Kodak PlaySport Zx3 128 MB Camcorder - Black Reviews

Kodak PlaySport Zx3 128 MB Camcorder - Black

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Best Waterproof Video Camera Value Available

Jun 3, 2010
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Brilliant entry level waterproof camera.  Good picture, Great price.  EASY to use.

Cons:Not enough menu items.  Easily scratched.  Not particularly rugged.

The Bottom Line: For an entry level waterproof camera, I highly recommend this camera.  It's available with a white face only with blue, black or purple back.  Style and price is great.

This is a very early review on a camcorder that I recently purchased for my daughter for her highschool graduation.

As we were planning on going on a cruise later this year, my daughter wanted to have a nice camcorder to record the trip with.  Since cruises often go to places where there is water to be swam in, I suggested an underwater camcorder.

When I came across the brand new Kodak Playsport for $150, I knew she would get a kick out of this.

First, what came in the box?  The packaging included the camera, an HDMI cable, a proprietary-to-USB cable used for data transfer (USB 2.0) and charging, a USB-Female wall outlet and the necessary cards, pamphlets, etc.

One curiosity was the software.  The box said it came with software, but we couldn't find it.  When hooking up the camera to the laptop via the USB cable, the driver was installed immediately.  Then we noticed that there were two drives that were mapped on the computer.  When opening one, there was the ArcSoft installation icon, and all went smoothly from there.

The camera itself is about the size of an average cell phone.  At around 7 oz with the battery, it's light but not 'cheap' feeling. 

There is a single 5.54 mm lens which Kodak claims is 'equivalent' to a 35 mm lens.  Perhaps in field, but certainly not in light.  The image is captured by a 1/2.5-type 5 Megapixel CMOS sensor. 

There are 4 video capture modes: 1080p at 30 frames per second, 720p at 60 fps, 720p at 30 fps, and WVGA at 30 fps.  In camera mode, there is ONLY a 5 MP, 16:9 ratio setting.  It's aggrevating that you cannot select something a bit more file size conserving such as 2 or 3 MP.

Focal range according to Kodak is 100 cm (39 inches), so you can see there is no macro focal setting.  In fact there are very few user settings at all.  Everything is automatic - from whitebalance, to focus.  You can set the camera to Aqua mode, but that didn't seem to make any difference.  There is a 2x digital zoom which I would avoid using.  Image stabilization works better in the lower settings (ie: 720p 30 fps).  I did alright at 720p 60 fps, but my wife made the picture look like we were in a perpetual earthquake.

My experience is rather mixed on the audio capture.  When bobbing in and out of water, you will find that water caught in the microphone will lead to some bit of static and almost no audio when out of the water.  In the water, though, you can hear the breathing of the filmer which can be very interesting.  It's only monaural, so no filming high action films with this little guy.  Range in the air is about 20 feet.

Captures are stored on an SDHC card.  An 8 GB card will get you over 1000 photos or about an hour of video at the highest settings (1080p at 30 fps or 720p at 60 fps).  720p at 30 fps will double your capacity, and WVGA will double it again.  Up to 32 GB SDHC cards are available.

Battery life was a bit disappointing, but perhaps that was because we wanted to view every video after we shot it.  We were able to spend about a full day at a Disney Park without running out of battery so long as we didn't review the video and turned off the camera when not in use.

So I've talked about this frames per second thing.  What's the big deal about that and why should I care?  Capturing a video at 720p at 60 fps will give you a considerably smoother video than at 30 fps.  In addition, you can slow the video down with software for some pretty impressive special effects.  I found that we spent most of the time filming in 720p at 60 fps.

Now the part that everyone wants to know about.  How is the picture quality?  Quite frankly, it's not the greatest.  I've already eluded to the fact that the lens is small with no optical zoom.  You really need to have a LOT of light to get the best pictures.  There is also no flash or video lighting.  For an underwater cam, this would be an extraordinary feature, but it would also drain the battery very quickly.  I found that we were able to capture excellent video in bright sunlight, and acceptable video in crystal clear water on a cloudy day.  I hope to put some YouTube videos up demonstrating the quality.  Speaking of water, it's good for down to 10 feet.  Doesn't sound like much, but it's more than enough for snorkelling.

The part that has me the most aggrevated is what to do with the video when you're done capturing it.

I'll be honest - I haven't completely played around with the included ArcSoft package and edited the videos at all.  The software is great for transferring the data and storing them on your computer, but remember when you thought that 5 GB of available space on your hard drive was more than enough to last forever?  Not any more.  The camera stores your video as an .MOV file.  Uncompressed, that's about 5 DVDs worth for only an hour or less of video.  So think about getting one of those terabyte external storage drives or a bunch of little SD cards.  Perhaps when I've found a way to keep the quality of two hours of video onto a single DVD, I'll amend this review.

The bottom line is this.  You can get better more expensive cameras.  But if you want to play or sport under water for a budget, you cannot go wrong with this camera.  It's a great entry level unit that can really open up doors towards future purchases and perhaps maybe an underwater career.  For the amature enthusiast, it's brilliant.

Recommend this product? Yes

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