Kodak Playsport Video Camera Review

I have used video cameras for as long as I can remember.  My first video camera was one of those really hefty kind that you sat on your shoulder and it used regular VCR tapes.  Yeah, and I admitted it.  Since then I have used every imaginable type of video camera, from ultra expensive to cheap, small to large, and everything in between including the Flip cameras.  I have loved the form factor and ease of use of the Flips, but not enough to make me fall in love with them.  But I think I finally found something that I can give my heart to… the Kodak Playsport!

The Kodak Playsport is about the same size as an iPod classic and just a little bit thicker.  It feels solid in your hand and it weighs just slightly less than said iPod Classic.  It has a standard threaded hole on the bottom that can be used to attach the camera to a tripod mount.  And it has a hole next to that for attaching a lanyard, which is included in the box.  The speaker is on the bottom as well, next to the tripod hole.  The colored back and about half of the edges are covered in the soft-touch rubber that you see on alot of cellphones today, which I happen to like.   That helps in holding it when it is wet, like when you take it around water.  The other surfaces are shiny plastic.  The LCD screen is 2 inches in size which is not too bad for previewing the videos you make.  They even included an HDMI cable in the box… who does that anymore??  Kudos to Kodak!  To round out the box contents we have a quick start guide, and USB charger cable, and an audio cable.

The doors that open on the sides to get access to the battery, ports, etc, are very tight to open, but that is a good thing because they need to be tight to keep water out of them.  The door on the left side give you access to the Li-Ion rechargeable battery and the storage card, which can handle up to a 32 GB card.  The camera comes with 128 MB internal storage which would be fine for a few pictures, but for taking video that internal storage is pretty much useless so you’ll need to purchase a storage card.  The door on the right side gives you access to mini USB 2.0 connection (which is also used to charge it), the HDMI port, and an A/V out port.  The power button is right above the door on the right side.  On the back is the 5 MP camera lens and the led indicator which blinks red when you are recording.  The 4 buttons on the front are (from top to bottom) for recording mode, viewing mode, the delete button, and settings.  The round directional pad is explained in more detail below, and the white button in the middle of the d-pad is for pressing enter, like to start and stop video, confirm deletes, etc.  By the way, this camera is very speedy between starts and stops when you press that white button!

As you can see from the picture below, when you are in video-taking mode you can press left or right on the round black directional pad in the middle, which will bring up the choices you have for video quality and still pictures.  Video can be WVGA (640×480 – 30fps), 720p (30 fps), 720p 60fps, and 1080p (30 fps).  There is an LCD Glare shield option that reduces sun glare on the screen when outdoors, and it does provide a little bit of help in that regard.  It also has an Electronic Image Stabilization feature that helps reduce the ‘shaky-ness’ that I think plagues cameras of this type, such as the Flip cameras.  I was more pleased with the video I got with this camera than when I played with a Flip HD camera last year… much less shaky video. The video format is H.264 MOV format.  When recording video, if you press up and down on the d-pad you can zoom in and out slightly (4X digital zoom), but I found this useless.  You won’t be zooming with this camera.

There is also a feature called ‘smart face tracking technology’ that is supposed to focus on faces in the frame.  I know alot of cameras these days have something like this, but I honestly couldn’t tell a difference between the videos I did with this feature turned on and off.  I took videos using all the settings listed above and I found myself going back to the 720p 60fps option.  This option was designed to capture video of things that are moving fast on the screen, like your kid’s soccer game or something.  The video using all the other settings were good of course, but with 60 fps video versus 30 fps, I really could see a difference.  And since almost all my videos are uploaded to Youtube or on my website, I end up sizing down the videos anyway so I don’t really need 1080p quality.  Which is funny because the 1080p ability was the deciding factor for me getting this camera in the first place!  If you have a 32 GB card in the camera, you’ll get about 10 hours of 720p (30fps) video.  Less if you use the 720p 60 fps option.

Still pictures with this camera are what you would expect with a quality of 5 MB.  You won’t be taking anybody’s official wedding photos with this thing, but for a weekend jaunt or a party at the house, it works great.  It is also important to note that this camera’s main purpose isn’t still pictures, so you don’t have very many picture settings at all compared to the multitude of consumer cameras out there today.  You don’t have ISO settings, or the ability to change from Aperture Priority to Shutter priority, and so forth.  So photo enthusiasts won’t be impressed with this still camera.  Where this camera shines however is in taking video.

With the included HDMI cable I was able to connect the camera directly to my HD tv and we watched the videos on the big screen.  Very, very nice!  I didn’t have to spend time using my pc to convert the videos over to a DVD to watch them in the living room… plug it up and away we go!  I was also pleasantly surprised with the sound quality with the monaural (not stereo) microphone.  It picked up sound extremely well especially in outdoor situations, even under the water.  Under the water you say??  Oh yes!  (As long as it isn’t deeper than 10 ft, of course.)

This camera is promoted as a rugged, outdoor, on-the-go, can-handle-anything, type of camera.  And I have say I agree with them.  With the soft-touch rubber shell and water-tight seals on the doors, I wasn’t afraid to do anything with this camera.  We had a blast in the pool with this thing and as you can see from the video above, the video under the water is remarkable.  I won’t be leaving my 9MB still camera at home for the next vacation, but all the video will be shot with this camera for sure.  Can you say white water rafting?

The camera comes with built-in software (pc only) to allow you to edit your videos, and when you plug it up to your computer with the included USB cable, it prompts you to install the Acrsoft software.   From that point forward, once you connect the camera it will open up the software to allow you to see all the videos on the camera and import the ones you want to whatever destination on the harddrive you want.   I have done lots of video editing over the years with a multitude of video editing software.  So the software they provide isn’t very impressive to me and doesn’t give me the editing capabilities that I would expect in a consumer-level video editor… for example, you only have 6 transitions to choose from, and the video timeline isn’t that intuitive.   But for people who don’t want to purchase something else to edit videos, it is a fairly easy-to-use package that does allow you to upload directly to Youtube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Twitter, which is where most of the videos will probably end up anyway.  That’s a nice touch to include Vimeo… not many video programs are doing that yet, so again, kudos to Kodak!  I uploaded a video to Youtube and Facebook and it worked fine.  But let’s be honest… it didn’t cost me extra, so who am I to complain??

The bottom line is that this camera is my new favorite gadget.  I am walking around looking for things to video, and my family keeps rolling their eyes when they see me coming!  The zoom is useless though, and the still camera is not the best you’ll see.  But the ruggedness and ease-of use is wonderful, and the video is takes is fantastic.  I highly recommend this camera, and for the price you pay… well, that’s just icing on the cake.  Anybody wanna go swimming?

 

Product Information

Price:$130
Manufacturer:Kodak
Pros:
  • Rugged and solid.
  • Great price for all these features.
  • Video quality is excellent.
Cons:
  • Digital zoom is worthless.
  • Digital camera options are sorely lacking.
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Camera Gear, Outdoor Gear, Reviews

24 comments… add one

  • Mark Rosengarten August 30, 2010, 6:20 am

    I have been thinking about buying this since I saw Eric Hong of Nightline use it when he came out on storm chasing tour with us this summer. I would get it strictly for the 720p 60 fps setting. The 1080p setting has an unacceptable amount of motion shift, check out any video on Vimeo or YouTube taken in this mode with this camera and you’ll see you want to stay far, far away from anything but 720p 60fps on this thing.

  • Steve August 30, 2010, 9:23 am

    Thanks Mark. I do agree that the 760p 60fps is better for capturing anything in motion. But I did capture several videos at 1080p where I put the camera on a tripod and recorded things that didn’t have much motion and they turned out great… even in low light. Thanks for commenting!

  • Bob Deloyd August 30, 2010, 2:42 pm

    Steve nice review!
    I bought one back in July and was really impressed with the quality. The transitions from a bright to dark and back to bright surprised me. In my first video below I gave a tour of my desert home. As I stumbled around in the dark battery room, I didn’t think that the camera would pick up anything; I even mentioned that. But as you can see in the video the room doesn’t appear too dark at all.
    I love this camera, too. This was money well spent!

    It was a windy day so some of the audio is a little hard to hear.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEqEHYgrpmE

  • Steve August 30, 2010, 3:01 pm

    Thanks Bob! I agree… love this camera. And because it is so small, carrying it around is not an issue for me.

  • Jesse August 30, 2010, 11:04 pm

    Every time I click any part of your webpage (link, blank space, etc) a new tab opens in my browser at the URL “itk.socialspark.com/success”.

    The pop-up tab behaviour is rendering your site unusable, which is very unfortunate for readers like me.

    I’m using Chrome on OS X

    • Julie August 31, 2010, 7:29 am

      @Jesse It’s a bug with the Chrome browser when you have ad blocking turned on for our site. Turn it off for us and you won’t see that problem anymore.

  • Cristine October 3, 2010, 12:15 pm

    I’m having problems uploading my video to facebook. It’s my first time using the camera (it was easy to use) and I want to share my edited version on Facebook. But when I try to upload, Facebook I get an invalid extension message. Any suggestons?

  • Steve October 4, 2010, 11:25 pm

    Cristine, there are a number of things that could cause this, chief among them is that Facebook is having problems. I have had, personally, some strange things happening to my Facebook account the past several days, so I wouldn’t rule that out. Another thing you could try is to convert your video into a standard format, like .mpg or .mov and then save that to your harddrive, then try to upload it to Facebook. Also keep in mind that Facebook doesn’t like really large file-sized videos. So that might be it as well. Good luck!

  • Holly N November 17, 2010, 6:13 pm

    how do you convert the video to mpg or mov?

  • Jettywolf November 17, 2010, 8:54 pm

    Thanks…you gave the best review info I’ve read yet about what I wanted to know about this camera.

    Looks like my next will be the Playsport on the boat.
    “Fishing videos!!”

    Jacksonville fishing

  • Steve November 17, 2010, 10:07 pm

    @Holly, The format of the files on the camera is H.264 MOV files. But stored on the camera is the ArcSoft MediaImpression software that came with it that allows you to manage the videos, and convert them to different formats. You can save files specifically for mobile devices like Playstation PSPs, iPods, iPhones, Kodak picture frames, etc. You can also choose to ‘save to my pc’ and it will save it as a MOV file in whatever quality you want. I have create videos for years, so I actually use video editing software to manipulate the files and create my movies. But the Arcsoft software does a fine job.

  • savi December 13, 2010, 8:15 pm

    how does the playsport compare to the Kodak zi8 or the latest version of the Sanyo Waterproof pocket camera? is it better quality? is it worth spending about 200 dollars more on the Sanyo than on this one? thank you.

  • Steve December 13, 2010, 8:58 pm

    Hey Savi, well I can’t speak about the Sanyo but I did look very closely at the Kodak Zi8 when it came out to compare it to the Playsport (which is technically the Zx3). The only differences that I can see (aside from the outside design) is that the Zi8 is a little lighter, the screen is slightly larger, and it has a macro zoom mode to get really closeup shots. Aside from those features the cameras are technically the same. But the Zi8 isn’t supposed to be a rugged, waterproof camera. The Zx3 is.

  • Garrett roberts March 18, 2011, 11:36 pm

    Do not buy this camera! It won’t power up and no explanation from Kodak.

    • Steve Holt March 18, 2011, 11:41 pm

      Hey Garrett… I’ll be totally honest… this camera is still my favorite camera. I have never had the problem you are having, and I have actually purchased 2 additional ones since the first one. I still wholeheartedly recommend this camera. You must have gotten a lemon. Sorry you are having problems.

  • Brad July 7, 2011, 7:44 am

    Steve, I love the camera and would like to use video editing software that is a little powerful than the software that came with the camera. Can you provide some advise on what I need to do next?

  • Steve Holt July 7, 2011, 9:31 am

    I love the camera too Brad! This is still the only video camera I use. Like I said in my review, I don’t like the fact that I can’t zoom… well, not much anyway. Aside from that, I love it. If you want an entry level editor that has great features and ease of use, look at Pinnacle Studio (my review from May 2010: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2010/05/18/pinnacle-studio-14-moviebox-ultimate-review/). If you want a little more complexity, features, and power then look at Avid Studio (my review from May 2011: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2011/05/11/avid-studio-review/) If you like all Adobe products and are pretty loyal to them, then try Adobe Premier Elements. But I like those other 2 programs better.

  • Brad Peebles July 14, 2011, 9:10 pm

    Steve, I tried Pinnacle Studio 15 and the results were strongly mixed. The software offered great options but…the transitions were not working. Most of the time I would get a ! displayed for the transition. Also when I click on “get more songs” the link returns a page that displayed the following

    “500 – Internal server error. There is a problem with the resource you are looking for, and it cannot be displayed.”

    What really turned me off was the customer service. It took me almost 3 days to work through a failed network of message systems. The first set of e-mail response told me that they did not support Kodak products. After two more e-mails they realized this was Pinnacle Studio 15 and gave me a phone number so I could talk to a human. This guy didn’t know the product and had no idea what the 500 – Internal server error was all about.

    What other software is out there that will import the MOV files and let me edit such?

  • Steve Holt July 14, 2011, 9:18 pm

    Wow Brad, that is disappointing. I haven’t had to use Pinnacle tech support yet, and that doesn’t sound promising if I ever do. I haven’t had trouble with Pinnacle like that, so I can’t speak to that issue you had. When dealing with video you have lots of variables that determine success… your video card, your operating system, the codecs you have on your computer, the amount of available RAM you have to run the program, etc. Lots can go wrong.

    Other programs that I have used with success are: Adobe Premier Elements and CyberLink PowerDirector. If you want more professional programs (which will push the cost up) then try Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier.

    I haven’t used this one, but have seen some good reviews online: Corel VideoStudio Pro X4

    Good luck!

  • LO August 26, 2011, 5:25 am

    I wouldn’t buy this camera!!! I am on my fourth one from Kodak – same problem as one of your other posts, won’t hold a battery charge! still waiting for Kodak to contact me!

  • Brad August 26, 2011, 8:32 am

    I have not experienced a problem with a battery charge.

  • Steve August 26, 2011, 12:34 pm

    I agree with Brad…. I have owned 3 of these cameras and not had a problem with the battery.

  • adrienne kalaw May 2, 2012, 1:28 am

    hi sorry i need help with my kodak playsport =( i love love love my camera it takes awesome videos and ok photos my only issue is since i got back from the beach 2 weeks ago i cant seem to open the HDMI latch. i was able to open the flip area to get my memory card but i cant seem to charge my camera bec. i cant open the HDMI flip =( and i kind wrecked the outside portion of the HDMI latch to open it trying to open it with different things =(

  • Steve May 2, 2012, 9:07 am

    @Adrienne The only thing I know to do is call Kodak, or take it to the place you bought it and see if they can help. good luck!

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