Best Pocket Camcorders
Are you looking for the best pocket camcorder that your money can buy? Your search ends here! We'll take a look at a pocket video camera that simply is the best value for your money. So why is the Kodak Zi8 pocket video camera the best buy in the market right now? As a product aimed towards the average consumer and video enthusiast, a good pocket video camera in this category has to have good image quality, good audio, easy user interface and finally be good looking. We take a look at how the Kodak Zi8 fared on these requirements.
Design & Usability (4 out of 5)
While there are smaller camcorders than the 2.4 inch by 4.5 inch Kodak Zi8, its definitely pocket-able. The Zi8 is actually thinner when compared with the Flip Ultra HD and the looks are definitely on the stylish side. The glossy body with three color options (black, aqua & raspberry) should be able to satisfy most users style expectations. The glossy finish does retain finger prints, but those can always be wiped off easily.
The USB connector is well docked within a rubber enclosure. The chord is flexible making it easier to connect to desktops or notebooks compared to the solid connectors on the Flip. The four button interface below the display allows for easy access to recording, playback and other functions. The central joystick does require some getting used to but it is effective at its job of navigating and selecting menu functions.
Features (5 out of 5)
The Kodak Zi8 is one of the most endowed of pocket camcorders in its price range. Offering true HD recording at 1080p is one of the key advantages of the Zi8 when most other camcorders at this price range still seem to be stuck at 720p. Further, the 60fps recording at 720p is an advantage over the competing models that only record video at 30fps at 720p. The added speed allows for seamless recording of fast action events, thought its no highspeed videocamera.
The electronic image stabilization (EIS) feature on the Zi8 helps in minimizing camera shake to a small extent, though as with any camcorder in this category, steady hands and smooth pan are always good assets. The external microphone, capable of stereo recording, is a wonderful feature, given that most competitors like the Flip and Samsung come with an integrated microphone that is useless if the subject isn’t close enough.
Finally the fabulous 2.5 inch screen is highly appreciated. The Kodak Zi8 does not rely on the measly 128 Mb inbuilt memory but rather depends on external SD cards for storage. That makes the storage capacity of the Zi8 very flexible. With support up to 32 Gb cards, there is no need to run to a computer to dump your video before you can shoot more. The ability to take still images at 5.3 mp resolution is nifty and greatly appreciated. Granted, its no dSLR but it nevertheless does a decent job of capturing images.
Perfomance & Video Quality (4 out of 5)
A camera is only as good as its image quality. The Kodak Zi8 does an appreciable job of capturing full motion video. The video performance in both 720p and 1080p were good. The videos had sharpness with natural skin tones and colors without any signs of oversaturation. Audio was one of the greatest assets of the Zi8. The inbuilt mic did a decent job, though the external microphone jack did wonders! With an external mic attached, the Zi8 is a formidable opponent in the compact camcorder market.
The still image capture on the Zi8 is definitely appreciated at moments where you don't have to fumble to reach for that point & shoot in the middle of a video shoot. The absence of flash is definitely felt but images shot in well lit backgrounds are on par with basic point & shoot cameras.
The EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) helps a little in stabilizing shaky video but steady hands or a tripod would definitely be assets. Low light performance is not stellar, though decent, and one cannot expect such features at this price range. The provided video editing application is useful on the PC side of things while, on the Mac, videos are easily handled by iMovie. If you have seen footage from the Flip range of camcorders then you know what to expect from the Zi8 as the video performance is slightly better than the Flip.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
The Kodak Zi8 comes along with A/V cable, HDMI cable, wrist strap and the Arcsoft Media Impression video editing software. The replaceable and rechargable battery provides the user with continuous shooting capability if a charged spare battery is brought along during long trips.
The memory capacity is expandable to shoot as much as you want with additional SD cards (supports upto 32 Gb card giving a 5 hr recording capability at full HD resolution). All this at a price of around $113 as of May 2011! (as available on Amazon), it is not an understatement to say that the Kodak Zi8 is one of the best bangs for the buck in the pocket camcorder category.
Author's Personal Experience with the Kodak Zi8
Image Courtesy in order of Appearance