Recommend me a good, cheap newb video camera

My girlfriend and her sister want to buy their father a better video recording device than the one he currently uses to record video of my girlfriend’s sister’s kid (his grandkid) for Father’s Day.

They want to spend around $200.

He’s in his 60s, so the easier to use without being uber-geeky the better. He’s pretty tech-curious for an older fellow and was an engineer before he retired, so some amount of tech knowledge to operate/edit is ok. Not having to deal with MiniDV or such would be a huge plus though. Something USB/flash/SD/whatever based would be far better for him.

I’m not boned up much on the lower-end of the video/imaging market, so if anyone has any advice based on their own experiences, I’d appreciate it. I’ve heard pretty good things about the HD version of the Flip devices and IIRC those are right around the $200 price range… has anyone used one of those? Any good? Is there something better for a similar price?

Thanks in advance.

I purchased the Flip HD for a friend as a gift. He loves that thing.

You might want to look at the Sanyo Xactis as well.

I got a good friend a Xacti a few months ago, and it’s a great device. I got to use it quite a bit and it’s very solid, feature rich and easy to use. Content is stored on an SD card.

My problem was, I underestimated how attached my friend was to the mindless, practically magical video upload process the Flip is so famous for and she is already talking about selling the Xacti and getting a Flip instead.

Also, if your girlfriend’s father wants both still and video, consider going with one of the point-and-shoot cameras that have video. The video features of still cameras seem to be getting much better lately. Engadget had a nice roundup last week.

I have an Aiptek A-HD 720 digital camcorder, and I would not recommend it. Sure, it reviews well, and it does take decent video in good daylight conditions, but the sound quality is horrendous and the battery runs down too quickly.

It’s fine for playing around with, if you’ve got an outlet to plug it into, but if I hadn’t gotten a good deal at Circuit City (clearance price plus store closing discount) I’d feel ripped off.

Okay, I might be sold on the Flip myself, now.

http://d7.allthingsd.com/20090527/d7-tech-demo-pure-digital (via)

Before they simplified/idiot-proofed the video upload process very nicely, but this is even more impressive.

We’ve had a Flip for a year, and we absolutely love it. It is amazing. If I didn’t have one I would snatch up one of the newer, smaller, HD versions in a heartbeat. I also have a 3CCD Sony TRV-900 beast that is pro-sumer grade, and I haven’t used it once since we got the Flip.

How does the image quality compare, given that the Sony is Standard Def but 3CCD and the Flip is HD but has a tiny lens and compression? I’m asking because I know what the Sony output looks like and I’m curious how these cheap HD devices compare these days.

Arise.

It’s a few months later, any new thoughts on the Flip cam or others? I need a new camera and I’ve abandoned the idea of a good SLR for the moment. I really wanted one so I could learn to take quality pictures, but I realized that I’m more interested in having something I can pop out of my pocket at a moment’s notice.

I’d like a small camera that does stills and video, but I might settle for the Flip (even though it doesn’t do stills) because I’m hearing about how easy it is to use (uploading, etc.) and I want to shoot more video and I hate lugging around my video camera (and never doing anything with the tapes).

If anybody has any new ideas or impressions I’d appreciate it.

Thanks.

-xtien

Wired loved the Kodak Zx1 last April. It looks to be very comparable to the Flip. Other reviews I’ve read indicate that some units were shipping with a defect that causes a mild whine sound in recorded audio, in which case customers received replacement units. I’m sure that’s been remedied by now, though.

Here’s Engadget’s point-and-shoot roundup from last May.

I’ve been very happy with my Canon SD960 IS Elph camera for video use.

Pocketable like the Flips, but takes great stills (for a pocket camera) as well.

Way better lens than the pocket video cameras. Real optical zoom. 720P MP4 recording. And image-stabilization.

The Flip is about $60 cheaper. But IMHO the Canon does better video, and of course you get a very good pocket still camera too.

The new ipod nano takes video/photos comparable to a SD flip. It also has a bigger screen, is a full ipod, is thinner and lighter, and costs a bit more. But it’s not a singletasker, and that would make it a clear winner for me. If you need HD, optical zooms, etc, you’re really looking for a different class of videocam. The flip, ipod, etc, are really ideal for videotaping kids’ soccer matches, birthdays, etc for youtube, not anything more ambitious.

I really like the Xacti line. Decent video quality, expandable, basic manual controls, nice form factor. They aren’t completely fire-and-forget like the Flip cameras, but if you don’t mind, say, copying some files over USB into your editor (or directly to YouTube) or letting your editing tool just grab them, you get a lot more power. And I don’t find them that much more confusing than the Flip – not when you factor in all the power that’s there if you decide you want to take advantage of it later.