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Gadgetell Review: Kodak Zi8 HD camcorder

Sections: Camcorders, Features, Gadgets / Other, Imaging, Reviews, Video

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What Is It?

The Kodak Zi8 is an impressive solution for someone who wants to capture priceless memories and goofy moments without busting their holiday budget. Consumers can spend less than $200 on this pocket HD camcorder and capture 1080p HD footage that’s probably better than the last camera they purchased.

What’s in the box?

The Kodak Zi8 package contains the camera, a battery, wall charger, guide, and an HDMI and A/V cord to connect to a television. The Zi8 connects to computers via the built-in USB plug stashed inside the camera’s casing. An SDHC memory card is noticeably absent, but Kodak does include a flier with a 20% discount on any accessory for people who register at Kodak.com

The Good

Image quality ranks as the most important feature when I select a camera, and the Kodak Zi8 scores highly in that category. The camera takes 5MP stills that aren’t very good, but it excels when recording video. The Zi8 features four shooting modes – 1080p, 720/60fps, 720, and WVGA – that allow videographers in the making to choose which format best suits their needs. Low light situations aren’t fantastic but video quality is passable in these instances. Overall quality is strong in reasonable lighting settings, and playback is smooth on the web and HDMI-equipped TV’s. The Zi8 complements that quality with a built-in microphone that produces surprisingly clear audio. Several of my recordings on the device were clearly audible, but users can produce even better sound with a secondary mic plugged into a microphone jack.

The Bad

The camcorder is appealing because it has a simple, idiot-proof method of producing high-quality video. However, there are a few design flaws that get in the way of that. The latch to load and remove SDHC cards feels cheap and likely to break eventually. The Zi8 also has a plastic casing that is prone to leave smudges and fingerprints covering the device.

Zooming in or out is done by pushing a knob up or down, which is unfortunate considering that the same knob starts and stops recordings. Apply too much pressure in either direction and the video will stop recording prematurely. The cherry on this sour cake is that there’s also a recording indicator that cannot be turned off. The bright red light can be distracting to your subjects and reflect off screens, mirrors, and some glass.

The Bottom Line

The Kodak Zi8 produces a great image that rivals any pocket HD camera on the market, but buyers will have to put up with some annoyances that could sway them to other camera options. The lack of flash memory requires users to purchase an SDHC card (preferably a class 6 8GB or higher card) in order to comfortably film and transfer files. That’s an additional cost that Flip Mino or Ultra users do not have to suffer. However, the Zi8′s ability to support up to a 32GB SDHC card provides up to 10 hours of recording time, provided the user has an extra battery on hand.

Someone who places an emphasis on image-quality but doesn’t like the Flip series will be wise to take a chance on this camera, especially if they plan to spend extensive time filming. While the Zi8 lacks the physical polish and cost-effective recording method of the Flip line of cameras, Kodak matches its competitors quality and can record for longer periods of time. Anyone who purchases or receives this camera for the holidays will face additional costs to maximize the experience; however, the Kodak Zi8 is strong enough for most users to overlook its flaws and love its features.

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