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Flip UltraHD vs Kodak Zi8: Pocket HD Camcorder Smackdown

Updated on September 12, 2010

Flip is indisputably the pioneer that made pocket camcorder technology popular. Competitors such as Sony, Creative and RCA tried to top the video quality and features of the Flip but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile the camera giant Kodak has been improving pocket cams successively with offerings such as the Zi6 and Zx1.

The moment of truth is upon us. Kodak has now released a Flip killer with the potential to take the UltraHD off its throne. It is the Zi8, naturally. These two cameras are competing neck and neck in today’s marketplace, each boasting unique features plus pros and cons. The winner depends on your tastes and priorities. So let’s get to it, and take a look at the scorecard.

Form Factor and Design

The UltraHD has been heavily criticized for its thick profile. Flip decided to go with AA NiMH rechargeables this time instead of an internal battery, so a roomier case was necessary. As a result the UltraHD is 0.30” thicker than the Zi8. That might not seem like much, but for a product that is meant to easily fit in your pocket it makes a considerable difference. Curiously, the Zi8 is a touch bigger on all dimensions besides depth.

Putting overall attractiveness into the equation, the Kodak comes out on top by a wide margin. The large tactile controls on the UltraHD are nice, especially with that big red record button, but such minor luxuries can’t dig it out of the whole created by its bulky casing.

Result: Kodak Zi8 wins

LCD Display

Both devices have high-quality displays that are crisp and colourful. With a 2.5” screen, the Kodak has 0.5” more real estate to play with. At this size that extra bit makes a difference.

Result: Kodak Zi8 wins

Flip UltraHD.
Flip UltraHD.

Video Quality

At first glance the Flip UltraHD appears to be beat on this front. It goes up to a maximum of 720p, while the Kodak reaches 1080p. Resolution specs can be deceiving as the performance bottleneck is at the lens. The resolution may be higher on the Kodak but the quality of the picture on an HDTV isn’t substantially different.

Sharp details are more pronounced on the UltraHD. When comparing footage of a horse race, textures such as the muddy ground looked bit better on the Flip. The lenses used by Kodak tend to smooth out textures. The effect is flattering in people shots so in a way it’s a matter of taste.

One advantage of the Kodak is the more fluid movement. Quality settings go up to 30fps and this time the jump in spec makes a difference. Here the UltraHD falls short, at least on Windows computers. Kodak’s propitiatory software doesn’t work on the Mac and in this case doesn’t result in smoother video.

Result: Flip UltraHD wins

Kodak Zi8.
Kodak Zi8.

Storage Capacity

In terms of storage the Zi8 crushes the Flip. The UltraHD’s 2 hour capacity is more than adequate but is dwarfed by the Kodak’s ability to store 10 hours of HD video. On top of that, the Kodak has a SD card slot so you can potentially add up to 32GB of storage.

Result: Kodak Zi8 wins

Battery Technology

Although an internal Li-Ion rechargeable battery allows for better form factor, it doesn’t come without its disadvantages. If you run out of power during a camping trip with the Kodak for example, you’re out of luck. The included AC adapter allows you to recharge it without a computer. Realistically though, you’ll probably leave it behind in situations where you most need it. Nobody is going tote around a wall wart, right?

Flip’s UltraHD can make use of any AA batteries: rechargeable or not. It opens up a lot of possibilities, such as carry a spare set of rechargables or grabbing alkaline batteries at the local store in a pinch.

Result: Flip UltraHD wins

The Verdict

Both the UltraHD and Kodak Zi8 are great cameras. Mainly it comes down whether you want something sexy or a something practical. The quality of the picture is slightly better on the UltraHD, however the difference is so minor that it shouldn’t influence your decision (unless you have a Mac).

The Kodak is the sexier choice. The payoff is that you need to have either the AC adapter or a laptop around when it dies. With the Flip more power options are available making it a good travel camera.


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