I just received the Kodak Zi8 from Adorama and took it around NYC for a little while to get some test footage and see how this thing holds up. I decided to purchase it instead of a FlipCam because it seemed it had a better feature set… let's see!

Here's some commentary on the clips from the video:

Clip 1 - "Waiting for the 6 Train"
Here you can see that because of the mediocre lighting conditions, there's a bit of digital noise in the visual… not terrible, but visible. As far as the sound, I was expecting there to be a lot of distortion on the recorded clip, but it appears the Zi8 automatically attenuated the signal, so the screeching train didn't cause clipping.

Clip 2 - "Macro Fountain"
The Zi8 has a little "landscape-macro" switch on the top of it. For the most part, you'll probably be leaving this in "landscape" mode, but in the case where you'll want to get close to something and capture a lot of detail, you'll probably need to switch to macro. It seems like it's a "fixed" macro setting, so it only looked crisp when I was at the right distance from the fountain, if I was too close/far away, the image was out of focus.

Clip 3 - "Drummer"
The microphone on the Zi8 is just a mediocre little mono thing located on the front of the unit. You're not going to capture anything too special with this (sonically), but it does get the job done. There is a manual microphone attenuator in the settings of the Zi8, so I took it down a bit expecting the loudness of the drums to overpower the normal setting. It doesn't sound great, but it's not terrible… for this sort of situation, it appears to get the job done. However, this IS a 3.5mm input jack on the unit, if you'd like to attempt using an external microphone or source. If you really wanted to, you could hook up something like the Rode Stereo VideoMic to the unit, and hold that in one hand while you film with the other. This would be a little precarious, but it would sound a great deal better, and isn't impossible.

Clip 4 - "Dancer"
Here we can see how the Zi8 captures motion… really not bad, I was expecting worse, especially with the fast movements of a dancer. The captured sound does the trick, especially in this case, where it's really the visual that matters most.

Clip 5 - "Soho Street"
Here I'm walking around a little bit, and you can see that the image is a bit wobbly. The image seemed to be best when I was using both my hands to try and stabilize the camera, but the image is pretty shaky regardless. This is something that I suppose just comes with the fact that it's such a small and light unit, it's difficult to stabilize. I've seen this issue in other people's test footage as well, kind of a bummer.

Clip 6 - "In the R"
Here you can see that quick handheld movement in a moving vehicle is… going to make you feel sick. You probably won't be getting too much meaningful footage inside a subway or car/bus for that matter. Perhaps if I was sitting down it'd be a little more bearable.

Clip 7 - "Manhattan Skyline"
Here I'm doing a pan of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn. The wind makes for a messy audio signal, so if you'd like to get usable audio in a situation like this, you'd probably need an external microphone with a windscreen on it, otherwise you'll just have this. Again, a bit shaky… if I had moved a bit slower it probably would look better, but you get the idea.

Pros:
So for under $200, this really isn't a bad unit. It does NOT come with internal storage, which one might consider a bad thing, but that's actually something that led me to purchasing it. It takes SD cards, and with those being so cheap nowadays, I felt it was a better choice that being stuck with the internal memory. I mean, you can carry around an infinite number of SD cards, but you can't do anything about increasing the internal memory on a FlipCam. Also, this means I can just pop an SD card into a card-reader rather than having to plug the actual unit into the computer. With the Zi8, either is an option… it has a handy little USB plug that pops out on the side of the unit.

There is an HDMI output on the unit and it comes without the proper cable for using it, unlike many more expensive camcorders.

Allows you to shoot in 1080p, 720p as well as standard def... it even allows for snapshots.

The landscape-macro switch on the top is a nice touch, as you could see in the "fountain" footage.

I'm a fan of the 3.5mm microphone input, this gives me some options in the case that I'd like to record better-quality audio.

It's a slim and sleek unit, with a relatively large and vibrant screen.

There is a tripod mound on the bottom, if you are so-inclined. This would be good for situations where you want to record yourself talking, which would result in an upgrade to your iSight's video for your vlogs and whatnot.

Cons:
The unit doesn't feel particularly sturdy or strong. Though it looks nice, it feels cheap.

Menu/navigation system might be a little over-simplified. Symbols for what you're adjusting could be backed up with words describing the functions, it's just a bit vague at times.

Though the rechargeable battery which comes with the unit will last for quite a while, I'd prefer the ability to use AA or AAA batteries. I foresee the situation where I run out of battery power before I run out of space on my SD cards… While on the FlipCam, I've definitely run out of battery power before running out of space, but then I can simply put in another pair of batteries and be on my way. You can charge the unit with the included power adaptor or via the included USB plug, which is convenient.

It'd be nice if they had some sort of stereo microphone, especially for when you're capturing casual musical performances.

There is no headphone jack… I'd like one of these so I can go through footage without annoying those around me.

Final thoughts:
Kodak has definitely made a worthy competitor to the FlipCam. I'll be using this unit to gather B-Roll footage on an upcoming shoot, definitely looking forward to it! For under $200, this thing definitely does the trick, especially if you already have a few SD cards lying around.

For YouTube version, please go to:
youtube.com/watch?v=69NNQgNbRmo
(The audio stays synced throughout the YouTube version, not sure why it doesn't here on Vimeo)

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