For my money, the Kodak Zi8 belongs in the pocket camcorder hall of fame, and until I reviewed the Sony Bloggie Touch, I thought it was the best pocket camcorder around. So I'm heartened to see Kodak continue the line, first with the waterproof PlaySport, which I also gave high marks, and now with the Kodak PlayTouch, a slim touch-based successor to the Zi8.
Sony showed us how touch should be done in a pocket camcorder, can Kodak also teach us a few tricks? Read the Kodak PlayTouch review to find out.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Kodak PlayTouch comes in just one model with 128MB of internal memory and an SD/SDHC card slot up to 32GB. It's available in orange, black, chrome, and teal. It's extremely lightweight and closely resembles a very thin point and shoot, with glossy plastic covering the front and back that I swore was aluminum at first, separated by a textured plastic trim along the edges.
A thin strip separates the lens area from the rest of the front panel. The 3.9mm lens sits between the on-board microphone and the LED record light. An IR sensor for an optional remote control rests under the LED light.
The large, 3.0-inch display takes up most of the real estate on the back, with the speaker, record button, battery-charge light underneath.
One side of the PlayTouch houses the power button and a small cover hiding the SD card slot. On the opposite side sits the AV out port and another cover that opens to reveal HDMI slot, USB slot, and USB dongle, which pops out at slightly less than forty-five degrees.
There is a tripod slot on the bottom of the PlayTouch next to the wrist-strap notch. There is an external mic/headphone jack on the PlayTouch top next to a focus switch that toggles between close-up and normal mode.
Finally, the bottom front panel slides off to reveal the lithium ion battery.
Of note regarding the design is that the lens area is slightly raised from the body, which is preferable to having it flush against the panel. This reduces the risk of lens scratches when laying the pocket camcorder down on a flat surface.
On the downside, the build quality is not up to the high standard Kodak set with previous pocket camcorders. The PlayTouch is light, but it also feels cheap and made of thin plastic. The flaps covering the SD and USB slots are secured by a slight strip, which I felt could snap with repeated use.
The same complaint applies for the USB dongle. I can't tell if Kodak intended it to be flexible, but it's also so slight that it seems like it will easily break off. Add to that the fact that it barely extends forty-five degrees out from the device, which could present issues slotting into some USB ports, especially alongside other peripherals.
Ergonomics and Controls
Kodak pocket camcorders are often a step above the "stupid simple" standard set by competing devices. The PlayTouch is no exception, as it offers a bit more than others and presents a handful of menu and picture filters – but no picture controls like white balance and exposure. All of which are accessible through the touchscreen, except the focus switch.
Still, a press of the record button is all that's needed to record videos and shoot movies, and that couldn't be easier. At first, I was a bit perplexed by the focus switch placement at the top of the device, but I'm guessing that's because the switch requires a physical change to the lens. Also, when the camera is set to "close up" a very salient red flower icon appears on the display, so there's little risk of accidentally leaving it on.
Speaking of the display, the capacitive touch navigation is extremely responsive. Navigating through the menus is intuitive with taps, swipes, and drags, and anyone who has used a smartphone or seen an iPhone commercial should have no issues with the touch controls.
Menus and Modes
From the main display, users can toggle between stills and video, playback footage, apply effects (filters) and access settings. The menu options apply both for stills and video. The effects include:
The settings menu includes:
When the LCD glare shield filter is turned on, users can choose between black and white, high contrast, and normal filters on the display monitor before recording. The filter does not apply to the footage, just the display.
On playback, users can cycle through both stills and video, which are all lumped together, and also sort clips by grid or date, zoom in on stills, trim footage in camera, and trash clips.
The 3.0-inch display has about 230,000 dots, which seems like a lot, but is actually significantly less than the 288,000 found on the Bloggie Touch, which also has a 3.0-inch display. Unfortunately, that's not the biggest issue facing the PlayTouch.
Unlike the Bloggie Touch, which uses the entire display as a monitor, the PlayTouch limits the action to about a third of the screen, with the other two thirds displaying black space peppered with icons and shooting info like recording time, battery monitor, and digital zoom option.
For me, shooting with the small window for more than a few minutes caused eyestrain, and it's extremely tough to see if a subject is in focus. Even though the autofocus does a fine job of keeping the blur out, I hate not being able to verify for myself while shooting.
On the plus side, the LCD brightness adjustments are a nice addition and do well to cut through the glare at the highest setting. I didn't find much use for the glare shield however, and it's impossible to tell what you are looking at through the severe black-and-white setting.
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