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Kodak PlayTouch review:

Kodak PlayTouch

Because you hold the PlayTouch vertically for shooting video, you don't get the full 3-inch screen to frame your shot. Instead you're stuck using a section that's relatively small at roughly 2-inches diagonal. It's not bad, just a waste. The touch screen is responsive, though it does take about a second for the interface to react when changing settings. And while I'm on the subject of settings, there aren't a whole lot of things to adjust since these minicamcorders are made for point-and-shoot use. Along with the Glare Shield feature, you get three levels of screen brightness and an auto option for letting the device set it; gain control for the mic or mic jack; on/offs for its electronic image stabilization and face detection; a Safe mode that keeps videos and pictures from being edited, shared, or deleted; and Share for selecting what social networks and e-mail addresses are shown when you press the Share button in Playback mode. Lastly, there are four video recording modes to choose from: 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 60fps or 30fps, and WVGA. You can also shoot 5-megapixel stills.

On the main screen you get an icon for accessing the setting menu in addition to icons for going from shooting to playback, capturing stills or video, and turning on one of the three color effect modes. Again, the screen is responsive so it doesn't take multiple presses to select things. This comes in particularly handy when you want to show off your videos. For playing content, you get the full 3-inch screen and there's a mono speaker in front or you can connect headphones. Playback is straightforward with the onscreen controls, and a tap of the Share button lets you tag movies or photos for automatic uploading to sharing sites or sent off to selected e-mail addresses when you connect to a computer. The best part of having the touch screen is for editing, though. You can quickly trim clips, so cleaning up a movie before you share it is painless. (If only there were a way to select and join multiple clips into one movie on the device, but there isn't.) You can also slowly navigate through a video and extract individual frames as 2-megapixel photos.

As we've said many times before, pocket video cameras such as the PlayTouch can't compete with a full-fledged HD camcorder costing hundreds of dollars more. There are other factors that go into creating great video beyond high resolution. However, even in the world of minicamcorders, the PlayTouch's 1080/30p video quality is merely average. When played back on an HDTV, you'll notice compression artifacts, color banding, and aliasing. Color is good, but scenes seemed a bit contrasty. On top of that, moving subjects get a healthy amount of ghosting, and panning the camera results in noticeable judder. That's not uncommon to minicamcorders, but it's above average from the PlayTouch. Switching to the 720/60p setting helps some, but not as much as it should, plus the results are much softer than those of the 1080p. Using the digital zoom only makes things worse and it's a bit jumpy, too. Low-light performance is good, all things considered, with just a slight increase in noise, artifacting, and banding. Lastly, the built-in mono mic is decent, but you can always add your own for better results. Also, in quieter scenes you may hear a low-level hiss.

Easily sharing the video is equally as important as shooting it with these devices. Stored on the device's internal memory are ArcSoft's MediaImpression for Kodak software for sharing and the Kodak Share Button app. Connect the PlayTouch to a computer via USB and MediaImpression will start installing. Be careful with your clicking, though, as the software will ask whether you want to use it as your primary application for viewing multiple types of photos and video. Once installed it will allow you to e-mail clips and upload directly to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo (after you've entered your account information, of course). There's a basic editor for trimming and cutting along with adjustments for color, contrast, and brightness, dynamic lighting, and denoise. You can apply a handful of fun effects as well such as Watercolor, Negative, and Sketch. It can capture individual frames and also convert video for use on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPod as well as Sony's PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. The Kodak Share Button app is what handles uploading and e-mailing of photos and movies you tagged in the minicamcorder.

Unfortunately, one thing it can't do is work on a Mac: MediaImpression is Windows only. If you own a Mac, you can install the Kodak Share Button app, so you can at least take advantage of that capability of the PlayTouch. For everything else you can copy your video and still images to your computer by dragging and dropping the files from the camcorder as you would with any USB storage device and then edit your video using iMovie.

Honestly, the Kodak PlayTouch isn't a bad minicamcorder; it's just not a very good one. That's especially clear in comparison to past Kodak models. It seems like Kodak sacrificed video quality in the move to make a fun touch-screen minicamcorder. That's a shame, because the PlayTouch is a fun device (you know, minus the design irritations) with some features you can't get on other pocket video cameras.

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