Review: Kodak Play Sport ZX3 PDF Print E-mail

Kodak, always a name we'll associate with photography and imaging, has been selling its digital wares for a while now. The ZX3, part of its Play Sport line of casual cameras, is the latest addition.

While it'll take five-megapixel stills, the focus here is on the HD video capabilities – the ZX3 will save files in MOV format (using H.264 compression) and can record video at resolutions up to 1920x1080 (more commonly known as 1080P).
It'll also do 720P at 60 frames per second – excellent for high-speed action such as racing, skiing and watersports – or regular ol' 720P at 30 frames per second, if you don't have a capacious memory card. If you're only going to be using footage on YouTube and don't need it in HD, the ZX3 will also record at WVGA resolution (800x480).
Its candybar layout makes it easy to hold; we've become so accustomed to holding our cellphones for recording video or taking photos, and the Kodak takes advantage of that familiarity.
Button layout on the back panel is basic. There's a camera button which changes between the three video filters, a playback button for reviewing stored photos and videos, a delete button and a settings button. These are complemented by a directional pad, for navigating menus, and an enter button, which also doubles up as a record/capture button.
Recording in 720P, at 60fps, the video looks amazingly crisp and fluid – at least it does on the device's tiny two-inch display. Plug it in to your PC and view the files on a bigger display (or use the supplied HDMI cable and hook it up to your TV) and the results aren't as amazing.
Footage is a bit grainy and lacks sharpness. The cheap, non-zooming lens is mostly to blame for this – digital zoom is available, but it's a bit fiddly and video quality degrades as you zoom in. It also lacks auto focus.
Photo quality is okay, but the full auto mode means you'll leave a lot to chance when trying to capture that special moment. Rather break out a proper still camera for these occasions.
Where the ZX3 does excel is in casual use. It's solidly built, and doesn't feel like it'll fall apart after dropping it. If you do drop it, make sure it's in water. Kodak's kitted it out with seals that will resist water pressure at depths of up to three metres. The 'Play Sport' part of its name can be taken quite literally: you'd use this where you wouldn't readily whip out your SLR or similarly-expensive camera.
For the money, it's worth having as a second camera. Give it to the kids to record their swimming pool antics, or take it to the beach and record those surfers right in the water. Just don't expect to create award-winning home videos with the footage – it's just a tad grainy and not crisp enough to stand up to the results from much more expensive cameras.
Good: Affordable; waterproof; solid build
Bad: Average quality video; cheap lens
Rating: 7/10
Price: R999
Video resolution: Up to 1080P
Photo resolution: Five-megapixels
Storage: SD card, not included

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