As some of you may be aware, we bought ourselves a Kodak Zi8 pocket camcorder for Christmas. We decided that we really ought to have a cheap and cheerful camcorder so that we can document our daughter’s development and send videos of her back to Spain for my in-laws to see. After reading a whole host of reviews of both the Flip range and the latest Kodak, we decided to plump for the Kodak. It seemed to tick all the boxes. Compact, reasonably priced and easy to use. So far, we have not been disappointed.
The Kodak Zi8 is a neat little package. The USB connection is in-built so you don’t have to add yet another cable to the growing collection (I’m amazed I manage to keep track of all my cables!). Also, there is no CD-ROM packaged with the camera. The editing software is built into the camera and downloads to your PC when you first connect it via USB. Although basic, the software does enable video to be condensed to make it easier to send via email, as well as having a quick upload feature for Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.
Video can be stored on the internal memory, but there is not much space at all. An SDHD card is therefore pretty much an essential purchase once you have the camera. It’s best to buy a card with a high-capacity (the Zi8 can take a card of up to 32GB). It also recommended to go for at least a class 6 card, although we have gone for a 16GB class 4.
The camera also shoots in full HD and has an HDMI connection to connect with a HD television. It also has an image stabilisation function (EIS) which helps to eradicate camera shake (although not entirely, for best results you really need to hold the camera with both hands). I found when shooting video one-handed (which seems the most natural way to use it) there was still some noticeable ‘shakiness’.
A nice touch is an additional macro/landscape mode. A flick of the switch on the top of the camera enables you to shoot up close and still keep the image in focus. My only criticism of this is that the switch on the top of the camera can be a little stiff at first, leading to the camera shaking around all over the place whilst you try to switch between modes. That said, once you get used to flicking between the two modes it isn’t too much of a problem.
So what about the video itself. Well, although I said earlier I wasn’t disappointed with the Zi8, I was a little disappointed with the quality when I started recording some video of our daughter on Christmas morning. However, I later discovered that the poor quality was due to the fact that there had been several software updates since that camera was packaged. Once updating to the latest software there was a noticeable difference in picture quality.
It’s all very well telling you that the quality is quite good, it means nothing unless you can see it for yourself! I shot this first video using HD mode on a bright, sunny day in Seville:
As you can see, even with the EIS function, there is still a bit of camera shake. Also, whilst the picture quality is good, it is not quite as clear as you would expect from an HD recording. Having said that, it would perhaps be unreasonable to expect top quality HD in a pocket camcorder that costs the fraction of a top quality camcorder.
So that’s how it performs in bright conditions, what about in low light conditions? I shot the following video at night using the 720p mode….
Whilst not perfect, it’s not too bad. You can still make out some of the details on the various floats and even when zooming in, the quality is still reasonable.
Overall, I am more than happy with the quality of the video from the Zi8. Considering the size of the device (about the size of a BlackBerry) and its relatively low-cost (£114.99 on Amazon at the moment), I have been really quite impressed. It will certainly enable us to record some decent quality video of our daughter as she grows up and, to be honest, we can’t ask for more than that.