Our team at Desktop Documentaries uses a variety of cameras. Part of what we try to express is that you can make a good documentary without all of the "Hollywood" equipment.
We are big fans of the Flip MinoHD video camera. We've used it on loud construction sites and used it to capture some pretty good fall colors. Although the Flip MinoHD is no longer in production, if you come across a good one on Amazon or elsewhere it may very well be worth the small amount of money to get some pretty big results.
Even though we like the Flip Mino, it does have significant drawbacks. But it is unfair to this camera to compare it to a professional or semi-professional camera. It's like comparing a Nissan Sentra to a Formula One race car. They are both built for different people with completely different expectations in mind.
One of the drawbacks of the Flip MinoHD is that it has some trouble with motion blur. When panning the camera or recording small moving objects, like coffee beans or falling leaves, the Flip has trouble maintaining focus on the details.
We've used this camera during the Fall leaf change and it has had mixed results. In one aspect, it captures colors well in short to mid-range shots. It did, however, have some issues when recording these colors from a distance. In one instance the vast amount of color variation resulted in pixelized colors, which was irritating.
Flip MinoHD Motion Test
The audio is not too shabby either. We've done a lot of interviews with the Flip and if you are close enough (three or four feet away) it works very well. Keep in mind, however, that it does pick up background noises. If you are in a noisy environment, try to find a more secluded place to conduct your interviews.
Like any camera, you want to work toward its strong points. In low light, this is not your go-to camera. But give it plenty of light and position yourself in the right place and the Flip can bring in some pretty nice shots. It's HD so you are getting a high quality end result. But just because it's HD doesn't mean it will perform miracles. A Formula One race car, as fast and nimble as it is, can only go so fast and turn so quick.
After some practice and learning you'll be glad that you have this little camera in your pocket when the unexpected happens. Or even if you are shooting a documentary, if you put the Flip in the right scenario, it will work for you.
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- Sarah (Sydney, Australia)
I am a professional filmmaker, and I applaud this site for detailing the ABC's of documentary filmmaking. It serves as my own checklist as I continue making my own movies ... Thanks!