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Kodak PlayFull HD Video Camera review: Kodak PlayFull HD Video Camera

Kodak PlayFull HD Video Camera

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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7 min read

With the Playfull in Kodak's minicamcorder lineup, it has a model for just about every type of user. Compared with its linemates, the rugged PlaySport and feature-filled PlayTouch, it is stripped-down, but you still get full HD-resolution movie and 5-megapixel photo capture; black-and-white, sepia, high-saturation, and '70s-film-look capture effects; electronic image stabilization; and on-camera clip trimming and photo creation from a video frame.

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7.0

Kodak PlayFull HD Video Camera

The Good

The <b>Kodak Playfull</b> produces very good video quality for its price and size, is easy to use, and has good editing and sharing software.

The Bad

Its screen might be too small for some users, the lens is fixed-focus, there's no flash or video light, and the battery can't be removed.

The Bottom Line

The Kodak Playfull minicamcorder is a pocketful of video fun, but it might be just too "mini" for some.

The Playfull (also called the Ze1) is barely bigger than candy bar, too, and very lightweight, making it a nice grab-and-go video camera. However, to get it so compact Kodak uses a tiny LCD that, while good, could make for a lot of squinting and uncomfortable shooting and playback.

Regardless of any shortcomings, though, the Playfull is a nice option if you want more than what your smartphone offers in terms of video quality, performance, and battery life, or simply want a quick, reliable pocket video camera.

Key specs Kodak Playfull
Price (MSRP) $149.95
Dimensions (HWD) 3.9x1.6 x1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 3.4 ounces
Storage 20.3MB internal; SD/SDHC card (not included; up to 32GB supported)
Resolution, sensor size, type 5 megapixels, 1/3.2-inch CMOS
LCD size, resolution 1.5-inch LCD, 70K dots
Lens Fixed focal length, f2.8 44mm (1080p); 33mm (720p) (35mm equivalent)
File format (video, audio) H.264 video, stereo AAC audio (.MP4)
Resolution (highest) 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (14Mbps; progressive)
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, rated life Built-in lithium ion rechargeable, 120 minutes (720p @ 30fps)
Software MediaImpression for Kodak (Windows, Mac); Kodak Share Button app (Windows, Mac)

As we've said many times before, a pocket video camera such as the Playfull 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. For its size and price, though, the video is very good. The default resolution is 720p at 30 frames per second. At this setting, clips look soft and not what I would consider "HD" but more like good DVD-quality standard definition. If you're shooting moving subjects, like someone running, you'll likely see ghosting trailing behind. Quickly panning the camera will result in noticeable judder. The same is true of the 1080/30p setting. However, these things are typical with minicamcorders and changing to the 720/60p setting helps some to smooth things out.

Now, if your subject isn't moving rapidly, the 1080/30p resolution is worth using because scenes actually look high-definition. There's a bit too much sharpening that causes ringing artifacts, but that's mostly noticeable when viewing at large sizes such as on an HDTV. Color is good and exposure is generally OK, too, but we found the Playfull clipped highlights in bright lighting--indoors and out. Low-light video, while noisy, is pretty good without a lot of detail loss. The Playfull doesn't have autofocus or macro focus, so no close-up shooting; its fixed-focus lens needs to be at least 3.3 feet from your subject. It also has nothing but a 4x digital zoom, which I recommend using sparingly. I've seen worse results from a digital zoom, but it's still not good.

The Playfull can capture 5-megapixel photos and it shoots quickly. The results are suitable for Web use and small prints, but, as with video, clipped highlights are an issue.

Features Kodak Playfull
Inputs/Outputs None/Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB
White balance Auto
Scene modes None
Focus Fixed (3.3 feet to infinity)
Color effects Black-and-white, Sepia, High saturation, and 1970s film look
Lens cover (auto or manual) None

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 Playfull 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 as well as international sites Yandex and Kaixin001 (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 de-noise. You can apply a handful of 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, storing, and e-mailing of photos and movies you tagged in the minicamcorder. The one thing it doesn't do is sort, so photos and movies get stored in the same folder. Both MediaImpression and the Share Button app are available for Windows and Mac. Of course, you can always opt to drag and drop content from the device to a computer or simply pop out your SD card and use whatever software you want.

For such a small device, Kodak squeezed in all the necessary ports for easy transferring and sharing, including a USB arm for directly connecting the device to a computer. It's stored in the very top of the device, internally attached by a flat, rubber cable. While the connection feels flimsy because it's not stiff plastic, you'd have to be pretty abusive to the connector to break it. That said, it is short, so you still may need an extension cable to connect the Playfull to your computer.

Behind a cover on the left side are a Micro-HDMI port and SD card slot (there's only 20MB of available internal memory, so you'll need to buy a card for recording). With previous models Kodak included an HDMI cable, but not with the Playfull. Instead, you'll need to register the device on Kodak's Web site to get the cable sent to you for a $6.50 shipping and handling fee. That's cheaper than buying one and better than what other manufacturers offer, but it's a bit of a hassle and an extra cost.

On the right side are the power button and a covered Micro-USB port for battery charging with the included wall adapter or by computer; the USB arm can be used for charging, too. (The battery isn't user-replaceable, and charging takes about 3.5 hours by electrical outlet or 4.5 hours by computer.) The Micro-USB can be used with an optional AV cable, too, but not for video and photo transfers. On the bottom are a standard tripod mount and IR receiver for use with an optional remote control.

Given that this is designed to be a basic shoot-and-share video camera, there are no jacks for headphones or an external mic; for those, you'll have to get a Kodak PlayTouch (or a Zi8 if it's still available).

As is typical of minicamcorders, the lens on front is unprotected, so you'll need to remember to keep it safe and clean. Next to the lens is the mono microphone, but that's it. There's no flash or video light, which is still a rarity on this type of pocket video camera. The problem is that smartphones typically have them, so not having one is a negative (regardless of how helpful they actually are).

Controls are simple enough, requiring just a little use to master. Instead of obvious buttons, the Playfull just has a flat panel with labels, which when pressed are actually buttons. With so many things being touch sensitive these days, pressing the labels might not immediately occur to everyone, though. Similarly, there's a raised ring around the record button that's used as a directional ring for navigating menus and settings as well as working the digital zoom and controlling playback. However, arrow markings apparently weren't in the design budget, and you have to press the ring fairly hard, perhaps making it easy for less tech-savvy users to miss the fact that this ring is a control. Still, all it takes to record a movie is to power up and press record.

Lastly, just below the record button is Kodak's Share button, which lets you tag the stuff you want to share online on your choice of sites or by e-mail. You can send things directly to Kodak's line of Pulse digital frames, too. The weak link here is that you're still required to connect the Playfull or insert your SD card in a computer to do your sharing. Otherwise, Kodak's three-step sharing process is pretty great.

Above the controls is the bright but tiny LCD. I rarely had trouble seeing the screen in bright sunlight and Kodak's Glare Shield feature, which bumps up the screen's color saturation, helped when I did. Viewing angles are good on it, too. No, the problem is that it's just really small, which makes it difficult to see what you're shooting and whether it's in focus. That wouldn't be as much of an issue if this had an autofocus lens, but again, it doesn't.

Conclusion
While testing the Kodak Playfull for a couple hours one day, I had three people ask me about it. (I'm generally unfriendly-looking, making that even more unusual.) They were naturally amazed by the size, but equally turned off by the LCD. In fact, everyone I showed the Playfull to said the same thing. But if you want something this small, you have to sacrifice something. In Kodak's favor, the screen is at least good for its size, and overall, the Playfull is a nice little gadget that produces very good HD movies for its size and price.

Find out more about how we test camcorders.

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7.0

Kodak PlayFull HD Video Camera

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Image quality 7
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