Browse through the many pocket camcorder reviews we've published and you learn that these camcorders are limited in significant ways--no image stabilization, no exposure or white balance controls, no optical zoom, no support for using external microphones, and no support for 1080p high-definition video. Kodak hasn't addressed all these limitations with the Zi8, but it does take a shot at some of the most significant--specifically, image stabilization, 1080p shooting, and support for external microphones. Regrettably, none works in stellar fashion or makes up for a camera that's a fairly average performer.
The Zi8 offers five shooting modes: 1080p (1920 by 1080), 720p (1280 by 720) at 60 frame per second, 720p at 30 fps, WVGA (848 by 480), and still photos (5.3 megapixels at a 16:9 aspect ratio). Video is captured in H.264 format and audio is recorded at 48kHz. Like Kodak's Zi6 and Zx1, the Zi8 stores records files on an SD card (not included).
The Zi8 offers two focus modes, normal and macro. The camcorder includes a 6.3mm f/2.8 fixed focus lens with a 35mm equivalence of 61mm for 1080p, 46mm for 720p and WVGA, and 42mm for stills. The Zi8 has 4x digital zoom.
The internal microphone records in mono but the microphone jack allows you to record with a stereo external microphone. As with all of today's pocket camcorders, the Zi8 has a 1/4-inch tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. You can connect the Zi8 to a television via HDMI or composite connections (cables for both are included). And the Zi8 has a 2.5 inch (diagonal) LCD.
Unlike other Kodak pocket camcorders, the Zi8 uses a proprietary rechargeable removable Li-ion battery (the other cameras use AA batteries). You can charge this battery within the camera using the included charger or by plugging the camera into a powered USB port via the USB male connector that pulls out from the side of the camera. Kodak claims you can shoot 720p 30fps video for up to 90 minutes on a single charge.
Similar to the the other Kodak pocket camcorders, the Zi8 features a red four-position toggle switch on the back that you push to initiate record or playback and toggle to zoom in or out, select a shooting mode, and choose a clip to play. Also on the back of the camera you'll find buttons for switching between Record and Play modes, deleting clips, and accessing the camera's settings.