Earlier this year, DigitalCameraReview tried out the Kodak EasyShare Sport C123, a ruggedized digital camera that fell well below expectations. This time around we’ve gotten our hands on the EasyShare Sport's camcorder counterpart, the Kodak PlaySport Zx5.
Upon first receiving the device, our sights were set low by how similar it seemed to the EasyShare Sport. The names are similar, the displays are similar, and Kodak's entire marketing campaign for the PlaySport seemed directly copied from the EasyShare Sport (right down to the dirt-covered, partially submerged PlaySport featured on the camcorder's official product page).
None of these features boded well. However there was a glimmer of pre-review hope for the PlaySport: digging through the DCR archives turns up a review for the last iteration of the product line, the first-generation Kodak PlaySport, which we found to be a four-star product.
Would the Zx5, with its humble specifications and ability to take a beating, follow in the footsteps of the respectable Zx3 that came before it, or the mediocre EasyShare Sport C123 that seems cut from the same rugged cloth? What follows is our adventure with the PlaySport as we find out what it's made of.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The PlaySport Zx5 is more portable and significantly better designed than the EasyShare Sport thanks to its built-in battery, which allows it to be, if not slender, at least in fighting shape.
The PlaySport is not much larger than a last generation cell phone, measuring 4.4 x 2.3 x .7 inches and weighing 4.4 ounces. While you can definitely feel it in your pocket, it's more along the lines of a comforting presence than cumbersome burden. Our review model was solid black on the backside, with a dotted pattern and Kodak logo featured on the front. Kodak also offers the PlaySport in red or aqua color options.
Every button featured on the PlaySport, with the exception of the power button, can be found on the back of the device under the 2.0-inch LCD display. The power button is on top of the device. The Zx5's various ports can be found on the sides of the device, the left side featuring the HDMI and USB ports, while the right side has an SD/SDHC card slot, which supports cards up to 36GB. All of these ports are hidden under two plastic flaps that hinge up when an unlock button is slid. The PlaySport looks charmingly silly when both flaps are open at the same time, but, like everything else on the PlaySport, they feel sturdy and durable.
The PlaySport Zx5's onboard microphone is located at the very bottom of the device.
Ergonomics and Controls
The PlaySport seems to have been designed with one-handed use in mind, and it accomplishes this goal beautifully. The record/shutter button is the furthest to the right, and is exceptionally easy to press with the hand holding the device (assuming the user is a righty). It is surrounded by the navigation buttons, which are used to scroll through menus and saved photos, and also control the PlaySport's digital zoom. Unfortunately these keys, which are some of the most frequently used buttons on the device, are difficult and unsatisfying to press. It's hard to push them down and to feel when a press has been registered.
Luckily the remaining buttons on the PlaySport are significantly more responsive. The power button on top of the device might actually be a bit too press-able, and it seems like the PlaySport could accidentally be powered on in a purse or pocket. However this was not a major issue by any means.
Aside from the buttons already mentioned, the remaining commands on the PlaySport are arranged in a semicircle that curves around the record button/nav keys. These include the camera/camcorder setting toggle (switch from video recording to image capture), the review photos button, a delete key, the settings button, and the proprietary Kodak Share button. Some of the keys at the far side of the semicircle are a bit hard to press using only one hand, but they are less frequently used. It would probably never become an issue unless someone were dangling off of a cliff and had been recording video but really wanted to switch to camera mode and only had one spare hand (a predicament I did not encounter over the review period).
Menus and Modes
The PlaySport's few menus are well laid out and easy to navigate. Also, it's worth noting up front that there is a dearth of options on the PlaySport, so there's really not that much to navigate through. The menus and modes listed on the PlaySport Zx5 are as follows:
That's it for options on the PlaySport, but it really doesn't need much else, and its lack of settings adds nicely to its simplicity. Also, its macro capabilities are much appreciated (albeit still limited), especially after dealing with the EasyShare C123 and its seeming inability to focus on things closer than five feet from the lens.
The PlaySport Zx5's display was unfortunately reminiscent of the EasyShare Sport, although it did not offend quite so greatly. Kodak seems to have a running tendency of not utilizing the spare real estate on its devices and leaving its screens unnecessarily small. Measuring two inches diagonally, the LCD viewfinder on the PlaySport just felt cramped.
The screen renders images quickly, and did not seem to lag at all (a surprising and annoying feature in the EasyShare Sport). And while it may leave you squinting and cursing its smallness at times, it ultimately did not pose too much of an issue.
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