15 October 2008 @ 14:47The Kodak Zi6, an inexpensive HD camcorder

Kodak seriously wants a piece of the pocket video camera market, and in an effort to grab some of that market, they introduced the Zi6 pocket video camera that is capable of shooting HD video.

Kodak Zi6 black

Let’s face it, up to now, Pure Digital has had virtually no competitors for their Flip line of pocket camcorders. However, things may be changing.

Kodak has one-upped the Flip by giving the Zi6 the ability to capture video in not only VGA resolution (640×480), but also 720p 30fps and 720p 60fps (1280×720 in 16:9 aspect ratio).

Physically, the Zi6 fit nicely in my hand. The weight with batteries is also just about right. When I first pulled it out the box (without batteries installed), I thought the Zi6 was going to be too light, but once the batteries were in place, it felt right.

Speaking of batteries, the Zi6 comes with two rechargeable AA batteries and a compact wall-charger. The use of AA’s means that you can find fresh power for your Zi6 just about anywhere.

The back of the Zi6 houses a nice 2.4-inch LCD a couple buttons and a “joystick” controller. I’m not wild about the joystick, but I could probably get used to it. I do think that making the zoom controlled by the joystick was a bad idea by Kodak though. Pressing the joystick UP or DOWN will almost always result in camera shake. I suggest avoiding the use of the zoom for that reason, and because it is digital instead of optical.

The front of the Zi6 has the lens, the microphone, and a button to spring out the USB connector. The lens of the Zi6 is adequate for most purposes, but I found it to be a bit long, especially for doing any indoor recording. I expected the lens to be a good bit wider. The Zi6 does not have an autofocus lens, but instead has a slide switch on the side for “Close-up” mode and “Normal” mode. The lack of autofocus has its pro’s and con’s. A cheap autofocus setup would most likely spend a lot of time “searching” for its focus. The Zi6 doesn’t have this problem. Focus in “Normal” mode can focus from 27.6 inches to infinity, and in “Close-up” mode, focus is at about 2 inches. I do like the “Close-up” mode because that is something that many camcorders are lacking. However, there is a larger gap between “Normal” and “Close-up” that will never be in focus, unless you steadily hold the focus slide switch somewhere in the middle. I would like to see Kodak provide more focus control for the Zi6.

In well lit situations, the Zi6′s video really shines with vibrant colors, nice detail, and minimal grain. However, the Zi6′s video quality suffers somewhat in lower light situations. The video starts to get grainy, and motion becomes less smooth. This is not unexpected, but the Flip seems to handle low-light situations a little bit better.

Audio on the Zi6 is recorded with a single front-facing mono microphone. I found the audio to a little bit noisy, mostly noticeable when there is very little ambient noise.

Anyone familiar with the Flip, knows that the recording time is limited by by its internal memory to one hour. The Kodak Zi6, on the other hand, uses removable SDHC cards up to 32GB and can record many hours of video.

Overall, the Kodak Zi6 is a great pocket video camera for the money, but it is not without its faults. One of the great things about a small, inexpensive video camera is that you can take it practically anywhere and not have to worry about endangering a huge investment in equipment. The Zi6 looks and feels like it will be fairly durable as well.

Buy the Kodak Zi6:
Kodak | Sears | Amazon | Amazon UK

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