The landscape has obviously changed. Each manufacturer that we cover, aside from Canon, has a pocket-cam knockoff. Pure Digital (and later, Cisco) stayed a step ahead of the curve, adding better features and more storage, while shrinking the body. Kodak caught up last year with the release of the Zi8, and more recently, the waterproof Playsport.
Most of us in the peanut gallery assumed that a new Flip would come out and either re-take the throne of pocket-cam dominance, or at least come close. They'd upgrade to 1080p video, add optical image stabilization, and probably something we never would've expected.
Well, we got the last one right. Cisco released the Flip Slide HD a few weeks ago to a collective "Huh?" Let's review. It takes the same 720p, digitally stabilized video as its aging predecessors, the Flip Ultra HD and Flip Mino HD. It costs a lot more than either of them, at a jacked-up $279. The justification for the inflated price is a 3-inch touchscreen LCD that can slide up at a diagonal angle. This should make it easier for friends to watch playback on the device and...well, that's about it. Since the entire interface is controlled via touchscreen, the big, red, tactile "record" button is gone too. This feels like a mis-step.
Let's put it this way: The Ultra HD and Mino HD's video quality are acceptable for most casual users, so Cisco can get away with that. The Flip name still carries weight with consumers, and the products get great displays at big box retailers. But here are a few things to consider:
- There are a handful of models with better video quality for a lower price, including the aforementioned Playsport ($150) and Zi8 ($170) models.
- There are a few handfuls of still cameras with equal video quality for about the same price. These also shoot quite good still photos. Panasonic, for example, has several cameras that shoot in the AVCHD Lite format, like the ZR3 ($250) and ZS7 ($360), to name a few. Several manufacturers even have 1080p-shooting cameras, including Nikon's P100 ($350), Samsung's TL320 ($180), Fujifilm's HS10 ($470), and Sony's HX1 ($390). There are dozens of low-cost options as well, like Fujifilm's AV100 ($100), though the video quality is meh.
- There are even a few smartphones coming out this summer that will be able to capture 720p video, like the newest iPhone. At most, these will cost $200-300 (ignoring the cost of the plan over the long term), and do about a million things in addition to taking video.
Why would anyone buy a $270 pocket camcorder with all these other options out there? Great question.