Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Best Kodak Pocketcam yet, but fragile
on June 25, 2014
I purchased my first pocket camera, a Kodak Zi8, for $135 from a brick and mortar store with the initials B.B. back in 2010 and immediately loved it (the quality, functionality, and ease of use). The features I initially appreciated most were:
* Removable battery (so I can carry charged spares)
* Removable storage (SD card)
* External stereo microphone input (I planned on recording musical performances with it)
* The HD video quality (though it turns out I would almost exclusively use the 720p/30 or 720p/60 modes because of the narrower field of view of the 1080p mode)
As it turns out, I've recorded hundreds of hours of video using the Zi8 over the past 3+ years, mostly of the my oldest daughter's volleyball tournaments, but other family events too (dance recitals, awards ceremonies, parties, vacations, pets antics, etc.). For these, I don't really need the stereo audio (and the external mic just becomes a hassle) and the 60fps record mode (only available at 720p on the Zi8) is great for creating highlight videos with slow-motion replays. I got *way* more than my money's worth out of the Zi8 and it's still working 100%.
Since 2010, I've purchased 3 more Kodak pocket cameras: the Zx3 (PlaySport), the Zi10 (PlayTouch), and the Zi12 (PlayFull), the last being the camera being reviewed here. I've also experimented with other video cameras (Flip, Panasonic, Canon, etc.), but the combination of convenience and quality of the Kodak Zi8 just couldn't be beat. Until now.
The Zi12 is the first pocket camera which I will now gladly use in place of the Zi8 for most situations. It uses the same batteries and removable media as my other Kodak pocket cams, so my investment in the extra (cheap) batteries and chargers and SD cards is preserved.
First, the pros:
* The 1080p mode uses the full sensor, so the field of view is as wide as possible, even wider than the 720p modes of the Zi8
* Supports 1080p at 60 frames per second (fps) which provides smoother slow motion replay effects when editing the recorded video (30fps is also supported, for smaller video files)
* Supports special 120fps and 240fps modes at reduced resolution (and no audio), but still a neat feature similar to the iPhone 5S Slo-Mo camera feature
* Uses the same inexpensive removable batteries as the other Kodak pocket cameras
* Uses removable SD media (up to 32GB)
* Has a stereo microphone input (doubles as a headphone output)
* Has a flash for still photographs
* Takes pretty good quality still photographs (as good or better than your best cell phone camera)
* The electronic image stabilization is pretty smooth and unobtrusive compared to the Zi8 (though I think I'd still prefer to disable it)
Now, the cons:
* Unlike the picture shown on Amazon's product description, this camera is not intended to be used vertically (like a cell phone). Still pictures can be taken in this orientation, if I remember correctly, but video should not. The control/menu screen will rotate when you rotate the camera, but the recorded video will not. This camera is to be used horizontally, like a point-n-shoot still camera (with the lens on the photographer's left).
* Oddly, the threaded tripod/monopod receptacle is on the *side* (the right side) of the camera when used in its intended orientation (horizontal). This means you'll have to find a tripod with a flippable base and it really needs to flip up to the left (rather than up and to the right) to be most useful. Apparently a design blunder there.
* To change the battery, you have to first remove the camera from any attached tripod/monopod (same as Zi8).
* While you can use digital zoom in 1080p/60fps mode when not recording, as soon as you start recording, the digital zoom feature is disabled (trying to zoom displays a message about that feature not being available in that mode)
* The electronic image stabilization feature cannot be disabled (unlike the Zi8)
* The macro lens mode has to be changed in a menu while not recording (unlike the Zi8, where it was a physical control that could be switched at any time)
* The MP4 recorded file container is more widely useable than the Zi8's recorded .MOV (Quicktime) container
* The recorded video quality is noticeably better than the Zi8, but the recorded video files are also noticeably *bigger* (yes, using the same resolution and frame rate on both cameras)
* Shorter battery life than the Zi8 (likely due to the higher resolution and inability to disable battery-sucking features like EIS)
* Apparently since Kodak is no longer in the camera business, there will be no support or firmware updates available from anyone :-(
The Zi10 (PlayTouch) was a disappointment, but not an expensive one, so I kept using the Zi8. Half way through this past volleyball season I caught 1080p envy and started looking for an upgrade from the Zi8. I had no idea that Kodak (or whatever ODM they're using) created another follow-on and I was surprised to come across the Zi12 during my new camera search in April of this year. When I purchased the Zi12 from Amazon, the price was $139. The price has definitely gone up since then (now $199), but I still believe it's worth it. I frequently get asked by other parents at volleyball tournaments what kind of camera it is and how well it works. It's noticeably smaller and lighter than most other "camcorders" and I'm able to record entire games (sometimes 30-40 minutes) without stopping or changing batteries. A fully charged battery will last about an hour recording at 1080p/60fps.
I imagine I'll keep using the Zi8 on occasion (and the Zx3 when water is involved, the Zi10 will just collect dust), but the Zi12 is now my primary video camera and I'm very happy with it.
** Updated **
* A maximum size of 32GB SD card may be used and this can be filled up with about 4 hours of 1080p/60fps video recorded with this camera. Supporting larger cards would have been nice.
* Only FAT32 formatted cards are supported, so recorded video files exceeding about 3.9GB (or about 25 minutes at 1080p/60fps) are split into multiple files. If the camera had supported the exFAT file system, that would have resolved this problem.
* Camera runs *hot*, or rather, the battery gets hot when recording at 1080p/60fps and heat is *bad* for battery life.
* The special SLO-MO mode can be activated with a physical slide selector (no menu needed), but you do have to stop recording before switching modes however.
* Did I mention the video quality is stellar? The field of view, resolution, and low-light performance absolutely blows the Zi8 away!
** UPDATE 2 **
This past weekend, the tripod holding my Zi12 was hit by a stray volleyball (as happens at volleyball tournaments) and the camera came crashing down to the cement floor. Now this has happened several times with my Zi8 over the years with no ill affect other than a chipped corner, purely cosmetic. However, with the Zi12, though there was no visible damage, the camera will no longer auto-focus beyond a few feet. I've played with the macro/auto-focus setting, taken the camera apart to see if there is any obvious physical adjustment, but to no avail. It appears this camera, after just 2 months of use, is now pretty much garbage.
Rather than pay the ~$200 for a replacement Zi12, I started shopping again and am now considering the Sony HDR-AS30V. I need something more shock resistant than the Zi12 apparently, plus the Sony Action Cams have WiFi (for remote control, preview, and playback via tablet/phone/laptop) and stereo audio. I haven't purchased yet, but I know now that I won't be buying another Zi12. It's a shame because I loved this camera and took some great looking video with it.