Flipping over the Flip

The Flip Mino HD is the latest tiny video camera from Flip.

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.

The Lumix TZ5 is Panasonic's latest "Travel Zoom". It is the latest in a series of what have consistently been the highest rated "point-and-shoot" cameras on respected review sites.
  • 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 isĀ 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).

  • The TZ5 is a disappointing camera. It almost never gets the focus right, has a weak flash and subpar image quality. If you want to see how the TZ5 images look against the Canon SX110IS and the Fuji F45fd try this site.
    I am very disappointed with the TZ5. With firmware 1.2, it still does not focus right, weak flash and the image noise and quality is below expectations. I will be returning it.

  • I can totally understand your being disappointed with a camera that doesn’t focus properly, the linked images don’t really prove much. In the photograph you’ve cropped, the TZ5 image has different parts in focus. On top of that you’re confusing post-processing with actual sharpness.

    As I mentioned in my original post, I own a TZ-3, not a TZ-5, so I’m really basing my recommendations on reviews of the TZ-5 (such as that on dpreview). I can’t speak from personal experience, but I’d trust dpreview and cameralabs).

    On your linked page you say: “Most of the review sites I have seen use professional bright controlled lighting. While this may give more consistent results, I don’t believe it reflects the results of real world use.” This is simply not true. Cameralabs always shows a series of consistent shots with real world lighting (so does dcresource), while dpreview’s gallery always provides several examples of low-light photographs.

    In any event, I’d happily recommend almost any decent still camera in the $150-200 range over a flip.