Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera review
The world of the digital video camera is slowly changing. Just as cheap compact digital cameras have killed 35mm in the mass market, cheap flash-memory based YouTube cameras, such as Creative’s Vado and Pure’s Flip Mino and Ultra, look set to eat into the low-end camcorder market over the next year or so.
Kodak is the latest company to wade into this segment, and it does so with a considerable flourish. Its Zi6 is not only extremely easy to use, it’s also capable of shooting in 720p (at 30 or 60fps) rather than the 640 x 480 resolution offered by the Vado, Flip and Mino.
But that’s not its only unique feature. One problem we’ve had with these pocket, mobile-phone style video cameras in the past has been the limited focal range of the fixed lens. While fine for most situations, you can’t get very close to your subject with any of the cameras we’ve tested previously. The Zi6 bucks this trend by including a macro switch on the right hand side of the device.
The screen on this Kodak is another point of difference &emdash; at 2.4in it’s considerably larger than the tiny 1.5in display on the Ultra and Mino and much easier to see exactly what you’re doing, especially when you’re right up close. And, instead of including built in a healthy dose of flash memory (there’s only 128MB), there’s an SDHC card slot; adding 4GB should be enough for around an hour of 60fps 720p footage and many more at the more YouTube-friendly 640 x 480.
Elsewhere, it’s standard pocket video camera fare. There’s an integrated USB plug that springs out of the left hand side at the touch of a button. Editing, viewing and YouTube upload software (in the shape of ArcSoft MediaImpression) resides in the camera’s memory, ready to be installed on any PC you care to connect it to. And, just like the Flip Ultra, the Zi6 is powered by a pair of AA batteries; Kodak, however, has thoughtfully included a pair of rechargeable NiMHs in the box along with a basic two-cell capacity charger.
It all sounds very impressive but all of these features don’t, alas, translate to a killer camera. The main issue is that, with this sort of device, adding HD just isn’t necessary. The detail level captured is better, inevitably, but the small lens doesn’t do it justice, while the extra resolution simply adds to the resources your PC needs to devote to playing and editing it.
The colour accuracy, too, isn’t as good as it is with the Flip Ultra, especially in low and bright lights, with footage looking yellowish and slightly unpleasant. Again, the Flip does a better job in a wider variety of light. And the larger screen also means the Zi6 is bigger and less pocketable than its rivals.
For these reasons the Flip Ultra, for us, remains the best YouTube-centric video camera around. Its colour reproduction is more natural in a wider variety of lighting conditions and we’re not convinced that the HD ability is that much of an advantage.
Add the extra bulk, the fact that you have to buy an SD card to store video, and a considerably higher price and there’s little reason to buy this Kodak over the Flip Ultra, or any of its other competitors, for that matter.
|Camcorder HD standard||720p|
|Camcorder maximum video resolution||1280 x 720|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.6MP|
|Camcorder recording format||MOV, H.264|
|Camera optical zoom range||0.0x|
|Number of sensors||1|
|Dimensions||64 x 114 x 23.5mm (WDH)|
|Camcorder internal storage type||Flash memory|
|Memory card support||SD/SDHC Card|
|Composite video output?||no|
|Component video output?||no|