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Ultra HD is the best Flip camcorder, even if it’s for moms

Flip UltraHD video camcorderGo out with a bang, as they say.  Pure Digital’s last camcorder as an independent company before its imminent acquisition by Cisco is the revamped Ultra, available in SD and HD versions for $149 and $199. The new Ultra includes several significant advances over the previous generation, including a rechargeable lithium battery in the box (although it can still run on alkalines) and two long-awaited improvements – a bigger (2”) screen and longer recording capacity of two hours. The HD version also has an HDMI output port, although no HDMI cable is included.

The Ultra definitely feels brick-like compared to the diminutive Flip mino, but I think the additional flexibility is worth it. (The waterproof case for the old Ultra doesn’t work with it due to changed button placements; Pure Digital is planning a revised one.) The Flip’s limited recording capacity had really caused problems for me in the past, so I’m pleased to see it expand even though there’s no memory card slot, which is nice insurance in the event that the camcorder itself ceases to function (as my MinoHD did). I’ve used a Kodak Zi6, but the tendency for its arm to swing out is an annoying design flaw. I am looking forward to the svelte new RCA Small Wonder that Audiovox showed at CES, which trades in a pop-out USB arm for a microSD slot.

Pure Digital is now aiming the Ultra at its traditional audience of moms while positioning the mino toward the YouTube uploaders and that’s well-reflected in the design of the products. However, I remain skeptical that, with the possible exception of “extreme” helmet cams and , there will be much pickup for these inexpensive camcorders among younger consumers, who are comfortable using their digital cameras and phones to upload video. And in the case of cell phones, uploading wirelessly to YouTube will clearly be something more common in the future. So much of YouTube content is around the spontaneous capture, which means the spoils go to the camcorder you always have with you.

I’ll have more to say about competition to the Flip elsewhere, but Erica Ogg quotes me in a great post that includes an interview with Pure Digital CEO Jonathan Kaplan  in which he makes the bold proclamation, "The way Apple has revolutionized music, we will revolutionize video." Let’s start with FlipShare importing and transcoding the dizzying number of file formats out there.