It doesn’t get much simpler than using a pocket camcorder. Aside from the easy turn-on-and-shoot design, the PlayFull also has a dedicated button for switching between photo and video, which can be done through a single press. And if you want to get a little pickier than just shooting at any old resolution, you can pick from the PlayFull’s handful of video resolution options. Only two layers deep in the settings menu, the video resolution can easily be changed to and from 1080p, 720p/60 frames per second, 720p, and WVGA, which is iPad compatible.
A couple features that the PlayFull has that I found to be particularly clever are the ability to trim videos on the camera itself, as well as the option to take still pictures from a particular moment in a video. While pictures taken from video are never as good of quality as actual still photos, it’s still an entertaining option that makes sense for a pocket camcorder, which is more about capturing fun and memorable moments than it is about quality and sharpness.
The camera does have a 4x digital zoom, but as is usually the case, you’re better off not using it. Things get pixilated pretty quickly, and, at only 4x, it barely offers any benefit in terms of zooming in on your desired subject.
For all intents and purposes, the PlayFull sports no onboard memory. With only 128MB of onboard storage — which is good for about 10 seconds of 720p video — you’re going to want to invest in an SD card (the PlayFull is expandable up to 32GB).
When shooting video or stills, the PlayFull’s auto focus tends to shift more towards cooler tones, but on the whole it does a good enough job. Don’t have your subject too close to the fixed focus lens, though; anything closer than a couple of feet just won’t produce a clear picture since the device doesn’t have a macro mode.
The white balance is a little off, especially in stills; as you can see in our sample images, what should be a white background in our photo of the fruits comes off with a bit of a purple or bluish tinge.
The camera is has automatic Digital Image Stabilization (DIS) and, just like digital zoom versus optical zoom, Optical Image Stabilization is vastly superior to its digital cousin (though admittedly, OIS really can’t be found on pocket camcorders in general). The DIS helped steady the shot — if marginally so — but videos were still visibly shaky and it wasn’t nearly as drastic of a difference as the one that I saw when using OIS (see our sample video in our review of the Panasonic SD-800 HDC to get an idea of how useful it is).
And the PlayFull is supposedly equipped with facial detection abilities — which would, in theory, prioritize focus to peoples’ faces whenever it picked them up — but I never saw the camera detect anyone’s face during my time with it.
Though you’ll rarely know how much battery you have remaining since there isn’t a consistent battery gauge being displayed, the PlayFull does actually have a very legitimate battery life. After taking a series of stills and about 40 minutes of 1080p video over the course of a week, the PlayFull still had some left in the tank, and that’s worth some praise.
Video and Stills Quality
Stills taken with the PlayFull come out looking roughly like cellphone pictures. They’ll do if you need to take a spontaneous picture on the fly, but don’t leave your point-and-shoot at home for anything more serious than that. Aside from the aforementioned issues with cooler tones, colors also look flat and all of the pictures we took with the PlayFull tend to have a bit of a haze about them; in general, photos are not particularly sharp and edges look a bit fuzzy.
The PlayFull shoots relatively well in low-light scenarios, with noticeable graininess but still a low amount for a pocket camcorder. Colors are still distinct, too, but details and edges tend to get lost and blurred together.
In regular light, the video is a little more disappointing, with depth and textures becoming indiscernible at times. And on the whole, the video, like the stills, is a little on the blurry side. And as a heads up, the PlayFull is set to shoot on 720p straight out of the box, so if you’re looking for the higher resolution, make sure to change the video settings before you take your videos.
Once you import your videos, the sound is exactly what you would expect from a pocket camcorder: not very good, but serviceable since these things aren’t intended for shooting a high-quality motion picture film or anything like that. The sound is a little tinny and flat, and generally sounds like your video is being shot inside of a tin can, but it’s stereo and you can hear sounds and peoples’ voices just fine, and that’s all you really need for a device like this.
As for the sound when viewing videos on the camera itself, it wasn’t half bad. The fact that a device as small as the PlayFull even has a speaker on it was a bit unexpected, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that it could actually output a decent level of sound. Obviously it isn’t high quality (or even stereo) stuff, but with a pocket camcorder, you just want something that is loud enough so you can hear what sort of audio accompanies your video. And surprisingly, the single little speaker on the PlayFull puts out a high enough level of sound to fulfill those needs.
Operation and Extras
Out of the box, it’s a pretty bare bones scene with the PlayFull. The box ships with the camera itself, a wrist strap, a user guide, and a USB charging cable. Unfortunately, it does not include a micro HDMI cable for use with the PlayFull’s somewhat uncommon video out, but Kodak does have an offer where users can register their cameras online and receive a free micro HDMI cable. The “free” part of that offer has an asterisk, of course, in that users must still pay for shipping, which comes out to about the same price that you would have paid had you bought it from a reasonable outlet as opposed to Kodak’s store (where they charge $30 for it).
Kodak’s Media Impression software comes preloaded on the camera itself, so the first time you plug in the camera, you’re prompted to go through the installation progress. The software is pretty ho-hum, which is to be expected; it serves its purpose as a means to transfer media to your computer in a quick and convenient matter, and little more.
And finally, the PlayFull features a Share button, which is becoming increasingly common on pocket camcorders and the like. While it’s no longer particularly unique, it’s a very handy feature that’s easy to use. If you see a photo or video you want to tag for upload when sifting through your collection in the camera’s playback mode, you just hit the Share button and a menu comes up for you to select the outlets to which you want to upload the media (including but not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube).
The first time you plug in your camera, the app that handles the uploading for the Share button automatically launches and you are prompted to confirm your respective accounts for the various online outlets. But that’s just a one-time deal and after that, it’s just a matter of plugging in your camera to your computer and the upload takes place automatically.