We’ve seen Flip Video impostors start to roll in (anyone remember the Creative Vado?), but Kodak’s Zi6, announced last night, is the first pocket camcorder that can give Pure Digital a run for its money: it shoots 720p video at 60 frames per second, has an SDHC slot that can accommodate cards as large as 32GB, and, unlike, the Flips, it can take still images (with a dedicated Macro mode, to boot). We were one of the first outlets to get a review unit, and we’ve already taken this little (or not so little) guy for a spin. Here are our first impressions. Design Compared to the Flip Mino, the Zi6 is gigantic, but it’s comparable in size to the older Flip Ultra, which was always more than light enough to carry. But whereas the Flip Ultra looks kind of like a Fisher-Price toy, the Zi6 has the same sleek look as the MOTOZINE ZN5 Kodak Camera Phone: it has a satin black (or pink) back, a non-protruding lens, matte silver accents, and a sharp 2.4-inch display. Next to the lens is a button that pops out the built-in USB connector. The Zi6 comes with 2 rechargeable AA batteries. The interface centers around a joystick with five-way navigational pad, whose red joystick doubles as a record button. Switching between VGA, HD, HD60, and still photo mode requires pushing the joystick from side to side, which we found unintuitive. Flanking the joystick are buttons for deleting content, stopping playback, and entering/exiting playback mode. On the left side of the camera are HD and AV ports, on the bottom there’s a tripod port, and on the left side is a sliding Macro mode switch, and– here’s our favorite part– an SD/SDHC slot that can take cards as large as 32GB. Take that, Flips!Software Like the Pure Digital Flips, the Zi6 has all of its software on-board, so you install it when you plug the camcorder into your notebook’s USB port. It comes with ArcSoft MediaImpression for Kodak, which we like for several reasons. First, it automatically rotates photos and fixes red-eye. Second, it allows you to import content on the SD card that you recorded with a different device. Third, like Flip’s software, it allows you to upload directly to YouTube. One thing we don’t like is that by default it doesn’t recognize JPEGs (when you’re installing the software make sure to check the box next to JPEG when you get to the part about file formats). Video Quality The Zi6 takes shoots at VGA resolution and 720p HD at either 30 frames per second or 60. First we filmed a carousel on a sunny day, and then we filmed our favorite robot panda toy in a dimly lit room. We filmed each clip at both 30 fps and 60 fps. In both cases, the 60 frames per second looked smoother (as you can imagine), but 30 fps still looked acceptable. The 2X digital zoom is a bit jerky, but smoother than the Flip Mino’s. The sound quality was loud and lifelike in both, but in the 60 fps videos we could make out more background detail (neither was great at capturing detailed motion in the foreground). In short, 60fps is best, but 30fps is okay, too. Although we saw motion blur in both, their video is still better than what the VGA Flips have to offer. [flq:45565f8391d540c9a0767315c79e5032] Photo Quality The Zi6 takes three-megapixel still photos (the Flips still don’t do this). Although we found ourselves wishing for image stabilization, we were impressed with the color and exposure, and love the way our Macro shots came out. Take a gander: Battery Life The Zi6 comes with 2 rechargeable AA batteries. We charged the batteries so that they were three-quarters full and after just a few minutes of shooting HD video at 30fps and 60fps, we had already lost a bar of battery life. But after we turned the camera off and on again the icon showed better battery life. In any case, knowing that HD video at 60 frames per second eats up more battery life is good to know when you want to make every minute count. The Verdict I might be in love. The Zi6 is lightweight, easy to use, and takes smooth HD video and crisp Macro photos. And, of course, it holds SD cards, something the Flips don’t do. All this for $179, the same price as the Flip Mino. I think Pure Digital should be worried; it looks like Kodak has a winner.