The heart of any video recording system is the camera, and my mobile camera of choice is the Kodak Zi8. Although I love my Sony NEX-5 still camera, and carry it everywhere at these shows, it lacks a microphone input and isn’t quite as easy use as a solid-state video camera. The same is true of the iPhone 4, which records great video and has a wonderful portable version of iMovie but just doesn’t work out on-site.
A Good Portable Camcorder
I picked the Zi8 from Kodak because it has a few key features that I needed for on the road video recording:
- It shoots halfway-decent 720p or 1080i HD video
- It uses easy to find an inexpensive SD cards for storage
- It includes a microphone input that supports both mic and line-levels sources
- It is lightweight, compact, and rugged enough to survive in my bag
Although the video quality is nowhere near as good as my NEX-5, and even lags somewhat behind the iPhone 4, the Zi8 is good enough for casual tradeshow interviews. The battery lasts a good long time and charges over USB, and the interface is simple enough to demonstrate in under a minute.
Like the Flip, the Zi8 features a pop-out USB connector. The Zi8 mounts as a mass-storage device, and since it uses SD card storage, presents the content of the SD directly to the laptop. You can even use it as a card reader in a pinch! It includes a mini-HDMI port for video out (Monoprice is your friend).
The menus are simple, with the red “jog stick” quickly navigating through the very few menus present. There is a hard switch to select macro and landscape lenses and that’s about it.
You might also be interested in my Sony NEX-5 Camera Review
Although it supports image stabilization, I don’t find myself using this capability. Stabilization sucks down battery power, and I find that it produces and unnatural look. Shaky handheld video usually works out fine in the field.
My only real complaint is that iMovie on the iPad does not natively support the video format used by Zi8 recordings. This means that I must continue to carry a laptop if I want to do editing and uploads on the go. Luckily, my new 13 inch MacBook Pro is easily up to the task.
The Zi8 is like a Flip done right. It’s slimmer, uses SD cards instead of built-in storage, and has an input that supports both mic and line-level audio. Plus, it’s cheap at just over $100 on sale. I call that a winner!