Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera - Reviewed

Written by Kevin Cheng on . Posted in Video

Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video CameraThe Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera is the latest gadget to hit the desk at DigitalReviews Network.  First introduced at CES 2009, the Zx1 has definitely captured its fair share of tech world attention.  The Kodak Zx1 is a Pocket Video Camera offering video recording at 720p in an extremely portable chassis.  With thanks to Kodak and Icon International Communications, DigitalReviews gets to test out the Zx1 come sun, rain, hail and gale in some extremely variable Hobart conditions.

First Impressions

In the hand the Zx1 feels sturdy, solid and well built.  The body is constructed from a combination of brushed metal, rubber and tough plastic.  All components are tightly fit together and the unit is designed to be weatherproof but is not waterproof.  Size wise the Zx1 is a little smaller than an iPhone width and length wise, but at roughly twice the thickness.  The weight and sturdiness in hand is a great comfort for those looking to take it to a bit more extreme adventures than just a walk in the park.

The face of the Kodak Zx1 sports four buttons plus incorporating a directional pad and a record button in the center.  The power button is placed separately on the top left side of the unit.  Still on the left side of the unit there is a HDMI, A/V output and DC In 5V port under fairly tight rubber seal.  On the right side of the unit is a SD/SDHC slot also under a tightly fitted rubber flap.
Kodak Zx1 backThe display is a 2.0 inch LCD which is just large enough for video capture and a quick review, but it is hardly enough real estate to truly review the Zx1's 720p capability.  For best effect one would need to upload the videos to a computer or view them on a television screen.  Under direct sunlight the LCD was difficult to view but one could line up the scene with some effort.  Reviewing the quality was much more of a challenge though.

In Action

The layout of the controls is designed for one handed use.  The Zx1 fits nicely into the palm and the primary buttons are all easily controlled by the thumb.  The device has pleasing aesthetics, all clean and ultra modern but is it intuitive to work?  Turning on the unit was a no-brainer and the recording button is unmissable.  It didn't take long to figure out the up and down keys on the D-pad works the zoom which takes care of all the necessary functions for recording videos.

By pressing the left and right keys on the D-pad in standby mode changes the recording mode from HD (default), HD60, VGA resolutions or photo.

The review button is simply the "Play" symbol on the controls to bring up review mode.  The left and right buttons on the D-pad to scroll through the recorded videos and the center (record) button plays the video.  There is some internal memory, but when the SDHC card slot is in use, data on the internal memory will not show up.

Deleting a video is the top left button which vaguely resembles a bin.  To delete a recorded video actually is not by selecting the prominent red "X" but by selecting the video with the checkmark on it instead.  Counter-intuitive but not impossible to learn once you figure out a few times that the red "X" does not achieve the aim you imagine it to.

HD60 Video stillThe Zx1 has a 4.1mm f/2.8 lens with a fixed focal range of 0.7m (27.6") to infinity.  The fixed focal range completely rules out macro photography but results in a much easier process where you can pick up the camera and shoot video without fiddling around with controls.  Zoom is a paltry 2x digital affair but considering the lens, a casual video shooter would be a few meters away from the action which is well within the optimal parameter for the Zx1.

Playback

Recorded media can be copied from the Zx1 either via the provided USB cable which is a must for the internal memory, or via an appropriate card reader from the external memory card.

Considering the market and price of the Kodak Zx1, the videos that were captured can be considered to be of good quality when shot under bright daylight conditions.  The details and lines are sharp at 720p 60 fps setting and progressively reduce as the quality is adjusted downwards.  VGA mode results in average details but at a web friendly size.

Playback speed on the Zx1 can be controlled with either fast forward or slow motion which can be very handy on the fly.

The Zx1 is a pocket video camera and like most video cameras it has a secondary, weaker capability as a digital camera.  In optimal conditions it can take reasonable photos on par with a mid-range camera phone at 1.6 Mp with interpolation boosting it to 3 Mp.

Other Features

There is no manual control to the Kodak Zx1.  In settings mode you can change the date and time, mute all sounds and chose either NTSC or PAL mode.  One very nice feature is the use of 2 x AA batteries which means you can always find a way to keep the Zx1 ready for that Kodak moment.  Lastly for those who feel the need, the battery cover can be changed to other designer covers.

Specifications
Still camera capture

Dimensions: 50.1 × 107 × 20 mm (2.0 × 4.2 × 0.8 in.)

Weight: 90 g (3.2 oz) without batteries

Sensor type: 1 / 4.5–type 1.6 MP CMOS

Lens: 4.1 mm, f/2.8, fixed focus

Zoom: 2X digital

Display: 2.0 in. LCD

Storage: 128 MB internal memory, SD/SDHC card expansion slot

Focus system: fixed

Focus modes: normal

Focus range: 70 cm (27.6 in.) – infinity

White balance: auto

Video capture: H.264 (MOV), AAC LC

Video quality: HD60: 720p at 60 fps—16:9, HD: 720p at 30 fps—16:9 (default), VGA: 640 × 480—4:3

Still format: JPEG

Picture quality: 3 MP (stills, interpolated)

Playback mode: FF & REW: 2X, 4X, 8X, 16X, slow motion FF & REW: 1/2X, 1/4X, 1/8X, 1/16X

Microphone: mono

Speaker: yes

I/O interface: USB 2.0 (high speed); HDMI output; AV output; DC in; SD/SDHC card slot

Tripod mount: 1/4 in. standard

Power: Kodak Li-Ion Rechargeable Digital Camera Battery KLIC-8000; Kodak Lithium Digital Camera Battery CRV3; (2) Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries; (2) Alkaline Batteries; DC-in for 5 V AC Adapter

System requirements: Windows XP SP2 or higher, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher; MacOSX 10.4 or higher, Safari 1.1 or higher

Package Contents

* Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera

* (2) AA Pre-Charged Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries

* Battery charger

* HDMI, AV, and USB cables

* Wrist strap

* Camera pouch

* Designer cover

* User Guide

* On-camera software: Arcsoft Media Impression Software for Kodak (PC only)

Gripes
Thickness compared with iPhoneThere are a few gripes in regards to the Kodak Zx1.  A steady hand would assist the Zx1 in capturing good videos greatly.  I found the Zx1 had lag issues with some types of scenes but I was not able to pin it down accurately.  Panning speed can greatly affect jarring or stuttering effects in the capture video.  The speed that you can pan at is also affected by the amount of light available to the CMOS sensor.  I had some stuttering issues in bright morning sun driving down the road at 50 kph.

The play back of a video with zoom has some popping sounds which can be quite noticeable.

Lastly I had some recurring issues convincing the Kodak Zx1 to power on when I had a memory card in the slot.  It could be because of the age of my SD card, but it did require me to pull the battery out a few times to turn it off.  Interestingly enough it appears the unit is partly powered on as you can see a faint image on the screen but no button responds including the power button.

Conclusions

I finished testing the Kodak Zx1 with mixed feelings.  First of all one must bear in mind that this is a budget pocket video camera in the sub-USD$200 bracket, it would be unfair to compare the quality to something many times the price.

What the Kodak Zx1 presents, is a compact, mostly easy to use, weather-resistant pocket video camera that is capable of decent quality videos and half decent low quality photos.  The design is pleasing and whilst will not set the fashion world on fire, is also not going to go out of style anytime soon either.  For the purpose and market it is designed for, predominantly the youth market looking for a quick solution to capture the action which will not cost the earth, it is a very competent performer.

The Kodak Zx1 pocket video camera is available now for USD$150 or RRP AUD$299.

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