Gadgetell Video Review: Kodak Zi6 HD camcorder

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Gadgetell Quick Review

Pros: Small form factor, does HD video capture. Macro mode is welcome for close up shots.
Cons: Low light performance is not great. No lens cover.
The Crux: If you’re looking to shoot a couple of things really quickly and want it in HD, this is a terrific device. It’s not going to replace a real HD camcorder, but is very good for a pocket HD cam.

There are plenty of pocketable camcorders these days. The Zi6 is Kodak’s entry into the field. Kodak has previously built in HD video capabilities into some of its point and shoot cameras. The Zi6 shoots in 720P HD video at either 30 or 60 frames per second. It also shoots in VGA mode and shoots still pics

Out of the box

The Zi6 has a removable sticker that has the words “HD” and “YouTube” on it. That’s kind of a strange combination of words since YouTube is not really known for HD videos.

The package comes with rechargeable batteries and a small charger. You can’t recharge the batteries using USB. The batteries are a standard AA size, so you can switch in alkaline batteries in a pinch.

The camera hardware

The actual camera has a few buttons that allow you to delete or review your pics and vids. Reading the manual will let you in on a couple of tricks that let you choose the frame rate and more.

Grab an SD card

While the Zi6 has built-in memory, it can only hold a minute or two of HD video. Thankfully, the Zi6’s SD card slot supports SDHC cards so you can pack in hours of recording onto a card. You will have to pick up a SD card since Kodak does not include one. Video is saved in the mp4 format.

The viewfinder

The Zi6’s viewfinder is an LCD about the same size as an iPod Classic’s screen. The size makes it easy to frame your shots and watch back footage you’ve taken. You won’t be able to watch your videos back in HD on that screen, but you will be able to watch your videos comfortably. You can even watch your footage in slow motion if you’d like.

Smart design

The microphone is in a smart location. If you’re a righty or lefty, you will probably never cover it up when using the device. The form factor works well. Other devices I have tested are designed poorly and allow for blocking of lenses or microphones if you are not careful. If you are used to using an iPod or Zune or any other mp3 player, the Zi6 will feel very natural to you.

The Zi6 also has plenty of connections with the built in USB connector a video out port that can display 720P via the included component cable.
Kodak even threw in a tripod socket so you can attach the device to a tripod. When you’d do this with this kind of camera, I’m not sure, but it’s better to have it than not.

Video Quality:

When compared to a full-fledged HD camcorder like the Canon HF100, the Kodak Zi6 is outclassed. However, the video quality out of the Zi6 is fine for those who are looking for a quick and easy way to grab HD footage of something.

Shooting video

The zoom is digital, so if you want better quality video, just don’t use it at all. The microphone only records mono sound which is a shame. Since this is a budget camera, there is no image stabilization.
There is a hard switch that lets you pick between normal and close up mode. This is a great feature when you want to get very close to a subject or show fine details.

Since the Zi6 does not have any image stabilization, video quality can be affected by how steady your hand is. Remember, if you plan on showing people shaky video on a large screen, prepare for people to get motion sickness (anyone remember the movie “Cloverfield?”). If you do have a steady hand, then you can get some decent video out of this camera.

The low light performance is better than other budget HD cameras I’ve played with.

Different frame rates and modes

Playing with the different frame rates was very interesting. The Kodak Zi6 has the ability to shoot in 30fps or 60fps while in HD mode. You’ll really notice the difference if your subject is well lit.

When comparing the HD30 and HD60 modes in lowlight, I didn’t notice that much of a difference in the quality of footage. When comparing the two modes in sunlight, the HD60 mode is much smoother

The camera can also shoot in VGA 640 x 480. The VGA performance is fine, but this camera is really about HD.

Video Samples

You can see the video samples in HD by clicking the “HD” button on the video. Clicking the button will take you to Kodak Zi6 HD60 in sunlight from on Vimeo.
Download this video sample: [Quicktime MOV file] Kodak Zi6 HD30 in sunlight from on Vimeo.
Download this video sample: [Quicktime MOV file]

Wrap up

This is a great little camera for under $200. If you are looking for a pocketable HD camcorder, you should seriously consider the Kodak Zi6.

Product page [Kodak Zi6]

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