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The Kodak PlaySport Zx3 (the older model) was a pretty good camcorder (better than most in this category), so I was thrilled when I found out there was a new model coming out. However, Kodak made some changes that I was really disappointed about:
When it comes to video quality one of the most important things to look at is the size of the sensor. The (new) Zx5 has a 1/3.2 sensor which is smaller than the (old) Zx3 with a 1/2.5 sensor. Basically, bigger is better when it comes to sensor size. Smaller sensors result in more "noise" which will affect the image quality. This is especially a problem in low-light situations. (I think the video quality is good in bright light situations, but it is a bit grainy in low light.)
Now I don't expect too much from a $179 camcorder, but the older model which came out at $149 (and is now even cheaper), has a bigger sensor (with the same CMOS type and 5 MP size). What's up with that? Newer models are supposed to get better, not worse!
The other significant change is that the Zx5 has an integrated battery. Yes, that means it's non-removable. Which means that you can no longer keep spare batteries for "just in case"... and you know the battery always runs out at the worst possible moment. And, even worse, if the battery malfunctions/dies the camera is useless and you have to send it to Kodak for them to replace the battery ($$). And besides, what's the point of making a camera that is capable of recording up to TEN hours (on a 32GB card) when a single battery charge can't last even close to that?
If you can get past those two BIG negatives then you might want to read about the GOOD changes:
----Macro mode has been added. (7 - 17 cm). This is a really great feature.
----Focus range: Zx5 is ~4 inches to infinity, while the older Zx3 is ~39 inches to infinity.
----camera is now shockproof. (Good for those of us who drop things. I am guilty of that.)
----Special "Cool Capture Effects" added. This is really great for all you creative types.
----sharing videos online is a bit easier with this model. ("3-step sharing")
----records in MP4 format. The older model recorded in the MOV format. MP4 format is easier to work with in most video editing software.
The other positives about this camera (but these are not new features):
----Waterproof (up to 10 feet)... but being able to record in macro under water is new.
----Image stabilization is pretty good for a pocket camera.
----Face detection ability
----Can record up to 10 hours if you get a 32 GB card
----Small and comfortable to hold on to.
Comparing to Flip and Sony:
I also considered buying the Flip UltraHD, but its image sensor is even smaller. It is 1/4.5. The Sony Bloggie was a good contender with its sensor being 1/2.5, and it takes better quality still photos, but it's not waterproof and it also has the internal battery issue. You're not going to find a perfect, pocket sized camera with all the features you want, and all for under $200. So, essentially, you have to decide which features are most important to you, and which features you are going to sacrifice.
Overall, this is a pretty good camcorder and is filled with tons of good features, but I think it's really too bad that Kodak made those changes with the sensor and the battery. Otherwise, this really would have been an awesome little camcorder. Despite those 2 big negatives, I bought this camera anyway (instead of the Zx3). (I really wanted the macro mode and mp4 format). If most of your filming will be in low-light situations I wouldn't recommend this camera. It's good if most of your filming will be outdoors or in bright light.
If you do decide to get this camcorder, or any camcorder that uses SD/SDHC cards for that matter, be sure you get a fast card (a Class 6 or higher). A slow card can cause problems when recording.
Also, the HDMI cable is not included with the Zx5. They will send you one if you pay shipping & handling ($6.50). The other problem that people may not know of is that if you happen to own the Zx3 and already have an HDMI cable and think you can use it on this camera then think again. You're out of luck. The Zx5 uses a smaller cable. It uses the micro HDMI cable (type D).
I did a lot of research before buying this camera and still had a hard time choosing. Hopefully this review will be helpful to you.
(((I had to compress the uploaded video because of Amazon's file size limitation. The original is better quality.)))
I don't feel this camera is as bad as what some of the negative reviews imply. Sure, I shot some video that was horrible and really grainy, but I was in really low-light and I was moving too fast. I got much better results after slowing down. And filming in really bright light gave great results. What I really love about this camera is that I can get really close to my subject. I was only about 10 to 15 inches away from the birds in the uploaded video. (You can't get closer than 39" with the Zx3).
Also, my HDMI cable arrived today from Kodak so I was finally able to watch my videos on my 55" TV and I have to admit the picture quality was quite good. (so good that I'm changing my review to 4 stars). I actually seemed to get the best results from the 720p recordings. The biggest challenge is low-light. The lower the light levels, the more obvious the graininess is.