Like any pocket camcorder, the Kodak PlayFull is compact and easy to use, all at a cheap price. But with only decent photo and video quality, and with no standout features, the PlayFull is decidedly average.
The Kodak PlayFull is one in a rapidly growing collection of pocket camcorders available on the market today. With an MSRP of $149.95 and a rather standard set of features including 1080p HD video and a dedicated Share button, is there anything about the PlayFull that puts it above the competition?
BUILD AND DESIGN
In terms of its design, the best thing the PlayFull has going for it is how compact it is. Sporting a 1.6" x 3.9" x 0.6" frame, it's smaller than most cell phones and Kodak's other pocket camcorder model, the PlayTouch.
The microphone is located on the front of the device, right on the edge of the lens frame. In a smart move -- that is somehow still occasionally glossed over these days -- the lens itself is slightly recessed, which helps protect against scratches, especially when placed face-down on a surface.
Be careful, though; the material on the front of the device is extremely slick. While a small strip on the left side of it is slightly textured to help with the grip, the PlayFull is still pretty slippery and, combined with its small size, is prone to working its way out of your grip. On more than one occasion my editor asked me why I was throwing my new camera around.
The top edge of the camera is where the USB dongle is located. It's securely tucked away inside a sliding piece of plastic, allowing it to run flush with the edge of the camera. Unless it's actually pulled out and ready to be plugged into your computer, you would never know it was there.
The back is where nearly all of the controls are located, and it's quite a simplistic interface. In the middle is a circular navigation pad with a confirmation button in its center, and it's around this nexus that the remaining buttons are located.
To the left of the d-pad is the button for switching between photo and video modes, as well as the button for playback. To its right are the buttons for settings and deleting. Directly below it is the "Share" button, which users can press to tag certain photos or video for automatic upload to the internet the next time the camera is plugged in. Above all of these controls, taking up roughly a third of the back of the device is the LCD screen.
On the bottom edge of the camera, there is a single speaker as well as a quarter-inch tripod mount and an infrared port. I assume that the IR port is for remote controls (though one does not come packaged with the camera), but I never used it in any capacity.
Finally, PlayFull's various ports are found on the sides of the frame. The micro HDMI out and the SD card slot are located behind a door on the left side, and the charging/AV port and hard reset button are behind a door on the right side. The power button and indicator light (which isn't used for much except to indicate when the camera is on or charging) are also on the right side, placed directly above the charging/AV port door.
Ergonomics and Controls
The Kodak PlayFull fulfills the most basic requirement of any pocket camcorder with ease: it's incredibly simple to operate, making it user-friendly enough for even the most technologically impaired people. To shoot, hit the power button on the side, click the photo/video button to choose your mode, and press the large confirmation button in the middle of the d-pad.
A quick word about the PlayFull's d-pad, though: it's terrible. Though the "OK" button in its center is clickable, the navigation pad itself does not click, which drives me mad. When you press it down in any particular direction, it just sort of…squishes. There is no click to confirm that it is pressed and that your command is registering, which can lead to some frustrating interactions with the interface. When you don't know whether or not your presses are going through, you may end up not pressing hard enough, or you may end up mashing the thing into oblivion just to overcompensate.
Playback on the PlayFull is, for the most part, about as comfortable as it can be between the miniscule screen and minimal controls (including the sub-par d-pad). Sifting through your collection is easy enough, just by either pressing left and right or hitting the playback button a second time to see a zoomed-out view of all of your photos and videos.
You can zoom in on selected photos (though there isn't much point to it on the small screen), and when rewatching videos, you can play, pause, rewind, and adjust the volume just with the navigational pad and the confirmation button. You're supposed to be able to fast-forward too (by pressing right), but that doesn't appear to work. I don't know if it's my particular unit or if the feature is just broken on all models, but be aware that it was not functional for me.
Menus and Modes
-LCD Brightness and Glare Shield
-Glare Shield On/Off
-Sounds and LED
-Format Memory Card
There are two sides to every coin, and while the diminutive size of the Playfull makes it easy to take it everywhere (and have it on hand for shooting spontaneous video and photos), it also means that it sports a painfully small display. When using the 1.5-inch TFT LCD screen to preview your video or stills, don't expect to get an accurate representation of how they will actually turn out; it's not useful for much more than getting a basic idea of how to frame your shot.
And you would think that with such a small display, Kodak would at least give it a decent enough resolution to keep the image sharp, but it's really not. On the contrary, it's quite blurry and it's difficult to determine when subjects are in focus. It's just way too small and to top it off, the image on the display is bracketed on the top and bottom by black widescreen bars, which take up even more of the already scarce on-screen real estate.
The widescreen format of the screen is disorienting, as well. For a wide, landscape shot like that, I'm used to holding the camera sideways, but instead I'm holding it vertically. Subsequently, for a vertically-oriented portrait shot, I need to hold the PlayFull sideways. So everything is backwards and generally feels uncomfortable when trying to preview your shots on the bizarre little screen.
It shocked me that despite the room on the widescreen black bars, there wasn't a battery gauge that stayed on screen. A vague meter flashes up briefly when you first turn on the camera, but it's easy to miss (I actually thought that the camera didn't have a battery gauge at all, at first) and it never shows up again until you turn the camera off and back on.
Not that there is a lot to see on it, but the display seems to handle glare and high light situations pretty well, especially with the help of the glare shield setting can be turned on via the settings menu (which basically over-saturates colors to help make them visible in bright light).
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