I think I can safely say when you look back in the future to the late 2000s, you’ll agree that it was the You Tube era. Whether it’s captured from your cellphone or video camera, not even an hour later its on You Tube or Vimeo. Kodak is making it even easier to record your footage and get it up on You Tube with the Kodak Zi6 and we where lucky enough to get a chance to put it through its paces.
The version of the Kodak Zi6 we got to review is pink, appropriate we think. The Kodak Zi6 is also available in black for those that may not dig pink as much. The design is very compact and light to hold. It’s not bulky at all and can easily slip into your jacket pocket or pocket book. The front of the device has a bright 2.4 color LCD screen and controls to either take a still picture or record video. However in bright sunlight the display is hard to see. The center of the unit has a joystick which we will get into more detail later on. On the left side of the device are two inputs one for AV the other for HD component. Kodak also provides the cables for both which is a nice touch. On the left side you will also find the USB 2.0 connector hiding. On the right side of the device there is the slot cover that is hiding the SD slot, battery cover, and a switch to enable normal or extreme closeups for images. The top of the Zi6 is the switch to turn the device on. The back of the Zi6 has the lens, a button to eject the USB connector, and the speaker. Everything is really placed in strategic places that make accessing them very easy and add to the simplicity and compactness of the device.
This is a very simple device that doesn’t require any crazy manuals or DVDs to watch to figure out how to work it. The first thing that needed to be done was to charge the rechargeable batteries that are included with the device. I think its nice enough of Kodak to include double AA batteries regardless of them being rechargeable. It’s suggested to charge them for 12 hours before using to be able to take advantage of the full capacity of the batteries. However, you can use regular Duracell Double AA’s as well. Once they are done charging pop it into the device and slide the power button on the top of the device to turn it on. It could be a bit tough for those who have long nails. Even for myself I was having a little trouble turning it on comfortably. But once it’s on you’ll know because it will make a cute little chime like noise. The LCD display will then brighten up with whatever image you have in front of you.
The interface of the Zi6 is really simple to use and you really will have no problem just picking this
up and recording in seconds. The first thing you will have to do is decide what you want to do first.
You have two options, take stills or record video. As I said earlier the center of the Zi6 has a control resembling a joystick. When pressed, it works as the record button in video mode or as a shutter in digital still mode. There are three different video modes – VGA, HD (720p) and HD with 60fps. In video mode, press it again and it will stop recording the footage. The same joystick can be used to zoom in or or out when taking a still or video. The zoom goes about 2X which isn’t bad for this size of a camera, however images tend to lose their quality when you use the zoom – undoubtedly because it’s a digital zoom and not an optical zoom.
Overall, the interface is a breeze to use. I was able to record video in seconds and take stills just the same. I was also able to delete any images I didn’t want just as quickly. I just pressed the garbage can button on the front of the device after I selected the image I wanted gone and it was deleted. The joystick also works as a directional in preview mode to look at stills or video you have taken. I’m so used to complex Nikon cameras, that it was actually a refreshing change to try something simple that didn’t require much thought to use.
So you have all these great images and you want to get them off. So one would think since this has a USB connector you could just plug it in like an external hard drive and just pull the images or videos off of it. WRONG! One of the more trickier parts of the Zi6 is the software. One draw back was that if you have a Mac unfortunately you are out of luck. Even though the Zi6 has a USB connector and it will be picked up on the Mac, you need the software that’s included to really take advantage of the You Tube feature, and that only works on the PC. Since the Zi6 works for both Mac and PC you would think software for both systems would be included, but nope. ARCSOFT Media Impression Software is included for you to pull off the images or videos. I don’t like being forced to use software to view items on a device especially video or pictures but there is really no way around it. A good thing is the software is pre-loaded onto the Zi6, once you press the eject button for the USB connector and plug it into your computer it will automatically detect the device
and will start installing the media software. If for some reason the software on the Zi6 gets corrupted or erased you can use the included ARCSOFT CD as back-up.
Installation was pretty painless and once it’s done all your images and videos will become visible for you to export to your computer or convert to a You Tube video, which is one of the main features of this device. Just select the video you want to upload and the software takes care of the rest by uploading it and compressing it to your You Tube account. The software can also be used as a media player to view the videos as well. The software, like the device, is very user friendly, but I was put off by the fact I could only use this method to pull my stuff off the camera or even view it in some cases. I tried using Windows Media Player and it froze when trying to view the videos even after I exported them to my computer, so the only standalone player I got to work was Quicktime since the videos are done in .MOV format which worked out just fine on my Mac.
I am really impressed with the overall quality of the pictures and videos for this pricepoint. The Kodak Zi6 can snap 3 megapixel shots which are on par with a better camera phone in well lit conditions (see gallery for sample shots). However, it’s strong suit is its video recording features. The HD video quality is not too far off from my fancy $1300 Nikon D90 in bright lighting conditions. However in low light conditions the Zi6 performs pretty poorly and produced very noisy images – that is pretty much expected though since there is no built-in light. The one thing I hope they improve on in future generations is the stabilization. There is none and because the unit is so lightweight you really need it. I have a steady hand but just the slightest movement makes a video shake and on playback made me want to puke. SO be cautious when recording, don’t move your hand too much and let the action happen in front of you, unless you are filming the sequel to the Blair Witch Project. Luckily the Zi6 has a tripod mount so that you can use a tripod with it as well to compensate for the lack of image stabilization.
The Kodak Zi6 is really easy to use. Even your grandparents could use this device and be pretty savvy with it. The fact the videos are recorded in HD is a really nice touch, which is something the Zi6′s main competitor – the Flip Mino can’t do. The design is simple and does the job. It’s also lightweight and easily portable. The Kodak Zi6 retails for $179.95, which makes it have the same price tag as its competitor the Flip Mino. However the Flip Mino is limited to 640×480 videos, making the Zi6 a much better value because of its HD capabilities. You’ll be hard pressed to find other HD recording devices under the $200 mark that don’t produce just junk. Overall, the Zi6 is a great gift for that budding Spielberg in your home.
The Good: Great video and image quality in well lit conditions, simple to use, convenient design.
The Bad: Desperately needs some sort of image stabilization and should have included some Mac compatible software.