REVIEW: Kodak Zx1 HD Pocket Camcorder
I’ve had the Kodak Zx1 for just over a month now and with my experience with it, I thought it would be a good idea to write a review on it. This pocket HD camcorder has really been a revelation for me and what quality we can record in nowadays. If you’re interested in what comes with the Kodak Zx1 in the box I’ve done an unboxing video which you can watch here. So does the Zx1 really cover all the bases so you don’t need your Mini DV camcorder anymore?
The form factor for the Zx1 is great. As with all pocket camcorders, the Zx1 is small and fits perfectly in yourpocket, around the size of a mobile phone from a couple of years ago. It is smaller than the Kodak Zi6 and the newer Zi8 and is marketed as rugged and made for rough use as well as weatherproof. It does have a good back grip but with something like this I’d still look after it and not throw it around like a toy. Saying that, the weight is good with the 2 AA batteries installed and it feels sturdy in your hands like you are actually holding a camcorder.
The concept of a pocket camcorder isn’t really to watch it back on the device and that is why the screens are so small. At 5.1 cm diagonal length the screen is small but big enough to actually see what you’re filming. But don’t expect to watch the footage back because it doesn’t really give you a good idea what is in focus. All the ports are safe as they are covered by rubber covers. So this means the DC, AV, HDMI and SD slot. The universal tripod screw is open at the bottom of the device and is a nice extra to help stabilise the image if you need it. What I didn’t realise initially is that there is a small red LED next to the camera lens which turns on when you’re recording. Although these have been around for ages I couldn’t find a setting to turn it off which I thought was a real shame. There is also a very poor speaker at the top of the Zx1 but as I said, you won’t be playing back your videos on the device on the go.
The Zx1 does an excellent job of capturing 720p HD video and I have uploaded several HD sample clips which you can see on my Youtube channel. You can be off and recording in seconds with a quick power up and the simple red button to start/stop recording. Although I haven’t found out an easy way to see how much space is remaining; the clips seem to be very small in size, with around 12mb for a 30 second clip. Now the buttons have been made to be weather resistant but do feel slightly clunky. The worst thing about the Zx1 is it’s clumsy, strange menu and button system. There seems to be no co-herence and logically method so it takes a while to learn what each button does and if you are not technologically minded it may take a while for you to get used to it. However to be honest you only really need the power button and the start/stop recording button. While we are on the bad points let me bring up the microphone. For as great as the HD quality is, the audio is the direct opposite. With a mono small microphone you will be disappointed if you are looking for something to replace your current camcorder. I’ve found if you are far enough away from the audio source it is not too bad, but if you are right in front of the camcorder or behind it then it can be poor if you are used to decent audio. Also from my experience the Zx1 suffers from heavy wind blowing into the mic disturbing your voice so make sure you’re in cover or not facing the wind. In my opinion I will be using this for short clips which I will overlay with music and possible record audio with another source. Unlike the Zi6 and new Zi8, the Zx1 does not have a macro mode and I’ve found it has be at least 1 metre away (roughly) from the subject before it is in focus. Now for a lot of work this will be fine but if you try and video yourself (in a Myspace type shot) then you’ll find you’re probably not in focus which you won’t be able to find out before you get home. So if that is what you want it for then you will be disappointed unless you have really long arms…or a tripod.
The Zx1 captures 720p HD video at 30/60fps in the .mov format, so if you’re using a Mac (minimum requirement an earlyMacbook/Mac Mini) then you’ll be able to play them fine and edit with iMovie 08 and iMovie 09 which are the ones I tested. On the other hand if you are a Windows user you have a couple of options. Either use the supplied Kodak simple editor or convert the video file to run in Windows Movie Maker. For me this has been the best bit about the Zx1. My Canon FS100 produced .MOD files and you all know the initial trouble I had with that so I had to convert all the files before editing but now with the Zx1 I can just go straight away. Great! Less wasted time and more productive time!
So the Zx1 has been my first HD camcorder and apart from the obvious point of a camcorder with no image stabilisation, I think the Zx1 does a good job. Sorry the review may be a bit short but all the pocket camcorders share many similarities. I hope you have a look at the sample clips and make your own decisions on what you think. There is very little differences between the competition and the main one with Kodak is the adoption of the SD card allowing you to use up to 32 GB cards. I’m sure within a couple of years these small devices will rival normal camcorders apart from the optical zoom but most likely they’ll make their way into our phones and we’ll have a complete do it all device with us at all times.