About five years ago, cell phone manufacturers decided to add cameras to the handsets, leading to impulse photographing and videos filling YouTube and gossip Websites with celebrity meltdowns, shlock, and accidental injuries. The video wasn't that great, but it was free.
Then came the Flip, a low-cost camera from Pure Digital Technologies, complete with a USB port for easy downloading, and for a while it looked as if the portable camcorder was making a comeback.
Today, Cisco (which bought PDT last year) is still hawking the tiny camcorders as an alternative to those found in Android or Apple phones, touting better video quality and resolution at around $200.
The Flip, now available in three HD models, offers more camera stability, and it can connect with your TV without cables, and film at 60 frames per second.
The Apple iPhone films at 30 frames per second and needs a $50 cable to connect to your TV, but it does offer high-resolution still photos. You can also use the iPhone to play games, text message, or videoconference with colleagues.
Camcorders can be of use to companies that aim to post videos to their Website, or share informal videos with customers, clients or employees on YouTube to highlight products or projects. While some companies may go for equipment costing thousands of dollars, cheaper alternatives like Cisco's Flip offer a quality product for a reasonable price.
For businesses that require the use of video, the Flip is extraordinarily user-friendly and provides quality video and resolution at a small price. However, video-editing software may be needed to add all the bells and whistles, like a soundtrack or any additional sound effects.
Apple's MobileMe for its iOS devices offers some video editing software, but it actually takes some time to learn how to master it (faster if you're used to a Mac), and it costs $99 a year. It lacks the ease and the plug-and-play feel of the user-friendly Flip.
If video is needed only for occasional use, then those companies that already have iPhones may find the Flip an unnecessary expense. The iPhone 4's included camera is close enough to the Flip's specifications to make the additional $200 superfluous. Both offer 720p playback and 8GB of storage (the iPhone goes up to 16GB), and can easily fit into a pants pocket.
Still, at only about $200, buying a device dedicated only to filming projects or special occasions won't break any company's bank. But unless your business really requires quality video, it may not be worth the money to buy another gadget when an iPhone could work just as well. In a recession, people, as well as machines, need to be able to multitask.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.