The Kodak Zi8 camcorder is one of the top choices in the lower- to mid-level digital camcorder market. It allows you to shoot clear, professional-looking picture in high definition, but with relatively few bells and whistles to master. Its top features include the relatively low price, compact size, large storage capacity, great picture and small learning curve. That said, even though it’s in Kodak’s time-honored line of cameras, it has a number of drawbacks of which you should be aware before shelling out a couple hundred dollars on this digital camcorder.
The Kodak Zi8 stores several hours’ worth of video, depending on the resolution setting. It can record in up to 1080p, and has some anti-shake compensation. If you need more, it also has an SD slot so you can store a lot more on an external chip. The camera also automatically adjusts for different light levels, allowing for easily visible and quality picture. In fact, just about everything about the picture is excellent for the price point of this camera.
I’ve seen a range of prices for the Zi8. I bought mine off of Amazon for about $240. It’s been a few years now, so I do frequently see it being sold for less. With Kodak’s massive business changes, it’s also out of manufacture and may be sold for quite a bit more, it all depends on current supply.
Despite having the ability to store several hours of recording at any given time, the camera falls way short on battery life. All of the descriptions I’ve seen say about 1 ½ hours on the battery, but I’ve never gotten that much. Even when the battery was brand new, it died at almost exactly an hour of steady use. Luckily, four years later, it still gets an hour of run time. For my own camera needs, this isn’t really a problem. For people who want to take the camera places, like to family events, you’ll probably also have to invest in additional batteries.
Sound is the camera’s major drawback. It’s terrible. I’ve gotten better sound out of a bargain-basement desktop microphone, and probably still would have if I’d been speaking into a tin can. Luckily, I bought this camera on a recommendation from a client who knew my uses for it, and he’d already warned me that I would need an external microphone. As such, I’d ordered a lavalier microphone at the same time that I bought the camera, which cost about an additional $30. I also spent $15 on this tripod at the time of purchase, which has worked splendidly for this camera.
When you’re ready to take files off of the camera, they’re easy to unload through a USB port on your computer. The camera comes with some basic video editing software, but you may want to invest in something a little more high-tech if you want to do anything other than clipping pieces and adding text.
Since I’d already been warned about the sound issue, my experiences with the Zi8 have been virtually seamless. I bought this camera to create tutorial videos, as well as the videos to make and market a video-based training course. It had to look professional. With the easy-to-hide lavaliere microphone, I got great sound and a very nice-looking picture. I’ve used it under a variety of indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, and have yet to see anything that looks bad except where it’s the fault of shadows and other lighting issues, not the camera.
If I could change anything about the Kodak Zi8 camcorder, it would be to add a remote control to it. I understand that it has a low price point, though, and is probably geared more toward the home movie type of user. For what I paid, I’m quite happy with what I got. This camera has served me well for four years now, and will continue doing so until I’m ready to upgrade into a remote-controlled model with a better battery life.