Kodak took a slightly different step with their Zi6 and return to the pocket camcorder fray with the Zx1. Competing against the likes of the skinny Creative Vado HD and the Flip Mino HD, can the Kodak perform, or does this fat lad get left behind the pack?
Well there are some distinct advantages to being slightly plumper than the rivals - the first of which is offering the use of AA batteries; the second is using an SD card for storage. The combination of these two factors means that the Zx1 has potential stacked in its corner.
The design has been tweaked over the first iteration of this pocket camcorder, now measuring 50.1 x 107 x 20mm. The back features the 2-inch LCD display set into a brushed metal backplate below which you'll find the touch controls. Each control is indicated and outlined in red rubberised detailing. The icons are a little indistinct unfortunately, because otherwise it looks pretty smart.
The main premise of the Zx1 is to add a slightly ruggedised model to the mix. It all feels solid enough and comes with rubber flaps to cover up all the ports. It's not weatherproofed to any great extent and you'd have to decide whether this is rugged enough, or whether you should buy a waterproof case for the Flip Mino HD for example.
They've done away with the on-board USB connector and ramped up the connectivity in the Zx1. Now you get a mini HDMI and a bespoke connector serving as an AV and USB connection. There is also a DC in for those who opt for an additional charger to charge the batteries within the device; perhaps not necessary as Kodak have bundled in both the rechargeable batteries and the wall charger as they did with the Zi6.
For some the removal of the flip-out USB might be a step away from the original point of these pocket camcorders - you don't need any extras. But with a removable card that sort of changes things, as you can simply stick the card straight into the card reader on your notebook. If you don't have that option, then yes, you'll need a card reader or a cable.
In terms of software, you don't have the same slick experience that you get from either the Flip or the Vado, but the ArcSoft software is arguably more power. However, with a removable card, it is perhaps more likely that you'll use a direct upload option for sharing online anyway.
Also included, much to our delight, was all the cables you'll need, so they have come up trumps and provided the HDMI cable you'll need to hook-up to your TV. Many companies scrimp on this inclusion, so all credit to Kodak.
What they don't include is a SD card, but it will accept SDHC cards up to 32GB, which gives you plenty of space compared to the desultory 2GB offerings you'll find elsewhere.
The controls, as we mentioned, aren't as clear as either the Flip or Vado rivals, but it doesn't take long to get used to the options here. In terms of quality there are three settings: HD60 (720p/60fps), HD (720p/30fps) and VGA (640 x 480). The former are both 16:9 while the latter is 4:3. The size of the files shifts quite drastically too, but given the expandability of the memory, this may not be an issue.
Like the previous pocket camcorder from Kodak, the Zx1 gives good quality video captured in the top two levels, which we found looked respectably crisp viewed on our HDTV. Colour is well represented and the Zx1 reacts relatively quickly to cope with changing light conditions. It isn't so strong in low light, where the Flip is relatively good, but overall, it is a solid performer for such a compact device.
The problem that blights the Zx1, as it does both the Flip and Vado, is handshake. There is no form of image stabilisation so the only way to really get a steady image is to use a tripod or stand it on something solid - something that the Vado won't do because of the flip-out USB arrangement. There is a tripod mount on the bottom, perhaps the best accompaniment is a flexible pocket tripod: there is little point in having a pocket camcorder if you are lugging a bulky tripod.
However it is easy enough to support the Zx1 on rails, walls and ledges in the urban jungle so catching HD footage of your mate ripping up the place on his deck shouldn't be too much of a problem.
The sound captured through the mic is pretty good too, albeit mono, although being rather exposed it does suffer as soon as the wind picks up and there are no options to get round this. You can also use the Zx1 to capture stills should you choose to do so, but at only 3MP, it doesn't really give you much over a mobile phone camera.
Overall we like the Kodak Zx1. The extra size means it isn't quite as slick as others on the market, but we really like the flexibility on offer here. We did several hours of filming without batteries being a problem, but battery life ceases to be an issue because you can always grab some extra batteries and throw them in.
Being able to swap cards, plug straight into your PC, and expand and you wish is also a great benefit.
Compared to the main rivals, the Zx1 and Vado HD both offer you a decent size of screen and the ability to connect straight to your TV (although the Vado doesn't come with all the cables). The Flip, on the other hand, although limited in some areas (screen size, capacity) does perform well and give you that simple interface.
Overall, we'd rather take the Zx1 over those rivals because it gives you those choices. At £150, it’s pretty good value for money too.
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