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.
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|
|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.
|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.