increase for high-definition camcorder
market in Canada by
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
30-July 6, 2009; issue 1027
High Tech Office column
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
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.
($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.
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.
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
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 Amazon.com, for instance, (which lists the Vado
HD) but refuses to ship it to Canada. Canadian retailers, including
Future Shop, BestBuy, Wal-Mart and Amazon.ca, are all selling the Flip
Note that “high definition” as defined by
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.
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.
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? •