Five Alternative Devices To Replace The Now-Dead Flip Cam

Journalists who have relied on the handy and easy Flip cam for their multimedia reporting needs may find themselves out of luck this week. Cisco, the technology company that bought Flip two years ago, announced they will be shutting down Flip as part of a new restructuring of its consumer business.

In journalism circles, the Flip camera has been praised as “the future of journalism video” for its compact design and ease of use. As Nieman Reports once wrote, “The Flip video camera’s simple, one-red-button design makes it perfect for capturing quick video pieces for multimedia reporting.” There have always been the downsides, of course, like shaky video quality and less-than-desirable audio quality, but the overall convenience of the device has made it a frontrunner in spot reporting tools.

Now that the Flip is gone, fret not. There are a handful of other tools that can get the job done.

Sony’s Bloggie cams

In the past year, Sony introduced a new product to its line of cameras: The Bloggie. As its name suggests, the camera is a device intended for handheld, on-the-spot recording. The cameras start at just $149.99, which is a great price for the quality you get as a result (1920 x 1080p MP4 HD video with 5-megapixel stills).

One of the biggest gripes about handheld cameras (including the Flip) is the shakiness of video. To address this problem, the Bloggie cameras come equipped with SteadyShot image stabilization, which uses motion sensors to make adjustments to keep the video as motionless as possible.

Like the Flip, the Bloggie has a kick-out USB adapter for quick connection to your computer for downloading your content.

Other new models include the Sony Bloggie Duo HD and the Sony Bloggie Touch.

Kodak Zi8

Kodak’s handheld cameras are very comparable to the Flip cam in terms of size and usability. I was first introduced to the Zi8 by Brady Teufel, assistant professor of journalism at my alma mater, Cal Poly.

In an email exchange, he said, “As someone who teaches Web audio and video and has been using video cameras since the VHS-C days, I’m a huge fan of handheld Kodaks. The Zi8 is the perfect MOJO tool (complete with image stabilization and an external mic jack) and the Playsport is a key sidekick for any outdoor enthusiast (shoots 60fps at 720p resolution and is completely waterproof up to 10 feet).”

The camera is probably the best bang for your buck — at $179 — because it captures up to 10 hours of HD video (as compared to the two to four for Sony’s Bloggie).

Kodak Playfull Video Camera

Even more compact than the Zi8 is Kodak’s Playfull cam. Starting at $140, the affordable camera records in HD and takes up to 5 megapixel still images. The size is about the weight of a Snickers bar, making it perfect for a journalist on-the-go, who doesn’t want to haul a bunch of equipment around.

A review in PC Mag describes it best: “The appeal of pocket camcorders is simple: whether you want to record a newsworthy event or capture your kids’ cutest moments, they put a simple, high-quality video recording experience in the palm of your hand.”

The downside compared to the Flip, according to the PC Mag review, is the design of the kick-out USB connector. Writes David Pierce, a junior analyst of consumer electronics, “On top, you’ll find the requisite flip-out USB arm for plugging the Playfull into your computer, but this one is awkwardly implemented. You pull back the plastic from the top, which frees up the USB arm. Then you have to fold out the arm, and angle it just right to get it into your computer—it’s not nearly as well-done as the one-button swing out that the Flip cameras offer, and I was afraid I would break the USB arm on the Playfull.”

Android and iOS devices

With the rise of smartphones, chances are you probably already have a video recording device in your back pocket.

The iPhone 4 and iPod touch have a front and back camera that takes 5 megapixel stills, has autofocus tap and an LED flash. Depending on which model you have and how much storage you’re using for other media (photos, apps, music),  your iPhone can record up to four hours of HD video. Of course, the iPhone is a bit pricier (ranging from $200-$300 with a plan), but with it, you get more than just video (phone, apps, email, the whole shabang).

Almost all Android phones also record video, like the popular HTC Evo and Samsung Galaxy. To see the specific details for some of the top Android-based phones, see CNet’s guide.

Coby SNAP mini camcorder

If you’re just looking for something cheap (say, you’re paying out of your own pocket, or you’re at a college publication), the Coby SNAP Mini Camcorder is one of the cheapest Flip competitors, coming in between $25 and $60 on Amazon.

The camera looks a lot like the Flip, with a big red recording button, and that now standard kick-out USB connector for easy downloading. It’s hard to find reviews about this little device, but according to ZDNet’s cumulative rating of the camera based on 12 reivews,”Users rate this product 72/100. Comparing these reviews to 118458 other Camcorders reviews gives this product an overall score of 76/100 = Good.” I’m sold.