We’re big fans of Kodak’s original pocket HD camcorder, the Zi6. While it could barely be called pocketable, its large 2.4in screen and video quality made it the Creative Vado and Flip Mino’s main rival.
But with those two foes recently reinventing themselves in hi-def guises, Kodak’s YouTube maestro has returned in the form of the Zx1. It still records 720p video at 60fps, but now sports rubberised finish and more compact dimensions.
These rubberised side panels give the Zx1 a distinctive look, but this is a practical design point too, as it makes the cam resistant to rain, sand, dirt and snow.
The side panels also house sockets for USB and HDMI output. Unlike the Mino HD and Vado HD, though, there’s no flip or fold-out USB arm, so computer connection is cable all the way.
Behind another side panel is where you stow the SD/SDHC card that the Zx1 records to. There’s also 128MB internal memory, which is really just for firmware and data, but you could grab useful frames in an emergency – if you shoot using the 640x480 mode instead.
The back of the camcorder houses record and playback controls, and these are a love ’em or loathe ’em affair. They’re not buttons, more like rubber bumps, but regardless, we found them tactile and responsive.
Straight AA student
Okay, so the Zx1 is a shade heavier and bigger than some competitors, but this is because it uses AA batteries rather than a lithium-ion cell. A plug-in charger and rechargeable copper tops are supplied with the camcorder, meaning you get plenty of recording time.
Keen-eyed spec-sheet observers will notice the Zx1 reverts to a 2in LCD, as opposed to the Zi6’s 2.4in, but the change isn’t detrimental to composing or viewing – it’s also bigger than the Mino HD’s paltry 1.5in screen and equal to the Vado HD.
Smooth, sharp shooter
What’s more, the Zx1’s HD video quality is the best of the bunch. Clips are pin-sharp and packed with detail. It’s the sort of performance that gives HD pocket cams a good name – and in this case beats both Mino HD and Vado HD for clarity.
In most cases, movement is smooth and the autofocus quickly reacts to changes. There are some crosses among all the ticks, especially with reds looking a touch too orange and a zoom that’s as jerky as dad dancing at a wedding.
But these are minor quibbles. The Zx1 is fun to use, and is bundled with a clever and practical set of accessories (including an HDMI cable). And even though the bundled software is PC-only, the final good news is that it shoots using the .Mov codec, making it compatible with Macs and iMovie. Home run.