It's a sign of a successful product when a slew of similar devices turn up on the market. The arrival of assorted clones demonstrates the phenomenal success Flip Video has had in the States with the Flip Video Ultra, the ultra-simple mini camcorder priced at £99.
The design of the Flip Video is simple as humanly possible. It has a lens on the front and on the back, a 38mm (1.5-inch) screen and a big red record button. The only other controls are play and delete buttons, and a clickpad that navigates through menus and adjusts playback volume or zooms in and out. The screen is too small to really concentrate on composition, but then the Flip is designed for fast-and-loose handheld shooting anyway. It comes in black, orange, pink, green or white colours.
The on switch is on the left side, and on the right is a flip-out USB arm. This allows the Flip to be connected to a computer without the need for a cable. This is a good idea and is the Flip's unique selling point, but it does mean that if you have awkwardly-placed USB sockets on your computer, the Flip is resting its weight on the arm. While it's pretty sturdy, you might be more comfortable with an extension cable.
It's slightly chunkier than a mobile phone or compact camera, but still slides easily into a pocket and sits comfortably in the hand. It feels very plasticky and is far from seamlessly put together, but there isn't any flex or creakiness in the frame. The flip-out arm is securely held in place so there's very little chance of it opening accidentally.
Continuing the consumer-friendly convenience theme, the Flip is powered by AA batteries. The battery compartment can be locked off by a switch in the bottom, next to which sits the tripod bush.
The Ultra's main feature is its lack of features: it shoots video in the simplest, most stripped-down manner possible. Our 2GB version records 60 minutes of standard definition H.264 MPEG-4 video, while a 1GB 30 minute version is also available. This is automatically converted that to WMV or QuickTime when connected to a computer.
All the software is on the camera, so you don't need to install anything on your computer, although when we first plugged it in, some software was installed automatically.