It may have inhereted some flaws from the last PlayFull model, but the PlayFull Waterproof is still affordable, has a great build, and is great for active types.
Earlier in the year, I reviewed the Kodak PlayFull pocket camcorder and gave it a decent rating. For the past couple of weeks, I have had the new Kodak PlayFull Waterproof pocket camcorder in my possession and while there are plenty of things I like about it, I was disappointed to see that many of the flaws from the original PlayFull that marred its quality have been carried over to this model as well.
So do the PlayFull Waterproof's strengths manage to outweigh these flaws? Or, even at a bargain price of $69.95 MSRP, is this a camcorder that you should still pass on? Let's find out.
The build of the PlayFull is excellent. It's compact, measuring 2.2 x 3.7 x 0.5 inches, and very lightweight, weighing in at a mere 85 grams with a memory card. While very slim, it's squat and wide, creating a more comfortable amount of room for a larger (relatively speaking) 2-inch display. And perhaps my favorite part about the PlayFull's construction is that it has two doors -- behind which various ports are concealed -- that are attached to the frame not by a flexible dongle or weak plastic hinge, but rather by sturdy, thick metal hinges. The metal hinges and the locking switches that keep the doors closed ensure that the ports stay protected and that the doors stay sturdy and won't break off when opened. Plus, they just look a lot nicer when they actually swing open rather than just hang limply off the camcorder.
The front of the device is very minimalist, sporting a slick silver-white paintjob and nothing more than the lens and microphone. When viewed from the back, the left side is devoid of any features, while the right side has one of the hinged doors, behind which is a full-sized SD card slot and a micro HDMI port. The other door is found on the bottom edge of the device, behind which is an AV jack and the full-sized USB dongle.
The back of the device is as sleek as the front, with the five buttons (video/photo toggle, settings, playback, delete, and share) all flush with the surface of the device. None of them are raised, keeping things flat and smooth on the back, where the display and speakers are also found.
Ergonomics and Controls
The one problem I have with the PlayFull's design -- and this is something that has unfortunately been carried over from previous Kodak pocket camcorder models -- is the woeful d-pad. I don't know why Kodak continues to do this, but the d-pad is this squishy little thing that does not have much surface area to press and does not click when pressed down. As such, it's hard to tell when your presses are registering (and in what direction), as the whole thing just kind of squishes down. Thankfully, the OK/confirm button that is in the center of it clicks when pressed, so at least that's less of a hassle to use.
Other than that, though, the PlayFull is very easy to use, just like any pocket camcorder. Just hit the power button on the top, select whether you're shooting video or photos, hit the large confirm button in the center of the d-pad, and you're off to the races. Playback is simple too, requiring only a single press of the playback button, at which point you can cycle through your library and hit the confirm button to watch your video of choice. While watching videos, you can adjust the volume, play, pause, and rewind -- all using the d-pad -- but the fast-forward function only appears to work when you pause the video first, which I found odd. You can also zoom in on still photos while in playback mode.
Menus and Modes
-Format Memory Card
I really appreciate the decision that Kodak made regarding the display on the PlayFull. The last PlayFull I reviewed was too small for its own good; it made for a painfully small screen that made it hard to get an accurate idea of what my video looked like, and navigating menus was a nightmare. With this PlayFull, however, Kodak made the camcorder wider while still maintaining a very slim profile. This way, users are afforded much more screen real estate while the camcorder on the whole remains very compact and still much smaller than your average-sized smartphone.
But while I appreciate the larger display, its actual quality is not very good. It's a 112.3k TFT color LCD display, but it's insanely blurry and, like the other PlayFull, isn't good for much else beyond framing your shot. Forget about trying to make out finer details (though unlike its predecessor, you can at least make out how the auto focus and lighting look); you'll have to wait until you're able to view it on a better screen for that. I do, however, appreciate that the camcorder has a glare shield option and, in general, the screen is pretty visible in outdoor situations.
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