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Camcorders aimed at the YouTube generation are now arriving thick and fast. Defining the genre was the Flip Video Ultra, but we actually saw Creative's Vado first, here in the UK. Now Kodak is jumping on the bandwagon and raising the bar at the same time.
Not only does the new Zi6 have a built-in full-sized USB port that pops out at the press of a button, it also shoots 720p video rather than the 640 x 480 resolution used by other contenders in this camcorder subgenre thus far.
As if to signal its higher quality aspirations, the Zi6 is noticeably larger than the Flip Video Ultra or Vado. But it also feels very solid, and houses a 2.4in LCD - much wider than its competitors. After all, when shooting in 720p High Definition, you will want to see at least some of the detail as you record.
The Zi6 runs on a pair of AA batteries, but Kodak supplies two of its own Ni-MH cells in the box and a standalone charger, giving you the best of both worlds. You don't need to keep buying new batteries (unlike the Flip Video Ultra), but if you do run out of power when out and about, you can get some more cells virtually anywhere (unlike the Creative Vado).
A 1/4.5in CMOS with 1.6-megapixels captures the images, but the lens is a fixed unit. So whilst a 2x zoom facility is provided, this works digitally, and therefore reduces resolution when in use. Video is recorded as an H.264-encoded MOV file, with three quality modes available. There are two 720p options available - 30 frames per second, and the much publicised 60 frames per second. For more direct YouTube compatibility, however, there's a VGA mode as well which operates at 640 x 480 and 30 frames per second.
However, just 128MB of flash memory is integrated internally, which is only enough for 20-30 seconds of footage in the two HD modes, and less than two minutes in VGA quality. It's clearly there just so you can get a taste, as an SDHC slot is also provided, although the cover for this is rather flimsy. A 4GB card will be enough for an hour of footage even at the top 720p60 setting, and nearly six hours of VGA shooting.
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