camcorders

Pure Digital Flip MinoHD Camcorder Review

Pure Digital Flip MinoHD Camcorder Review

November 14, 2008
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Performance

Video Performance* (3.0)*

The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD has been upgraded in the few months since the release of the standard definition Flip Mino. While the original model featured a 1/4-inch VGA CMOS chip, with each pixel a reported 5.6µm in size. The new MinoHD actually has a smaller sensor, measuring only 1/4.5 inches. But the specs state that the pixel size has been reduced considerably more, to 2.2µm. Presumably, this means that the new sensor has far more pixels, producing the much improved resolution.

There's more to this, however, but we'll try to make it simple. Generally speaking, the smaller the individual pixel, the less sensitive it will be in low light. Looking at the numbers above, one might assume that the new MinoHD would produce worse low light performance than the original Mino. However, the specs state that the sensitivity has actually increased, from 2 lux to 1.4 lux. Granted, there are several factors beyond mere pixel size that account for sensitivity, most importantly processing – and the MinoHD does feature a new 'Pure Digital Video Engine 3.0,' a faster bitrate. and a different compression. Stranger still, however, is the fact that our lab tests showed that the sensitivity between the Mino and MinoHD is actually identical (more on this in the Low Light Performance section below). It just goes to show that specs sheets don't tell the whole story.

Pure_Digital_Flip_MinoHD_3000lux_web.jpg

*The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD at 3000 lux

*

At 3000 lux under our standard lab testing conditions, the Flip MinoHD, our first reaction was that the auto white balance did not manage to correct for this tungsten lighting, although its standard definition counterpart, the Mino, did. We did not encounter the same problems out of the lab. Naturally, the sharpness and fine detail retention between the two is incomparable. The MinoHD captures far more by virtue of the fact that it is HD. Look at the comparisons below.

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The Flip Mino ...and a 100-percent crop.
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The **Flip MinoHD *...and a 100-percent crop. *

We've only tested one other HD ultra-compact 'YouTube' camcorder this year, the Kodak Zi6. In our lab test comparisons, the MinoHD was the winner, but not by a long shot. Both camcorders had a hard time with a proper white balance. Out of the lab, both showed a heavy-handed compression that tended to push bright areas over the edge, making them all completely white. The Kodak seemed to do a better job overall with sharpness and fine detail, but the motion looked smoother from the MinoHD. It's a draw. Both will look decent on your HDTV, but fail utterly when compared to a full-featured HD camcorder like the Panasonic HDC-SD9, Canon HF11, or any other.

The big logic whole in the Flip MinoHD is the intrinsic link between the Flip and YouTube, the dominant video hosting site. For the time being, YouTube does nor support HD video. So you can shoot all the video you want, but when it comes time to upload, YouTube will squash the hell out of it and shrink it even smaller than standard definition. Below are two videos shot side by side and both uploaded to YouTube.

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*The standard definition Flip Mino (above), and the **new Flip MinoHD (below).*
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Video Resolution* (9.38)*

The video resolution of the Pure Digital Flip MinoHD was tested by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution chart at an even, bright light. The playback footage was then examined on an HD monitor. At best, the MinoHD produced a horizontal resolution of 375 line widths. The vertical resolution measured 500 line widths. This is not quite as good as the Kodak Zi6, which matches what we saw with our eyes from outdoor shooting. This is not a large margin, however. They're fairly evenly matched. 

Low Light Performance* (0.0)*

The low light performance of the Pure Digital Flip MinoHD was tested in three stages: comparative analysis, sensitivity, and color accuracy/noise.

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*The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD at 60 lux

*

{{article.attachments['Kodak_Zi6_60lux_autoHD.jpg']}}
The Kodak Zi6 at 60 lux

First, we shot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at an even 60 lux and 15 lux, then compared it with the results of past camcorders. At 60 lux, the MinoHD retained nearly all of the fine detail it managed in bright light. You'll also notice that unlike our bright light testing, the MinoHD had no problem auto white balancing. The original Flip Mino performed very well in low light, and the MinoHD continues that tradition. There was obviously some noise, but noise is typically easier to swallow in HD, because it causes less loss of detail than in standard definition.

Under the same 60 lux conditions, the Kodak Zi6 produced a much more richly saturated image. However, when you put them side-by-side, the MinoHD is preferable, as it produces less visible noise and more accurate colors.

{{article.attachments['Pure_Digital_Flip_MinoHD_15lux_web.jpg']}}

*The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD at 15 lux

*

{{article.attachments['Kodak_Zi6_15lux_autoHD.jpg']}}
The Kodak Zi6 at 15 lux

At 15 lux, the Flip MinoHD looked fantastic, compared to the average camcorder in the under-$800 range. The noise certainly increased compared to 60 lux, but the colors remained resilient. Though we can't fault the Kodak Zi6 for performing any less impressively. Both camcorders are outstanding camcorders in low light, and great choices for going out bars or other dimly lit settings where sensitivity is more important than the best possible resolution.

The second stage of the test measures sensitivity. We shot the same chart and slowly lower the light. Playback footage was then monitored on a waveform monitor to determine the camcorder's exposure levels (measured in IREs). Our sensitivity score is based on the light level necessary for the camcorder to produce a maximum of 50 IRE. Ultimately, the Flip MinoHD produced that level of exposure at 7 lux. This is exactly the same score as the standard definition Flip Mino.

For the final test, we shot an X-Rite color chart at an even 60 lux, then analyzed the frame grabs from that video with Imatest imaging software. At best, the Pure Digital Flip MinoHD produced a color error of 6.21. This is an excellent color accuracy score – better than Kodak Zi6 and much better than the standard definition Flip Mino.

The noise measured 0.935%, an impressively low score, but not quite as low as the Flip Mino.

All told, Pure Digital once again takes the lead in low light performance in the low-end spectrum of camcorders.

Stabilization* (0.0)*

The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD does not offer a stabilization feature. 

Wide Angle* (7.8)*

The Pure Digital Flip MinoHD has a wide angle of 39 degrees. This is statistically the same as the standard definition Flip Mino. 

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features
  8. Conclusion & Comparisons
  9. Photo Gallery
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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