As with its predecessor, the Zx5 is a 5Mp stills camera as well as a video camera, but we were disappointed to find no karabiner loop (as there was on the Zx1) available for when we indulge in some proper extreme sports action.
This does, however, mean there’s a mite more room on the camcorder for buttons. A colleague pointed out a shortcoming of previous models in this range is that the small, close together buttons were fiddly to select when wearing ski gloves. Happily, Kodak has rethought the buttons on the reverse of the PlaySport, spacing them out and adding a dedicated Share button.
You can share via email, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Orkut and YouTube and can specify whether the media you share should be shrunk down for speed and a leaner inbox or sent at its original size (unwise for video, for example). Should you wish, you can add a ‘frame’ to a photo to give it an inimitable look.
Before you can get the PlaySport to share its contents you must install the device to your PC using the software preloaded on it. Despite having installed the Kodak software, we were unable to browse the directory of photos and video we’d shot from our PC. Instead, we had to accept the recommendation to install ArcSoft MediaImpression. We also found the frequent onscreen prompts to register our camcorder mildly irritating.
If you prefer, you can insert the SD card on which your photos and video have been shot into a card reader, of course. If you’ve already installed the software, though, you’ll have to tell it not to autoplay whenever you plug in a USB device.
As with previous models, the build quality of the PlaySport is faultless. The 125g device is neither too heavy nor too light and fits perfectly comfortably in the hand. Cradle it in the palm of your hand and you can easily access the raised plastic buttons with your thumb without having to stretch or readjust your grip. The slightly textured frontside of the Zx5 prevents it slipping from your grasp, while holding it upright to shoot footage doesn’t obscure the lens or the speaker.
The camcorder captures Mpeg4 video and widescreen photos. There’s a basic digital zoom too. The shots we got from the PlaySport Zx5 were rather mixed. The 4x digital zoom is no substitute for a proper optical one, of course, and our indoor shots came out granular and rather insipid. Outdoors on a bright day, we got some much more pleasing results, with plenty of lush green grass and punchy red and blues.
Kodak has added a speaker next to the lens. This meant we picked up a lot more dialogue than before. Indoors at a christening we found it picked up every snuffle and toddlers’ wail. Amplified output also recorded better: at a concert, both vocals and instruments sounded much closer than similar footage on some other camcorders of this type. (Unfortunately, the non-directional microphone also picked up the gossip of the other bystanders , of course.) When talking direct to camera, we got good, clear dialogue results.
The camcorder supports in-camera editing and a couple of fun effects, face-recognition and image stabilisation – the latter is one of the few useful additions we’ve found on what was already a great piece of kit.
Finally, one design quibble. We aren’t convinced that a removable lithium-ion battery is an improvement on in-device charging. Given its cited use as an underwater camera safe for depths of 3m, we’d have been happier had the Kodak PlaySport used a lithium-ion battery that wouldn’t potentially leak should it become exposed.