Kodak must be really high on its PlaySport line, as the company has already released two generations of the rugged pocket camcorder, and now has given the second-generation PlaySport Zx5 a fresh coat of paint.
Dubbed the Burton Edition PlaySport after the popular snowboard maker, the camcorder hits the market just in time for ski and snowboard bums to hit the slopes. Packaged with it is a gripping tripod (similar to a small JOBY), HDMI cable, carrying case, and 4GB SDHC card.
Is that enough to make the new PlaySport the king of the mountain? Find out in this full review.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Burton Edition PlaySport retains the same size as the Zx5, measuring 2.3 × 4.4 × 0.7-inches and best resembles a walkie talkie with its rectangular shape and rounded edges. At less than a third of a pound, it’s easy to stash in a pocket and forget, which can be curse on the mountain should it accidentally fall out.
In a confounding move made for pure aesthetic reasons, the new PlaySport is white, black and blue which are not exactly colors that stand out on snow-white mountain sides. Perhaps Kodak should have made it bright yellow or red like the previous-generation PlaySport Burton variant, which would undoubtedly be easier to find in the snow.
Otherwise, there is little to complain about in the PlaySport’s now tried and true design, and I especially like the rubberized bits and textured plastic that make it fun to hold and operate.
The front of the camcorder sports a recessed 5.5mm lens and mic, while the back features the 2.0-inch display. The mode, play, trash, settings and share buttons are underneath to the left, in a semi-circle around the four-way controller and record button.
To keep the PlaySport waterproof, all ports are tucked away behind flip-up covers, with the HDMI out on the left (when looking at the lens), and the SDHC slot and microUSB input that doubles are the charging input, on the right.
Rounding things out are the power button on the top of the device and the speaker and tripod receptacle on the bottom.
All told, it’s a convincing build and design, one that Kodak claims can withstand drops of five feet. I don’t doubt that in the least, because I can safely say it survived a few tosses around my yard, some of which were definitely higher than five feet.
Ergonomics and Controls
Given its compact size and design, it obvious that Kodak designed the PlaySport for one-handed operation. No question, Kodak succeeded. Everything is intuitive and easy to reach via thumb extension, both left- and right-handed users. After only a short while with the Burton PlaySport, I was able to operate it with one hand while only glancing at it.
If there is a complaint to be had, it’s in the buttons. They are simply not satisfying to push – in fact, they feel mushy, especially the four-way controller. This has been a common complaint with Kodak’s camcorders and it’s a shame they haven’t done much to address it. There is nothing worse in this regard than pressing away at a button and having to rely on only the display to signify success. Give me an audible click and some real physical feedback, please!
Menus and Modes
The PlaySport is not a feature rich camera, in terms of shooting options anyway. As such, the menu is sparse and shallow. Items include:
Kodak hit it just right by including a great selection of basic options, including a 720/60p mode for shooting fast and active scenes like ski and snowboard jumps and LCD brightness controls. It can get bright and sunny above the clouds, making it impossible to see a dim LCD.
At two inches, the PlaySport display is pretty tiny, especially in a world of 4.3-inch smartphones. I suppose the small display is the price paid for a compact design, but I wouldn’t mind a few extra centimeters if it meant a larger display.
Compounding the problem is that the display is letterboxed when shooting, meaning there are two black boxes (top and bottom) framing the display. That eliminates about a fifth of the total coverage area.
On the plus side, the brightness setting and glare shield actually work quite well. The screen won’t get bright enough to completely cut through bright glare from the sun, but it makes things a bit easier on the eyes.
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