The Gadget: The Kodak Zi6, a cheap pocket camcorder that records 720p HD video, vying for title of best camcorder under $200.
The Price: $180
The Verdict: When I got my first look at the Zi6, I had an inkling it could be the best "cheap" pocket camcorder yet, and I was right. I've been using it for a while both indoors and outdoors, and found the video quality to be stellar no matter the situation. To make things simple, here's how the Zi6 would've fared if it had been out in time for my Ultimate Cheap Camcorder Battlemodo:As you can see, this is a pretty badass pocket cam. The macro feature, a first on cheap camcorders like this, is a welcome way to film text and gadget screens up close. The camera's thick size actually makes it feel like a real piece of hardware and not something that could get lost in your bag. The HD recording is also great for giving users a bigger size for recording.
Despite all the good stuff, there are a few shortcomings with the Zi6. Most importantly, when switching between infinite and macro focus, or from low-light to full-light, the camera takes a while to refocus. Quick panning was similarly out of focus, and looked jagged at times. While ! HD was g ood for size, the Zi6 isn't recording at Blu-ray, or ever broadcast TV HD caliber. Truth is, the VGA should be sufficient for most videos. Finally, the USB connector popped open easily and often, a minor annoyance.
That said, the Zi6 may finally usher in the death of DV cams for most practical tasks. It takes clear video that can be imported to your PC immediately without fuss, and the AA battery slots ensure that you won't be stuck without power should the included rechargeables run dry. The Zi6 is truly best in its class, though that class is still "cheap pocket camcorders." [Kodak]
Examples of the Zi6 at work up close and at a distance in a variety of lighting situations:
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