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VIVA g a d g e t s 3 rd Generation F l ip U t r a H D

B E N H anson REPORTS

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to shadow. The low light sensor, however, gives consistent and relatively noise-free footage indoors and at night.

’m writing this under gray January skies, with snowdrifts slinking into view every time I turn my back. The good folks at Flip, though, have some faith in the forthcoming summer (and our collective national desire to down tools and abandon the country as soon as the cover comes off the new calendar), sending me the 3rd generation UltraHD camcorder complete with underwater case.

All dry-land footage does suffer from a quirk of both the UltraHD’s diminutive size and, perhaps, my caffeine intake: shakiness. Unlike larger camcorders, the Flip is designed to be held in one hand, which is far less stable than cameras with larger housings (many of which also boast image stabilization and optical zoom), but a necessary sacrifice in Flip’s quest for portability.

Billed as the world’s simplest HD camcorder, able to deliver results rivaling those of devices several times its price, the UltraHD certainly measures up to the first claim. It’s light and pocket-sized, all the expected functionality can be accessed through four clearly-labeled buttons, and recording passable hi-definition footage is the epitome of point, shoot and share. Its 8GB of storage afford two hours’ recording time in a resolution of 720p, at 50fps. Files are saved in the universally playable MP4 format, and the inclusion of an HDMI port means that you’re never more than a cable’s length from showing off your movies on virtually any HDTV. If your intended audience happens to be farther than the next room away, the pre-installed FlipShare software enables you to share footage directly to YouTube et al.

The form factor also gives rise to the UltraHD’s most annoying quirk: the titular flip-out USB arm is short and flimsy. Coupled with the camcorder’s just-enough bulk, this forces adjacent devices out of their ports, and eventually lead me to appropriate a longer USB cable from elsewhere. The UltraHD is simple then, and delivers competent results with few usability niggles. It’s a shame that Flip aren’t able to chase the gray skies away, but when the mercury eventually soars I’m sure the UltraHD will fulfill its promise of allowing you to record and share your holidays quickly and easily. 3rd generation Flip UltraHD from £159.99 See www.theflip.com for stockists

Unfortunately the package arrived several months too early for my surfing trip, but I braved some very strange glances and tested the underwater case from Aquapac up to less than a third of its touted five-metre operating depth in a public swimming pool. The watertight case adds very little bulk, and the straightforward interface becomes a real boon when you’re submerged and seeing double. Sub-aqua footage came out clean and clear, so I took it upon myself to experiment with the other side of the sun / sea equation and test the UltraHD in some typical outdoor conditions. Video quality is generally good, but with a tendency to become blown out in those currently-mythical bright conditions. The accompanying spec sheet lists automatic white-balancing, black level calibration and exposure control as features, but their limitations are readily apparent when shooting in areas with patchy light or transitions from glare

Photo: Ben Quinton

VIVA 64

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