Kodak Zi8 Video Camera [Review]

I’m really happy with my Kodak Zi8. In many ways it’s an upgrade from my previous camcorder, and in other ways it’s a downgrade, but overall, the Zi8 makes all the right sacrifices for my home use.

I appreciate the variety of formats from WVGA all the way up to 1080p. My TV is only 720p, so I don’t shoot full high def right now, but it’s nice to know that I’ll have the option down the road.

I’m finally tape-free, and I don’t have to worry about file-conversion. I’ve used DV tape for a long time, and capturing video to my hard drive has always been a drag. With the Zi8, the only drag is with my mouse as I pull clips off the SD card and onto my hard drive for editing (hey-oh!). The MOV files are perfect for Linux video editing in OpenShot. Windows editing is a little more limited, but still functional.

The microphone-in jack is an ear saver. Quality audio is more than half the battle in movie-making. I have a decent shotgun mic that works perfectly with the Zi8. The mic-in would be useless, however, without the simple gain adjustment found in the menu.

The built-in Arcsoft editing software for Windows isn’t terrible. I can trim and order clips just like any respectable non-linear editor. Transitions are limited both in number and in application. Basically, if I want a crossfade transition, I have to apply it to every transition in my project. I can import images for use in my videos, and I can create custom titles, which it plenty for class use.

The USB plug that pops out of the corner makes me nervous, but it’s very convenient. It’s a moving part that’s bound to break eventually with all the plugging and unplugging. When that happens, I’ll just have to pop out the SD card to transfer videos to my computer.

Shaky-cam is a constant battle. I’m not the most steady shot, so a tripod or Gorillapod is a must. If I’m very careful and I brace my elbows against my body, I can usually get a steady-enough shot. High def video on anything bigger than a laptop screen is very unforgiving on any shakiness, so I try to add a tripod any time I can. Perhaps I’ll get motivated one of these days and set up a poor man’s steadycam.

I miss decent optical zoom. The digital zoom isn’t terrible, but it’s a far cry from the optical zoom to which I’m accustomed. Then again, the number of home videos that feature quality zoom scenes is tiny.

The firmware upgrade is a must. The 1.06 release fixes audio noise issues and stuttering zoom.