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Z to the I to the 6 [Rev]*

In the world of mini USB-enabled video cameras…did you know there was a whole world of them?…the Flipseems to be the clear market favorite. The idea of a very simple, inexpensive, but high-quality camcorder for spur-of-the-moment video recording has interested me for most of this year.

I have been watching and reading about the Flip and its many competitors, including the RCA Small Wonder, the Aiptek A-HD Pro, and the Insignia 5.0MP. Each of these cameras are very small, yet very powerful. The newer models include the ability to take HD video.

In the end, I decided on the Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. I’ve been using the Zi6 for over a week and, in case you’ve ever thought of getting one of these little jewels, here’s some information for you.

The best thing about this class of camcorder is the price. I got mine at Radio Shack on-sale for under $140, and the prices keep falling as new models with more features come out. Best Buy has the Insignia for only $85. These are very good cameras for (relatively) very little money.

The Zi6 has four recording modes. The default mode is HD, which shoots 720p video at 30 frames per second. There is a higher HD60 mode which shoots 720p video at 60 frames per second. This would be good for slow-motion or time-remapping your video. There is also a VGA mode which shoots standard, 640X480 video. And there is a picture mode for shooting stills.

Although I didn’t need HD-quality video, for the money it seemed like a no-brainer. The problem with HD-quality video is that my older Powerbook doesn’t have the power to work with it quickly. (Don’t even get me started on the old Dells in the playroom.)

These type of camcorders aren’t really made for low-light situations, but in outdoor or well-lit situations, they do quite well. (This still shot was taken outside the Asheville Mall.) Since it doesn’t do low-light well, you also have to be very careful when taking still pictures, since blurring the picture is very easy to do and there is no image stabilization like most larger camcorders have. Happily, you can easily attach the Zi6 to a tripod for steadier shots.


This piece of video was shot in the default HD mode, then encoded to an iPhone-compatible mp4 file at 480X272 resolution using MPEG Streamclip. Unhappily, Google re-encoded the file when I uploaded it, reducing the resolution further. The original video file looks much better.

The Zi6 has little internal memory – less than 24mb is available – which is basically useless for video. But the Zi6 accepts SD memory cards. I purchased an 8gb high-speed SD card for only $14. After a vacation trip, Christmas, and some goofing around by Sammy, there is still over 2gb of room left.

The 2.4 inch display is bright and clear enough to see what you’ve shot, but composite cables for hooking up to your TV and component cables for watching in HD are also included with the camera.

The combination of HD-quality and SD-card acceptance pushed me towards the Kodak, but the batteries clinched it. The Zi6 runs on two AA batteries, which means you don’t have to wait for proprietary batteries to recharge. However, while purchasing the camera, I discovered that Kodak includes rechargeable AA’s and a charger, making it an even better deal. The rechargeables don’t last too long – maybe an hour or so – but I can always pop in some regular AA’s in a pinch.

The Zi6 is a good camera for quick and easy recording. For the price I believe it’s a very good value.

{* “Rev” is in the title because this is a “Rev” post, related to my work or worship. In this case, it could also mean “review”, but it doesn’t}