Last year, Kodak was first out the gate with an HD mini-camcorder, the . That model won some fans for its decent video quality and relatively large LCD display. As far as its guts are concerned, Kodak's sticking to much the same formula with the Zx1 Pocket Video Camera. But the Zx1, available for around £140, also boasts a more rugged design that's geared toward users with 'action and adventure in mind'.
Like the Zi6, the Zx1 records video in 720p resolution at up to 60 frames per second. That may qualify it as an HD camcorder, but many factors go into creating an image, not just a CMOS sensor capable of capturing an image at a certain resolution.
The Zx1 incorporates the same 1/4.5-inch, 1.6-megapixel sensor as the Zi6. According to Kodak, however, it has upgraded the processor in this model, which appears to make the camcorder zippier than its predecessor. It's also shrunk the LCD from 61mm (2.4 inches) to 51mm (2 inches). But the Zx1 is still bigger than most of its competitors, particularly the . Even so, it's pretty compact and fits in most pockets.
At 150g, the Zx1 also weighs more than the Zi6, partly because it uses standard AA batteries instead of a slim lithium-ion battery. Using AAs means that, in a pinch, you can use readily available standard AA alkaline batteries to power the unit. On the downside, you can't just charge the battery off the built-in USB connector, as you can with some models, such as the .
All in all, we like the look and feel of the Zx1. Kodak offers it in , , and . We're fans of the brushed stainless steel on the back and the rubberised finish on the front, which helps you keep a good grip on the device. Kodak bundles a wrist strap along with a lightweight carrying pouch.
The Zx1 is dust-, water- and ice-resistant, but not waterproof or designed to operate in extremely cold conditions. It's tough, but not super-tough. Rubberised doors seal all the ports and we had no trouble shooting with the Zx1 in light rain.
Like the Zi6, the Zx1 comes with no useful internal memory. Of the 128MB built in, 30MB is ostensibly available for video and stills. But, at roughly 1.5MBps for 60fps video, or 11 minutes of video per gigabyte of storage, the Zx1 can internally accommodate only about 20 seconds. Kodak doesn't include an SD card in the box, but the Zx1 accepts SDHC cards up to 32GB.
While the omission of a bundled memory card is forgivable, considering the relatively low price of the Zx1, we're more critical of Kodak's failure to include a better USB connectivity solution. Like most of the competition, the Zi6 includes a flip-out connector built into the device. The Zx1, however, requires a separate USB cable to connect to a computer, meaning you have to have the connector around to get your videos off the camcorder. Alternatively, you could pull the SD card out and slip it into a card reader, but then you'll need that on hand to make the transfer.
As with all mini-camcorders, the Zx1 is designed to be easy to use, and, for the most part, it is. That said, the button arrangement and operation of the camcorder take some getting used to. But, once you work out which buttons do what, everything becomes more intuitive.
We like the fast-forwarding, fast-rewinding, frame-by-frame advance and frame-by-frame rewind speeds. The LCD is sharp and the sound played back loudly enough through the Zx1's speaker, as long as we cranked up the volume. The mic also seemed sensitive enough.
Aside from a durable design and expandable memory, the Zx1's biggest selling point is its video quality. The Zx1 isn't in the same league as more expensive, full-sized HD camcorders from the likes of Canon, Sony and Panasonic, but its quality is decent for this type of mini-camcorder. We think, though, that the video is slightly noisier than that of the MinoHD, particularly in low-light conditions.
Typically, you only view these video files in a small window on your computer. With the Zx1's footage, however, you can actually scale the video to full screen and it retains a degree of sharpness. There's still a fair amount of noise, but it doesn't get badly pixellated, and it helps that Kodak now includes HDMI connectivity -- a cable is included -- for the best-possible picture when showing off your videos on a TV. For TVs that don't have an HDMI connection, Kodak also throws in a standard composite cable -- but that cable won't display images at a HD resolution.