Top critical review
157 people found this helpful
Good value and clever little recorder - but the jumpy zoom drove me mad
on 18 October 2009
A very clever, good value unit BUT it has two drawbacks - one the light sensor is small so it's poor at low lighting shots, but the deal breaker for me is the zoom. While it's nice to have a zoom option, it is not smooth and jumps from setting to setting in a way that is just plain annoying. For me, I'd wait for a model with a smoother zoom - but in no way is this a bad unit.
In the box you get:
- camera (duh)
- charger unit with EU and UK attachments
- lanyard strap
- good easy guide book
- HDMI cable
- normal AV cable
( note the USB is integral to the unit in one of those poppy out things)
- Price. This is a basic, pocket video recorder - at a very competitive price (even at RSP before Amazon's competitive pricing). Be warned though, that you need to set your expectations to that price - it won't match the quality of units that can be many times that price - it's a pocket video camera, not a camcorder.
- It's a nice looking unit. It will fit into a shirt pocket - though you will certainly know it's there due to its weight. Build quality is good. It's about the size of a Blackberry and about one and a half times the depth.
- Video quality at all settings (WVGA, 720p, 720p 60fps, 1080p) is excellent in good lighting. It works best when you are stationery. As with all cameras, the quality is only as good as the lens. The lens on this unit is tiny and it's stunningly good for its size. I found the 720p probably the best in the long run. 1080p is stretching this unit's capability to the max and you will get some noise on it.
- It has a macro setting which is a nice feature to have.
- The battery unit is user replaceable. It charges in two hours from the AC adapter and about 4 hours from the USB connection. You get around 60-90 minutes from a charge (depending on what you are using). That's pretty decent, but if you are travelling, you'd be well advised to buy a spare battery unit.
- The screen is good and a perfectly acceptable size. (About Blackberry size).
- Simple controls. The on/off switch doesn't trip accidentally and there are four push buttons on the back for settings, deletion, record and play. They take a bit of getting used to as they you don't always feel that they've responded to your touch, but they are OK. It's so simple to use you don't need a complex manual.
- Transferring video from the SDHC cards is very easy using the USB connector. On first use, you have the option of installing the supplied Arcsoft software will allow you, among other things, to convert the Quicktime MOV files to other formats. I found that watching playback of .mov files on Realplayer was very poor (jumpy) so use Quicktime. Arcsoft allows you to convert to web, apple or PS3 formats. I don't have a Mac so cannot comment.
- The internal microphone produced excellent to acceptable audio at distances ranging up to about 10-15 feet (3-4 metres). Plus there is an external mic socket.
- The 4X digital zoom is surprisingly good. Noise increases as you would expect, but not to the point of seriously degrading the image.
- The HDMI feature is a very nice touch allowing you to play on your HDTV very easily. If you have shot some footage in good light, do try the HDTV option - the results are much more impressive than on my screen.
- I like the SD card system - but it does mean you have to buy one (as opposed to an internal memory - you get a 128mb of internal memory which won't give you much space). A 32gb SD card will give you about five hours on 720p. You'll need to recharge the battery before getting to this though.
- The digital zoom is not even remotely smooth. It leaps along like a demented kangaroo. This is a big problem.
- Low light performance is poor. This is a major drawback as the unit's attraction is that you can carry it in situations that you wouldn't take a larger unit to - like evenings out. Its sensor is tiny and that's a problem.
- The lens is 46mm (35mm equivalent) which can be a bit restricting. A 28mm would have been more practical for social situations. The Zi8 focal length is 46mm for 720p and WVGA settings. At 1080p, the focal length is 61mm.
- No slip cover
- The Image stabilization works only moderately well. It's not too bad if you are static, but if you are walking, it cannot cope. Because it's such a small unit - holding it steady can be a problem. Image stabilization is one of the things that makes the expensive camcorders so expensive. Having said that, it does have a tripod mount (which is a plus point) and would help (or would if I had a tripod!). Also, image stabilization eats power and I found the unit getting a bit warm.
- The stills photos are, at best, average. It's a 5MP stills camera without a flash. But chances are you'll have a stills camera anyway.
- I know I said the ease of use was a plus, but it also means you don't have a lot of control over things, like exposure.
- It does have face tracking, but I found it created more problems than it solved - if the face was at the wrong angle, it would black out the background etc, partly because the exposure meter is slow to adjust to changes in lighting.
Update - found firmware upgrade to solve jumpy zoom - now 4* product