Kodak Zi8 Digital Camcorder Review

Is the Z18 a good camera for video blogging? How about for video journaling?

The Kodak Zi8

The Kodak Zi8 is a pocket-sized camera that shoots full 1080p video. Tech speak aside, 1080p is the highest resolution that the majority of HD TVs support (outside of the high-tech wonderland of Japan).

I’ve been using the Zi8 for three months now. Here is what I learned (divided into two categories): Functional and Technical. If you keep a video journal or casual video blog, feel free to skim over the Technical section.

Functional:

  • The Kodak Zi8 is pocket-sized, light and easy to carry.
  • The screen is kind of difficult to see in bright sunlight (there is a lot of glare off of the plastic cover).
  • The controls for shooting are straight forward.
  • The controls for reviewing are not very intuitive. They are fine, however, once you learn their quirks.
  • There is no flip out screen. Unless you get all MacGyver (here’s the Wiki if you’re too young to remember) with a pocket mirror, it’s not possible to view your own image when you are video journaling or blogging with the Zi8. This takes getting used to. Now that I’m more familiar with the camcorder I have a better sense as to where to point it so that my face is in frame. To begin with there were a lot of shots of my t-shirt!
  • The angle of the lens isn’t very wide. You will need to hold your arm out quite far or sit a further distance from the Zi8 if you want your whole head and shoulders in the shot.
  • The camera has an easy to use macro (extreme close-up) function which is fun to use!

Technical:

  • The HD image and vibrant colors in bright daylight are stunning for such a small camera (and it has 720p slow motion!)
  • In low light situations, the image becomes a bit grainy and difficult to see. Oddly enough my pocket digi still cam’s video function is MUCH more sensitive in low-light conditions.
  • The Zi8 is unique in that you can plug in an external mic (for example a wireless lav). If you want a more ‘intimate’ sound or you are doing an interview this is helpful. This worked well for me with my Sennheiser wireless lav mics. (Note that having a volume output on the external mic is key. The Zi8 does not have an input level function.)
  • Unlike the Flip Cam which has a fixed internal memory, the Kodak Zi8 uses SD cards. Cool! Infinite expansion.

When I bought the Zi8 the iPhone 4 wasn’t available. Since I’m due for a new phone, I plan on buying one this month. If you plan on purchasing an iPhone 4 (or new Android), my recommendation would be to hold off on buying the Zi8. The iPhone offers features that are useful for video blogging and journaling that are lacking in the Zi8. On the other hand, the iPhone 4 shoots 720p, not 1080p so if the extra bump in quality is important you may still want to grab one.

As for me, I am considering selling my Zi8. I have a limited number of hands and pockets. Mobile phones are fast becoming the pocket knives of the digital world.

Below is my video review where you can check out the camera for yourself (and especially see the screen).

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