The highs and lows of digital camcorders: Flip Video Ultra vs. Sony Handycam HDR-TG1

There's been a lot of renewed media interest of late in Pure Digital's Flip Video (aka, The Flip), the super-simple, low-res, flash-based video recorder (with flip-out USB dongle) that has taken the camcorder industry by storm in the year since it was launched.

The highs and lows of digital camcorders: Flip Video Ultra vs. Sony Handycam HDR-TG1
There's been a lot of renewed media interest of late in Pure Digital's Flip Video (aka, The Flip), the super-simple, low-res, flash-based video recorder (with flip-out USB dongle) that has taken the camcorder industry by storm in the year since it was launched. David Pogue reviewed the lastest version a couple of weeks ago, and CNET TV's Crave video featured it last week. The newest edition, the Flip Ultra, hit the streets last September and comes in 1GB ($149.99) and 2GB ($179.99) versions, which hold up to 30 and 60 minutes respectively of "high-quality" video (Pogue describes it as "not as sharp as a tape camcorder or even digital still cameras, but far superior to cell phone video" and with low-light abilities that "trump even $1,000 camcorders"). The best-selling camcorder on Amazon for at least six months now, the Flip Ultra is simplicity defined, and its success is a tribute to the YouTube generation where higher resolution isn't always better. Pogue calls the gadget's 640x480 pixels, 30 frames per second, "TV resolution" but that's only if you have a standard definition TV like my Trinitron that everyone (including the Verizon FiOS installation guy) makes fun of.

The highs and lows of digital camcorders: Flip Video Ultra vs. Sony Handycam HDR-TG1
For those of you HDTV snobs (yes, that's you, FiOS guy) out there, you'll be more interested in the other camcorder that was in the news last week: The Sony Handycam HDR-TG1, which records 1920x1080 high-def video onto MemoryStick ProDuo flash memory cards--a 4GB card is included in the whopping $900 price tag (yes, you can buy enough Flip Ultras to feed a large family for that kind of cash). Actually somewhat similar in size to the Flip (4.7x1.3x2.5 inches, vs. the Flip's 4.17x2.16x1.25 inches), the HDR-TG1's $900 will buy you HD video, Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound (albeit from a built-in zoom mic), face detection, 10x optical zoom, a 2.7-inch flip out touch-screen, and other fancy features. The Flip? Um, well, it has a 1.5-inch fixed LCD and relatively useless 2x digital zoom, but the best features (besides the flip-out USB dongle) are of course its simplicity and low price (which includes a carrying pouch--a little nicety that Sony has the audacity to charge extra for on a $900 product).

So which one of these pocketable camcorders is for me? You only have to take one gander at my 27-inch CRT setup to know.

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