News this week across the Internets that Kodak is getting into the portable video space in a big way with their supposed “Flip killer”, the Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. The news of this device is exploding onto the scene, almost like the original Flip Ultra did back in Sept. of 2007. I’m very excited about Kodak’s Zi6, but first a bit of history.
For months I had heard the hype surrounding the incredibly easy to use Flip Ultra. On blogs, in tweets and reviews, people everywhere were professing their love for the gadget. The Flip seemed to do for video recording what the iPod did for music listening – make it super easy and fun. I resisted jumping on the band wagon for months until I finally went to the Flip homepage and saw a sales pitch that I couldn’t resist. A man held up an old high-8 camcorder and said “You probably have one of these in the closet, but you don’t use it anymore, right? You have to find tape, charge it, lug it around, and by the time you do, the moment is over. It’s just not fun.”
I felt like a tool. How did he know me so well? I hadn’t shot video of anything in years because pulling out the camcorder was such a chore. Even worse were the hours of footage sitting on tape that no one would ever see because it was too difficult to capture and edit. From that moment on, I was committed. I ordered a cute, orange Flip Ultra and instantly felt like I was “back in the game”. However, over the next two weeks I came to realize that much of the hype surrounding the Flip, was just that… hype.
First, the good points about the Flip Ultra:
• Ease of use – It really is just point and shoot. It’s so easy I think even my mom could use it which is great.
• Picture quality – I found the picture quality to be good enough for almost all of my needs. The exception is medium to low light.
• Importing – Getting video onto my computer is fast and easy. The flip-out USB port means no cords to lug around.
But for each of these good points there are several bad ones as well:
• Fixed focus – You can’t shoot closer than about 1.5 feet from the lens. Sucks for tight shots, close-ups & forget about macro.
• Small screen – Because the 1.5 inch screen is so small, it’s difficult to tell when things are in focus or how they’re framed.
• Body shape – The lens protrudes from the body of the device and risks getting scratched. Sadly this is true of the new Flip Mino too. It also means the camera can’t sit properly on a flat surface.
• Encoding format – The flip encodes in MPEG-4 ASP (.avi) which means that it’s not ideal for Mac users. Feh.
Along comes Kodak, a company that used to be near and dear to my heart, to make a version of the Flip that addresses all of these negatives. According to the product specifications, the Zi6 will cost about the same as the Flip Mino (assuming they don’t immediately drop the price), and give you much more bang for your buck. Just take a gander at just some of the ways the Zi6 bests the Flip:
• HD video – Where the Flip is confined to 640×480 VGA, the Zi6 shoots in stunning HD 720p at 60 frames per second.
• Big screen – The Zi6’s 2.4 in. LCD screen is almost a full inch bigger than the flip which should make framing shots super easy.
• Mac love – The Zi6 encodes its clips with H264 compression as .mov files, perfect for use in iMovie on the Mac.
• Expandability – The camera has an SD/SDHC card slot that can hold up to an additional 32GB of video.
and the biggie for me:
• Focal range – The Zi6 has a “Close-up” mode that allows a minimum focal range of just 2 inches. Perfect for macro video captures of small objects like insects, LEGOs, etc.
The Zi6 webpage says the camera will be available sometime in August. However, when I placed my pre-order for the device on Amazon.com, their product page says the gadget will be shipping on October 1st. I’m not sure who’s date to believe, but since I waited to get one so long in the first place, I think I can live a few more months for the awesome Zi6. In the meantime, anyone wanna buy slightly used Flip Ultra? Come on, it’s orange!
UPDATE: Andy Ihnatko has started his testing of the Zi6. So far he’s only posted a single frame from one of the captured videos, but the results are pretty impressive. Check it out.