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Kodak Playsport Zx5 Review

A rugged, waterproof pocket camcorder

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Kodak Playsport Zx5 Review

Image courtesy Kodak

The Kodak Playsport Zx5 is a high definition pocket camcorder capable of recording 1920 x 1080p in the H.264 format. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, can survive a drop of up to five feet and is sealed against dust and dirt.

It retails for $179.

Full specifications for the Kodak Playsport Zx5 can be found here.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 at a Glance

The Good: Slim, rugged design, good video quality.

The Bad: Sticky center control, no built-in USB plug, mono mic.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Video Quality

The Playsport Zx5 records 1920 x 1080 HD video at 30 frames per second (fps) in the H.264 video format via a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor. You also have the option to record 1280 x 720 video at 60fps for capturing faster moving action or at 720/30fps.

As with the previous Playsport, the video is quite appealing for a pocket camcorder. Occasionally, the colors would drift a bit but the effect is hard to notice unless you're really parsing your footage. Compared with last year's Zx3, the video appeared less noisy indoors, which is a plus.

In addition to video, the Playsport can also snap 5-megapixel still images. Unless you’re working with plenty of natural light and a very steady hand, the photo function mostly produces blurry pics.

Optics

The Playsport offers a fixed focal length lens with a 4x digital zoom. The zoom isn’t much help – it tends to simply ramp up the digital noise in your video, so it’s probably best to avoid it all together. The Playsport offers digital image stabilization to help keep videos smooth during recordings. The video I shoot wasn’t particularly shake-prone, but it’s hard to tell if that’s the stabilization kicking in or the fact that the Playsport is so small that you can get a real nice grip on it.

One thing you're likely to notice (and it's reared its head on other pocket cams) is trouble with the auto-focus. Sometimes it's slow to lock on, leaving you with a second or two of blurred video. It's not unusual for a pocket camcorder lens, but it's something to bear in mind.

Playsport Design

The Playsport isn’t the slimmest and trimmest pocket camcorder on the market, mostly because it’s designed to take a beating. Still, at 2.3 x 4.4 x .7-inches and 125g it’s still light and compact enough to slip into a pocket with hardly a notice. The corners of the Playsport are rounded off with a rubberized bumper which not only protects it from bumps but gives it a sturdier grip. While the camcorder seals away its memory card and connector ports to protect them from the elements, both click open easily so they're quick to access.

The Playsport has seven external buttons – an on/off switch that sits rather flush on the top of the camcorder and is a bit difficult to engage. It's backlit though, so you can notice when the Playsport is turned on (in case the live preview on the LCD display didn't tip you off). On the back of the camcorder, you’ll find controls for switching between still and video, playback, trash, settings and a share button – which lets you tag videos for automatic emailing or uploading once the Playsport is connected to a PC. These controls are quite responsive. The record button sits at the center of a four-way controller, which is a bit less responsive than the other controls.

The Playsport comes in three color choices: red, blue and black. Aesthetically, it's pretty sharp.

Playsport Zx5 Features

In addition to its rugged, waterproof design, the Playsport Zx5 has several video effects that can be applied to videos including vivid color, sepia, black and white, high saturation and “1970s film look” if you want a retro feel to your videos. There's an underwater setting as well to optimize your exposure if you take the Playsport beneath the waves. You’ll also find face detection, and the aforementioned share button, which lets upload videos automatically to Facebook, Flickr, Kodak Gallery , Twitter, YouTube and several other sharing sites. The share function is definitely a plus, but the Playsport doesn’t have a built-in USB plug, so you'll have to fish around for a cable when you're ready to connect.

Menu & Display

Kodak has updated - and improved- the menu system from the Zx3 on the new Playsport Zx5. Good thing too, as the older menu was difficult to understand. The new menu trades vague icons for simple text. It's not the most dynamic thing in the world, but it certainly gets the job done.

The Playsport’s 2-inch display features a glare-shield, which you can activate in the menu to compensate for bright sunlight. The display itself is bright but doesn’t have a great viewing angle, so you need to be holding it straight-on to get the sharpest preview of the video you’re recording.

Playsport Memory

The Kodak Playsport Zx5 comes with 128MB of internal memory so you’ll need to opt for an optional SD/SDHC card to record video of any length. The camcorder supports SDHC cards up to 32GB in capacity – enough to store about six hours of HD footage.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Bottom Line

The Playsport Zx5 is a very versatile pocket camcorder – it not only takes sharp video but is designed to go underwater and take the odd fall off a table. Despite its sturdy build, the Playsport is sharply styled and not at all cumbersome to carry with you. The lack of a built-in USB plug and a lapse in autofocus top the very short list of quibbles with the Playsport Zx5, which continues Kodak’s tradition of leading pocket camcorders.

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