|The Flip Mino HD is "the least complicated video camera ever produced in the 55-year history of video," says Mag Ruffman.
Seven-year-old Max Geissbuhler and his dad Luke, of Brooklyn, sent a tiny high-definition camera into space attached to a weather balloon. The camera recorded dazzling views all the way into the upper atmosphere, 19 miles above the earthís surface.
Then the balloon burst, the camera deployed a parachute and dropped back to earth still recording.
Max and Luke made their great space adventure into a 6-minute movie, which you can watch online by searching "father and son send camera into space."
I know what youíre thinking: If an HD camera can survive temperatures of -60 F in 100 mph winds, then you could probably send one down the toilet drain to find that missing wedding ring.
And when you think of all the awkward places you need access to Ė underneath the car to see how loose the muffler is; down the chimney to find out where the squirrel is living; into the septic chamber to see if itís time for a pump-out; behind the fridge to see what died back there Ė youíll probably admit that a tiny, uncomplicated video camera would save you time, trouble and the cash youíd have to pay a relative to do the looking for you.
For the past few months Iíve been testing the class of video camera those Brooklyn boys sent into space. The Flip Mino HD is tiny, lightweight and durable. And itís the least complicated video camera ever produced in the 55-year history of video.
For example, it has just one button. One big, obvious red button to start and stop recording.
There are no focus problems (it has a fixed lens), no white balance or iris settings (it automatically adjusts to any lighting conditions, from concert halls to full sun to candlelight). And itís small enough (2Ē x 4Ē x 5/8Ē) to carry in your pocket, purse or bra.
Iíve tested the Flip Mino HD in wind and rain, on construction sites, at sea, in sawdust-y workshops and in dark crawlspaces. It performs beautifully, even duct-taped to a long pole and shoved down a well. Itís resilient, reliable, produces crisp high-definition images and stores up to 2 hours of footage before you have to upload the contents to a computer.
As soon as you plug the Flip into a USB port on your computer, the camera automatically loads onboard editing software, dubbed Flipshare, which is insanely easy to use. It allows you to quickly create movies, greeting cards and e-mail messages or upload your shots directly to YouTube.
Flipshare software works with either Mac or PC and is simple enough for anyone to figure out.
Whether you want to record weddings, house hunting, plumbing configurations, physio exercises or highlights of your genealogical chart (you can snag any frame of the footage to create still photos), your Flip Mino HD makes a comely and compact video assistant.
Itís important to have a steady hand because the camera is so light, so use a tripod when shooting wide shots to minimize shake. The camera has a modest digital zoom if you need to get in a little closer.
You can screen your footage on your TV using the Flipís HDMI port (cable not included).
The Flip Mino doesnít do well with close-up photography Ė its closest focus is about 5 feet Ė so it wonít work for making a record of your mycology slides.
It would be really fun if the Flip had Wi-Fi connectivity so clips could be uploaded directly to Facebook or Twitter, but perhaps that feature is in development.
Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at ToolGirl.com.