Issue: 7.1 (November/December 2008)
Author: Marc Zeedar
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Article Length (in bytes): 3,726
Starting Page Number: 12
RBD Number: 7106
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IN BRIEF Product Kodak Zi6 Manufacturer Kodak, Inc. Price $179.99 USD Contact Info http://www.kodak.com/ Pros Inexpensive; simple to use; true 720p HD video (1280x720); uses standard AA batteries; bright display; uses SD cards for unlimited storage; iPhoto/iMovie compatible (no conversion required). Cons Basically no internal memory (requires SD card); takes 2 seconds to turn on; awkward on/off slider switch; awkward navigation joystick control must be pushed for record/playback; minimal features; noisy (mono) audio recording; no external microphone connector. Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.8
The new Zi6 is Kodak's take on the Flip -- a tiny digital video camera. The Zi6 is similar in form factor to the Flip, with a 2.4" screen and simple controls, but what makes the Zi6 different is that it supports true 720p high definition video.
Even better, the Zi6 can actually shoot in HD60 mode -- HD at 60 frames per second (normal is 30). This is terrific for fast action or footage you intend to play back in slow motion.
Other ways the Kodak beats the Flip is that it uses H.264 encoding and saves the movies in standard QuickTime .mov format, meaning Mac users can import and edit the video for iPhoto and iMovie without any conversion. Like the Flip, the Zi6 includes a built-in USB connection and it mounts to your Mac or PC like a hard drive, so moving movies to your computer is simple.
Another key improvement over the Flip is that the Zi6 includes an SD card slot and supports cards up to 32GB. This means you can record longer movies on the Zi6 -- with multiple cards, there is no limit to the amount of video you can record.
The Zi6 uses standard AA batteries, which is nice for easy replacement in a pinch. Kodak sells the unit with two rechargeable batteries and a charger, which is nice, though two sets of batteries would have been better since they take eight hours to charge and the thing eats batteries like mad (expect less than an hour of active use with full batteries).
Quality-wise, the Zi6 is comparable to the Flip: it does not do well in low-light, and since there is no auto-stabilization, camera motion can impart a jerkiness to handheld shots. (However, the Zi6 does include a standard tripod mount, which is ideal for extended shots.)
There are no quality adjustment controls on the camera: everything is automatic. That keeps things simple, but you can't tweak any settings to improve a bad picture. There also is no optical zoom; there's a 2x digital zoom, but using that degrades the image.
Audio is also not ideal, picking up too much ambient noise, and there is no way to connect an external microphone.
The Zi6 can take 3MP still photos. These are interpolated and the quality isn't as good as a regular still camera, but for outdoor shots they aren't too bad.
Of course these quality issues are not the point of this camera: it is designed to be simple, inexpensive, quick, and portable, ideal for kids or casual home movies. It's a great way to quickly get HD video into your computer and much easier to use than a camcorder.
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