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on August 22, 2009
Check out my sample footage video on Youtube. On Youtube search "djeror zi8 low light"

In my previous review of the Kodak Zi8 I was pretty frustrated at the fact that whenever I used the built in microphone the recorded videos had an annoying high pitch whine that made the audio from my videos almost unusable. Kodak recognized that this was an issue and created a firmware update that fixed the problem. It also fixed a few other things like the previous issue of the image getting darker as you zoomed in. They seem to have fixed all of the major problems with this firmware fix.

I do tech product reviews so I need the following things:

- External mic input - most of my videos are shot wearing a lapel mic
- Macro mode - I have to get close to little tiny screens
- SDHC memory - I go to all day trade shows, I need 10+ hours of video
- Power options - I need to be able to shoot while AC power is plugged in or use a large external battery.
- Under $200 - I'm poor.

Because of these requirements no other camcorder can fit my needs. One cool thing about this camera is that it is much more upgradable than the other pocket cameras on the market.

-The built in microphone is OK now that they fixed the whining noise, but it's still not amazing.

- Don't use the internal mic... I use an Audio Technica lapel mic for 1 person interviews.Audio Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone For events I ordered a Sony stereo mic to use instead of the built in mic. Sony ECM-DS70P Electret Condenser Stereo Microphone . Although I wish that Kodak made the internal mic better, for the most part I am kind of excited that the Sony stereo mic will give me much better sound than any of the standard internal mics that any of the pocket cams have.

-Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) sucks a lot of juice. Also the Zi8 uses a proprietary battery rather than cheap swappable AA's. Battery life when shooting non-stop is 1hr 16min in 720p 60fps with EIS on. If you turn off EIS you get about 1hr 41min at 720p 60fps.

- Use the USB to power cable that comes with the camera in conjunction with an external battery source. This is a must if you are going to be recording for more than an hour with EIS, cause that's about what the internal battery will give you. Tekkeon TekCharge Rechargeable Li-Poly Battery You can just stick this battery pack in your pocket and connect the charging cable to the Zi8. This will allow you to record for a super long amount of time. I haven't tested to see what my total record time with the battery pack will be but it should be around 5X the standard recording time. (about 6 hours with EIS on, almost 9 with it off) This gives you the best battery life of almost any camcorder. Sure it's an extra cost, but when you're at an all day trade show you don't have to worry about running out of juice.

- Image stabilization can't rescue video you shoot while moving around. Any camera motion makes video awful.

- Accept the fact you should probably be using a mini tripod with this camera or at least stand still. Also, although it takes a bunch of time to process if you have the new iMovie the image stabilization processing you can do is light years beyond what the EIS in the Kodak Zi8 can do.

One more important note. Make sure you buy high speed SDHC memory cards for this thing. If your SD card is not fast enough the camera will record for like 2 seconds and then stop with an error. It took me a while to figure out why the camera kept stopping recording when in HD mode but worked fine in SD mode. It was because of my old SD card. You need to make sure your SD card has a write speed of at least 9MB/s if you want to record in 1080p. These high speed cards cost more, but you need them for any camcorder that is going to record HD video to them, it's not just the Zi8. I think most Class 6 high speed SDHC cards should work.

If you want to get the most out of this camera plan on spending an extra $100 - $150 in order to buy upgrade items. Personally I've come to the conclusion that the extra expenses were worth it. It all depends on what you plan on using the camera for. For a typical mom purse cam this would not be my recommendation, I would say go with a Flip Ultra HD. But for someone with particular needs like mine this camera may be the only one that fits the bill.
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on October 12, 2009
I rarely will type/review products but I've been a little frustrated reading the reviews of this product on Amazon and by users at other sites. Many users seem to think that this camera was designed to compete with expensive, professional cameras that cost thousands of dollars and produce full HD quality video. That's not what this is. Also, while my camera hasn't had the 'noise' issue from the Mic, i have seen a camera that had the issue and its BARELY noticeable. Its almost like a very quiet background noise from a Florescent light or something.

Kodak has designed, marketed, and built a camera to compete with FLiP and has clearly produced a FAR better product.

I'll keep it short and sweet and first explain who I am and what I am using this camera for. I use it for:
-Home Videos/Fun stuff with old buddies and friends
-For work when I need some quick video that's easy to upload online, or put in iMovie and edit
-For work when I need more complex videos that may require editing, or somewhat lengthy video but I want the ease of use/portability.

I have seen some of the problems stated with the internal Mic and I have had none of them (I do have the upgraded Firmware that is now standard 1.03, and Kodak says this completely eliminates the issue...again have never had the issue on my camera). A relative of mine was lucky enough to purchase this product when Kodak did an 'early' release a few months ago and occasionally his videos will have a bit of a higher pitched background noise, but it doesn't interfere with the sound from the video -- its just a light background noise that, honestly, i've heard on dozens of cameras. Don't forget, without an external Mic the camera only records mono so -- the sounds quality isn't going to be great anyway!

The video is great, image stability isn't as advanced as those available on more expensive cameras but it is better than anything i've seen in a FLiP or other Kodak model. It does work and you can see a difference, even if its not huge. Its SO easy to flip between video modes. The 1080p is awesome, but sometimes its nice to move back down to 720 and the 60fps to capture 'action' footage.

One negative -- which most people may see as a positive -- i do wish there were more settings, or at least the ability to play around with more features/edit modes. Its GREAT easy to use, its a point and shoot video camera -- but with the great lens and abilities, it seems like Kodak could have -- pretty easily -- had this camera competing with much higher end cameras. If all the hardware was put to great use this could compete with $500+ cameras. But I understand wanting to keep it simple.

I like having the SD card. Some people would prefer the internal memory, and yes by the time you buy a decent sized SD card the camera is more expensive than the FLiP, but, the FLiP has a very limited memory. This camera is limited only by the size of the card...Definitely a positive!

Finally, I know people that are both in the TV business and do a lot of Video blogging and they are drooling over this camera because of the external mic capabilities. One reason lots of 'pros' didn't like FLiP was because of the audio issues. Kodak has solved those, not to mention providing better quality video.

Again this isn't something to shoot with if your a young film-maker or a die-hard amateur cinematographer. But if you need something cheap to get some great quality video, or need something super easy to use that is really portable....Take the plunge. And if your considering FLiP -- don't bother...
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Instead of shooting a review, I took some video, outdoors in the dark, in a dim room, and various lighting conditions. I erased the audio portion - it was just wind and ambient noise. The original video is great quality - hopefully Amazon does not compress it too much!

Christmas lights in front of the house, the tree inside the house, and some footage at the local gym (dark, medium and bright conditions!)

I also shot some close-up footage with the close-up setting on and off so you can see how it works.

All videos are recorded by the camera in .mov format.
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on January 24, 2010
So, I read all the same reviews you did on Amazon. Some people love it some people have had problems. I have not seen a product with such a wide range of reviews and was very leery. I bought it locally at a store with a good return record as Amazon was out of stock with no ETA on new stock.

I will start by saying, I have not had any of the problems that seem common here. No lines, no funny squeals/hums, etc. This unit came with the latest firmware installed (1.06).

Reading the 4 and 5 star comments on Amazon, I would say they are in line with my own experiences. For my needs this camera hits the mark on so many levels.

My needs:
- Small camera
- Ability to record fast action movement of sports/dance activities
- Extremely easy to play back on a computer AND television
- Zoom. Optical would be great, but not needed for what I do.
- A standard video format that could be edited by lots of different software.

Major pluses that tipped the scale to this camera over others:
- Removable memory. I don't want to download everything to a computer when I am on vacation. Swapping out the memory card is like loading film...I'll process it when I get home.

- Removable Battery. With all of my rechargeable tools/toys, I will use them more if I can swap out a run down battery and keep going. This lesson was first learned with cordless drills, always buy a second battery so you can keep working.

- Decent quality video for the size. Look at another reviewer on Amazon. He did a decent job of recording in different lighting conditions to show you what to expect. Similar videos were found on Youtube.


This seems to be a problem for a lot of people. I really didn't expect much and knew from other reviews that the .mov format was compatible with Quicktime. I would have preferred something I could use on Windows Movie Maker, but if the software did not work it was only $30 to upgrade to Quicktime Pro to edit.

As an aside: I found it interesting that folks complained that only PC software was included. What they didn't seem to understand is this .mov format works natively with the standard iMovie software on the Mac.

All that said, the Arcsoft software loaded fine on an old laptop running XP. Now, like any other video editing software, I had to close all other programs to keep the video from being jumpy when I edited or played it.

The one interesting detour I did not expect was the 8GB SDHC card I bought for the camera was not something the old XP could read with it's built in SD card reader (SDHC did not exist when this computer was built). It worked fine with a newer Vista based computer. That said, flipping out the USB connection from the camera and plugging it into the XP laptop worked great. The laptop treated the camera like a USB memory stick and the movies run in Quicktime.

As to converting the .mov to something I can use (say .avi) with Windows Movie Maker, I did find some free tools listed by other reviewers that worked fine (RAD Video Tools - [...]) .

What would I like to see different? An adjustable focal length so I could get everyone in the shot across the table and still take the long shots. I expect that will be years before this feature is affordable enough to put in a $200 camera. I do look forward to that day as I bet we see optical zoom and detachable lenses to do fun things when that day comes.

I think I got lucky in some areas and had different expectations in other areas.

It appears that the early adopters had problems and Kodak was quick to fix them. I received a newer model with the latest fixes (firmware) and possibly newer ArcSoft software.

I never expected a $200 camera without optical zoom to take pictures of cameras costing twice as much and more.

I never expect included software to be stellar as that has never been my experience with ANY product. It should do the basics, and for me it did, although I probably won't use it given other free options.

I have had video cameras in the past and recognize the need for good lighting, both on the subject and behind the subject. That said, I am pleased with the video even in low-light situations as it is better than what I expected.

If you need a small video camera that is very easy to use and share your videos, I would not hesitate to recommend this to you.
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on November 8, 2009
I'm friends with a lot of Boston area musicians, and I have been very supportive of them. Near the beginning of the year, I started using a Kodak Zi6 in preparation for a video project involving the Boston area music community, mostly as proof of concept for the use of modern low-cost video technology in capturing music shows in a very naturalistic, unobtrusive manner. There was a long learning curve, mostly to do with processing the raw video and audio -- video cameras in general are not designed for the lighting and sound levels typical of club shows, and despite the limitations of the Zi6 -- not so good low light sensitivity, a mono-only mic, and the included software was useless for my purposes -- I ended up getting pretty good results.

When the Zi8 was announced and that not only it was suppose to have better low light sensitivity and a higher resolution, but also image stabilization and a jack for an external stereo microphone, it was a no-brainer to get one. What was tricker was deciding on the microphone -- there were some video reviews on YouTube and such, but nobody was really recommending anything in particular. I did find one video using a Sony ECM-DS70P Electret Condenser Stereo Microphone and that seemed like it would work well: it was very compact, seemed to sound pretty good, and was relatively inexpensive. For the memory card, which you need, I just reused the 8 Gb SDHC cards I had bought for the Zi6. I had gotten spoiled with the battery life of the Zi6 -- a couple of cheap, rechargeable 2400mah NiMH AA batteries would be good for all night and nearly 4 Gb of recording. The Zi8 uses a compact lithium-ion battery that lasts maybe only a third as long. Amazon had exceptional deals, though, on both compatible batteries and a charger, so I ended up getting both 2 BATTERY+CHARGER FOR KODAK KLIC-7004 V1073 V1273 M1033 and Kodak KLIC-7004 / Fuji Np-50 / Pentax DL-I68 Compatible Li-Ion Battery. Even though the specs on these batteries give them a higher capacity than the Kodak battery that comes with the Zi8, they've so far been lasting about 80-90% as long. For the price, though, they were/are exceptional deals.

I starting using the Zi8/Sony mic combo back at the beginning of October and the overall improvement over the Zi6 was immediately obvious: even at the same 720p resolution, the Zi8 produced much sharper, cleaner video in a club environment, and the Sony mic just rocked in terms of sound quality. The Zi6 for a long while was reputed to have the best internal mic of all the pocket digital camcorders, but the Zi8 with the Sony just blew it away. The best thing about the Zi6's mic, though, was that it was nearly impossible to make it clip -- it was able to handle insane volume levels. The only times it had trouble was with very, VERY high bass volume levels. The only drawback to the Zi8/Sony combo is that it can't quite handle the same volume levels, especially if there is excessive midrange on the vocals. The Zi8 has an microphone input level control, but even at its lowest setting, I've had a couple of instances where vocals cracked due to excessive midrange volume at around 640khz. But bear in mind that is while standing near the stage and by the speakers at a rock show mixed with too much midrange. But so far, for easily most of the rock shows, the audio has turned out superb with the same processing tricks I learned using the Zi6.

There is one proviso with the audio: I now always extract the audio and use a separate audio editor (something like the free Audacity editor) to clean it up before adding it back to the video (which is actually easier than it sounds). I did notice that there was very narrow "dip" (more like a reverse spike) at about 7900khz that wasn't correctable, but it was narrow enough and at a high enough frequency not to be noticeable. I thought that this was a Sony mic characteristic, but I recently upgraded the Zi8's firmware to 1.06, and the "dip" shifted downwards to about 5500khz, and was a little bit wider, but not nearly as steep. You would think that this would be more noticeable, but that it's now much more correctable than when it was at 7900khz, and the audio overall sounds cleaner than before the upgrade.

The biggest weakness with both the Zi6 and Zi8, and in general with all video cameras, as well as cameras that do video, is the software. Pretty much all concert videos need some adjustments for brightness, contrast, saturation and maybe hue, and the audio usually needs to be corrected with something like a graphic equalizer at the least. This is basic stuff, but nobody seems to include good software for this. The Zi8 comes with ArcSoft's MediaImpression, but while it does allow some good basic adjustments to picture quality, there is nothing for audio adjustment. Both the Zi6 and Zi8 save videos in Apple's Quicktime "Mov" format, and there isn't a whole lot on the Windows PC side that deals with this cheaply and easily. I tried Apple's Quicktime Pro, which is relatively cheap at $30, but I found it too slow, too limited, and too poorly designed to bother with for regular use. I also tried different conversion programs, but you always loose detail with every conversion. I ended up using VirtualDub, which is free, and some free plugins for it. But VirtualDub is not able to directly open up MOV without some geeky trickery, the details of which are beyond what I can put here. Probably for most users, another free program, Avidemux, will likely do. It's not really meant for beginners, but you can find beginner guides easily enough online. There are some $99 programs that *might* do, but my experience with a trial version of one of them wasn't the best, and you need a lot of horsepower to deal with a 720p video resolution. Even when using compact, no nonsense VirtualDub for processing, it typically takes my stripped-down 3 Ghz Pentium D system about an hour on average to process a typical 4 minute concert video for uploading to YouTube.

Anyone interested in my personal results can just do a YouTube search for "MelodyMatters" and all the videos there from the beginning of October to the present (except for one), were done with a Zi8. FYI....
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on August 25, 2009
Since I already own a Kodak zi6, I will restrict my review to comparison between Kodak zi8 and zi6. Overall, I feel that zi8 is a significant improvement over the previous model. The video quality is definitely better than zi6 in all conditions, whether outside in bright sunlight or indoors in low light. The firmware is superior giving a more user friendly interface and buttons layout is much nicer. Unlike zi6 where setting menus was hidden, this time you get direct access to settings including controlling the screen brightness, altering mic sensitivity, turning image stabilization on/off and enabling/disabling face recognition.

I think this is a great video camcorder at a great price. Go for it!

------------- update: Sep 24 2009 --------------

Upgraded to the latest firmware 1.03, and this eliminated the background noise in my recordings completely! Wow. Thanks Kodak for listening to costumers and quickly fixing the mic bug.

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on August 21, 2009
Update: 10/23/2009 -- I haven't tried the newest version of the camera, so the sound problem I experienced could be fixed.

It's surprising how practically none of the reviews (CNET, WIRED, etc.) talk about the high-frequency sound/whine when using the in-camera microphone. (One I saw used a Sennheiser mic-in, and when they unplugged the mic, you could hear the noise...) I feel like Superman when Lex Luthor sent that high-frequency message which only he and dogs could hears. I can't reproduce it reliably, and tested in quiet spaces and with different recording quality settings. It occurs in about 1/2 of my clips. I used a Radio Shack 33-3013 with it, and that sounds great. See the video review: 1st section is with the lapel mic (very visible), 2nd section is with the lapel mic, held next to the camera, 3rd section is with the built-in mic. I downsized the video, but the audio is 48KHz/16-bit.

I wanted a cam with a decent mic so I wouldn't have to carry two things with me. I wonder if other reviewers listened to their footage in loud offices and couldn't hear it. Or this one is faulty.

I also miss the wide-angle lens of the Creative Vado HD. I failed to find real numbers on the focal length, so I can only say the Vado is "much" wider. Macro mode, however, is lots of fun. (Check out Vimeo for a post on how to use magnetic wide-angle and macro lenses with a VadoHD...)

I really wanted to love this camera, but I can't. The image stabilization may help with fast pans, but walking-footage looks pretty bad. If the sound can be fixed, or even attributed to certain situations/settings, it'd be much more usable. If someone else knows what's up, please comment.

My perfect cam would be the Vado HD with its wide lens, add mic-in and interchangeable memory. I could replicate macro with little add-on, homegrown lenses. The VadoHD is smaller, and the non-shiny surfaces doesn't look finger-printy.

Pros: interchangeable memory (I like to keep the camera rolling), macro mode
Cons: high-pitched whine with in-cam mic, narrower lens, footage looks much shakier than the Vado HD
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 16, 2009
As others have mentioned, you really need to add $20+ (for an SD card) to the price of this to compare it to Flip and other cameras with built-in memory (the Zi8 does have a small amount of onboard memory, but it's only enough to test the camera, not enough for any real use). That said, though, it's still a bargain.

First, and most importantly, the video (and audio) quality is exceptionally good for a camera in this price range. No, it won't compare with a $1000+ camera - but it compares very well with Flip and the like. My initial video was made by following my four year old around the house as she explained things to me. Bright sunlight to dark hallways to lit rooms, close to and far from the camera, still and active. We recorded (at 720p/60fps) for ten minutes, then connected the Zi8 via the included HDMI cable to the TV and watched. I was quite impressed. I wouldn't expect the Discovery Channel to use these to film the sequel to the Planet Earth series, but for recording kids, pets, outside events (I also recorded my dog running around the yard), etc., it does very well. Color fidelity is good, and the built-in audio had no perceived issues. Adding an external mic makes it even better (my daughters use one and attach a tripod so they can interview each other).

I'm a Mac user, so I can't speak to the ease of use of the included software, but I can say that the Zi8 connects easily to the Mac (the first time, I only saw the drive partition with the Windows software, but I ejected and plugged it back in, and from then on, I saw the image/video partition as well). The movies are all in H.264 format, so iMovie (or virtually any other video software) works well with them, and, as others have said, iMovie does jitter reduction well, so no need to waste camera batteries on image stabilization). Also, obviously, you can eject the SD card and use a card reader to import the movies and pictures on any OS.

Speaking of pictures... the picture quality is adequate, but very much in the cellphone camera quality range - I wouldn't use this to take wedding photos or to document UFO sightings, but it's fine for the things you'd use your cellphone camera to snap.

Ease of use is great, but I will admit that, at first, I took a lot of half-second videos because the camera begins taking video whenever you switch resolutions. Still, it's trivially easy to use.

I rate it five stars because, for the price (even including an SD card), I was very impressed with what came with it (cables, etc), with the quality of the recordings and of the camera, with the ease of use, with the external mic option, with the removable battery, and with the overall experience.

At under $200 with a memory card, it is currently the best of the pocket-cam options.
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on October 20, 2009
I'll try to keep this as short as possible. I bought this camera a month ago directly from the Kodak online store. Upon arrival, the camera displayed noticeable vertical lines in all of the modes except 1080p. These vertical lines appeared both on the external LCD display as well as when the files were transferred to a computer. I tried three different SDHC cards (all class 6), and upgrading the firmware. No dice. Additionally, the internal microphone had that high pitched whine sound that has been mentioned a lot (contrary to what many say, the firmware did NOTHING to fix this problem, at least for me). I called Kodak's tech support, and they told me the camera would need to be sent in for repairs, covered under warranty. I had to pay $20 non-reimbursed shipping to send it off, but I did anyway. The facility, an outsourced repair center called Precision Camera and Video Repair had the camera for about three weeks. They claimed they replaced the main CPU and power circuit.

I received the camera yesterday, exactly one month after I initially received it, and the same exact problems persist. Once again, I tried different cards and upgraded firmware. No help whatsoever. Additionally, the repair facility scratched the external screen up pretty good, something that was NOT there when I sent it in. So I called tech support again, and said I want a new camera. They said they can't do that, and that I would need to send it the SAME repair facility, and spending my OWN shipping costs again. I said that was unacceptable, and they transferred me to store customer service. They said that they could not replace the camera since it had been repaired...something that tech support assured me would fix the problem. I was livid at this point, and demanded a supervisor. After re-explaining the situation for what seemed to be the 50th time, she supervisor told me that she would need to get authorization from upper management, and that she would give me a call back tomorrow (today...still no call, but it's early). She said if they approved it, I would get an email with a shipping label and to send the camera back. Once they receive the camera, I will be refunded, and can reorder a new camera. I will be refunded my initial shipping costs, but not the cost I paid to send it in for repair. So not only am I a month into this, with no working camera, but I spent an hour on the phone, with no ultimate resolution...yet.

Here's the moral of the story. First, don't send it in for repair, demand a new camera. Second, go through Amazon, and avoid Kodak's customer service at all cost. Third, don't buy this camera. The 1080p mode is nigh-useless (it zooms the frame in, narrowing the viewing angle and shooting width, thereby giving you a clearer picture...but much smaller and more narrow), the internal mic is garbage, and more likely than not, you're going to have a sensor problem (look in the forum below or google "Zi8 vertical lines." You'll see many people with the same problem I had) that isnt going to get fixed for you. I dont mind buying an SD card, but when you factor in an external mic, tripod (the electronic image stabilization is also useless), and the headache of actually getting a working product, you're going to spend upwards of $300 and have a heart attack. At this point, I will be taking my refund and running. I will never buy a Kodak product again. You send me a defective product, make me pay for the return costs for repair, DO NOT REPAIR THE ISSUE, and then try to tell me that I cant exchange it or get a refund...even though it's covered in the money-back warranty? I don't think so. Never again. All that potential, and this camera is a cheaply made bust.

I think I'm going to take my money, buy off Amazon, and get the Flip MinoHD 2nd Generation. I have an Ultra HD and it's great, but bulky. Only would like a mino for the portability. I would have loved for the Zi8 to work. External mic, expandable storage, 7209/60fps (this was the feature I was most jazzed about since it offers a much smoother video in "action" shots. Too bad this was the very thing that was defective...twice), thin, sleek design, large screen...almost the perfect camcorder. But as it stands, the issues with this camera far outweigh the benefits. I would prefer something more versatile than the Flip line of cameras, but it's looking like thats a pipe-dream at this point.

Thanks for reading. It ran much longer than I would have liked, but I needed to get some of the issues off my chest.
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on September 27, 2009
This little gem arrived via UPS just last week, and I am extremely impressed with the combination of features, quality and performance. Three things to keep in mind - remember the price being paid, it's ease-of-use, what it can do, and you can fully appreciate this device for what it is. I work with output from the five-figure JVC HD cameras as part of my job, and you are not buying one of those. So it isn't appropriate to make comparisons between abilities and picture quality - and you also have to be very aware of lighting when using one of these.

Having said all that, I was still amazed at some quick clips I shot at a nearby lake. I played them thru the included HDMI to my 42" Samsung and was stunned at some of the resolution I saw. With careful placement of the camera and awareness of the lighting, it DOES approach broadcast-quality with the 1080p setting.

I put together a quick pastiche of clips from my road tour and posted it here at YouTube: Search under the term: "Lake Monroe Scenes." Also, check out another one I made called "Autumn Dreams" (under the name LGwalt).

Here you can see for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of this camera. When I can have full control of the lighting, the results approach spectacular. The shots taken thru the windshield while the car is in motion can show you some of the problems with lighting adjustment going from shade to bright light. This was edited in Corel Studio Pro. It was originally shot in 1080p, I converted it to 720p 30 fps in Oxelon for ease of editing in Studio Pro, and exported it to YouTube as a 720p 30 fps HDV file.
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