Kodak Playsport review: Kodak Playsport

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The Good Excellent video for its class; waterproof to 10 feet; HDMI cable included; very good sharing software.

The Bad No built-in USB connector; short battery life at highest resolution; no memory card; sharing software is Windows only.

The Bottom Line The Kodak Playsport is an excellent minicamcorder that can take some rough treatment and capture solid HD video.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

The Kodak Playsport, also known as the Zx3, is the evolution of Kodak's Zx1. While that model was weather-resistant, the Playsport is waterproof, able to record underwater down to 9.8 feet. There are other improvements, too, that make it a more capable pocket video camera--in and out of the water.

For its price there's little to complain about, but if you're after specific shooting abilities or features you'll want to keep reading. However, if your main concerns are an inexpensive HD pocket video camera that can handle a day at the pool, a hike in the woods, or some time in inclement weather, the Playsport is highly recommended.

At roughly the size of an average smartphone, the Playsport is fractionally bigger and heavier than other minicamcorders, but not in any meaningful way. You'll still have no trouble slipping it into a pants pocket or small handbag and it certainly won't weigh you down. The body is primarily plastic, but it feels like thick, tough plastic and the slightly textured back and ribbed sides help you keep a good grip on it even when wet. Despite its "rugged design," Kodak makes no claims of it being crush- or shockproof. In fact, the only durability claims made are that it's waterproof to 9.8 feet (meeting IEC standard 60529 IPX8, so my guess would be that's only for up to 30 minutes) and dust resistant (IEC standard 60529 IPX6). It's also not freezeproof, meaning it likely won't function properly when exposed to temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended time.

Key specs Kodak Playsport Zx3
Price (MSRP) $149.99
Dimensions (HWD) 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5.1 ounces
Storage capacity, type SD/SDHC cards
Resolution, sensor size, type 5 megapixels, 1/2.5-inch CMOS
LCD size, resolution 2-inch LCD, 154K dots
Lens Fixed focus, f2.8, 48mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (video, audio) H.264 (.MOV)
Resolution 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)
Recording time 80 minutes per 4GB (720p at 30fps)
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, rated life (typical use) Li ion rechargeable, 1 hour, 30 minutes (720p at 30fps)

As typical of minicamcorders, the lens on front is left fairly unprotected, so you'll need to remember to keep it safe and clean. Unlike Kodak's Zi8 model, the Playsport has no macro option for focusing on close subjects; the normal focus range starts at 3.3 feet, while underwater it starts at 4.4 feet. Next to the lens is a relatively sensitive mono microphone, a hidden IR receiver for an optional remote, and a record light that blinks red when you're recording. The light as well as all operational sounds can be shut off.

Controls are easy enough for out-of-the-box use. The power button is high on the right side, but all other controls are on back below the LCD. The circular four-way directional pad controls the 4x digital zoom (up and down) and changes recording modes (left and right). It's also used for navigation and fast forward, rewind, and volume in playback. The button in its center is to start/stop recordings, take a photo, and play/pause/stop videos in playback. The remaining four buttons to the left of the pad let you enter Liveview for recording; Review for watching what you've shot; delete photos and videos; and access the settings menu.

The LCD is relatively small at 2 inches diagonal, but it is good enough for shooting and on-the-spot playback. Kodak adds an LCD Glare Shield feature to this model that sounds fancier than it is. It simply improves screen visibility in bright outdoor lighting by changing from a Normal picture to High Saturation or Black & White. The settings have no effect on the actual video, but they can help you see what you're shooting. Toggling through them is done with the Liveview button.

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 built-in mono mic; on/offs for its electronic image stabilization and face detection; and an Underwater Mode that improves video and photo quality for better clarity when shooting underwater. 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.

To keep ports and such watertight, there are two locking doors; one on each side of the body. Under the right-side door is a proprietary USB port as well as a Mini-HDMI port and an AV jack; cables are included for each. To keep the body compact and limit opportunities for water damage, this model doesn't have a built-in USB connector that's common to this type of camcorder. Instead you have to use the included USB cable. Not only does this mean you need to carry a cable around with you for on-the-go uploading, you have to carry around this specific cable with you since it's not a standard Mini- or Micro-USB port. (Assuming you have an SDHC memory card reader available, you could go that route, too.)

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