The Kodak Zi8

October 27, 2009

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Why I got it: I’m going to South Korea for Christmas.  I know I’m taking my large DSLR (it weighs over 4 lbs) and I figured I’d want to shoot some video at some point.   I currently own a Canon HV20.  Batteries + tapes + camcorder and case = more stuff to worry about.  I’m going to be packing light.  1 backpack and 1 small carry-on.  No high maintenance HV20 to complicate things please.  (The darn thing also takes 20 seconds to turn on, after 4 really loud and worrisome grinding noises near the lens. Basically, it sounds like it will explode every time I turn it on.)  The other passengers won’t be too happy when I turn the thing on in order to take HD video of the clouds @ 30,000 feet to post on Vimeo.  I got this camera because it’s small and the video it is capable of recording is not bad at all.

Suitable Standards: I’ve spoiled myself with cameras that have great lenses and great sensors.  My Fujifilm S2 Pro is capable of taking fantastic pictures and my HV20 can record super crisp HD video.  If I were to get a pocket camcorder, I expect decent video capture.  After considerable research, I settled on the Kodak Zi8.  I’ve considered the Flip pocket cam as well as the JVC PICSIO.  A friend of mine has a Flip cam.  I was impressed with the video capture in bright light, but low light shots left something to be desired.  It was grainy and there were line artifacts everywhere (just like the JVC PICSIO.) Both cams performed horribly in low light.   While the Zi8’s low light recordings were not as nice as what my HV20 can do, it was great compared to Flip and JVC’s.  There’s noise, but there’s not enough of it to warrant my complaint.  Sound recording was also important to me.  I don’t need studio quality sound.  I need decent sound with very little noise artifacts.  The Zi8 was the only cam I found with decent sound recording by the internal microphone.  (There’s also an external mic port in case you want to add a shotgun mic, lapel mic, etc.  It’s a nice add-on which other pocket cams don’t have.)     If you get this camera, make sure it’s firmware is 1.05.  Otherwise, you may hear a whiny noise embedded in with your audio recording.

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Controls: I found the controls to be easy to use.  The little joystick is used for both zoom function and to navigate the menu.  Kodak didn’t pay attention to ergonomics.  The joystick is far from fluid, but it does get the job done.  I don’t mind it.  I just think it could have been designed to be a little less awkward to use.  (Note that the other buttons are tiny too. Looking at the picture below, I suppose the tiny buttons was suppose to blend into the camera’s overall design.  Hmmm, they actually look pretty sweet in this picture.)

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Expandable Memory: A 1 GB SD card will get me 9 minutes of video @ 1080p.  I have used a 4GB Class 4 SD memory card and a 1 GB – regular (no card class was mentioned on the card – AKA a slower and cheaper SD card.)  Using a cheaper, slower SD card did not affect the Zi8’s ability to record video.  I couldn’t tell the video quality apart and the transfer rate, even though it was faster in the Class 4 card, the regular card didn’t take that much longer.  So I can’t justify spending more $$$ for a card just to save a few seconds of time when transferring the video onto my computer.

Oh this camera shoots at 1080p, 720p@60fps, 720p@30fps, and WVGA (not sure what the exact video definition is, but it’s decent.)  I’ve included video samples below.

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The USB connector is built in to the camera (tucks neatly away) just like the Flip.  But the USB cord is flexible and is less likely to suffer damage due to strain.

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HDMI output: Ok, not only does this camera have an HDMI output, the HDMI cable is included.  That’s a deal.

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Camera with the HDMI cable: It’s a short cable, but the fact that Kodak decided to include it was entirely awesome on their part.

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Here’s what’s in the Box: (Manual not shown because I can’t find it.) You get an A/C charger (battery lasts for up to 90 minutes, full-charge takes about 2 hours.)  A/V connector, HDMI cable and a battery.  The battery is rated at 3.7 Volts with a capacity of around 1150 mAh.

Video Samples to come soon!

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2 Responses to “The Kodak Zi8”

  1. pure84501 Says:

    Thinking about purchasing several of these cameras for citizen journos – what about tripod? Haven’t seen anything in the reviews about this capability….
    Thanks in advance – great review!


  2. Yep – it does feature a tripod mount right at the center of the bottom. Unlike the Flip cam, this will be in balance when mounted.


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