Earlier this summer, the Kodak PlaySport pocket-sized HD camcorder made its debut. While it is the cusp of autumn in most parts of the country, the review of this waterproof video cam should still come in handy.
Setting up the camera is less cumbersome than just sorting out everything that comes in the box. That's not a complaint; rather the PlaySport comes with a lot included. As you can see below, the camcorder comes along with an 8GB Class 6 SDHC card, a USB power cord, AV cables, a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, an HDMI cable and a handy camera strap.
For starters, you'll have to charge the battery right away, but this should be a given with most portable gadgets. When it is fully charged, all you have to do is insert the battery and SDHC card, hit the power button on the top right side and you're on your way.
If you're planning on taping some underwater action, make sure the panels for the memory card and ports on both sides are solidly locked.
Recording is quite simple. All you need to do to start and stop is hit the large white button in the center (seen in the photo above). To playback your videos instantly, just hit the Play button on the side cluster of buttons, at which point you can either hit the center button to play the current video or continue to tap the Play button to be brought to a gallery of your videos which you can sift through there.
In case you don't like something, just hit the Delete button (easily identifiable by the trash can symbol) when viewing the useless video clip. (Just be careful not to automatically delete the following clip - in case you want it - as the Delete menu continues to scroll through the videos unless you cancel the deletion process or switch menus.)
There are a lot of options to customize on the PlaySport, so your first spot should really be the Settings button on the bottom. Here you can choose between NTSC or PAL mode, adjust screen brightness (important for sunny days at the beach), and moderate the volume control, among other things.
One of the most important features you should take into account here is the waterproof mode function. You need to set your video camera's settings to Waterproof mode (seen as an "H2O" symbol) in the Settings menu before taking this little guy beneath water (up to 3 meters/10 feet).
To get out of all of these menus and back to the recording screen, simply hit the button with the camcorder icon. Figuring out how to toggle between recording modes was slightly tricky but quick to pick up. Surrounding the giant white recording button is a dial. Hitting up or down on the dial will zoom in and out (both of which can be used during recording mode), and hitting left or right will allow you to select the recording mode.
Along with 5-megapixel stills, the PlaySport shoots WVGA, HD 720p and HD 1080p video. Naturally, you'll have less time and space for recording to the included 8GB SDHC card when using a higher recording quality, but you can expect anything from two to almost four hours. You can bump that number up to 10 hours if you use a 32GB card.
All in all, the video quality isn't too shabby at all - as long as you have enough lighting. Outdoors and during the day, you should have no problem recording your subjects, but an indoor setting is something you'll have to plan ahead for. The smoothest video I recorded was definitely shot in 1080p, but the others weren't too choppy either. I didn't expect this to be a problem, per se, but given the extreme lightness of the PlaySport, I had difficulty holding the camera still enough in my hand. It was especially challenging to hold still when there was a strong wind, but this probably just takes practice to counteract.
The still quality, however, could have been better. The color in the images looked faded and sometimes blurry, even when there was plenty of light available. Action shots will be hard to capture clearly without some work.
The PlaySport lacks some of the fancy one-touch uploading that you see on a lot of mini-camcorders these days. But you can get your photos and videos to Facebook and YouTube by connecting the video camera to your computer with the included USB 2.0 cable.
Take note that the included photo software is only compatible with Windows, but I was able to transfer the video and still files from the camcorder to iPhoto via USB just fine. And don't forget about using that HDMI cable to connect to HDTVs.
Kodak's PlaySport is currently selling for as low as $119.00. Buyers have three shades to choose from to color in the back panel: purple, blue and simple black. Summer might be over, but this should be one to consider for some snowy adventures this winter - especially for anyone shopping on a tight budget.