Pocket 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|
|Still photos||None||8MP “non interpolated”|
|Outputs||USB, A/V||USB, A/V, Mini HDMI|
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.
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|
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).