Kodak ZX1 Review
By Mike Flacy
Kodak's EasyShare ZX1 is a rugged little pocket video camera, that resembles that of a small cell phone. It's also quite stylish with five colors choices to choose from. The ZX1 boasts 720p (1280x720) HD movie recording at 30 or 60fps, a 2.0-inch LCD, fixed 4.1mm lens, standard VGA movies at 30fps, 128MB of internal memory, SD/SDHC card slot, HDMI output, USB 2.0 (high-speed) connectivity, and 3-megapixel (interpolated) still image capture. On top of these features, Kodak claims the ZX1 is also Weather-resistant with an IP43 Certified protection rating from the International Electrotechnical Commission.
The ZX1 is a well built model. The plastic pieces of the exterior have almost a 'rubberized' finish to them, allowing for a firm grip on the camera. Kodak includes two battery cover doors, one standard, and one 'stylish' unit. Each have a nice curved finger support that is designed to catch you right index finger, further adding to the comfort level of this camera. Like we mentioned earlier, the ZX1 is easily mistaken for a cell phone. In fact, many of those who saw me using the ZX1 asked what kind of cell phone it was. On the back is a stainless steal plate, with most of the camera controls built-in. I found all of the controls were very easy to use, however I do think Kodak could have done a better job of labeling them. Instead of naming each button, they used tiny symbols. There are only a very few options available on this camera, so there is only one setup menu available. To change the record mode, you simply press the 'Left' or 'Right' buttons of the 4-way controller. Needless to say, the user interface is Very easy to use. The 2.0-inch LCD is on the only viewfinder on the unit. It's used for framing, navigating the menu options, and reviewing stored files. While I was able to use it in almost all lighting conditions, I found the surface is a bit reflective and collects fingerprints easily.
Shooting performance was Ok at best, when compared to a consumer digicam. The time is takes to starting capturing video or capture a still image from power-up was about 3.0 seconds. Shutter lag averaged 3/10 of a second in both video and photo modes. Because the focus is fixed, there is no addition lag from an AF system. The shot to shot delay in still image mode average about 3 seconds between frames. Switching from Record to Playback, or visa versa, was about 1 second. Overall, I found the camera was a bit slower than I had expected, it even takes almost a second to change exposure modes. Our tests were done using a pq1 Class 6 4GB SDHC memory card.
Image quality from the ZX1 was similar to some of the latest 3-megapixel camera phones. In fact, looking at the tiny lens on this model makes one think that the ZX1 has the same internals as many modern day camera phones do. The 3-megapixel interpolated images that the ZX1 creates show decent exposure, and colors. Images are relatively sharp, however there was a good amount of edge softness present on the right hand side of the frame in all of our sample images. One thing you need to remember is that the ZX1 was designed primarily for video capture, so the addition of a usable photo option is a plus, and you should still be able to print a decent 4x6-inch prints.
The ZX1 offers three movie mode choices, VGA (640x480, 30fps), HD (1280x720, 30fps) or HD60 (1280x720, 60fps), all with mono sound. Overall, I found that all three modes produced decent video clips, that offer smooth playback and good sound. When shooting in marginal lighting, like indoors, the video does get a bit grainy; so be sure you have plenty of light if you are trying to capture high-quality videos. These movie files are saved as .MOV (QuickTime MPEG4 format) files, and the HD60 mode consumers just under 2MB per second; we highly recommend you purchase at least a 4GB SDHC memory card.
Power is supplied from two AA type batteries, one CRV3, or Kodak's KLIC-8000 Li-ion battery pack. This means you can use Alkaline, NiMH, or one-use lithium cells, which can be purchased just about anywhere. Kodak includes a set of their 2100 mAh NiMH cells with a handy charger. No battery life claims were made, however I found battery life was pretty good. I was able to capture a good amount of video, several still images, and conclude our other tests on a single charge.
Bottom line - Kodak's EasyShare ZX1 is a 'cool' little pocket video camera, and the weather-resistant shell adds to the versatility and overall appeal of this model. Still image quality will leave you wanting more, however the ZX1 can capture some pretty good HD video. Aimed more towards the younger generations, the ZX1 is sure to be a popular item among pre-teens and teenagers for 2009, especially with an affordable price tag or US$149 or less.
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