With the death of the Flip cam earlier this year, there’s a specific void that’s been needed to be filled. While the market for an ultra-compact video camera isn’tthe biggest out there (otherwise Flip would still be a thing), there is most certainly a niche audience that use and love them. The Kodak PlayFull definitely meets that audience though – it’s about the size of two and a half Kit Kat bars (or as you can see in the later pic, smaller than an iPhone 3GS with an Otter Box case) and it takes (default) 720p video at 30 frames per second (this can be upped to 1080/30p). So yes, the Kodak PlayFull is small, and yes – it takes decent video, but is it enough to overcome the obstacles that led to the demise of the Flip?
While the small size of the PlayFull might be really attractive to some (my kids love it and how easily it fits in their hands), others like myself might just find it too small. Holding it to take pictures and videos just feels weird to me because of how small it is. I know it’s just me, and I have big hands, but it made me feel like a giant. The compact size is nice though; all of the buttons you need are located right on the face of the PlayFull, including one that makes the camera great for anyone who’s into the whole social media scene – the “share” button.
Once you connect the PlayFull via USB and install the prompted software (it’s all located on the internal storage of the PlayFull itself), you’ll be able to instantly upload pictures and videos to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter (or to the international services Yandex or Kaixin001). Unfortunately the PlayFull doesn’t bother with any kind of sorting itself, so everything gets dumped into one folder and you have to dig through it all yourself. It’s not that big of a deal though if you make sure to transfer everything off of it after each use.
The video isn’t quite as good as you would expect from “full HD”, however it’s pretty good compared against other smaller camcorders. You’re never going to get the same definition from a micro camcorder that you’re going to get from a full sized camcorder (at least not in this technological cycle), and as long as you go into using it with that in mind you shouldn’t be disappointed. The video is at least as good as DVD quality, and it looks good in 1080p unless you’re trying to record some fast moving things – then you end up with a lot of blur and some stutter. If you’re doing anything fast it’s definitely noticeably better just to leave it set to 720p.
If you’re watching your videos on a larger screen (I use a 37″ monitor, so I end up seeing everything “bad”) you will notice that the PlayFull seems to add too much sharpening, and I never found any sort of setting to change that. This led to a few artifacts, but again – nothing you’d notice on a small screen. The PlayFull also sports a fixed focus lens, and it’s definitely best if your target if around 4 feet away when you’re using it – there’s a digital zoom as well, but I avoid digital zooms like the plague. They always end up looking like crap in the end, and while this one might give you an image that’s slightly higher quality than other crappy digital zoom images, it’s still crappy. Besides that, it’s only a 4X digital zoom, so it’s not even going to help that much. The PlayFull has a decent color balance in its videos and pictures, and the exposure rate is just where it needs to be – even in lower light situations it doesn’t lose quality. In bright light however is tends to clip highlights; and that’s on photos and videos.
Something that’s really amazing to me is just how much Kodak was able to squeeze inside this tiny package. I’m not talking just about the LCD screen, or the miniscule internal storage (20MB – yes, MB). I’m not talking about the standard things like internal battery, buttons, or SD card slot. I mean all the extras; for starters, at the top of the PlayFull is a flexible USB arm for connecting it to your computer. It just folds away folds away so effortlessly, that it’s easy to forget it’s there. Next on the left hand side of the device (right next to the SD card slot) is a micro HDMI port. I’ve seen them on other larger cameras before, but i’ve never see one on a camera this small before – it’s a great addition. On the bottom of the PlayFull is a tripod attachment (which I fail to see when you’d ever need it) and an IR receiver for a remote control. Then finally on the right hand side, there’s another port for a micro USB jack, that can also be used with an optional A/V cord.
I did feel with everything they included, that the lack of any kind of light (even a tiny LED would have sufficed) or flash was a glaring omission – but it’s not a deal breaker. The Kodak PlayFull isn’t really meant to be used in situations where you’d need one anyways. In short, the Kodak PlayFull is meant to fill a specific gap between the camera on your smart phone, and a more full sized camcorder, and it does it quite well. Despite the few issues that it has, it’s a fairly solid piece of work, and it’s really easy to recommend for anyone that has socially active kids, or who is socially active themselves. As I said, I have sixteen and seventeen year old step daughters who thought it was very nice and simple to use. That’s enough of an endorsement for me.
Final rating? Four stars out of five.
- There’s a LOT of stuff packed into a nice little package
- Extremely easy to use – my mother-in-law who hates computers can use it with ease
- Being able to share things with the touch of a button is great
- HD video doesn’t look HD all the time
- No flash or light limits when and where you can use it
- Only 20 MB of internal storage means you HAVE to buy a memory card
You can get a Kodak PlayFull camera of your own from Amazon for $78.76 (which in this reviewer’s opinion is a tremendously good price)