Despite the extra size, Kodak’s Zi8 easily fits most pockets without contributing too much unsightly gadget bulge. It fires up in about a second, but you’ll need to select a shooting mode prior to actually getting rolling. A simple click of the center directional button does the trick, and it remembers whichever mode you were in last time.
Although the controls make sense right out of the box, the center joystick can seem a little finicky before you get used to it. We accidentally recorded a few three second videos before getting used to the pressure needed to make it click sideways instead of down, which initiates recording. Camera mode, review mode, settings and delete all have dedicated buttons beside the directional panel, making the most frequently used options easy to select in a hurry.
Unlike the stiff, switchblade-style USB arms on many competing cameras, which can make it difficult to connect the camera in a crowded row of USB ports, the Zi8 uses flexible rubber arm, which easily bends to accommodate obstructions and feels less fragile. However, we prefer Flip’s ultra-intuitive software to Kodak’s bundled ArcSoft MediaImpression for downloading, organizing and editing clips.
Kodak’s Zi6 took a very close second to Flip’s HD offerings in our mini HD roundup, and the Zi8 proves to be just the boost needed to put it at number one. Shooting in both 1080p and 720p mode, the Zi8 captures colorful, sharp and fluid (especially at 60 fps) video that’s among the best we’ve seen at this price level.
The biggest strike against camcorders in this size class has traditionally been camera shake. Without much mass, these mini HD cams typically jerk around with ease, producing nauseatingly shaky footage in the wrong hands. Kodak has attempted to combat the problem with electronic image stabilization. Although nowhere nearly as effective as optical image stabilization (which no one offers in this size yet), it does help take the edge off the occasional bump or stumble. Even so, it won’t salvage truly bad camerawork the way a $1,200 camcorder will, and wise owners will quickly learn to stand still, pan slowly, and walk with the grace of ballerinas.
We had our pick of the litter when it came to mini HD camcorders to use for shooting our on-the-run coverage of CES 2010, but we walked the halls with Kodak’s Zi8 at the ready. A combination of superior video quality, features and a reasonable price make the Zi8 a clear standout from the competition, even if its looks lag a bit behind some of the super-sleek and customizable cameras from Cisco’s Flip brand.
- True 1080p video resolution
- Superior image quality
- Electronic image stabilization (EIS)
- External microphone input
- Accepts inexpensive SD cards up to 32GB
- Easy to use
- Flexible built-in USB arm
- Larger than competitors
- EIS can’t smooth all jitters
- Lukewarm ArcSoft software package