Cisco kills the Flip and travelers just move on

cisco flip camera videocamera camYesterday, Cisco announced that it would be closing down its Flip camera operations as part of an effort to refocus on the company’s core business. Cisco bought Flip a mere two years ago and quickly made it the most recognizable brand of consumer HD video cameras. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Mary, too) could record their kids, vacations and random acts of police brutality in 720p HD video. Travelers embraced the Flip because it was small, had no extra components to pack and allowed them to record their trips in stunning HD. Well, stunning assuming that the conditions were perfect (read: well lit and no background noise). However, as more and more smartphones and consumer cameras added HD video capabilities, the idea of having a second video device quickly became archaic. Why tote around a Flip when your DSLR, point and shoot or, heck, even your phone can do the exact same thing? And, with one simple press release yesterday, Cisco pulled the plug on the Flip. It burned hot, it burned quickly and now it’s gone. But, does anyone care?I own a Flip. Many of the videos that I have recorded for Gadling were made using the Flip. However, I always recognized and bemoaned the tiny camera’s limitations. The editing software that was bundled with the Flip was useless. I always deferred to iMovie and, more recently, Final Cut Pro. The internal microphone on the Flip was abysmal. It required you to be uncomfortably close to the camera or to speak in an unnaturally high volume. The lack of a port for an external microphone was an issue that users complained about from the Flip’s inception. The Flip also necessitated optimal lighting conditions to record anything even close to watchable.

All of that said, for your average traveler, the Flip was a revelation. When the conditions were right, consumers could record lasting memories in a quality never before imaginable to anyone other than professional videographers. The Flip was affordable, tiny and simple to operate. Sadly, it never evolved while other segments of the technology market surpassed it.

If you’re looking to point fingers in the death of the Flip (and don’t feel like blaming it entirely on Cisco’s poor management of the brand), look no further than the iPhone 4. Apple put an HD camcorder inside its already popular smartphone and showed that merging all of your key portable devices did not require sacrificing any single one of them (except for maybe call quality in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco…but that’s another story). Now, Android phones have HD, consumers are more comfortable upgrading to DSLR cameras that shoot HD and many point and shoots, including the popular Canon S95, put HD video in the palms of people’s hands. And since travelers rarely want to carry extra gear, the Flip, that simple unitasker, is no longer necessary.

Would phones and consumer cameras have upgraded to HD video as quickly as they did if the Flip hadn’t become so popular? It’s hard to say. The Flip certainly did change people’s thinking about video quality and made HD a consumer standard rather than just the professional standard. Cisco, it seems, was either lazy or unmotivated. Other companies with handheld HD video cameras such as Kodak never seemed interested in pushing their products through marketing the way that Cisco did in recent years. Perhaps they realized that the market for pocket HD video cameras had a ceiling and that it was reached almost immediately.

Are travelers sad to see the Flip go? Probably not. Cisco says that their transition plan will support current Flip customers. However, most people who are now interested in taking better videos – people who may have been inspired by using the Flip – have probably already moved on to a new product. Most likely, their phone and/or camera already does what the Flip did for them before.

In the history of travel gear, the Flip is but a blip. Its influence, however, may be underrated. We can all shoot in HD now. Most of our trip videos are still boring and poorly edited, but boy do they look sharp.

RIP, Flip.

Nomading Film Fest seeks travel filmmakers

Ever wanted to make a movie about your travels? Perhaps you already have? The Nomading Film Festival wants to talk to you. From now through April 2011, this new travel-focused film festival, based in Brooklyn, NY, is accepting submissions from aspiring travel-focused filmmakers everywhere.

The idea behind the Nomading Film Festival is simple. The fest’s creators “believe that stories caught on film, while traveling, are some of the most entertaining, educating, beautiful, and authentic. These are stories which should be shared, acknowledged, and awarded.” Their film festival is the embodiment of this ideal, and they’re striving to get everyone and anyone who likes travel to submit their own entry. Think you lack the movie-making skills to enter? Think again. The philosophy of the Nomading Film Fest is that we are travelers first and filmmakers second. Anyone with a simple point-and-shoot digital camera, Flip or iPhone, a love for travel and some basic editing software is encouraged to enter.

If you’ve ever dreamed of turning that vacation video or backpacking documentary into a reality, here’s your chance. Upload your 15 minutes-or-less video here (along with a nominal entry fee). Selections will be finalized by May next year and the festival will be held June 17th and 18th of 2011 in New York City. Get those cameras rolling!

The Gadling 2010 Dads and Grads gift guide and giveaway

Yes – you have just over a week left to pick out a great gift for the dad or grad in your life. This summer is tougher than ever to find the right gift, because new gear is being released at a crazy pace.

We’ve teamed up with Office Depot to select 5 fantastic (and affordable) gifts – but the best part is that everything in this lineup can be won. And better yet – we’ll do our best to get your prize delivered on time for Father’s Day!Flip Ultra Digital Camcorder

The Flip Ultra is the most popular pocket HD camcorder on the market – with its pocketable size and great quality HD sensor, the Flip is ideal for capturing vacation moments, or for you to film your husband try to extinguish the fire shooting up from the grill.

Price: $149
Office Depot product link

Garmin Nüvi 1300 GPS navigation system

Is your dad or grad one of the millions of people who have never believed in the power of maps or asking for directions?

Help them out with a GPS unit. The Nüvi 1300 widescreen GPS unit features spoken street names and EcoRoute
calculations for fuel saving route planning.

Price: $129.99
Office Depot product link

Sony PRS-300SC reader pocket edition

The Sony PRS-300SC is not only one of the most compact ebook readers on the market, it is also one of the most affordable at just $149.99.

The reader has enough storage space for 300 books available from 100’s of sources. The PRS-300SC also supports PDF and Word documents.

Price: $149.99
Office Depot product link

Ativa Mobil-IT Ultimate Rolling briefcase

With enough storage space for a laptop, file folders and an overnight set of clothes, the Mobil-IT briefcase is the perfect solution for the one-night traveler. Best of all, the bag features a removable laptop bag, increasing its internal space.

Price: $149.99
Office Depot product link

Ativa Mobil-IT Ultimate Organizer Backpack

With over 10 different compartments, the Ativa Mobil-IT Organizer Backpack is excellent for the over-packer. Its padded shoulder straps provide cushioning, and its internal laptop compartment holds machines up to 16″.

The bag has loads of special features – including a headphone grommet, deep front pockets and a weight balancing structure, designed to reduce pressure on your back.

Price: $64.99
Office Depot product link

As we mentioned earlier – all the products in this gift guide are being given away – all you need to do is describe why your dad or grad is the best in the world.

  • To enter, simply leave a comment answering the question posted above.
  • The comment must be left before Monday June 14 2010 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Five Prize Winners will be randomly selected to receive one item from the gift guide. Our judges will pick what you receive.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • The total value of each prize is approximately $149.99 (Flip Ultra), $129.99 (Garmin Nuvi 1300), $149.99 (Sony Reader), $169.99 (Mobil-IT rolling briefcase) and $64.99 (Mobil-IT Ultra Organizer Backpack).
  • Click here for the complete official rules of this giveaway.

Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5 1080p HD camera review

The Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5 is a pocket HD camcorder with an impressive lineup of features (on paper at least). Inside the camera is a sensor capable of 5MP photos, 1080P “full HD” video, SD(HC) and Memory Stick Duo card support, one-touch uploads and a built in USB connector.

The Bloggie is Sony’s answer to the huge lineup of pocket HD camcorders that have invaded the market in recent years – a market that Sony used to dominate with their Camcorders.

The Sony Bloggie PM5 manages to stand out in the busy pocket camera market thanks to several neat innovations – its first (and easiest to notice) is a swiveling lens. Opening the lens also turns the camera on, which makes it easy to take some spur of the moment video clips.Controls and options

Controls on the Sony Bloggie are aplenty – you get a joystick for menu controls, play and menu selector buttons, a video and photo button and a power button, for when you want to do playback without opening the lens. All these buttons are in line with the long list of features found on the camera – while some pocket HD camcorders may only offer the most basic of options, the Sony Bloggie adds features like resolution selection, various playback options and of course, the ability to delete recordings, which is handy if you just recorded someone doing something you don’t want any records of.

Hardware

The Bloggie feels very “Sony-ish” – I’m not sure how to describe it, but even without seeing the brand name, most geeks will be able to determine that it was made by Sony. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels a little over-engineered. The battery and card slot are hidden behind a slide/tilt cover which just feels way too much for a budget camera.

Then there is the USB plug – it slides out, and is hidden by a flimsy plastic cover, something I just know will break off sooner or later. In the box is a short USB extension cable, which means you don’t have to have the Bloggie hang off the front of your computer (and risk breaking something).

In the hardware section, I’ve kept the worst for last – the screen. Oh my goodness what a disaster… The screen on the Bloggie only works well if you look directly at it – a few degrees to the left or right, and it is almost impossible to see what you are recording. This suddenly makes the swivel lens so much more convenient, because you’ll need to swivel up or down to keep the screen angled correctly.

Video and photo quality

This part is actually quite positive – both photos and videos are actually pretty decent – but you’ll need to make sure you stick to the middle of the road in quality. The 1080p setting (highest option) may sound great on paper, but in reality, the camera has a hard time keeping up with any kind of fast movement.

Of all the pocket HD cameras I’ve tested, I actually found the photo quality of the Bloggie to be the most impressive – it obviously won’t replace your day to day camera (no flash, no optical zoom), but it sure beats the quality of most mobile phones.


This clip was shot in 720p 30 frames per second – which is (in my opinion) the best setting for the Bloggie. In daylight the camera works surprisingly well – but you don’t want to use it in any dark rooms, as with most cameras in this class, the quality of dark shots is pretty poor.

The camera does feature a digital zoom, but frustratingly, it only works in the photo mode and the 720p video mode – a nice touch to include, but fairly useless in reality.

Final thoughts



There are several reasons to like the Bloggie, and several to dislike it – so lets start with its pros:

The swivel lens is actually pretty cool – it helps with shots above your head, or self portraits. I also like that the camera takes Memory Stick Duo and SD(HD) cards – this provides some flexibility, and allows you to use cards you may already have lying around. A slightly more expensive version of the Bloggie adds a nifty 360 degree lens – which allows you to make wacky fish-eye shots.

The removable battery is definitely a pro but spare batteries are $40. The upside is that the battery pack charges any time you plug it into a USB port, and that its battery life is really, really good.

The price is a tough call – it retails for $149.99, but that is without any memory cards – so expect to invest a bit more. At this price point, there are several other options, including several with 8GB of storage built in.

Now for the cons:

No HDMI output – I feel that this one is a real missed feature – even though you can hook the camera up to your TV for non-HD playback, or pop the memory card in your computer or PS3, the lack of HDMI is just a real shame. Then there is of course the display – I won’t waste any more words on that…

I find it tough to draw any conclusions about the Bloggie MHS-PM5 – I feel like I shouldn’t like it, but it really isn’t a bad camera – it is just a camera with a ton of competition – and some of that competition offers more value for money.

Bottom line:

Despite its shortcomings, I do like the Bloggie – it feels well made, and it doesn’t have the “toy factor” some other cameras suffer from. Bottom line – if you like the pros, go for it, but if the cons are too much to deal with, find something else, you have plenty to chose from.

Daily gear deals – $50 camcorder, 400GB portable storage and more

Here are the hottest gadget deals for today, Wednesday June 3rd 2009. Remember, these deals are often only valid for one day, so act fast before they are gone!

The first deal in today’s lineup is the Flip Ultra 30 minute digital camcorder. Yes, 30 minutes is rather short, but $50 is also rather low for such a decent little camcorder.

If you regularly carry a lot of data, then it may be worth taking a closer look at this Fujitsu 400GB portable hard drive.The normal retail price is $90, but it is currently on sale for just $69.99 and comes with free shipping, as well as a bundle of backup and security software.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned the Jabra SP700 Bluetooth car kit. This fantastic portable car kit normally sells for about $70, but is still on sale for just $30. You will need to “view other sellers” on the product page to find the reseller offering the Jabra at this low price (Shopcell). As a reminder – this carkit connects to any Bluetooth enabled mobile phone, and allows for handsfree calls in your car.

And finally, if you are looking for a media player, check out this Zune 4GB deal over at Buy.com – not only do you get the Zune itself, but they also throw in a car kit and a pair of the Zune premium headphones. Normal retail price for this kit is about $150, but you can order one for just $87.77 with free shipping.