Adding video can liven up any small business Web site and help drive home a powerful marketing message. Fortunately, with the selection of low-priced camcorders now on the market, the cost of gearing up for moving pictures is less than $200. Among this new breed of affordable movie shooters is the Kodak Zi6 ($142-$179).
Kodak offers some of the best video capture in the point-and-shoot camera realm, so it's not surprising that the company decided to apply its savvy to the hot pocket-video market pioneered by the likes of the RCA Small Wonder and the critically acclaimed Flip, by Pure Digital Technologies.
Unlike some toy-like videocams in this price range, the Zi6 offers classy good looks and a sturdy build. Its black body with silver sides and chrome embellishments give it an elegant air. And in the hand, the camera feels solid, not flimsy.
A must for offerings in this product category, the Zi6 is very portable and relatively thin ‑‑ it measures 2.5 x 2.5 x 0.9 inches -- and at 3.8 ounces, it minimizes any pocket sag." Along with the camera's lens, the front of the unit sports a mono microphone, speaker and a button for popping out a full-sized USB connector built into the its left side.
The thinking behind the built-in USB connector is that it will make plugging the camera into a computer easier. In practice, however, its a bit frustrating--especially if anything else using a USB port is already connected to your computer.
You can also attach the video cam to any device with RCA connectors-- a VCR or TV--with cords included with the camera.
Positioning the lens at the top front portion of the camera leaves plenty of room to hold the unit with two hands for steadier shots. Like other video cameras in this price range, the Zi6 has a fixed focus lens and 2x digital zoom. In addition, you can take close-ups with the cams macro mode, which you activate by flipping a switch on its right side.
Compartments for a memory card and two AA batteries reside below the macro control.
The unit has 128MB of internal memory, but it accepts SD/SDHC cards as large as 32GB. We tested the Zi6 with an 8GB Sandisk ExtremeIII SDHC and never filled it up during numerous video sessions. One problem I've found with card-based video cameras is that they can produce choppy video with SD or slow SDHC media. That's not a problem with the ExtremeIII and this Kodak model.
We like this vidcam because it can capture high definition video at 720p and 60 frames per second. Shooting at maximum video quality can consume memory space very quickly, so be sure to use a large and fast memory card.
While the Zi6 produces superlative HD video for Web work, the unit's mono microphone captures spotty sound. For example, a classical concert shot indoors yielded very good sound, while outdoor shots on a windy day--the worst of all conditions--produced a muddle of noise.
When displayed on a 28-inch analog TV, the unit's video--captured in H.264 QuickTime format--was excellent and as good as a tape-based digital camcorder. In addition to movies, the Zi6 shoots still photos in JPG format at three megapixels, which is about the same quality as a middle-of-the-road camera phone.
The camera comes with two Kodak AA rechargeable batteries and a charger, and it also accepts conventional AA batteries, too. However, when youre recharging the batteries, there's no way to determine when theyre fully charged. The chargers two red LEDs light up when you insert the batteries, but they don't change color when the batteries are ready to reload.
|The Kodak Zi6 Video Camera|
At 2.4 inches, the Zi6's flat display is on the larger side for this video cam category. As with many LCDs, it's difficult to eye the monitor if it's in bright sunlight, but its visibility is better than many in those conditions.
Under the display, there's a dial with a pivoting button or "stick shift." In shooting mode, you can use it to page through the camera's quality options (VGA, HD, HD60 and stills), control the zoom and start or stop recording. In playback mode, you use it to scroll through clips and play them on the LCD.
Use the button to the left of the dial to trash clips and stop clips in playback mode. The button on the right of the dial lets you toggle between playback and shooting mode.
Uploading Zi6 video to a computer is simple and easy. On a PC, you can import files with ArcSoft MediaImpression for Kodak, a software program included with the camcorder, or you can drag-and-drop files into folders through Windows Explorer. On an Apple computer, you imported files into iMovie, an application included on all Macs.
The ArcSoft software is pretty basic fare, but it's adequate for simple projects. [author note to ed.: sample video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=^24Zi25^ caption: HD video shot with Kodak Zi6 and edited with ArcSoft MediaImpression for Kodak]
With its facile operation and high-quality video capture capability, the Kodak Zi6 is an excellent low-cost vehicle for anyone wanting to post video on the Web, and as a bonus, it's great for displaying family videos on TVs, too.
John P. Mello Jr. has been writing about technology, business and gizmos for more than 20 years. You can follow his scribbling via Twitter.
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