capsule review

Kodak PlaySport Zx3 Review: Great Video, Iffy Controls

At a Glance
  • Kodak PlaySport Zx3

    PCWorld Rating

    The Kodak PlaySport Zx3 shoots top-notch 1080p video and still images, and offers a waterproof frame, but we've seen pocket camcorders that are easier to use.

The Kodak PlaySport Zx3 ($150 as of July 24, 2011) is a waterproof pocket camcorder that can handle dives down to 10 feet underwater. It captures some of the best videos and photos we've seen, but it has a design flaw in its button layout.

The PlaySport Zx3 is an average-size pocket camcorder, measuring 2.3 by 4.4 by 0.8 inches. Everything you need to operate the camcorder is on its body; it doesn't offer touchscreen controls. On its back are a 2-inch LCD, a record button, a playback button, a delete button, a settings button, and a navigation button ring. On its right side, hidden behind a pop-out panel, are an HDMI port, a USB port, and an AV-out port. On the left, also hidden behind a panel, is the removable, rechargeable lithium ion battery. Below the battery slot is the SD/SDHC card slot (a card is not included).

In an effort to make the PlaySport Zx3 easy to use, Kodak placed all of the function buttons in the same area on its body. To start and stop recording, you press the record button, which is surrounded by the navigation ring. To use the camera's 4X digital zoom, you press up on the ring to zoom in and press down to zoom out. Unfortunately, the ring is so small that when you're attempting to zoom you could easily press the record button and interrupt your recording accidentally. It's best to press the buttons with your fingertip, not with your fingernail, so that you can feel which button you're pressing without looking at the controls.

The camcorder supports a maximum video resolution of 1080p at 30 frames per second. Other video recording modes include 720p at 60 fps, 720p at 30 fps, and 848 by 480 pixels at 30 fps. You also have the choice of shooting video in black and white or with high color saturation. The PlaySport Zx3 can shoot 5.3-megapixel still photos in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Video Quality and Image Quality

In PCWorld Labs subjective tests for video quality, the PlaySport Zx3's test footage received a score of Very Good (on a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Superior). It did an excellent job of shooting video in bright and sunny areas, and its videos were often sharp and full of vibrant color. Its image quality is among the best in the realm of pocket camcorders we've tested.

Here are the video clips that we used for our bright-light and low-light subjective testing. Click 1080p to see the full-resolution sample clips.

The camcorder also snaps great still photos: In our tests the PlaySport Zx3 earned a Superior word score for photo color quality. Our test photos exhibited good exposure and sharpness, as well as vibrant hues.

The PlaySport is a decent audio recording device, too, as it received a word score of Good--not great, but still respectable.

Buying Advice

Though the Kodak PlaySport Zx3 isn't the easiest camcorder to use, it does well in performing its main duty: making videos. If you care more about the quality of the videos you want to make than how easy it is to operate the camera, the PlaySport Zx3 is a good choice.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Kodak PlaySport Zx3 shoots top-notch 1080p video and still images, and offers a waterproof frame, but we've seen pocket camcorders that are easier to use.

    Pros

    • Very good video and image quality
    • Uses removable SD cards for storage
    • Waterproof down to 10 feet deep

    Cons

    • Button layout often leads to accidental presses
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