Kodak Zi6 HD Video Cam Hands On

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.

7 thoughts on “Kodak Zi6 HD Video Cam Hands On”

  1. I did shoot better daylight video, where I manage to hold the camera still. But it’s probably not cool to post clips of my niece and nephew on YouTube.

    Forgot to mention that the Zi6 isn’t nearly as sexy as the MinoHD’s form and glowing, touch sensitive buttons. Also, the Zi6 display gives no indication of how much storage or recording time remains on your SD card – which is my biggest nit, beyond the stutters.

    Overall the cam is pretty cool for what it does. But I’d rather just upgrade my digital still camera over the next few months… Samsung and Panasonic already make decent pocketable cams (under $300) that also do HD video and I assume Canon will announce similar this week. Given the stuttering and non-USB charging, I may just return this tomorrow. I’ll sleep on it.

  2. “At the end of the day, both the MinoHD and Zi6 are basic recording devices.”

    Completely agree. These aren’t meant to compare to an $800 HD video camera. For high quality content, those will clearly perform better. But for a pocketable, drop-dead simple device at this price, I think these provide a good value.

  3. jon, I rode (saw?) Soarin’ a few years back at EPCOT. Really enjoyed it. This was a just day trip to the Magic Kingdom, primarily for the little ones, and there wasn’t much interesting for me. I’m more of a Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, or even Sea World, patron these days… having OD-ed on Disney when I was younger.

  4. My Zi6 story has concluded. I swung by Radio Shack to see about maybe picking up a higher speed SD card to possibly reduce the stutters or exchange the camera (which had been a floor model). The manager said it was an issue with my computer… which is a brand new, sufficiently powered machine and despite seeing the same effects using the camera’s component video out to my plasma. He wanted me to return it. Whatever, I’ve got a lot of CES prep to take care of and, instead of wasting time debating it, I accepted his strange offer. So it’ll be another year of low-res, shaky CES video from my Panasonic digital still camera.

    (Related, I don’t like returning gear. It’s bad for the retailer, it’s bad for the manufacturer, and it drives all prices up. Bring on the restocking fees, I say, and limit return windows and reasons. For it to work, we’d need a coalition of retailers to agree otherwise a more liberal policy will become an advertising angle.)

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