What the heck is it with Mac-oriented folks and the Flip video camera? OK, it’s simple. I grant you that. But, guess what, it’s Yet Another Freaking Thing to carry around and it’s not very good at what it does. While having just one button is pretty nice, there’s the whole 4s power on. Here’s a very simple alternative — the Panasonic Lumix TZ-5. You’ll need to learn to change its shooting mode to video (complicated I know) but its rather slow (by cameras-that-don’t-suck standards) 2.5s power-to-record time gives you 1.5s to find it before a Flip will be good to go.
- Price: you can get a TZ5 for $220; the Flip Mini HD is $229. You’ll need to pay a few extra bucks for SD cards for your TZ5; the Flip has 4GB of internal memory and an internal LIon battery.
- HD Video: both shoot 1280×720; the TZ5 shoots motion JPEG, so you can import straight into iMovie while you need to convert Flip’s “PureVideo”. On the other hand, MJPEG files are bigger and there’s a limit to the length of videos, but unless you’re trying to reshoot “Rope” you should be OK.
- Quality: the TZ5 has a tiny 1/2.33″ CCD; the Flip Mino HD has a tinier 1/4.5″ CCD. To my eye the TZ5 video I’ve seen looks significantly better than the Flip Mino HD video I’ve seen even though the Flip Mino HD video is being shown at 50% scale.
- Audio Quality: neither is brilliant, but the Flip’s microphone at least points forward.
- Lens: the TZ5 has an f3.3-3.5 28-200mm (35mm equivalent) Leica-branded zoom lens. The Flip has a fixed focus F2.4 lens with 2x optical zoom.
- Dimensions: the TZ5 is 103.3 x 59.3 x 36.5 mm and weighs 214g. (It’s made of metal.) The Flip is 100 x 50 x 16 mm and weighs 93g. (It’s made of plastic.)
- Other notes: oh, the TZ5 can take very good still pictures, has a built-in Flash,
Summary: the Panasonic wins in every category except (arguably) price, audio quality (maybe), and (unarguably) size and weight (it’s twice as thick and weighs twice as much). Notably, it’s actually Mac compatible, it’s a very good still camera (basically the highest-rated “point and shoot” around) and, as a bonus, a more useful video camera than the Flip (which is useless for anything requiring a telephoto lens, such as a sporting match or a recital).
So, enough about the Flip already. If I’m going to carry Yet Another Freaking Thing (aside from my iPhone) it will be a TZ5 (actually, I have a TZ3, but the TZ5 is the current version).