The Kodak Playsport Zx3 is not the first high-definition digital video camera to hit the market – far from it. In a segment dominated by all manner of Flips and occupied by Bloggies, Cobys, Small Wonders, Xactis, and a whole bunch of Kodak siblings, the Playsport may be late to the party, but but it’s bringing the good booze and a hot tub full of bikini-clad models frolicking to Wrecks-N-Effect’s Rumpshaker.
What we like
The thing that makes the Playsport stand out among its peers is its ability to function in up to 10 feet of water. Nothing else in this segment can do this. Sealed tight, with easy-to-thumb controls, the Playsport takes to the water like a wide-eyed sea otter. For resolutions 720p and below, you get a 36mm lens (35mm equivalent), which moves in tighter at 1080p to 48mm. There is no optical zoom, but at this price point, that’s to be expected.
Image capture duties are performed by a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor, which does a good job for the most part. Four resolutions are available: WVGA, 720p 30fps, 720p 60fps, and 1080p 30fps, but you won’t often shoot at full resolution, mainly due to the unwieldy gigantic files you’ll get when you download your videos to your PC for editing. HD video is saved as H.264 MOV.
The Playsport has some onboard digital features which are certainly nice to have but not altogether necessary. Digital zoom is a standard 4x, while electronic image stabilization and face detection may be turned on or off. Anticipating that you’ll be using this outdoors, the folks at Kodak have included a 2-level LCD glare filter, which doesn’t affect what you’re recording. It just allows you to see what your camera sees even under the noontime sun. One particularly cool feature is the ability to turn the red recording light and indicator beep off, allowing you to shoot those bikini-clad models discreetly.
As the name implies, this is a device for use in play. Compact and built rugged, it’ll survive being mounted to a quad bike’s front fender or rigged to a hang glider’s control strut. Snorkeling videos are a piece of cake. Just don’t let go. The Playsport doesn’t float.
Among the other compact digital video shooters we’ve tested, this easily ranks among the top 3 in terms of performance. What gives it that extra oomph, besides its ability to handle its fluids, is its criminally low retail price. Off the shelf, the Kodak Playsport costs only US$150 (about P7,500), even cheaper than the similarly spec’d Kodak Zi8. Buy online, and you can easily find this going for $129.
What we don’t like
Like any budget electronic product, the Kodak Playsport does have its share of foibles. The first issue we have with it has to do with its battery life. Even mosquitoes last longer than the 940mAh KLIC-7004 that comes bundled with the Playsport. Shoot in 720p with the filters and face recognition turned on, and you’re looking at a run time of about an hour. That’s not even enough power to fill up a 4GB SD card. Best to purchase spare batteries – a couple should do – at the same time you buy a Playsport.
The second issue is the Playsport’s performance in low light. Dim lighting conditions are not the Playsport’s best friend. Results are streaked and grainy, much like using high ISO settings in el cheapo digital cameras. When viewed on a 1080p screen, it only gets worse. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around this.
A third issue, just a niggle, really, is the long-term aesthetic of the device. Brand new it’s bright and sleek. However, the white rubberized fascia of the Playsport attracts and collects libag like the folds on the neck of a corpulent man commuting on a jeepney. Through Quiapo. During rush hour. After 3 months, our Playsport has a yellowish pallor to it that’s nigh impossible to scrub off. Maybe we just have filthy fingers.
The bottom line
We totally love the ZX3. It’s inexpensive, performs great, and is a wonderful device especially for the budding Jacques Cousteau in you. It’s great fun in a compact package and provides excellent value for money. Sure, it may not compare in quality to even the cheapest among the “real” HD camcorders, but you have to remember how much you’re paying for this. Compromises have been made to make sure this device gets into as many hands as Kodak can muster, but these compromises are reasonable. You never feel like you’ve been cheated. Instead, you’ll get a sense of getting more, way more than what you paid for, like that eat-all-you-can chicken promo at Max’s Fried Chicken. Try and beat that, Flip HD.
Click here to see the Kodak Playsport ZX3 in the Buyer’s Guide.