Archive for August 30th, 2009

Review: The Kodak Zi6

The Zi6 is Kodak’s answer to Flip’s ultra-popular line of digirecorders. It is able to shoot in VGA, 720/30p and its main distinctive feature is its ability to also do 720/60p. It can also capture 3 MP interpolated still images.

The Zi6 incorporates a USB male port in its body, so you can connect it to a PC without a USB cable. It has an SDHC card slot, an RCA-out and a component-out. It also wrist-wrap and tripod holes. Finally, there’s a slide-in ON/OFF button, and a macro/normal focus mode for the fixed lens that the camera comes with. On the front of the camera there’s the joystick that controls playback, recording, zooming digitally 2x, volume up/down, and cycling through the various modes. The button on the right switches from recording mode to playback mode, while the button on the left deletes or pauses the currently actively clip when in playback mode.

Overall, there is a good ease of use with the Zi6. The controls are simple and to the point. There are no manual controls whatsoever, or advanced notions. The device does the job as it was designed to do, and adding the 60p feature makes it more valuable than the Flip (even for more advanced video users this can be a useful feature at times).

Quality is what you would expect too, from a low-bitrate 720/60p cam. Not very good and not terrible either (I’ve seen worse). My main complain is that the footage is so over-contrasty that it can’t take any color grading in post. The lens is only a hair better than a good cellphone lens, while the binary nature of the focusing system doesn’t help with shooting versatility. I also noticed that in low-light conditions the camera drops frames (so you will only get a real 60p shot under a very good light). Interestingly, the microphone is not too bad at all, it is in fact better that Flip’s.

Battery life is so-so, with shooting capability of about an hour. The Zi6 comes with the rechargeable batteries and a charging station.

A Zi6 video by Karen Abad ♥s Dinosaurs:

My biggest complaint about the Zi6 is that it doesn’t make sense. Like the Flip, it is a product that offers no value other than ease of use. I placed the Zi6 next to the Kodak V1073 that I reviewed a few weeks ago, and the V1073 is almost half the size! I can’t understand why anyone would buy the Zi6 rather than the V1073, when the V1073 can shoot 720/30p too, it has 3x optical zoom, more controls, and it can shoot very nice (for the price) still images.

So it makes no sense to buy a brick like the Zi6 (or the Flip) when for the same money you can get a real digicam that does the job much better, and it’s physically smaller too! In fact, the Samsonite TM90BK camera bag did not fit the Zi6, but it did fit easily the V1073 and the Panasonic FX150. It fit nicely on the Samsonite C441 bag though, along a dSRL and two lenses.

Overall, the Zi6 has one and only one good point: its 60p ability. If you are in desperate need of some good slow-motion, on the budget, then this isn’t a bad deal. But don’t expect this camera to make it easy for you to shoot small masterpieces like some on Vimeo. It’s possible for some types of videos, but it won’t be easy.