Hands On With Kodak’s Zi6 Pocket HD Camcorder

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.

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  1. Davyo Says:

    As an owner of two Flip Ultras and one RCA Small Wonder EZ200 (the RCA EZ200 sucks) these companys better get on the ball really really fast and put something out that will be even able to compete with the new Kodak Vi6.
    The Kodak is going to blow them all away !!!!!!!!!
    Cheers
    Davyo

  2. Wayne Says:

    Could you post a link to the native video files in 720p60, to get a better idea of quality than the QT version?

    Also, what data rate does it use for the 720p60?

    Thanks.

  3. Thunder Pig Says:

    I can’t wait for this camera to come out. The only feature that I would like to see Kodak add is the ability to use it as a webcam for those of us who are into webstreaming. Most webcams are terrible at streaming video from auditoriums and political events.

  4. Davyo Says:

    Ok, forget my comments I made here on July 15th saying the Zi6 was guna be a great camera,,, time for me to eat my words,,,,,,.
    I ended up getting the Zi6 from Kodak and after one day and night with it I put it back in the box and sent it back to Kodak for a refund, The lack of ANY image stabilization at all and the very very poor low light performance was beyond bad and I found the day light performance not that much better than my Flip Mino, Ultra or my Aiptek A-HD.
    I posted 2 video reviews of the Zi6 on Youtube and also on Vimeo.
    In one of my reviews I shot and posted the exact same comaparison footage from the Zi6, the Flip Mino and the Flip Ultra and the differenc in image quality is night and day, and not in favor of the Zi6.
    When watching ALL the other post of test footage from the Zi6 you might notice that its all footage shot outside in perfect lighting with the Zi6 not being moved hardly at all,,,, there is a reason for this,, its called really really bad motion blur.
    To find my reviews and see the comparison footage I shot just do a search for “Davyo” on Youtube or Vimeo and see for yourself.
    Cheers
    Davyo

  5. johnny0 Says:

    Just got mine — the video quality is stunning when hooked up to an HDTV. It’s just gorgeous. Excellent on the laptop too, mind you.

    But HD playback gives you a battery warning within 10 minutes and there’s no external power source (yet?) However, the battery meter jumps back up when you’re finished…

    Low-light recording is so-so. I didn’t have nearly as much trouble with blur as others. Much happier with this than my Flip.

    This would make a fantastic webcam with an external power source.

  6. James Pardon Says:

    I’ve not been overly imprssed with my zi6. I got it for Christmas and put in the ‘pre-charged’ batteries and only managed 5-6 minutes on HD mode. When i fully charge them I get about 40 minutes out of the camera, which when you’ve bought a 16gb card hoping to record over an hour is a bit of a shame.

    I’m not sure if it’s just mine, and I’d love to know if anyone else has this problem, but AA Alkaline batteries are a no no, I’ve managed 9 minutes as my maximum before the device turns itself off with a low battery warning. Turn it back on however and it shows full battery!? The same goes with NIMH rechargeable’s, you get much longer recording until the battery shows dead, but turn it back on and it’ll say 3/4 full, it’s a shame because you should be able to record a lot more. My brothers flipcam doesn’t have these issues :(

    The quality of the video is great though.

  7. Petrov Says:

    I just got one – and using two brand new AA alkaline batteries lasted me about 25-30 mins recording in HD/HD60. I was surprised how short this was!

  8. Diokan Says:

    Re: James Pardon – I’ve found the same problem with mine as well. Alkaline performance is really short. Same experience with the batteries showing ‘ok’ after turning it off and then back on again, but then during record it suddenly shows they’re about out and it shuts off. I’ve checked the batteries with a multmeter and they appear to be fine….it’s odd. It’s almost like once it gets to a level below 95%, it cuts off. I’ve finally fully charged up the Ni MH batteries and I’m using them now. Hope they last longer…..

  9. Helen Motta Says:

    Please let readers know that the Zi6 flip out USB does not work with some desktops because of the arrangement of the USB ports. The only way to plug it into my Dell Dimension would be to unplug the monitor. Kodak is aware of this problem because they sell a USB -USB cable for “hard to reach” USB ports. This cable sells for 9.99 + 6.50 shipping and handling online only. I have not been able to find a local vendor who stocks this product, although Kodak says that they do.

  10. D Ervin Says:

    I like the camera but, I’m having a horrible time getting the video to DVD… Any suggestions?

  11. bobthetech Says:

    am having a hard time getting the usb to reach my dell also, wondering if kodak would send me a cable to help with it…

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