If you flipped over the Flip pocket-size video cameras, there’s a new contender worth your attention. Kodak’s Zi8 replaces the Zi6, bringing full HD 1080p capabilities to a small, well-designed package that fits in your pocket but does more than its competition.
Measuring 2.4 by 4.5 by 0.9 inches and weighing 4.8 ounces, the Zi8 features a great-looking 2.5-inch LCD with three brightness settings–we had no problems viewing it in bright sunlight. We put a few nasty scratches in the plastic body during testing, but the screen survived unscathed. The four buttons and four-way rocker switch make navigating the menus easy with just your thumb.
The Lithium-Ion battery is removable, so you can pack extra batteries ($29.95 each) and keep shooting. A battery charger is included (or you can charge by USB), along with HDMI and composite cables for hooking the camera to your TV. The USB plug for connecting it to your Mac is built right in.
You do have to buy an SDHC card–the camera accepts cards up to 32GB, and we picked up an 8GB card at Best Buy for under $25. This is a great feature compared to the fixed-memory Flip. Fill up one card, swap it out for another, and you can film all day long.
The Zi8 shoots video in 1080p, 720p, or widescreen VGA, all at 30 frames per second, and you can also shoot 60 frames per second at 720p, good for catching fast-moving action, or if you plan to slow the video down later.
Video quality is impressive for a pocket-size camera, with accurate colors and skin tones. The face-detection feature adjusts exposure if you’re shooting someone in shadow, and low-light performance is comparable to the Flip’s. The Zi8 features image stabilization, but we still got the best results using a tripod. The built-in mono mic worked OK even outdoors, and there’s a jack for plugging in your own stereo microphone.
The 5-megapixel still photos didn’t stun us, and it’s hard to keep the camera still while pressing the shutter button. But the macro switch (for photos and videos shot close-up) is a nice touch. The 4x zoom is digital, photo-speak for “unusable.”
Your videos are encoded as H.264 MPEG-4 MOV files, but the included software isn’t Mac compatible. The Zi8 appears on your Desktop like a removable drive, and you have to drag the movies to your hard drive manually, but they open in QuickTime and can be imported into iMovie for editing.