Flip Ultra HD camcorder

Meet the very first camcorder we have ever owned. It’s the Flip Ultra HD, which arrived on the market at the end of April. It also comes in white.

I had been lusting after something like this since reading Andy Ihnatko’s Flip Mino HD versus Kodak Zi6 showcase showdown last November. I was amazed to see the quality of the 720p video that a very small, $200 camera can produce.

I did not love that the Flip Mino HD has an internal battery and only one hour of internal storage. On the other hand, the Kodak Zi6 uses SDHC memory cards (sold separately) and takes AA batteries, including the rechargeable NiMHs we love so well. Also, the audio from the Kodak Zi6 seemed much richer. Nevertheless, Andy Ihnatko shows that the Flip’s video is clearly superior — and that is, after all, the camera’s main function.

Then, about a month ago, Flip upgraded their Ultra model to HD, pretty much sealing my decision. Yes, this camera is bigger than the Mino (I have seen it described elsewhere as a “fatass”), but as you can tell above, it’s still plenty portable. Plus, the Ultra HD holds up to two hours of video, and it can take AA batteries, including rechargeable NiMHs.

This is one of our very first Flip Ultra HD videos clips, shot on Saturday afternoon. You can also see it at YouTube.

So far, after playing with it for a couple of days, I am very happy with this little gizmo. Operating it could not be simpler. You push the big red “easy button” to record, and push it again to stop. Four navigation buttons around it allow you to flip through your recorded clips, with two more buttons for deleting and approving things. That’s it. Amy loves the complete lack of technical adjustments.

Flip HD Ultra camcorder, showing controls and LCD screen

As you can see on the top left of the device, there’s a USB arm that flips out to connect the camcorder to your computer. It mounts as a drive on your desktop, and includes some favorably-reviewed software called FlipShare I will most likely never use because I have iMovie, which imports the Flip’s 720p MP4 files effortlessly.

Flip HD Ultra camcorder, showing battery compartment

The USB arm is also how you can charge the special battery pack included with the camera, shown here.

Best battery fix: Use rechargeable AA batteries

As fun as this camcorder is, charging the silly Flip battery pack via the Flip’s USB arm is a colossal waste of time and effort. A smart person like you probably already owns a good NiMH AA battery charger — such as the La Crosse Technology BC-9009 AlphaPower Battery Charger.

Simply remove the Flip battery pack and stick it in a junk drawer or something. Instead, use rechargeable AA batteries in your Flip from now on. You’re welcome.

Use rechargeable AA batteries in Flip HD Ultra camcorder instead of Flip battery pack

Yes, using ordinary AA batteries could quickly bankrupt you, but rechargeable NiMH batteries (I really like the Rayovac Hybrids) are very inexpensive in the long run. You can recharge them over and over again for years (some say 5 years).

They will last longer than your Flip battery pack, and you can use them in your digital cameras, portable radios, remote controls — anything that takes a AA battery. Buy a 4-pack, or several 4-packs. When a pair of batteries runs out of juice in your Flip, just swap them for a charged pair, and get right back to shooting video. This is much better than waiting for hours with a USB arm plugged into your computer. Plus, a good charger recharges NiMH batteries in about 30 minutes, not the several hours it may take using the USB arm.

If you must charge the Flip Ultra HD battery pack

Since I originally posted this article, a great many readers have found it while searching for “How to charge the Flip Ultra HD” or “How long to charge the Flip Ultra HD?”

Here is what I know:

Charging the Flip Ultra HD battery pack

You charge the Flip by flipping its USB arm out and plugging it into a high-powered USB 2.0 port on your computer. Unless you have disabled it, the Flip’s red light will come on to indicate that its battery pack is charging. When it’s finished charging, the light goes off.

Make sure to safely unmount/eject the Flip from your computer’s desktop before unplugging it from the USB port. Otherwise, you could corrupt its data.

If plugging the USB arm directly into your computer is awkward, you may want to order a USB Extension Cable to make life easier. A USB Extension Cable also allows you to turn the camera over while it’s charging, so you can watch charging progress and see symbols shown on its screen.

How long to charge the Flip Ultra HD

It can take as long as 7 hours for the initial charge, or to charge a completely dead Flip battery pack via the USB port. Optionally, you can buy a Flip Video Power Adapter which is supposed to take only 3.5 hours. This would be a good time to scroll up and re-read the part about rechargeable AA batteries.

More Flip examples at my YouTube channel

I have a feeling that cows are only the beginning. Before you know it, we’ll be sharing our own videos of stunt injuries, tornadoes, singing — and, of course, cooking demos — all in glorious 720p HD. Here’s some video of yesterday’s beef/buffalo cheeseburgers, inspired by seeing Gary Wiviott in Episode 4 of Kevin Pang’s The Cheeseburger Show:

(This video is also at Vimeo.)

Gary’s book Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons is the next thing we need to buy from Amazon.com.

(If this article helped you, please pass it along — “Like” it or share it or something. Thanks!)

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