Kevin Tofel’s purchase and coverage of the Kodak Zi6 pocketable HD video cam (MSRP $180) led to an impulse buy Friday morning on the way to Disney World and in preparation for CES. I shot a couple dozen clips, about an hour of video filling maybe half an 8GB SD card (~$20), under a variety of conditions. The device was dead simple to use, as was offloading 720p video (H.264) onto a Mac using the integrated USB connector. As expected, video quality was nice in daylight and when I managed to keep my hand/arm still during shooting. Low light quality wasn’t great, although better than I expected. The associated audio recordings were also better than I expected. However, the still photo capabilities were poor – on par with a middle-of-the-pack cell phone camera. Video colors look a bit hyper-realistic and, in addition to my unsteady hand, the Zi6 seemed to introduce periodic stutters. Below is a brief clip of some birds (YouTube link) outside during the day and here’s a night recording of some SpectroMagic.
What folks really want to know, of course, is how the Kodak Zi6 stacks up against the Flip MinoHD. As I didn’t have both cameras in my possession simultaneously, I can’t do a direct comparison of video quality. I’ve read a couple of blog posts suggesting the Zi6 provides somewhat better visuals, but I imagine results are similar. However, we do know is that the Kodak currently runs about $60 cheaper than the MinoHD on Amazon. Although, some of that saved cash would be invested in a SD memory card. The Zi6 has a larger display (2.4″) than the MinoHD (1.5″), but that results in a more bulky (although, still relatively compact) unit. The Zi6 has the benefit of accepting AA batteries, and ships with a pair that can be recharged… only when removed from the camera. Compare to the MinoHD, which has a built-in rechargeable battery. You lose the ability to pick up spare batteries, but again this design decision results in a smaller device… that can be charged via USB. Where I think the Zi6 really trumps the MinoHD is by providing macro mode for close-ups (critical for geek bloggers) and by offering essentially unlimited storage via SD cards.
So, what’s my verdict? At the end of the day, both the MinoHD and Zi6 are basic recording devices. Even though they capture high def video resolutions, the optics and options are decidedly low-end. What they have going for them is their simplicity, compact size, and attractive price point – excellent for casual and spontaneous video capture. And not all that different from features found in many digital still cameras.
Update: Kodak announced the Zx1 today, the heir apparent, ahead of CES. The ‘weather resistant’ cam boasts a sleeker, smaller enclosure and bundles an HDMI-out cable.