Thursday, April 14, 2011

Your all-in-one on life after Flip cameras: Hold or fold?

I've had an online video update post in the works for a while--but I didn't think it would be about Cisco's decision to discontinue Flip cameras, a post that is now the number two most-read post ever on this blog. You can see Flip's popularity in the rush to read more. The move left some scoffing about smartphones' superiority and others despondent about a favorite tool. Still others see this as a nudge to consider other options. Here's what you need to know on all scores, based on this week's take:

What happened?
Here's a roundup of the most useful reading I've seen about how to weather (and understand) the discontinuation of Flip video cameras, to get you started on your transition:
What next?
I did a small poll about what readers are doing about Flip camera transitioning on the don't get caught Facebook page, and readers suggested some alternatives, like the Kodak Zi8,the Canon PowerShot G11,and the Canon EOS Rebel T2i (the latter two are well beyond the typical Flip budget). But most said they wanted to wait and think through options--or were going to hang on to their Flips for the time being (about which, more below). But if this is your prompt to upgrade or change models, consider these two lists to get you started:
The case for holding
The uber-geek high-tech blogs have been full of "who needs Flip when they have a smartphone?" coverage. But lots of readers--here on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter--noted that smartphones don't work as an alternative to Flip cameras, for a lot of reasons. For me, training sessions are one such reason. I need a camera I can use in multiples, that's easy for any newbie to use in seconds and without much instruction--and it needs to be a single platform, so I can aggregate and show their videos quickly and seamlessly. Using everyone's smartphones as an alternative assumes too much: Many people don't have them, don't use them for video and means I'd be dealing with too many platforms.

Editing options also matter, as do shooting functions. Smartphones aren't great with image stabilization and I haven't seen one with an external mic jack nor a connector for a tripod, clamp or other device that would give you an extra set of arms, in effect. Don't get me wrong--a smartphone's a great go-to tool for video and photos. But it doesn't scale, even on the small scale I need. Oh, and then there's that pesky "what do I do when I'm shooting video and the phone rings?" thing. A small wish: Flip's willingness to customize camera designs or allow you to personalize them with photos or brand them with your logo was brilliant. I hope another maker picks up that option, small as it is.

As a result, you may well want to hold on to your Flips, and use this chance to get some real bargains as prices drop.  Gizmodo knows there are bargain-hunters out there and offers where to buy cheap Flips before they go extinct. As this post notes, prices will continue to drop as inventories do, so stay tuned for updates. The Mayo Clinic's Lee Aase, another Flip fan, ponders that he might buy another one, and also upgrade his iPhone to meet future video needs.

The case for changing
If you're going to use this as a chance to change, make sure you think about features you need now. The very latest Flips finally included an external mic jack (so if you're buying bargains, get the latest round); any new camera you buy must have one for better sound quality. In my earlier experiments with the Kodak Zi8, I found that its editing software automatically imported any Flip videos stored on my computer into the editing interface--a useful tool if you are making a transition, but don't want to toss that old Flip footage. A nice touch here: You can alter the Flip videos using the many editing tools included in the zi8 software, from sepia tones to black-and-white.

Still nostalgic? You can read through all my previous Flip camera posts here. Leave word in the comments, if you like, about your strategy. Look for inexpensive Flips and Flip options in the don't get caught store on Amazon, where you need only click on a Flip model to see the steep discounts in action.

Lots and lots of readers helped shape this post with shared items, comments on Twitter, poll responses on Facebook and more. I'm grateful to you all!

Related post: Cisco to kill Flip cameras and I own 4 of them: What to do now

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.

No comments: