So what of the much-vaunted toughness? The device is encased in soft-touch, mildly rubberised plastic. There are two lockable doors covering the ports and memory slot respectively. Rubber seals inside cover the openings themselves, and the doors are held in place by switches which lock into place. These don’t feel quite as secure as Panasonic’s toughened camcorders, such as the Panasonic SDR-SW20, but our experiments with trying to knock these open ‘accidentally’ proved ineffective. A direct blow on the switch might just trip it, but this would be a rather unlucky situation.
We also dropped the device in water and from heights of over a metre onto a variety of surfaces. Hard, rough floors did leave the occasional scuff mark on the finish of the device, but the waterproofing doors remained closed and there were no signs of the chassis fracturing. Overall, whilst we wouldn’t recommend use during extreme sports, the Zx5 will certainly withstand most non-extreme leisure activities. However, it’s also worth noting that in the move to greater toughness, the battery is no longer removable, unlike the Zx3, so you would probably have to buy a new camcorder if this becomes dysfunctional out of warranty.
As with most pocket Internet camcorders, the Zx5 isn’t exactly brimming with features. The zoom is just 4x and digital, so there is a noticeable drop in quality when it’s engaged. A small range of digital effects are available, including High Saturation, ‘70s Film, Black and White, and Sepia. An underwater correction filter is included, which compensates for the colour shift caused by shooting through water. The Zx5 does have image stabilisation, too, but it’s digital and only marginally effective. Still worth having, but technological development has focused on this area quite a bit in recent premium camcorders, and there’s a wider gulf between these and budget models now.
Amazingly, the Zx5 does have a microphone gain control so you can compensate for very loud or quiet audio. You can configure the anti-glare system, and LCD brightness, which mildly improves viewing angles in direct sunlight. There is also, allegedly, face-detection, although with the fixed lens this will only affect exposure, and we didn’t see any signs of it in operation during testing anyway. There’s a macro mode hidden in the menu system, too, which allows focusing down to 7cm (10cm underwater) instead of the 10cm (13cm underwater) in normal mode. You don’t get any backlight compensation option, though, which would have been handy for manually counteracting the effects of shooting something against a very bright background, such as a sunny sky or snow.