With the demise of Cisco's Flip, the market for pocket-sized camcorders lost its champion. There's plenty of choice still available though, from Sony's Bloggie range to offerings from Samsung and Panasonic as well as Kodak with its PlaySport Zx5.
Design and features
With its cutesy curves and soft-touch plastic exterior, the Zx5 looks the part of a pocket camcorder that can withstand a little bit of punishment from water and shocks. It's waterproof to 3m, dustproof and shockproof from a drop of 1.5m. There's full HD recording at 1080p and a 5-megapixel still camera. Those looking for the flexibility of a Flip or Bloggie-style built-in USB connector will be disappointed with the Zx5 as there's no pop-out plug.
On the side there are covered mini USB and HDMI ports, as well as a slot for SDHC cards. The Zx5 has a limited internal memory of 128MB. Lens specifications are pretty basic, as would be expected on a camcorder like this, with a fixed focal length and aperture of f/2.8. The lens is stabilised digitally.
Turn the camera around to reveal the 2-inch LCD screen as well as a range of buttons within easy reach to switch between video/still recording, playback, settings, delete, a four-way control pad with shutter button embedded and finally, a share button.
Kodak is really pushing the Zx5's sharing capabilities, with a bunch of social-networking icons pasted onto the back of the unit. The included software, preloaded onto the device, will be installed when you first connect the Zx5 to a computer. The sharing process is straightforward once the software has been installed: simply press the share button when reviewing your photos on the Zx5's screen and they will automatically be uploaded to your social media site of choice once you're plugged in again.
This is what the sharing interface from the enclosed Zx5 software looks like. (Screenshot by CBSi)
Unfortunately, your photo gets tagged with a whole bunch of Kodak nonsense, as you can see below.
(Screenshot by CBSi)
While there's always a trade-off in quality for price and durability, the Zx5 does a decent job of straddling all those criteria. Video quality certainly isn't amazing at the full 1080p resolution, but it is good enough when considering this camera's key target market of action-adventurers and families.
The Zx5 does exhibit some noticeable judder when panning it quickly, and fast-moving subjects can make the image stabilisation twitch rather a lot. Dropping the resolution down to 720p at 60fps, which the camcorder ships with as its default resolution, does improve the quality somewhat. Audio from the built-in mono mic is fine, though it won't be winning any Oscars for sound design anytime soon.
There are a few filters that can be applied to images and video: high saturation, '70s film, black-and-white and sepia. They work pretty well, without causing a noticeable degradation in image quality or dropping the frame rate. Still image quality is fine with punchy colours, though images are a bit too over-sharpened at their full 5-megapixel resolution. However, reduce it to web display and you'll be pleased with the results.
An example of an image taken with the PlaySport Zx5. Click for the full resolution version. (Credit: CBSi)
The Zx5 records video in H.264 in an MP4 container.
For those with a predilection towards action-adventure, the Kodak PlaySport Zx5 will be a worthy companion.