Hands-on review: Kodak Playfull HD mini-camcorder

Summary:Earlier this year, Kodak introduced the very petite and sleek Playfull HD video camera at CES 2011. Now that the mini-camcorder is ready to ship, here's the hands-on review.

Earlier this year, Kodak introduced the very petite and sleek Playfull HD video camera at CES 2011. Now that the mini-camcorder is ready to ship, here's the hands-on review.

SET-UP

Setting up the Playfull is as simple as shooting video - meaning it only requires a couple of steps and clicks. After inserting the fully-charged, included battery, the settings menu popped up for configuring the date and time.

However, just like with the Kodak EasyShare Mini, there was no SD card to be seen in the box, so hopefully you have an SD/SDHC card lying around. You'll also want one with over at least 2GB of space, but it supports up to 32GB, which would guarantee up to 10 hours of video.

Once that has been installed, it's time to get started. Navigation is simple and limited to four sections that are accessible by clicking directly on the icons around the center button. That round center button is then used to start and stop recording. The Playfull is really so simple that you don't even really need a guidebook to get started. (But if you like taking a look at the manual anyway, don't worry. One is included.)

USE

After inserting my own blank 2GB SD card, I had 32 minutes and 33 seconds of 720p HD time to work with or the option of shooting 1,485 5-megapixel stills. FYI, there are four recording quality options in case you want to save storage space and battery juice. Those options consist of 1080p, 720p at 60fps, 720p at 30fps and WVGA. If you're going to be sharing videos, which is presumably one of the reasons why to buy this mini-camcorder, then you'll want to stick with WVGA. Anything else produces a large file that is more timely and difficult to upload.

The stills are about the same quality as seen on most smartphones these days, but it's a bit harder to check out 1.5-inch TFT color display. However, given that the Playfull only weighs 3.4 ounces and fits in the palm of my hand, it's super easy to bring almost anywhere. With this size, the Playfull is ideal for taking to parties, concerts (indoor or outdoor) and other events where you don't want to carry a larger camcorder around either for fear of losing it and/or attracting unwanted attention. Kodak has also included a few fun capture effects to play with (note that "70s" is actually much brighter than the promised "muted colors"), and there are some very simple editing features onboard, such as extracting stills and cutting footage.

Personally, I really appreciate this camcorder for how well it shoots indoors - provided that there's at least some lighting available. It's not the best, but it's certainly good for its class. Check out these two 720p samples I shot at a concert sponsored by Sony for its new Music Unlimited (powered by Qriocity) service held in New York City recently:

Essentially, the Playfull is a good option if you just want to shoot casual videos. Yes, it can record up to 1080p HD video quality, but with only 4x digital zoom (and no optical zoom), this isn't something to be used to record an indie film, a documentary or anything more. It would be a good companion on vacations too given the compact size, but don't leave your point-and-shoot or DSLR camera behind.

Again, just like with the EasyShare Mini pocket camera, the Playfull sports a black and red "Share" button. This leads to a three-step process for easy sharing to social networking sites. When in review mode, I just pressed "Share" and then chose the recipient. Options include e-mail, one of Kodak's Pulse digital frames, or a photo sharing site such as Kodak Gallery (obviously), Facebook, YouTube and more.

Once I plugged the Playfull into my computer using the fold-out USB arm (or you could even just insert the memory card), the images went straight to the destination. If you like to share videos often and want to save time, it doesn't get much easier than this.

AVAILABILITY

The Kodak Playfull is available to purchase now for $128, down from the original MSRP of $149.95. Considering the very compact size of this camcorder along with the convenience of the built-in USB arm, that seems like a fair enough price tag to stick on this gadget.

Topics: Web development, Hardware, Storage

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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