Review: Flip Mino HD vs JVC FM1

FM1 and MinoHDPocket video cameras are the device du jour for the YouTube generation. Wired Magazine saw fit to write an entire article based on the little beasts. Forging against the trend of ultra hi-def 300x zoom handycams with capacious memory, these pocket cameras take the approach that a nasty little CMOS sensor will do just fine, most certainly if you want to upload video of your kids to YouTube, rather than watch it on a 50 inch HD television.

While they look very similar on the surface, philosophically, the Flip Mino HD and the JVC Picsio GC-FM1 pocket cameras are different beasts. They both take “HD video” (720p for the Flip and a bastardised 1080p for the JVC). They both fit in your pocket. They both come with software for your PC that can upload video direct to YouTube.

So let’s skip the basics and get down to the differences:

Flip Mino HD JVC Picsio FM1
Memory “60 minutes” (well, 4GB) SDHC card memory. None provided.
Video Format 1280 x 720p / 30fps / 9Mbps 1440 x 1080p / 30fps / 12Mbps
Screen 1.5″ 2.0″
Still photos None 8MP “non interpolated”
Outputs USB, A/V USB, A/V, Mini HDMI
Macro None Manual switch
Software Flipshare Mediabrowser LE
Price NZ$349 NZ$399 (RRP)

But what does it all mean?

The Flip camera – the progenitor of the pocket video camera revolution – eschews all dongles and baubles, and focuses on the purpose of taking basic video. The FM1 on the other hand appears to be a descendant of JVC’s existing camcorder lineup, and therefore retains some of the functionality demanded by markedroids: stills, removable memory, HDMI out. You’d perhaps think that the extra features of the FM1 make it a better camera. I’m not so sure.

To start with, you’ll need to purchase a large SDHC card on top of the FM1 price before you can do anything at all. That’s going to add at least $50 to the price. And we can discount the still photo option as nothing more than a gimmick. There’s no way the stills from the FM1 are going to displace anything but the cheapest, nastiest point-and-shoot digital camera. Call me picky, but the addition of the stills mode and multiple video resolutions just makes the FM1 more difficult to use than the Flip. I want to take video, not fiddle with settings.

And then there is the software.

Multitasking

Multitasking

Flip have taken the time to construct a gorgeous, simple little application in Flipshare. It is a pleasure to use, and just works. You can edit up short videos, add backing music (I’ve used one of their tracks in my comparison video below), and upload the results direct to YouTube. I was pleasantly surprised that the application quite happily undertook several processes at the same time, namely rendering a video whilst uploading a different video to YouTube.

JVC have opted to use a scouring pad on my eyeballs, instead of including software with their device. Ok so that’s not entirely true, but the MediaBrowser LE package might as well be a torture device. It is horrible to look at, difficult to use, and not a patch on Flipshare.

Additionally, when you connect the FM1 to your PC, it presents not one, but three drives. As an engineer, I can understand they’ve separated internal memory, SD memory, and the software installer; but as a user, I don’t really give a crap. Compare these two explorer trees, and tell me where to find my videos:

Flip Mino HD JVC Picsio FM1
Flip Mino JD JVC FM1

Yes OK, but REALLY, what does it all mean?

Regardless of my opinion on how the devices look and behave, the proof is in the pudding. Apparently. So here’s your pudding, re-compressed down to 720p (watch it in HD). Parental advisory: may cause piña colada:

The JVC has more pixels to work with, but on the indoor shots it’s fairly obvious to me that it is over saturated and having trouble with noise. For the record, that cloth on the ornament table at 00:15 is not dark red. The colour shown by the Flip is much more accurate.

Both cameras suffer horribly from “rolling shutter”, visible at 01:00, but there’s nothing you’re going to do to improve that on these pocket cameras. I could be biased, but it does look like the Flip deals with it a little better.

What it all means:

We’re still waiting on official New Zealand pricing, but I’m guessing the Flip Mino HD is going to be cheaper, or most certainly not a vatload more than the JVC. As Chris mentioned in the comments, Noel Leeming has jumped the gun and is advertising the Flip at $349. So, unless you want something that takes kinda noisy, over-saturated video, my choice would be the Flip Mino HD.

Just give it to me raw!

For those of you interested in the raw file output of the devices, here are the links to download the first segment of the video (outdoor, movement).

18 Comments

  1. It’s funny how often the consumer software bundled with devices that connect to your PC is simply god-awful. You’d think the manufacturers could figure out that PC software isn’t a crappy little ‘value add’, but it’s actually the interface 95% of their device purchasers will end up using (the other 5% mount them as USB devices on Linux boxes and use GIMP)…

  2. Nice guess – today’s Noel Leeming flyer has $349 on the Flip.

  3. I think the beauty of the Flip is everything just works, it does point and shoot video, great quality/audio. Plug it into your computer seamless upload to youtube, compression for other online video websites or save to your computer. The box should just say ‘does what it says’.

  4. @Chris Burgess
    Thanks Chris. I’ll modify the article :mrgreen:

  5. Interesting review. I have just YESTERDAY got my Flip Mino HD from Amazon.com via a mate travelling back to NZ. Haven’t really put it through it’s paces, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

  6. I’ve had a Kodak Zi6 for 18 months, but after seeing the performance of Canon’s IXUS 100 IS and 120 IS, which are roughly the same size and also contain image stabilisation and a 12.1MP still camera (the 120 IS is f/2.8!) I’d be hard pushed to spend my $400 on one of these.

  7. Interesting review, but I’m still unsure why you chose the Flip? The Picsio has higher resolution, still photo’s, macro mode, HDMI output and a bigger screen… Although your opinion is the colours look “oversaturated”, in my opinion from those video samples the Flip looked washed out.
    I guess everyone has different tastes, but features for what you get, the Picsio seems like the better buy – even if the still photo’s aren’t the best, it’s nice to have it as an option there anyway. Also, $50 for a 4GB card? You’re getting ripped off :p

  8. @Cheds
    Hey Cheds, I know where you’re coming from, but in my opinion the addition of the extra features on the Picsio takes away from the user experience. I just want simple video.

    The colours look great if you haven’t seen the actual scene I was filming. The Flip was much closer to reality. I guess that cloth is rather faded 🙂

  9. Amazon have these flips for approx 235NZD + Shipping (if they would ship which they wont so you have to work out something else ) but that still leaves Noel Leemings etc with a good $100 per device margin, is it just expected we will be ripped off in this country? is a 30% + markup on top of the markup amazon makes reasonable, I dont think so, so will get one in direct or see if parallel imported are stocking them, not sure when these companies will learn that just cause we are down here we have the intraweb and they need to compete globally.

  10. @Mike
    I’d have to echo your sentiments. I purchased mine via Amazon. Had a mate coming over, so avoided the “no shipping outside US”. But even if that hadn’t happened, I have a “stable” of friends in the US that will gladly re-ship for me, and since most in-country shipping in the US is free, doesn’t cost extra…

  11. Yep, the importers dilemma. Thankfully for them, the majority of folks are more likely to impulse buy at Noel’s or Dick Smith.

    $350 will be a good deal when the dollar heads down to its more ‘natural’ level of 50-60 cents, and you take into account GST, which we don’t have to pay as individual importers.

  12. True on the GST, get that, but the exchange rate is everyone’s problem so you presume the local price wont rise to match – and its not exactly a huge dilemma, man should i put on 50% margin or should i got for 80%

  13. Hmm, I am kind of interested in getting one of the Mino HD’s, but I’m kind of put off a bit by the review page on Amazon: OK, the Mino has 4 out of 5 stars for 426 reviews, but 55 of those reviewers give it one star with comments about how it froze up or went dead just hours, weeks, or months after buying it; the same thing happening with replacements. (55 out of 426 reviews is just over 12% unhappy customers – a fairly high percentage I think).

    The next question: why are we getting the Mino HD 1st Generation with 60 Min recording time when the 2nd generation is out in the States with 120 mins recording time and (allegedly) better picture quality? Are Cisco fobbing off all their old stock onto Australia and New Zealand? At least when a new iPod or iPhone comes out we’re getting the newest generation in sync with the rest of the world.

    ps, I notice that JB HI-FI is selling the JVC for $377 in their latest catalog and Harvey Norman is selling a competing Samsung product for $289 I think.

  14. I have been looking at the kodak zx1 and the jvc you reviewed here, after my samsung U10 died 2 days before the end of our tour in Western Australia. I have been more careful with the replacement for this… as a result of comments on the canon I have purchased the Ixus 120, which is just so easy to use compared with the heat sensitive contacts on the Samsung. I was wanting reasonable stills, and must say they look much better from the canon side by side with the samsung.

  15. This review was super helpful! Thanks!

  16. thanks for your sharing.This review was helpful!

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