Poor Man’s FlipCam: Sylvania DV-128

A few people have written me notes to the extent of, “I wish I could do videos, but my camera is so bad.” I usually tell them to relax, and just make sure the lighting and compression is good. The reality is that those two factors can make up for a lot if your camera is old… then I tell them to settle for a Flipcam, which is easy to use and fairly low cost.

Unfortunately, Flipcam (now owned by Cisco) has resisted providing a lower price-point, and has for years been stuck at the $150 plus level (HD versions are down to about $176, though… so splurge). Meanwhile, there are countless min-video-cam options for people with lower budgets wanting something fairly similar. But FlipCam hasn’t yet, to my knowledge, pursued the Mac strategy (as Apple did with the iPods)… innovate to maintain the higher end buyers, but produce a lower-end unit for the mass-market of $100 peeps.

Today I received a Buy.com offer for a $40 (including shipping) Sylvania DV-128 digital video camera with built in memory and an SD slot. I searched extensively for product reviews or consumer ratings, and found virtually nothing on ePinions, Google, YouTube and Amazon.com.

So I bought it, and will review it on my UncleNalts channel. If it sucks, you’ll hear about it here first. If it’s okay, then I’ll probably suggest it for the price-sensitive people… or folks that want to keep an extra camera around for backup. I expect it to be harder to use, lower picture quality, and poor sound. But at $40 shipped I’m considering it almost “disposable.” Worse case scenario I take it on a dangerous ride down the river.

Again- I like the Flipcams, but that’s because I’ve never bought one. Gotten more than my share of free ones from Google and YouTube, and it does the trick. Katie (my 9 year old) used the FlipCam for all of her 15 mini-episodes of “The Charlie Show” (see www.charlieshow.com). Certainly much better quality than the video capture that comes with some $100-$200 standard photo cameras, but the magic of FlipCam is the incredible ease of use. She chose to edit these videos in iMovie because she knew I could give her the basics. But I’ve played with the FlipCam editing software, and it’s not bad. Comes free with the device, and old cameras automatically prompt you for new firmware.

Hey, Flip cam peeps (and we know you’re reading). Happy to review the new HD one here and on my YouTube channel if you want to send one along. I got a little HD envy seeing Shaycarl’s.

Here’s the source for that Flip HD… buy it so I can make a penny on my Amazon affiliate program. Hah. Flip MinoHD Camcorder, 60 Minutes (Black)

18 Replies to “Poor Man’s FlipCam: Sylvania DV-128”

  1. I actually bought one, based on your past recommendations of FlipCams, and found it was “too poor” for what I wanted to do… took it back to Best Buy and traded up to a JVC Everio something-or-other with dual SD slots, which does the trick. It has decent zoom, good sound, a little bit of image stabilization … and is small. I think it sold for $249.

    So I’ll be curious how this Sylvania thing works out – $40 is a TERRIFIC price point, and eventually everything will be that cheap, but people should just realize they might be discontent with the limitations.

  2. I always keep my flipcam in my bag so that if I come across some random event in my daily life I can record it. I didn’t buy it… I got it free from YouTube. It works pretty good. If I was to pay for a camera that I carried with me I would go for the Canon Powershot digital camera. It’s a still shot camera, but takes a hell of a video.

  3. DahliaK- I suppose I’m not unbiased for flipcam, because at the price of “free” they have a good ROI. But I do think it’s always worth spending a bit more and getting full features. Flipcam is great for simplicity and portability but it’s still highly compressed, low on features, and the audio isn’t great. A quick pan and the video looks awkward. I usually encourage people to save up and spend at least $400 and take care of a camera…

  4. I’m having trouble commenting on this particular post. I wrote a longish comment that doesn’t seem to be showing up. My apologies if it ends up posting multiple times.

    Nalts, I wanted to ask you about video editing software. Do you know of any good video editors (say, under $100) for a PC which are good at lossless editing of AVI files? I’m currently using the very limited Windows Movie Maker and I’m losing video quality when I save the file (it converts it to WMV format). I don’t need something really fancy.

    If anybody else has any good software suggestions for me, please speak up!

  5. I thought about purchasing a Flip camera at one point, but there were a few things that really bothered my about them.

    First is the USB connection. I would be afraid of breaking something if I accidentally bump it while it was plugged into my computer. I know you can get USB extension cords, but that adds another $10 or so to the price tag.

    Second, it has such a tiny screen. It seems silly to only use about 25% of the space available on the back of the camera for the screen.

    Third, it has no slot for an SD card. With the rate memory card are increasing in capacity and decreasing in price, I’d like to be able to upgrade the memory with out replacing the whole camera.

    Those are my main gripes. Other issues include lack of image stability, a wimpy 2x optical zoom, a proprietary battery that is not user-changeable, etc. These deficiencies are not surprising in a cheap ultraportable camera though. Cost and ease-of-use should make up for them.

    The current price tag of $179 (from Amazon) makes it quite attractive especially since there aren’t too many other options in this price range. (Although if you thinking about buying the Flip camera, you should probably also check out the Aiptek A-HD+ 1080P Camcorder which is currently priced at $129 from Amazon.)

    If you are serious enough about video to need HD, like Nalts said, it is probably worth it to save up for a camera with decent features.

    I recently bought a Casio Exilim EX-FH20 for filming and photographing my gymnastics. I bought it mainly for the high video features (210 fps, 420 fps, and even 1000 fps at very low resolution) and the high speed photography features (it can take up to 40 still images at 7 MP in one second). Other important features include HD video (only 720p though), image stabilization, and 20x optical zoom. If you are interested in seeing my camera in action, you can watch a high speed video of me (re)learning a cool gymnastics skill on my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/DrAlexisOlson).

  6. Ha! Finally got it to post. I lost it a couple times and had to rewrite it.

    Argh! I keep making stupid typos in my comments. Maybe I should stop picking on Nalts so much when he makes grammatical and typographical errors in his posts.

  7. @2 Yeah the Canon Powershot is a good camera for its price. It’s what I used for video before I got my my Casio.

    It seems like many primarily still shot cameras have decent video capabilities, but almost all camcorders have poor still shot capabilities.

  8. I have an older Flip and a Sony HD cam that has served me very well for a couple of years now. The Flip is just OK, it’s great for quick easy use and the quality isn’t that great but I understand that’s not really what it’s for.

    I do think that if you are really serious about making videos the best thing to do is save up and buy a good quality HD camera and some decent editing software like Vegas or Final Cut. You won’t be sorry.

  9. I won’t buy a camera with a rolling shutter ever again. The Jello effect is an automatic “this is cheap” givaway, even if the viewer doesn’t know to look for it.

    It’s the new difference between interlaced and progressive. Progressive automatically gives off a film look, while interlaced gives a TV look.

    CMOS/rolling shutter automatically says “cheap, non-professional content.” CCD/global shutter says “one less crappy thing to notice.”

  10. @4 not much you can do for less than $100. My first editing package was Adobe Premiere Elements 2, It did a lot of the things that the Pro package does. I think they’re up to version 4 now.

  11. AVI is a container not a file format. It’s not a matter of loss, it’s a matter of compression. Are you working with DV or HDV ? MPEG is much easier, so is H.264 MPG4. I can’t imagine what you’re doing with the files that would require that your quality be much better than that. Are you filming for broadcast quality or just online video? I have to assume online video because you aren’t going to get pro-video anything for a hundred bucks.

    There are several nice low end NLE packages. Pinnnacle, Adobe, Corel amongst others. They all should allow you to export a final file in multiple modes. MPEG 2 and 4, FLV or AVI.

    When I export for YouTube I save as a H.264 MPEG 4 in 1280X720 Progressive and get really good HD quality. And YouTube doesn’t choke on it either.

    Good luck!

    Hey Peter! What file formats do you export in?

  12. @12 Thanks for the info. There is obviously a lot I don’t know about video. I am certainly not filming for broadcast quality.

    I will mostly be using standard 720p HD or 480×360 when I film at 210 fps.

    I think I might get the Corel VideoStudio Pro X2.

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