remote microphone for better sound quality. The built-in microphone picks up ambient noise, which can detract from your production. This can be mitigated by shooting in a relatively quiet room and (if you are interviewing someone) having the camera within 5-6 feet of the subject.

Digital instead of optical zoom. The Flip lets you zoom to 2x, but only by enlarging and distorting the existing image. It doesn’t have a variable lens that zooms while protecting image quality. I would completely avoid using zoom. Just get closer to the subject, which will improve your sound quality, too.

Bottom Line:

The video below, from our recent trip to see the my granddaughter, Evie, illustrates both the benefits and the one main drawback of shooting video with the Flip.

 My only experience with the Flip has been with the standard definition (640 x 480) Flip Ultra. For the sake of research, I probably should get the HD version, don’t you think?

You can buy the Flip at Best Buy or Walmart (and if you want instant gratification and a hands-on shopping experience you can go to one of their stores to get one right now), or for your convenience (and to support SMUG) you can order below through SMUG’s virtual store on

And by the way, I discovered the Flip through Twitter, by asking for recommendations on a good camera for video blogging. Another benefit of tweeting!

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

4 thoughts on “Chancellor’s Choice Award: Flip Video Camera”

  1. I agree, great all around tool Lee. My one hangup with the Flip is that it pulls the file into it’s own editing system which is really limiting. Maybe I’m missing something, but it would be great if it uploaded as a .mov to pull into FinalCut or iMovie for full editing capability. Let’s go Apple!

  2. I do use iMovie (or sometimes, for simple stuff, just QuickTime Pro)…I think I had to get a $30 upgrade (Flip4Mac, I believe) that lets me edit in the Mac tools. But I just copy the files from the folder labeled “100Video” on to my hard drive, and edit from there. I agree the Flip’s built-in editing software is clunky.

  3. By the way, when I’m done copying the folder I just delete the files from within the 100Video folder on the Flip, to reclaim the additional space. I’m not sure whether the 100Video folder would be recreated if it wasn’t there, but I don’t want to risk it to find out.

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