Kodak Zx1 First Impressions

Last year I was able to check out Kodak’s first foray into the handheld HD camera arena when they lent me a Zi6 for a month. When I sent it back, I immediately picked one up as soon as they were available locally. While not perfect, it was a great little camera for my purposes. It was small, had easily replaceable batteries as well as virtually unlimited capacity thanks to it’s SD card slot. The HD video quality was pretty decent as was the price point.

I like to stick my cameras onto things as well as stick things onto them so the size and form factor was ideal.

Except now, Kodak managed to improve upon this great little camera and the new model is called the Zx1 (which sounds like something Bond would drive). Kodak was kind enough to send me an advance unit to play with again and here are my initial impressions, photos and sample video:

Kodak Zx1 HD Camera
The box is a little bit smaller than the Zi6 box…which makes sense since the unit is smaller although it actually comes with more in the box including: a set of rechargable batteries and charger, a cloth bag, wrist strap, USB cable, A/V cable, an HDMI cable (!) and an extra battery door cover.

Kodak Zx1 HD Camera
Kodak sent me a blue one which I quite like. The main directional pad in the middle is actually backlit blue too. The Zx1 will come in 5 different colours but unfortuantely no green for me. The unit feels comfortable in the hand, even more so than the Zi6. The size and shape feels like a Nokia N95 or some kind of MP3 player (remember the Olympus M:Robe?) and makes me wonder how long before the iPhone or some other cellphone has HD video recording capabilities built in.

Kodak Zx1 HD Camera
Zi6 on the left, Zx1 on the right

Kodak Zx1 HD Camera
Zx1, iPhone 3G and Zi6

Kodak Zx1 HD Camera
From top to bottom: Zx1, iPhone 3G and Zi6

Kodak Zx1
Rubberized port door which includes an HDMI port!

Yup, it's water resistant
It’s weather resistant as I can attest after getting caught in a brief downpour.

Sample video uploaded to YouTube (view in HD):

You can check out the original, unaltered video file,straight from the camera [20mb .MOV, right click to download]

I haven’t had a chance to shoot much video with it yet but my initial thoughts on the device are:

Pro:

  • smaller size
  • rubberized & ruggedized form factor is very comfortable
  • buttons are easily pressed, much more so than the Zi6
  • screen seems sharper/clearer but could simply be because it’s smaller than the Zi6
  • faster startup and record
  • HDMI port and included cable
  • no goofy pop out USB plug – I know some people like this but it never seemed to line up with any of my computers (laptops/desktops) so it felt like a liability and may break off – besides, people should be using a card reader anyways…faster and doesn’t kill the batteries
  • lens feels wider than on the Zi6
  • easier to open rubber port doors

Con:

  • smaller screen
  • video doesn’t appear to be any better than the Zi6
  • still no stablization
  • no included SD card – considering smaller SD cards cost next to nothing these days
  • no macro mode, unlike the Zi6 which has a great one
  • still no indicator for the remaining video you can capture on your SD card
  • not sure if it’s a Kodak issue or Flickr issue, but the Zi6 and now the Zx1 doesn’t seem to use a compatible codec that works on Flickr

I think the smaller, more rugged form factor alone has me wanting to sell my Zi6 and switch to the Zx1. I’ll post some more video once I’ve had a chance to play more with it and compare it to the Zi6…including testing out the low light improvements the Zx1 supposedly has.

The Kodak page I linked above says the Zx1 comes out in April…but Amazon says May 15th.

Update (November 18, 2009): I ended up buying a Zx1 for myself…after selling my Zi6, I bought the Zi8 when it first came out but missed the weatherization and AA battery support. After finding a smoking deal on the Zx1, I returned the Zi8. All are great cameras…but there are features I like on each of them. So for ME, the Zx1 is the better choice.

17 Comments

  1. jonathan daly says:

    nice review, would be interested to see any low light samples or opinions on that supposed improvement. Otherwise perhaps the lack of macro is too much of a tradeoff for being splashproof..

  2. paul says:

    thanks for the review. is it me or is it a little choppy? i saw your youtube videos and thought it might’ve been youtube. but i downloaded the esplanade.mov file and watched it on youtube and the van seems to be teleporting up the street? have you noticed the same thing on your machine?

    • John says:

      It could be your machine…the video is pretty smooth for me. My work PC (XP) had choppy issues but my MacBook Pro played it back fine.

  3. carl says:

    Great review! I’m pretty much sold on this over the Flip. There are a few key points though that you have yet to cover. Those being that annoying high pitched hum that can be heard in most Zi6 videos. Then, the low light situation.

    Looking forward to more!

    CS

  4. Bento says:

    Great Review. All the early reviews I’ve seen so far don’t have any video clips. Nice work. First low light videos I’ve seen and it looks alright…praise Jeebus.

    Just out of curiosity. Do the little lenses you played with on the Zi6 work on the Zx1? They look pretty cool.

    • John says:

      Yes, the fisheye and wide angle lenses I have work fine with the Zx1 since the lens opening is the same size as the Zi6…but to use them effectively, you have to attach a small metal ring to the camera so they can stay magnetically attached. Since this is a loaner camera, I won’t be attaching the lenses to them…but I really want to.

  5. paul says:

    hi John, i checked again on my linux box and it’s a lot smoother. so i guess it was just my vista box at work. were the movies that you uploaded on youtube straight off the camera? and were you filming in 60 fps or 30 fps? thanks again for the reviews.

  6. John says:

    Paul: I think all the videos I’ve shot have been at 60fps….and with the exception of the low light test, all were straight from camera to Youtube.

  7. du BoisPerdu says:

    hi John,
    nice site and greatly appreciative of your wide/fisheye tips on vimeo. Real reason I write: have u seen the latest post on vimeo comparison Zi6/Zx1. The sound qual on the Zx1 is noticebly deficient… have you compared the two? Also, in one shot, the sun saturates the two cams and the the old Zi6 handles this much more successfully. Makes me wonder if they’e just upped the eV gain on the newer model to give the impression the lo-lite performance is better.
    Just some thoughts!…

    • John says:

      I haven’t really noticed any difference in the sound between the two cameras…but I haven’t actually done any kind of comparison. It’s been pretty rainy here for the last while but if the sun does come out, I’ll try a shot with both at the sun. The Zx1 has been confirmed by Kodak reps that it is just a repackaged Zi6 as I suspected…I haven’t really noticed anything significant between them from a video quality standpoint. The firmware update on the Zi6 certainly improved things but it’s still not the same firmware as the Zx1 so the eV gain could be one of the differences. It can be hard to tell unless you view the source clips from the cameras since putting them on the web always introduces some kind of loss.

  8. Ryan says:

    Hey John,
    I’ve really enjoyed your posts about using different lenses with the cameras, so thank you :). Because the face of this device is not magnetic, I am curious as to how difficult it would be to attach a ring to the face as you suggested? Glue? Any more theoretical yet specific advice would be helpful. I am interested in either the Zi6 or the Zx1 but buying the former seems like a bad decision with the big brother present.

    Thanks again

  9. John says:

    Ryan – the lenses come with metal rings that have thin double sided tape already on them….you just peel and stick. The lens then connects to that ring via the magnet on the lens itself (which is glued onto the back of the lens).

    Both a great cameras….it boils down to do you want smaller/weatherproof or do you want a bigger screen/macro option. The lenses will work with either camera.

    As I’ve said before, if I could do it again, I’d buy the Zx1 over the Zi6 simply because of the form factor but that’s just me.

  10. Kelly says:

    I really want one of these… but does it take regular pictures? I’ve read many reviews and nothing found that mentioned still capture quality, or provided any samples (or right out stated whether or not it has this function). I’m sorry if it’s a stupid question, but I really would like to know!

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Lynx says:

    Do you know if any configuration is needed in GNU/Linux ?
    (p.e. Ubuntu)

  12. Jorge says:

    There is a mobile phone that has HD video recording, the Samsung Omnia HD

  13. Ryan says:

    Personally I like having a separate device for personal video recording, as all experiences with multi-purpose phones are less than enjoyable.

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