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Kodak Zi8 Pocket HD Camcorder Review

Updated on September 12, 2010

A traditional camcorder still does shoot the best video. The problem is that it makes you look like a tourist, even at your friend’s backyard barbeque. These days it seems everyone is shooting video with tiny do-it-all gadgets and cell phones. It will work in a pinch, however if you are more serious about your videos a pocket camcorder gives you the best of both worlds: portability and more than adequate HD quality.

Creative, Sony, and RCA have been nipping at Flip’s heels but until now there hasn’t been a competing pocket device with video quality as good and a feature set as rich; until now. Although Flip started the pocket camcorder revolution, Kodak has its sights on finishing it.

No doubt the Kodak Zi8 has more going for it in the looks department than the bulky UltraHD. The design resembles that of older Nokia phones. It is sharp in classic black, and if you find that too pedestrian, aqua or raspberry are additional options. Fingerprints are highly visible on the case so you might find yourself rubbing it down more than the average gadget. The finish is prone to scratching as well so it’s not recommended that you put it in a pocket with loose change or keys. Kodak offers an optional protective case (and remote) for an added cost.

The vivid and generously sized 2.5 inch LCD screen does the trick nicely. Four-way rocker control makes navigating much easier than it was on Kodak’s Zi6 and Zx1. Still, not all of the controls are intuitive and self-explanatory so it’s recommended to consult the manual before digging deep into the options.

At 0.85” in width, it’s over a quarter of an inch slimmer than the Flip. Kodak trimmed off some of the fat by going with a lithium ion rechargeable battery as opposed to AA NiMH rechargeables. In all other dimensions the Kodak is still slightly larger than the competing UltraHD. You won’t be able to swap batteries should they run out when your laptop isn’t anywhere in the vicinity. To make up for this, Kodak has included an AC adapter so you can recharge at anyplace with electricity.

Stickers still attached.
Stickers still attached.

Pocket cams are notorious for producing “hay ride” bumpy footage in the wrong hands. Electronic image stabilization does cut down on the possibility of shaky footage, but is still nowhere as effective as optical image stabilization. It’s hard to gripe because no portable camera offers the real deal because the technology is expensive enough to restrict it to professional models.

Video quality is comparable with offering from Flip’s HD camera. You’ll be hard-pressed to spot much of a difference unless you do an extensive side-by-side comparison. Perfectionist will note that the Flip UltraHD beats the Kodak Zi8 by a nose. In both 720p and 1080p mode the video is colourful and sharp. Especially impressive is the amazingly fluid 60fps video. Mac users may be disappointed with 1080p video as it doesn’t fare as well due to the lack of support for the bundled software.

Internal memory is capped at ten hours of HD video (20 min per 1 GB at 720p, 30fps). At the highest quality settings (1080p), anywhere from 110 to 150MB of storage will be eaten per minute. Most people will want to add a SD/SDHC card to take advantage of the expandable slot. Cards up to 32GB are supported so you can potentially store tons of videos and still images. Like most pocket camcorders, videos are encoded as QuickTime MPEG-4 MOV files.

The Zi8 has several bonus features that give it a leg up on the competition. First off, the 5-megapixel still capture mode produces great photos. You can now leave your still camera at home and take the Zi8 to the party for more options. Secondly, the built in microphone will capture some basic audio. People more than a few feet away will be tough to hear. If this doesn’t please you, it’s possible to plug in a stereo mic for better results.

Review Verdict

Flip finally has a major competitor to worry about. The Kodak Zi8 is a well-designed, highly functional HD pocket camcorder that is hard to criticise. 1080p mode is a stunner on the Zi8 which is only made better when the 60fps option is enabled. The addition of a secure digital (SD) slot provides a huge advantage as well.

One thing to consider is you’ll have to shell out more money for a SD card. Yes, it’s optional but not taking advantage of the extra storage it provides is a mistake.

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