New camera

My wife and I bought a Canon ZR200 video camcorder a few years back for our first video cam, and we loved it. We used it a lot, in fact, and I’m still burning DVDs from old videos.
But this camera that still recorded onto digital “tape” quickly became antiquated. I had to have a big orange firewire cable to transfer to my computer, and the video itself was lower quality than the cameras coming out these days.
So for my birthday this summer, I wanted something that shot HD video, something that transferred easily to our Macs and something cheap. Surprisingly, there were several options out there for these demands, and after studying, we chose the Kodak Zi6 HD video recorder.
The cost was $159 at BestBuy, and for a high-quality 8G memory card that can save up to an hour of video, we had to dish out another $40. Still, having something that can shoot HD, fit in our pants pocket and quickly transfer the expected hundreds of videos we’re going to shoot of our daughter (due late September) made the price not seem so bad.
But do we like it?
Well, the above video is all we’ve shot with it so far after a week (we’re going to test it out more this week), and I must say, it’s already better than what we had. The video above is a YouTube version of what we shot, so the quality is a tad worse than what appears straight from the camera (still haven’t figured out YouTube’s HD option), but if you look at video I shot of the recent Family Fourth festival or our commercial for The Rant, this is tons better.

The pluses:
• The picture: Crisp, clean in the outdoors. It loses a little quality indoors and loses more quality in the dark … but for the price and what we’ll be using it for (in other words, I’m not producing Hollywood films any time soon), we’re pleased.
• The sound: I’m amazed what this little thing can pick up. The portion where I’m filming the bee in the bushes, I can hear a buzz when I listened with the headphones on (may be harder to hear with just your computer speakers).
• The size: We thought out Canon was small, since it fit in one hand, but the Kodak Zi6 is just a little larger than an iPhone (thicker, but still small enough to fit in your pocket as long as you’re not wearing tight blue jeans). Plus, it’s light … ridiculously light.
• The ease: Click a button on the camera and a USB port pops out. Plug it straight into the computer, and a folder appears with .MOV files — one for each time you hit record. I have iMovie software on my Mac, so I was able to just drag the .MOV files into iMovie and edit from there. You can also transfer straight to YouTube if you’re not worried about editing what you shot.

The minuses
• Shaky: Too shaky … though not as shaky as I thought it would be after reading reviews. The camera has a tiny hole at the bottom for smaller tripods, so if you “must” shoot still shots, you can get a cheap tripod and have that option.
• Not a great zoom: The zoom option is limited, and when I zoomed as much as I could at the very end of the video, it looked like it pixelized the picture a little.
• Auto focus didn’t always work: When I’m trying to shoot the bee in front of my house, it never did focus on it. I know … that’s probably asking a lot of a $149 camera, but still…
• Memory Card: I just wish memory cards weren’t so damn expensive. I chose the 8G because to me, an hour is all I need, but I would have liked more if I could have afforded it. I may opt for two 8G cards in the future.

All in all, after one use and a few tests with the TV (yes, it plugs directly into your TV, whether it’s digital or HD), we’re pleased with the new buy. We’re going to hang on to the Canon for a while because it allows us to transfer our old VHF to DVD, but for the recordings, we’re sticking with the Kodak.
The above video was shot on our deck and in our front yard, and it shows Jennifer at seven months pregnant, showing off her belly and our new stroller for the little girl.

Kodak Zi6 links:
Kodak Zi6 site
Computer TV review
CNET review

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