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    Options increase for high-definition camcorder market in Canada

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver June 30-July 6, 2009; issue 1027

    High Tech Office column

    In March, this column looked at a pair of pocket-sized high-definition camcorders, Creative’s Vado HD and Kodak’s Zi6. For more or less $200, each provided a convenient way to record higher-quality and longer-duration video clips than the camera built into many mobile phones.

    Missing at the time, though, was anything from Pure Digital Technologies, whose original Flip started the pocket camcorder craze a year or so ago, selling over two million units. Pure Digital (now owned by Cisco) had released high-definition models – Flip Ultra HD and Flip Mino HD – in the U.S. last fall, but kept them out of Canada until May.

    The Ultra HD ($250), while still pocket-sized is relatively bulky, making room for a pair of AA batteries. Being able to use standard batteries is handy when your batteries suddenly die – replacements can be found almost anywhere. Unlike Kodak’s Zi6, which also uses AAs, the Ultra can be recharged by plugging it into your computer. Kodak, on the other hand, makes you haul around a battery charger.

    The Ultra HD has eight gigabytes of storage built in, enough for two hours of recording time. The $179 Zi6 has no built-in storage. It instead employs the same SD memory cards used in most digital cameras. Kodak’s may be the better strategy. The lower price lets you afford several memory cards, keeping a spare handy when you run out of room.

    The Zi6 also can be used to take still photos – not great stills, but useful in a pinch. All the Flip models, however, have easy-to-use FlipShare software – for Windows and Mac – built in. It’s not professional quality, but handy for quick edits and uploads to, say, YouTube.

    Using a slim lithium-ion battery instead of bulkier AAs lets the Flip Mino HD (pronounced like “minnow”: $280) slim down. It’s much sleeker than its Ultra cousin. More style-conscious, too. It comes in a range of colours and customizable patterns, and you can even upload a digital image and get a unique Mino made just for you.

    The downside: the Mino’s 1.5-inch screen is smaller than the Ultra’s and with only four gigabytes of storage, you’re limited to an hour’s recording time. Creative’s similarly slim Vado HD offers twice the storage and twice the recording time – very handy. The Mino’s built-in software (the same as the Ultra’s) is a plus, and you can’t easily get Creative’s Vado models in Canada, at, for instance, (which lists the Vado HD) but refuses to ship it to Canada. Canadian retailers, including Future Shop, BestBuy, Wal-Mart and, are all selling the Flip models.

    Note that “high definition” as defined by Pure Digital and its competitors means what’s known as 720p – 1280 x 720 pixel widescreen resolution. But watch out: standard definition (640 x 480 pixel resolution) models of both the Flip Ultra and Flip Mino are also available, priced around $180 for the Ultra and $220 for the Mino. If it doesn’t clearly say “HD,” it’s the standard-definition model.

    My opinion? I’m glad you asked. I find it hard to choose between the Flip Ultra HD and Kodak’s Zi6. Both are similarly chunky; both use handy AA batteries. Kodak loses points by making you haul around a battery charger, but gains points for its lower price, removable storage and ability to shoot still photos. Flip gains points for its convenient software stored right on the unit and for supporting Windows and Macs, though Kodak (I suspect) is correctly assuming Mac users would rather use Apple’s iMovie in any case.

    In the slim-and-sleek category, Flip’s Mino HD wins over Creative’s Vado HD, but only because the Vado is hard to get in Canada. The Flip’s customizable cases get bonus points for cuteness, but the Vado pulls ahead for more generous recording time and arguably better picture quality. But if you can’t buy it here, none of that matters.

    I’m glad Flip’s pair of HD models are available in Canada, but what took them so long? •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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