Product Type: Kodak digital camcorders
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HD camcorder for £50
Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera
Member Name: cognition
Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera
Date: 05/08/10, updated on 07/08/10 (278 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, comes with HDMI cable, USB cable and pouch
Disadvantages: SDHC card a necessity because of low internal storage (128mb)
I got my first camcorder in 2007, 3 years ago. It was a mini DV camcorder, that while it would fit into your hand, was quite big and bulky and required old fashioned tapes to record onto. HD camcorders were just making their way onto the consumer market at this time, and the cheapest consumer HD camcorder was around £600 at that time, I believe. The most famous mini HD camcorder, the Flip Mino HD, hit the market November 2009. The concept of the mini HD camcorder, is that you have a small camcorder, the size of a mobile phone, that can record video in HD quality. While standard definition video material typically holds a resolution of about 704x480 or so, the lowest resolution qualified for being called HD is 1,280x720, and this is the maximum resolution supported by the Kodak Zx1.
The Kodak Zx1 is claimed to be weather resistant. Basically, it's not water proof, so won't survive being submerged in water, but it's supposed to survive splashing water and you should be able to use it in the rain or drop it in some sand without it ruining the device. While the actual enclosure seems to be made of plastic, all connector slots have a rubber cover. The buttons are also made of some sort of rubber. The camcorder is incredibly light. Must be about 100g or so. It's so light I do feel like it should be able to survive quite a few falls. My only worry is for the lens, as the glass in front of the lens is quite exposed, although that's just the way it has to be with any camcorder. However, there is no lens cover and nothing to protect the glass when the camera is not in use. It does come with a very nice carrying pouch, though, which is very soft on the inside, yet thick enough that I feel the camcorder is protected when in my pocket.
The camcorder can film in 720p HD 30 frames/second, 720p HD 60 frames/second, Standard definition and it can take still photos. The stills camera takes photos in 3Megapixels resolution and is comparable to mobile phone cameras, and I can't imagine using it for anything serious, so I will still need to bring my stills camera on vacation. There is 128mb of onboard storage, which is a joke. You'll be able to fit in about 13 seconds of HD footage. Thankfully the device supports SDHC cards, which are cheap and offer loads of storage. At the time of writing you can get a 16GB SDHC card for about £17 or 8GB for about £10. This would be enough for many hours of HD footage (approx 20 min. recording per 1 GB at HD 30 fps). There is an onboard microphone, which is somewhat low quality. When I got my Kodak Zx1, in August 2010, it came with firmware version 1.05. A firmware upgrade to 1.06 can be downloaded for free from Kodak's web site, and is installed easily by putting the files on the SDHD card and following simple instructions. This firmware upgrade is supposed to improve sound quality. If I am not mistaken, I think all it does is boost the gain a bit. The microphone does pick up a lot of noise, although I guess it is not much worse than your run of the mill mobile phone camera microphone. For any serious work I would use the Zx1 for, I would ensure to capture the sound independently and not use the sound captured by the Zx1. There is no image stabilization built into this, however, thankfully it can be attached to any standard tripod. There is a usb connector with a separate usb cable (not built into the device). When connected to the PC, the onboard storage will be available to you as if it was an external usb disc, and you can also access the SDHC card like this. The video you record with the Zx1 is automatically converted to H.264 .mov files that you can instantly play back in any decent media player (I suggest VLC) or import into any good video editing software package. Transfer speeds are fast. One must ensure to 'safely remove' or 'eject' the device from within Windows so as not to corrupt your data. Usb storage devices are vulnerable for this. The Kodak Zx1 is powered by 2 AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries, as well as a bettery charger, are included in the box. The batteries charge very slowly, the first charge taking 12 hours to complete. It can also be powered by a 5V DC adapter. This is not included. However, my Sony Playstation Portable power adapter is 5V, and this happened to work perfectly with the Kodak Zx1. Finally, there is an HDMI port, so you can connect the Zx1 to your HDTV. There is a cable included for this. I haven't yet been able to try this feature. Of course there is a small screen on the camera which both works as menu screen and view finder as well as for playback. There is also a small speaker on the Zx1. This works reasonably well, although obviously you'll need to play your footage back on your PC or TV to see all the details and to properly assess the quality of the footage.
I got this mini camcorder because I love gadgets, and I was dissappointed with the quality of the footage from my standard definition mini DV camcorder. I didn't use my mini DV camcorder as much as I thought I would, to a large part because it was big, heavy and bulky, and I was disappointed with the quality of the footage. Even with proper lighting and the camcorder on a tripod, I was never really satisfied with how things looked. The idea of a super light and portable HD camcorder is very intriguing. It is obvious the quality won't be able to compare with a big, heavy and bulky HD cam, but could it superceed my old mini DV cam? If you look on Youtube, you'll see footage from a whole bunch of people who are testing out the Kodak Zx1. These clips tend to reveal that the device has a lot of potential, while also exposing weaknesses. These run of the mill users are using the camera the way most people will, handheld in a spontaneous setting. Thing is, I am not a run of the mill user. Shaky, handheld video footage, with the camera being panned around at high speed is very unpleasent to watch, and it does expose that the camera can't quite keep up with you if you are going to make a lot of fast movements. Now, what I wanted to see was, if I use the camera sensibly, can I achieve professional looking results? Is a £50 camcorder able to produce professional looking results? In the hands of the run of the mill user: no. The visual quality will often be decent, but shaky footage is a dead giveaway. Thankfully the camera can be attached to a tripod. This is a godsend. This is your portal to decent looking quality footage. This and correct lighting conditions. You have no way to alter the camera's settings, to adjust white balance, shutter speed etc. The camera does everything automatically, and all you can do is point and click and hope for the best. I want to make a music video. I have a brick wall in the garden that during daytime is illuminated by the sun. On an overcast day, when the sun is not too strong, I have put my Zx1 on a tripod stand, pressed record and filmed the band in front of the brick wall. So the camera was 100% still. When looking back at the footage, the quality of the footage is very good. To make it look artistically more exciting, I opened the footage in the editing software Sony Vegas on my PC, and I colour corrected, to very subtly emphasize the colours I thought would best reflect the mood. I adjusted gamma correction, brightness and contrast, as well as saturation. Using these tools I made my footage look edgy and modern and very fitting for a music video, and it looks like it was filmed with a camcorder ten times the price! The main weakness now is that the footage is still. In Sony Vegas I can add smooth, gliding camera action without the quality being noticably affected. I do this by making just very subtle movements. So I now have edgy and modern looking footage with sliding steady cam movement, and for how much? £50. Fair enough, the editing software was crucial for this, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD 10 Platinum Production Suite cost me £69. Still, my verdict is, yes, this £50 camcorder can produce reasonably professional looking results, but it will be much harder than with a proper (and far more expensive) camcorder. There are limitations, but find a way around them, and this will produce brilliant results. I don't know how many people will actually attempt to be artistic with this camcorder. I am guessing it is primarily targeted at those who want to film while on vacation and such, and if you belong to the crowd who are happy to do handheld footage and are not obsessed with achiving super professional results in your editing software, you can't go wrong with the Zx1 at this price!
In my experience, this £50 HD camcorder, the size of a mobile phone, produces superior footage to my mini DV camcorder. My mini DV camcorder was better at handling movement, so it is far more difficult to get very good footage with the Zx1, but assuming you are filming outdoors it is as easy as point and click to get very good consumer video. If you put bigger demands on your footage, you will have to come up with some workarounds for the sensitivity to movement,as it's very hard not to end up with shaky footage with such a light device. I believe I have proven to myself and my friends that you can achieve impressive results with this camcorder. Because of the build quality and the price, this is a product that makes you want to bring it with you places without being afraid of smashing it. For me to be able to get the high quality footage I crave, I do need a tripod and very good lighting conditions, but the power of having a HD camcorder in your pocket at any time is immense.
Summary: The best video quality £50 can get you!
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