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Is That HD Video in Your Pocket? A Look at Kodak’s New Zi8 VideoCam

zi8_aqua_smA pocket video recorder is the 21st century version of pen and paper. You can whip it out, document, and then share the moments of your day. The top contenders in the pocket video space are the Flip camera and the Kodak Xi8. Flip’s got the catchier name and it captured high definition video first. But the new Kodak Xi8 has some impressive technology that gives pocket video cams a hefty sized infusion of respect and gives Kodak the momentary lead in this two-horse race. The camera will be available in September and will retail for $179, which is about $50 less expensive than the Flip Mino HD.

Kodak’s video is now full HD, which is great for playing your family movies back on high definition TV sets. But one of the features I like best is the ability to switch quickly (before you even hit record) between HD and lower resolutions like 720p or even XVGA so you can take pictures that are more appropriately sized for web or email viewing.

Other giant leaps forward include blur reduction and a special internal sensor that compensates for a shaky hand by stabilizing the image. I tested the camera in low light and the image was still sharp. The built-in microphone is improved but you can also add an external stereo microphone through the USB. Once you’ve captured the shots, a flexible USB arm pops out of the camera to transfer your video to the computer. And the camera can upload directly to YouTube, Facebook and, of course, Kodak Gallery.

A bit clunkier than the demure Flip camera, the Kodak has a larger 2.5-inch color LCD with a healthy antireflective coating so that shooting in daylight is pretty reasonable. It’s not quite as simple to use, nor as ergonomically elegant as the Flip’s, but you can watch my Carnegie Deli Pickle Eating contest (taken on the streets of NYC live) and judge for yourself.