Pocket Cameras – Toys or Tools? (Kodak Zi6)
Over the last few of years, the consumer electronics market has been deluged with small pocket video cameras. Just recently, they started to be classified as “HD” because their image size and frame-rate meets the definition. There are limitations, however. You do “Get what You Pay For”. But can these simple inexpensive cameras be used to create more than family movies — even “professional” results? In many ways, yes.
First, the limitations:
-Just because the image is HD in size, the approximately $100 Zi6 sensor is not equal to much higher priced HD cameras such as a HVX-200 from Panasonic (MSRP $6,300). The Zi6′s image suffers in low light, however it’s surprisingly good for a $100 camera.
-It’s more difficult to get smooth footage: This is a lightweight pocket camera you hold in your hands – how steady are your hands? You’ll know in a few seconds when you shoot with this camera. There is no image stabilization on this camera.
-No external mic input, though no camera at my purchase time had this feature in the sub $100 price category.
-You can take it anywhere! Put it in your pocket! Try that with a 5.5lb HVX-200.
-It records on virtually ubiquitous SD cards. But don’t use the cheap ones. You’ll need the faster class 6 cards. They’ll cost you 10′s of dollars, compared to 100′s of dollars for the proprietary P2 cards used in the HVX-200.
-If you shoot in bright light the image looks surprisingly good on YouTube and compares favorably to much higher priced cameras.
-The on-camera mic is pretty good as long as you stay close to your subject and the background noise is not overpowering
There are some really useful features about this camera for a serious user: The camera uses rechargeable AA batteries that can be found anywhere. The same with the SDHC cards that are used to record the video. If you’re shooting a lot, you can easily carry spares so you don’t have to stop to recharge the camera or download the video. The lens has a macro setting that allows you to get within a couple inches of an object and be in focus. These are great features to have when I shot for my wife’s running club. See the video on YouTube here. They ran a 204-mile marathon from Gonzales, Texas to the Sam Houston monument in Houston. The team spent 36-hours on the road and I had the Zi6 with me.
How to get good results with these small cameras:
-Shoot where there is light. Keep the sun or bright windows behind you. Don’t shoot in backlit situations.
-Hold the camera steady. Brace your arms against your body. Use your body to help with pans and tilts. Avoid holding the camera one-handed in an outstretched arm.
-Be close to speakers so the sound doesn’t sound too hollow.
-Tell a story.
There is now a 2nd generation of these cameras on the market that have external mic inputs and image stabilization, but these features won’t make up for bad technique. If you give Picaso a pencil and paper what comes from it? A masterpiece! The same applies here: good videography and good storytelling come from the gray matter between your ears, not from the camera in your hands.
Do you have experience with pocket video cameras? We want to hear from you! Please leave your comments and remember: “Technology is your Friend!”
Thanks for reading!
-John (aka Founding Geek).