Kodak PlayFull Ze1 Camcorder Review
The Kodak PlayFull Ze1 is a tiny camcorder with the ability to record Full HD 1080p video.
Let's get over the fact that the PlayFull is a tiny, portable camcorder for a moment and let us look at how well this little camcorder actually handles. The shape of the PlayFull Ze1 is interesting, as it is not nearly as wide as most ultracompact camcorders. It's shape is tall and thin, resembling that of a harmonica or one of those audio recording devices people use to make voice memos. The camcorder is easy to hold, but it doesn't fit all that well in the palm due to its tall and thin design. There also isn't a very good area to grip the camcorder other than the by the edges. The front has a series of dots running along half of the side, but this doesn't due much to improve the grip either. Kodak does ship a small wrist strap with the PlayFull, and it's definitely something worth attaching (especially if you're prone to dropping things).
All of the PlayFull's ports are scattered around the sides of the camcorder, and all are covered by flexible doors that must be pried open. And pry is really the right word here, as these port covers can be difficult to get at unless you slip the tip of your fingernail into the small grooves that enable you to pop the doors free. This is not the simplest of exercises, although we'd rather have a cover that is difficult to open than one that doesn't snap shut with a good seal.
The built-in USB arm on the top of the PlayFull may be the camcorder's most awkward design implementation. The arm isn't very flexible, which means it is a challenge to connect it to a USB terminal on a computer. We wish the USB arm extended just a bit more from the camcorder's body in order to make the connection attempt easier. With its current design, your best bet is to use a USB extender cable with the built-in USB arm when connecting it to a computer.
While we do like the compact size of the PlayFull camcorder, we were not impressed by the camcorder's tiny LCD. It's too small to see if your clips are in focus, it's terrible for viewing clips during playback, and its 4:3 aspect ratio is not conducive for the widescreen (16:9) images that the PlayFull camcorder records. We also don't like the embedded buttons on the PlayFull that are represented only by icons—no raised bumps or boxes to let you know where the buttons actually exist. This makes it very easy to press the wrong button. Why couldn't Kodak have made all the buttons on the PlayFull more like the large, well-labeled "share" button near the center of the camcorder?
The Kodak PlayFull is one of the smallest and lightest camcorders we've ever worked with. Coming in at 95g (just under a 1/4 pound), the PlayFull is even lighter than the ultra-tiny Flip MinoHD (which isn't being manufactured anymore, but can still be found online). Yes, the PlayFull is an incredibly small product that is lighter than an iPhone, not much taller than a credit card, and just about 1/2 an inch thick.
The full dimensions for the PlayFull are 40.6 x 99 x 15mm (1.6 x 3.9 x 0.6 inches). There's no removable battery on the camcorder, so its 95g weight spec includes the weight of the internal power source. Basically, this is one of the smallest, lightest, and not to mention cheapest camcorders on the market right now and we can't imagine things getting much smaller anytime soon. Kodak does have a new waterproof PlayFull camcorder with a different shape and design than the regular PlayFull, but it's overall dimensions doesn't make it any more portable (it's a bit shorter, but wider—more like the shape of a credit card).
The Kodak PlayFull features an internal battery system that cannot be removed (unless you plan on taking the camcorder apart). This internal battery makes the camcorder easier to use, as it is one less integral piece you need to keep track of, but it also makes the camcorder more difficult to fix or update (if the battery starts showing signs of age, for example). Either way, the camcorder did a decent job in our battery life test. We were able to continually record with the PlayFull for 111 minutes in its highest quality setting with the LCD brightness set to auto. This is 10 minutes less than the PlaySport Zx5 withstood in our test, but it's over twice as long as the abysmal 50-minute battery life achieved by the GE DV1 camcorder.
To charge the battery on the Kodak PlayFull, you may either connect the camcorder to a powered USB port (via its USB arm or the micro USB connector), or you can plug the camcorder into the provided wall-plug adapter that connects via USB. The battery will charge faster if it's plugged directly into an electrical outlet with the adapter, but USB charging may be more convenient for users who have a computer handy. More on how we test battery life.
Before you buy the Kodak PlayFull Ze1, take a look at these other camcorders.
The LCD on the Kodak PlayFull is so small it looks like a joke. And it's not very funny. The screen is only 1.5-inches diagonally, and the portion of the screen that can be used to frame your video is even smaller than that. Two black bars run across the top and bottom of the LCD to give it a widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio, which also cuts the viewing area of the screen by a significant portion. To top it off, the screen has a meager 70,200-pixel resolution. Say what you will about the PlayFull Ze1's portability, but a 1.5-inch screen is just too damn small. It makes framing your video extremely difficult, it makes navigating menus more of a chore, and it makes it nearly impossible to tell if your video is in focus or not. Kodak likes to tout the fact that the LCD has four brightness control options (high, medium, low, and auto) and a glare shield feature—but don't be fooled. This is a screen that is not worthy of any kind of praise.
The Kodak PlayFull is equipped with a digital image stabilization system, and Kodak lets you know this by prominently displaying the letters DIS beneath the camcorder's lens. Having a simple digital stabilization system like this has become very common on ultracompact camcorders; Kodak has even included them before on other models. The thing is, this stabilization mode can't be toggled on and off—it's simply always on. Because it is always engaged, we can't test the effectiveness of the system (there's no way to tell how worse the shakiness would be without it). This is the case with most cheap camcorders with a DIS system, although Kodak did allow you to turn the DIS off on some of its previous models. More on how we test stabilization.
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- Color Performance
- Low Light Performance
- Motion Performance
- Sharpness Performance
- Sample Videos
- Ease of Use
- Recording Options
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