camcorders

Kodak PlayFull Ze2 Review

The Kodak PlayFull Waterproof Ze2 is a cheap, bare-bones camcorder that lets you shoot 720p HD video underwater.

December 09, 2012
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Science Introduction

Even before we started testing the Kodak PlayFull Ze2, we had some serious doubts about its capabilities. The Ze2 is one of the few HD camcorders that tops out with a 720p resolution, which means the camcorder is not capable of recording a full HD (1920 x 1080) image. As a result, the Ze2 did a lousy job with sharpness and motion, and its videos in low light looked extremely dull. Low noise levels were perhaps the camcorder's only positive test result, but these levels were only so low because of the Ze2's inability to capture video with much detail. When the image is mostly a blur, then there isn't much noise either.

Motion & Sharpness Performance

The limitation of 720p video recording seriously restricted the Ze2's sharpness capabilities.

The Kodak Waterproof PlayFull put up very low numbers in what is arguably our most important performance test. The PlayFull Ze2 managed a horizontal sharpness of 425 LW/PH and a vertical sharpness of just 375 LW/PH, both of which are far worse than the competition. It's true that sharpness may not be the most important trait to some people, but it is a good signifier of how much detail and clarity the camcorder is capable of recording. It seems that Kodak’s choice of not offering a full HD 1080p record mode on the Ze2 prevented the camcorder from recording video that looked as sharp as the competition’s.

The PlayFull Ze2 records video using a 30p frame rate no matter what video quality setting you use (720p HD or the standard-def WVGA option). In both modes the motion results weren't good—there was lots of artifacting, pixelation, and trailing throughout our test, and the only thing the Ze2 managed to do well was capture relatively smooth motion. Even among other cheap ultracompact models, the Ze2 was not up to snuff in this test.

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Color Performance

Colors weren't accurate in bright or low light, but saturation levels weren't too bad.

In both bright and low light, the Ze2 struggled to render accurate colors. In bright light, the camcorder posted a color error of 8.94, which is very high. Most of the problem stemmed from the camcorder's image skewing warm (red), with white and gray tones having an orange/pink tint. In low light, the color error was a tiny bit better at 7.42, although that's still a very poor score. The camcorder didn't have an issue with colors skewing too warm in low light, which suggests the Ze2 was able to white balance a bit better in our low light test than our bright light one. Despite these inaccurate colors, the Ze2 did report strong colors in both kinds of light. In bright light, the camcorder registered a 98% color saturation, and its colors certainly looked vivid to the naked eye. In low light, the saturation level was a little lower at 80%, but that's still a decent performance for the camcorder.

Low Light Performance.

Low light color accuracy wasn’t great, but sensitivity and noise levels were decent for an ultracompact model.

The Waterproof PlayFull produced rather dark tones in our low light test, which means most of the footage shot with the camcorder in low light will tend to be a bit underexposed. But despite the underexposed image, the camcorder did manage to produce colors with decent saturation.

The Kodak Ze2 needed nine lux of light in order to record an image that was bright enough to be used in broadcast. This is a good performance for the camcorder, but it’s five lux worse than the sensitivity we measured from the Kodak PlaySport Zx5. The Ze2’s small sensor (1/4-inch CMOS) as well as its f/2.4 lens are both contributing factors to the camcorder’s sensitivity score.

The Ze2 also measured very low noise levels in our low light test—around 0.6% noise—but this good score was diminished by the fact that the camcorder’s low light image looked downright ugly at times

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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