First Available: January 2011
In the Weapons Locker is an ongoing series that highlights the tech that I have in use. In a lot of cases, I try to highlight devices, apps, and uses for both that you may not have heard of or considered. Today, I’ll be going over the Kodak Zx5 Video Camera , a venerable action camcorder that is still viable for road warriors who do not need to be on the latest and greatest.
Imaging equipment is one of those gadget areas that is not on the same refresh cycle for me as most of my other gear. I typically don’t replace a camera unless the old one breaks. I don’t know that I’ll ever need another dSLR, for example, unless my Sony Alpha a350 breaks or deteriorates. In a similar vein, I bought the Kodak Zx5 when I was still writing for Carrypad.com, and have not had a reason to change it out. It was the year of the Tablet, and I was hungrily grabbing many of the new devices landing on the market. I needed something highly mobile, capable, and rugged to shoot tablet comparison videos with. The Zx5 fit the bill.
Despite its age (the Zx5 launched almost five years ago), this camera is still an appealing weapon to have in the kit of young cub reporters the world over. At $254 on Amazon, it is a big ask price-wise. But that’s because this device still has some characteristics that make it competitive in today’s marketplace. It is shockproof, dustproof, and…here’s the biggie…waterproof to 10 meters. I’m never one to test these environmental parameters for the sake of proof, but the Zx5’s ruggedness lends itself to a high level of comfort in the event I have the camera out with me on a rainy backpacking trip or day out in the city.
The Zx5 shoots in 1080p, although it is a grainy 1080p. The device released just as 1080p HD capability was becoming the norm amongst imaging devices. In fact, it was still not quite the industry
standard yet. The camera’s main weakness is lighting. Video shot outside will look just fine, but interior vids are not great if you do not have good lighting. The mic on the unit is good; a little too good. It’s an omnidirectional mic versus a condensor, and as such it picks up every friggin thing. I have major allergies, and sinus and congestion problems, so the camera always picks up any of that when I am shooting video. For interviews, you may want to use something else to record the commentary like a portable digital voice recorder, and then sync the audio and video later. The Zx5 does not have a separate mic input port unfortunately.
Still, I love the Zx5. Its size means it is packable or pocketable in almost every situation. I have a more capable 1080p unit, the Panasonic HDC-HS80, but the Zx5 still gets the nod for some trips and outings because it is just so incredibly mobile and rugged. I would not want the HS80 out in the rain. And yeah, I still prefer dedicated devices over convergence devices. I know I could use my phones and sometimes I do. But I’d rather shoot for hours with the Zx5’s 128 GB SD Card and not use up precious smartphone battery life in a lot of scenarios.
The Zx5 is dead simple to use, mostly because I don’t use things like the direct-share capability. I just record, put the video right on the SD Card (the unit also has a small amount of internal memory), and then periodically offload it to a PC. The Zx5 has a micro HDMI port as well. I have not experimented with it yet, but I have plans on hooking it to the Elgato HD60 and using it as the feed to stream mobile and portable games for my gaming devices that do not have HDMI out.
If you do not own one of these, I think you’ll likely want to look elsewhere for your portable video needs. So many newer and more current devices are available at good prices. But if you are a current owner, I’d advise you keep this device in your kit until it stops working. If you are just getting into video recording with dedicated devices and want to minimize your cost for your first gear, you can find the Zx5 on eBay for prices between $40 and $100. Often those units are in great condition and sometimes even new. I’ve used the Zx5 for shooting interviews, family vacations, gadget reviews, and just my kids and the dog around the house. It is super-reliable and rugged. Pair it with a stand-alone LED lamp for the best lighting for close-in video work and you will be just fine holding off on more expensive gear.