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Kodak PlaySport ZX3 Pocket Video Camera
Wednesday, December 15, 2010  
Kodak PLAYSPORT
If you are looking for a rugged, inexpensive, waterproof video camera that's easy to use, the KODAK PLAYSPORT might be just the ticket. Typically, we like to test out video cameras during one of our cruise assignments. However, with the PLAYSPORT we decided to try something a little different. We took this little camcorder with us on a two-week motorcycle tour through Colorado and Utah. After all, Kodak claims that the PLAYSPORT is for "adrenaline junkies."

The PLAYSPORT is what Kodak refers to as a "pocket video camera" and it falls into the same category as the Flip™ and Sony® Bloggie™ camcorders. The first thing I noticed about the PLAYSPORT was its size and shape. It feels more like a cell phone than a camcorder. The leather/rubber finish gives it an expensive feel and keeps the unit from slipping out of your hand, especially handy if you are using it to shoot underwater videos or photos.

Kodak has decided to pack the PLAYSPORT with some very extensive video capabilities. You can shoot video in your choice of the following formats:

  • 1080p: 1920 x 1080 @ 30 fps
  • 720p: 60 fps—1280 x 720 @ 60 fps
  • 720p: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps
  • WVGA: 848 x 480 @ 30 fps

You can also shoot 5.3 MP still photos with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio (interpolated).

The 1080p option is not one you would expect to find on a small, inexpensive camcorder. This format is best when shooting HD video that will be viewed on an HD television (capable of reproducing 1080p). However, 720p will deliver excellent results and is preferred for viewing on computers or mobile devices. Another unique feature is the 60 frames per second option (720p). This comes in very handy when you want to video action scenes such as sporting events. The 60fps option allows you to get smooth slow-motion during editing of your video clips.

Kodak PlaySportSETUP AND MENUS

Anyone familiar with a digital camera or camcorder should be able to pick up the PLAYSPORT and begin using it with virtually no training. That's a good thing since the documentation that comes with the unit is scant. A small (too small in my opinion) power button on the right side of the camera powers the unit on and activates the small, not-so-well-lit LCD screen. There are four function buttons for RECORD, PLAYBACK, TRASH and TOOLS. Clicking the TOOLS button displays 11 small setup icons. From here you can set the Date/Time, NTSC/PAL, brightness, volume, mic sensitivity, underwater shooting mode, LCD Glare Shield, face detection, E.I.S. (stabilization), format SD card and info.

The menus are simple and very straightforward. In addition to the four function buttons, there is a round toggle "mouse" with a left, right, up, down function and a start/stop button in the middle.

On the right-hand side of the unit is a flip-open door that reveals a USB port, mini-HDMI port and A/V mini-port. To their credit, Kodak even includes every possible cable you would ever need to take advantage of these ports. They even include the mini-HDMI cable, something camcorders five times the price often do not come with. Unfortunately, the PlaySport requires a proprietary USB cable to connect it to a computer USB port instead of a handy flip-out USB connector like on the Flip, Sony, Panasonic or even some other Kodak models. That means I have yet another USB cable to keep up with when traveling. The USB cable is a trade-off necessary to retain the waterproof integrity of the PlaySport which would make a flip-out connector unreliable.

The small, rechargeable lithium-ION battery has been the subject of much criticism on many review sites for its low battery life. In spite of this, I never found myself running out of battery life during my test. Then again, I tend to shoot very short video scenes of 10 seconds or less and I always power off the camera when I am finished. If battery life is an issue for you, you should consider purchasing a second battery to keep with you. The battery begins recharging as soon as you plug the unit into the USB connector on your computer and the power button lights up letting you know the battery is charging. When the light goes out, the unit is fully charged. Kodak even includes a very handy USB to 110 plug so you can charge the battery without a computer. Nice.

Video and photos are recorded to any standard SD or SDHC flash card. For our test, I was using an 8 GB (Class 4) Micro-SD with an SD adapter. There is also 128 megabytes of internal RAM with 20 meg reserved for recording video and photos if no SD card is installed.

VIDEO

Before you begin shooting video, you can set the video format by pressing the left (<<) arrow on the "mouse". This will overlay a menu on the screen where you can choose between the different video formats. This is a much better method than making the user go into the setup/tools menu. Once you have selected the video recording format, just press the round RECORD button in the middle of the mouse and the unit starts recording until you press the button a second time. There are audible beeps to alert you when recording starts and stops. When the PlaySport is in Pause mode, there is an HH:MM:SS readout in the upper-left corner that displays the amount of recording time available on the SD card. Once you begin recording, the readout changes to show the elapsed time MM:SS of the current clip.

The quality of the video captured by the PLAYSPORT depends on several factors. First of all, low-light video quality is abysmal and there is no LED to shed even minimal light on a subject in low-light situations. Outdoors, however, the video quality is quite good, the only limitation being the underwhelming E.I.S. (Electronic Image Stabilization). No matter how steady I tried to keep my hand, there is still a noticeable shake, even at widest angle. Part of this may be due to the location of the lens, at the very top of the camera, which creates somewhat of a fulcrum effect when shooting video. I noticed this, too, when I tried to attach the camera to my motorcycle using the tripod mount (located on the bottom of the PlaySport). There was much more vibration and shake transmitted to the PlaySport than other cameras I was testing at the time. But, in all fairness, how many people will be mounting a camera to a motorcycle?

The PLAYSPORT has a 4X digital zoom and it does allow you to zoom in and out while recording, something a lot of small camcorders do not offer.

The LCD screen could use some work. It simply is not bright enough to be easily seen in sunlight. I pretty much found myself just aiming and hoping I was getting the right shot. The sound quality that comes from the small microphone (located on the front next to the lens) is good. However, there is no electronic wind cut filter and you can get a LOT of annoying wind noise.

In spite of these shortcomings, I cannot help but believe the PLAYSPORT delivers on what it is designed to deliver. This is an inexpensive, easy-to-use camcorder for active situations. I don't think Kodak was designing the camera to shoot indoor video. This is a camcorder you take to the beach, or the pool, or when riding your snowmobile. In my case, I was able to hang it around my neck while riding my motorcycle and I did not have to worry when we rode through a little rainstorm. You can check out my sample videos below.

To get the video clips into iMovie on the Mac, I was not able to use the Capture/Import capabilities in iMovie. Instead, I had to locate the video files (the PlaySport shows up as an external hard disk drive when connected to the USB port) and copy them to my Mac first, then use the Import Files menu option.

PHOTOS

As stated earlier, The PLAYSPORT will shoot 5.3 MP still photos. Using the right (>>) arrow on the "mouse" you can select the "5MP" option and from then on, pressing the record button will snap a photo. There is no built-in flash, so indoor photos in low-light are not even worth discussing. However, as long as you have a decent amount of light, the camera takes pretty good pictures. I have included some sample photos below.

SUMMARY

This is one camera/camcorder that, the more I used it, the more I liked it. Once I got over the fact that this is not a high-end camcorder and learned its limitations, I began to really appreciate it for what it is. The KODAK PLAYSPORT is a really, really good little camcorder that would satisfy 80% of the consumer video users out there.

As for cruise enthusiasts, the KODAK PLAYSPORT will make a great travel companion. You can keep it in your pocket or around your neck throughout the cruise and it will be ready to shoot when the scene presents itself. Take the PLAYSPORT with you on your shore excursions to capture your zip-line adventure in St. Maarten or your parasailing in St. Thomas. You can even hold it underwater to shoot video of the Stingrays swimming around your legs in Grand Cayman!

For $149 retail the PLAYSPORT is a no-brainer (I saw one at Walmart today for only $129).

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

If you do not require the waterproof capabilities of the PLAYSPORT and would prefer the convenience of the flip-out USB connector, check out Kodak's other pocket camcorders, the Zi6™, Zi8™ or the new PLAYTOUCH™.


What I Like

  • Great design, comfortable in hand
  • Easy to use, great interface
  • 1080p and 720p 60fps
  • Excellent build quality, rugged
  • Exceptional video quality
  • Good still photos
  • Kodak generously includes a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable
  • Just downright fun to use
  • Ridiculously inexpensive

What I Don't Like

  • Needs better image stabilization
  • Screen hard to see in bright sun
  • Could benefit from a wind-cut filter, or re-locate the microphone
  • Standard USB cable/connector would be nice
  • Kodak made me give it back

SAMPLE VIDEO

This short video shows a few of the scenes shot with the KODAK PLAYSPORT.


Kodak Playsport HD Video Review - Pt. 1 from CruiseReport.com TV.



Kodak Playsport HD Video Review - Pt. 2 from CruiseReport.com TV.



SAMPLE PHOTOS


Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.

 
   
     
     
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2 Comments
 
SHEKU
 
Amazon Verified Purchase() This review is from: I am a Canon dirhead fan. But Canon does not have anything that compares to Kodak Playsport HD waterproof pocket video camera. At 1080P the video recording is acceptable. But, at 720p and 60 frames per second this camera rocks, the results are great. I have used it around and in water, the blue filter helps under water. I am planning to use this for our Disney World vacation this year in the Water Parks. This camera takes 5MP HD Stills, so now I have a camera that can take video and stills on demand wet or dry. I have other camera's in the same category like Flip and Samsung both do not compare, even at 720p 60 frames per second. $150.00 pricetag is also very affordable. Easy to carry, very user friendly to move files from the camera to the computer or directly to Youtube. Nigision would be nice but most of my recordings will be in Daylight. Bottom line great camera and I have no cons to talk about.
 
Thursday, May 10, 2012 8:40 PM  
 
 
BIGCLIFF
 
Nice review....I have two of these and I use them in a race car along with one other playsport and a go pro (not HD). I enjoy how simple these cameras are to use and have found them to be ultra reliable so far. I do video editing and these have been really helpful for getting video quickly and effortlessly. I may even buy two more.
 
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 7:47 AM  
 
 
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