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Box Photo

The PlayFull Waterproof Ze2 doesn't come with much in the way of accessories.

The Kodak PlayFull Waterproof Ze2 comes with a one year warranty and ships with an instruction manual and a wrist strap (along with the camcorder itself).

As is common with low-price camcorders, the PlayFull Waterproof Ze2 put up mediocre numbers in our color accuracy test. The camcorder managed a color error of 8.94 with a saturation level of 98.3%. These numbers are slightly better than what we saw on the Kodak PlaySport Zx5, but the Waterproof PlayFull had some serious problems with color accuracy nonetheless. More on how we test color.

3000 Lux Color Error Map

3000 Lux Test Chart

The Ze2 has a few digital effects that can be used to alter the way the camcorder captures colors, but they aren't full-fledged manual controls. There's a high saturation setting that will boost color depth, and there are sepia and black & white effects as well. While these features can be fun to toy around with, they are simply color "effects" and offer manual control.

Science Section 1 Images

As you can see from the various test images shown on this page, the PlayFull Ze2's bright light image had a significant amount of warm, orange tint. This kind of warm tint is common in ultracompact camcorders, and we've seen it before on most Kodak models we've reviewed. The presence of the warm tone is due to the camcorder's poor auto white balance system, which does not properly calibrate the colors during our bright light test. The camcorder showed better color tones under natural light, but it had trouble in our low light color accuracy test as well (which uses a different type of lighting setup from our bright light test).

Overall, the colors rendered by the Kodak Ze2 were not impressive, although we did like the saturation level the camcorder produced in bright light. The colors were too warm, and if Kodak could just rework its auto white balance system a bit, we think the Ze2 (and all Kodak models) would do much better in color accuracy tests.

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The Ze2 did a reasonable job in our low light color accuracy test, with the camcorder putting up slightly better numbers than what it did in our bright light color test. The Waterproof PlayFull registered a 7.42 color error and a saturation level of around 80% in low light, both of which aren't terrible numbers, but are a bit worse than what the Kodak PlaySport Zx5 earned in this same test. The Samsung HMX-W200 also wiped the floor with the Kodak Ze2 with its very good color accuracy in low light (and good low light performance overall). More on how we test low light color.

60 Lux Color Error Map

60 Lux Test Chart

The Waterproof PlayFull produced rather dark tones in our low light test, which means most of the footage shot with the camcorder in low light will tend to be a bit underexposed. Still, despite the underexposed image, the camcorder did manage to produce colors with decent saturation. The camcorder's low light image was also without the warm tint that we saw in our bright light test, which suggests the Ze2 was able to handle our LED lights (used in our low light test) better than the lights used in our bright light test.

The Waterproof PlayFull Ze2 followed up its poor color accuracy score with a good score in our noise test. The camcorder averaged 0.57% noise in this test, which puts it in the same range as the Samsung W200 and Kodak PlaySport Zx5 (the GE DV1 had the best numbers in this test). More on how we test noise.

3000 Lux Noise Crop

As you can see from the crops above, the PlayFull Ze2 was unable to capture a very sharp image in our video tests. The main reason for the camcorder's difficulties with sharpness stems from the fact that it records HD video at a limited 1280 x 720 resolution, while most HD camcorders offer a Full HD 1920 x 1080 option. This day in age it is rare to find a camcorder that tops out with 720p recording, but we've seen it before on the (now defunct) Flip camcorders, as well as on numerous cell phones and digital cameras that record video. For reference, the three models we compared the Waterproof PlayFull to all record Full HD 1920 x 1080 video images (some have additional 720p modes as well).

The Kodak Ze2 needed nine lux of light in order to record an image that was bright enough to be used in broadcast. This is a good performance for the camcorder, but it's five lux worse than the sensitivity we measured from the Kodak PlaySport Zx5. The Ze2's small sensor (1/4-inch CMOS) as well as its f/2.4 lens are both contributing factors to the camcorder's sensitivity score. More on how we test low light sensitivity.

Sensitivity scores range widely on camcorders we review, and it is not uncommon to see excellent sensitivity numbers from cheap, ultracompact models like the Ze2. The fixed lenses on these camcorders often help small models capture bright images without much light—not to mention most budget camcorders utilize slow shutter speeds that can't be disengaged. So, despite the Ze2's good performance in this test, the camcorder is by no means a top model in low light. Just look at some of the crops in the sections below. The Waterproof PlayFull did record a usable image in low light, but its video clips were very blurry—even compared to the other ultracompact models we used as comparison models.

The Kodak Ze2 measured very low noise levels in our low light test—around 0.6% noise—but its good score was diminished by the fact that the camcorder's low light image looked downright ugly at times. Just check out the blurred, fuzzy image in the comparison section below to see what we're talking about. This image may be light on noise, but it's also lacking in sharpness and detail. More on how we test low light noise.

60 Lux Noise Crop

As we mentioned before, the main reason the waterproof PlayFull has such a dull video image is a result of its limited 1280 x 720 record mode. The camcorder can't record Full HD, so it is stuck at a disadvantage when compared to models that can record at a 1920 x 1080 resolution... which happens to be nearly every other ultracompact camcorder on the market. Still, when you look at the waterproof PlayFull Ze2's low light image side-by-side with the models we compared it to, only the Samsung W200 captured an image that looks a whole lot sharper and crisper in low light. The GE DV1 and the Kodak PlaySport Zx5, despite recording Full HD video, didn't produce sharp results in low light either.

The Ze2 did a reasonable job in our low light color accuracy test, with the camcorder putting up slightly better numbers than what it did in our bright light color test. The Waterproof PlayFull registered a 7.42 color error and a saturation level of around 80% in low light, both of which aren't terrible numbers, but are a bit worse than what the Kodak PlaySport Zx5 earned in this same test. The Samsung HMX-W200 also wiped the floor with the Kodak Ze2 with its very good color accuracy in low light (and good low light performance overall). More on how we test low light color.

60 Lux Color Error Map

60 Lux Test Chart

The Waterproof PlayFull produced rather dark tones in our low light test, which means most of the footage shot with the camcorder in low light will tend to be a bit underexposed. Still, despite the underexposed image, the camcorder did manage to produce colors with decent saturation. The camcorder's low light image was also without the warm tint that we saw in our bright light test, which suggests the Ze2 was able to handle our LED lights (used in our low light test) better than the lights used in our bright light test.

The Kodak PlayFull Ze2 records video using a 30p frame rate no matter what video quality setting you use (720p HD or the WVGA option). The camcorder's results in our motion tests weren't very good—there was lots of artifacting, pixelation, and trailing throughout our test, and the only thing the Ze2 managed to do well was capture relatively smooth motion. The Ze2 is clearly not one of the best ultracompact camcorders at capturing motion, as all the models we compared it to did at least a bit better than the Ze2 in this test. More on how we test motion.


With a sharpness performance that was well below average, even for a cheap ultracompact camcorder, the Kodak Waterproof PlayFull put up disappointing numbers in what is arguably our most important video test. The PlayFull Ze2 managed a horizontal sharpness of 425 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of just 375 lw/ph, both of which are far worse than the competition. Yes, we understand sharpness may not be the most important trait to some people, but it is a good signifier of how much detail and clarity the camcorder is capable of recording. It seems clear that Kodak's choice of not offering a Full HD 1080p record mode on the Ze2 prevented the camcorder from recording video that looked as sharp as the competition's. More on how we test video sharpness.

The Kodak PlayFull Waterproof doesn't have an image stabilization feature, which is an option you find on nearly all traditional camcorders (above $200) and is even popping up on most budget models as well (like the iPhone 4S and the non-waterproof Kodak PlayFull Ze1). The PlayFull is so light and tiny, though, that we doubt having a stabilization feature would do much to improve things anyway. More on how we test stabilization.

We've enjoyed the simple user interface on Kodak camcorders for a couple of years now, and we're happy to see Kodak has continued to make camcorders that are very easy to use. The Kodak PlayFull Ze2 has a simple menu system, that, thanks to the wider screen, is much easier to read than the menu on the original PlayFull Ze1. Other than this menu, which is accessed by pressing the button labeled with a wrench on the back of the camcorder, the Ze2 has a button to switch between photo and video mode, another button to enter playback mode, and a dedicated button for deleting clips.

Menu Photo 1

The menu system is easy to read and navigate.


Menu Photo 2

The share button allows you to tag clips for upload when you connect the Ze2 to a computer.

The share button is also prominent on the back of the Ze2, where it is located just beneath the d-pad and the start/stop record button. We like the layout of all these buttons, but we wish Kodak had put some text indicating what each button does (not everyone knows that a wrench is a universal icon for "settings"). We also wish the buttons had more identified boundaries, rather than their flat, embedded design. At quick glance, someone may not even realize the icons represent buttons at all.

Despite the design flaws of its buttons, the PlayFull Waterproof is a simple camcorder to figure out, and its lack of manual controls and features makes it all the more simple to use. The Share Button App is the exact kind of software we like to see loaded on an ultracompact budget camcorder, as it is easy to use and focuses on one thing: assisting with getting video uploaded to the internet.

Like most camcorders in the ultracompact, budget class, the Kodak PlayFull Ze2 has no manual controls. So, as soon as you turn it on, it's functioning in an entirely automated manner. Autofocus, auto exposure, auto white balance, and auto gain are all enabled, so you don't have to worry about making any adjustments manually.

Of course, the problem with automated controls is that sometimes they don't work all that well, and with the Ze2 this is a serious issue. We noticed problems immediately with the camcorder's ability to control exposure. Moving from a light to dark scene did not result in smooth transitions in exposure levels. Instead, the Ze2 offered choppy, step-like adjustments that looked like someone flipped a switch in the middle of our recording. We also noticed some flickering as well as a slow response from the auto exposure mechanism at times.

The PlayFull Waterproof has a fixed lens with a fixed focal length, so there's no real autofocus mechanism on the camcorder. Instead, Kodak lists the focus range on the Ze2 as 0.5m to infinity, or roughly 20 inches to infinity. This isn't the best focus range, but we also felt Kodak was playing it safe with the numbers. By our account, subjects that were around one foot away from the lens appeared to be in focus, and anything closer had a slight blur. Either way, you need to remember to keep a safe distance when you're recording with the camcorder.

The compact design of the PlayFull Waterproof certainly has its benefits in terms of portability, but it also makes the camcorder more difficult to grip and contributes to its overall problems with durability. With the Ze2, we miss the rubbery grip that Kodak offers on its larger PlaySport Zx5 and Zx3, both of which are also waterproof (but are quite a bit bigger than the Ze2). On the PlayFull Waterproof, there's simply nowhere for your fingertips to comfortably rest, and the camcorder does not have a shapely, ergonomic design that allows it to comfortably rest in your palm.

Handling Photo 1

The Ze2 is extremely light, but its shape doesn't fit well into the palm of your hand.

But the camcorder is extremely light, and its compact design does make these design flaws less of an issue. When a product is this small and this light, it's kind of hard to complain that it doesn't feel all that great in your palm. You can easily hold the Ze2 in a different manner thanks to its light body, and it shouldn't strain your fingers when you hold it because it only weighs 85g. Larger camcorders that have poor grips are more of an issue because their weight adds strain to your wrist and joints.

We should note the PlayFull Ze2 lacks a tripod mount on the bottom of the camcorder, which is something we almost always see on consumer models (even with cams in the Ze2's size and price range). We doubt the missing tripod mount will bother most people, but it could definitely sway some. So, if you're looking for a model that you can strap to a tripod and record a concert or an event, you shouldn't have the PlayFull Ze2 on your radar.

Handling Photo 2

The small size of the PlayFull Waterproof makes it easy to accidentally slip a finger in front of the lens.

The waterproof design of the PlayFull Ze2 clearly makes the camcorder more durable than most products. After all, you don't have to worry about getting it wet. Kodak also claims the Ze2 can handle a fall of up to 5 meters (onto plywood, according to Kodak), which is another advantage for the camcorder. But, overall, we weren't crazy about the Ze2's design. The port covers felt flimsy and the plastic casing looks like it wouldn't take much to crack. Basically, we don't think this model is nearly as strong as Kodak's PlaySport waterproof camcorders, but it's still very durable for a model of its size.

Handling Photo 3

The buttons on the back of the camcorder aren't great, but the Ze2 is still easy to use.

The PlayFull Waterproof has bad buttons, a design that looks and feels cheap, and a terrible grip. But it is waterproof, it can take a bit of a fall, and it's one of the smallest and lightest models we've ever seen. That's a pretty even give and take in our book, as you'd obviously have to add additional bulk to the Ze2 in order to make it a more durable camcorder. In the end, we're very impressed Kodak was able to make a waterproof camcorder in such a small body, and that's the most intriguing thing about the Ze2 by far.

The Kodak PlayFull Ze2 is definitely one of the most portable camcorders we've ever reviewed, if not the most portable. The camcorder weighs just 85 grams and its dimensions are 55 x 93 x 12mm. The camcorder is nearly the exact same height and length as a credit card, and it's about as thick as the new iPhone (about half an inch thick).

Slipping the camcorder into your pocket should be a breeze, even if you're wearing your tightest pair of skinny jeans, and the Ze2 is so small that you may even struggle to locate it at the bottom of a large bag or purse. Thankfully, the Ze2's waterproof design allows you to remain at ease if the camcorder is forgotten at the bottom of a backpack. Even if you spill liquid, or put the pack down in a puddle, the PlayFull Waterproof should be fine afterwards—which is a great boon to the camcorder's overall portability. The only downside is that the camcorder comes with no substantial amount of internal memory, so you will have to remember to pack a memory card slot with the Ze2 wherever you go.

The Kodak PlayFull Ze1 lasted for 99 minutes in our battery life test, which means we were able to record video continuously for just under 1 hour and 39 minutes on a fully charged battery. This isn't a terrible performance, but it's a good 22 minutes less than the batteries on the Samsung W200 and Kodak PlaySport Zx5 lasted. Still, the Ze1's performance dominated that of the GE DV1, who's battery lasted for an abysmal 50 minutes in this test. More on how we test battery life.

If you're looking for a camcorder that allows you to swap out batteries, you should stop checking out the PlayFull Ze2 right now. The PlayFull Waterproof is loaded with an internal, non-removable battery pack that must be recharged via the built-in USB arm on the camcorder. For a camcorder like the Ze2, this is very common, but it's still something you should know prior to purchase.

The LCD on the Kodak PlayFull Waterproof isn't huge, but it doesn't look all that small when you consider how tiny the camcorder is in comparison. The screen nearly takes up half of the camcorder on the back, and it's wide shape makes for much better framing than the tiny LCDs we've seen on other budget camcorders—like the Flip MinoHD and the original (non-waterproof) Kodak PlayFull Ze1. Basically, the Ze2's screen is smaller than what you'd get on a traditional camcorder, but it's a decent size for an ultracompact model. The LCD has a resolution of 112,300 pixels, which also isn't anything special, but is decent for a 2-inch screen.

And Kodak throws in a few LCD controls to boot. There's an LCD brightness control, as well as a glare shield that can turn on and off. We didn't find the glare shield made a huge difference when we turned it on, but it does do something to help out if you're shooting under the sun.

LCD Photo

The LCD is 2-inches diagonally and it takes up quite a bit of space on the back of the camcorder.

The Kodak PlayFull Waterproof doesn't have an image stabilization feature, which is an option you find on nearly all traditional camcorders (above $200) and is even popping up on most budget models as well (like the iPhone 4S and the non-waterproof Kodak PlayFull Ze1). The PlayFull is so light and tiny, though, that we doubt having a stabilization feature would do much to improve things anyway. More on how we test stabilization.

Manual Focus Photo

The buttons on the back of the Ze2 aren't designed very well.

Of course, the problem with automated controls is that sometimes they don't work all that well, and with the Ze2 this is a serious issue. We noticed problems immediately with the camcorder's ability to control exposure. Moving from a light to dark scene did not result in smooth transitions in exposure levels. Instead, the Ze2 offered choppy, step-like adjustments that looked like someone flipped a switch in the middle of our recording. We also noticed some flickering as well as a slow response from the auto exposure mechanism at times.

The PlayFull Waterproof has a fixed lens with a fixed focal length, so there's no real autofocus mechanism on the camcorder. Instead, Kodak lists the focus range on the Ze2 as 0.5m to infinity, or roughly 20 inches to infinity. This isn't the best focus range, but we also felt Kodak was playing it safe with the numbers. By our account, subjects that were around one foot away from the lens appeared to be in focus, and anything closer had a slight blur. Either way, you need to remember to keep a safe distance when you're recording with the camcorder.

On the front of the PlayFull Waterproof, just below the lens, are five little dots arranged in a cross pattern that looks like a plus sign. This is the camcorder's built-in monaural microphone, and, since the mic is tiny and easily rubbed by wandering fingertips, we found the camcorder often picked up an abundance of unwanted and distracting noise. Despite the limited specs for the built-in mic, Kodak decided to give the Ze2 a full audio level adjustment feature for the mic. This option is found in the menu, and when you adjust the microphone gain an audio level meter displays on the screen as well. We like microphone gain options, but this feature seems rather out of place on a camcorder like the PlayFull Waterproof.

Mic Photo

The built-in mic records mono audio.

The PlayFull Ze2 comes with Kodak's Share Button application, which we found easy to use and very helpful for getting your clips onto the internet. We've talked about this application before, which works on both Macs and PCs, in our reviews of other Kodak camcorders this year.

In addition to the Share Button App, the Kodak Ze2 comes with Arcsoft MediaImpression software that works with PC computers only. Both the Arcsoft program and the Share Button App come pre-loaded on the camcorder itself, so no installation discs are necessary (you will have to install the software, but you do so by connecting the camcorder to your computer via USB). For an overview of the software that ships with this and other camcorders, see our article: Video Editing Software For Your Camcorder.

Kodak offers two record modes on the waterproof PlayFull Ze2: a 720p HD mode and a WVGA standard definition recording option. Both settings utilize a 30p frame rate to record video and the full details of each setting can be seen in the table below. One of the key things to note is that the waterproof PlayFull does not record Full HD 1920 x 1080 video, which puts it at odds with most camcorders on the market. Many digital cameras and cell phones only top out with 1280 x 720 recording, however, so the PlayFull Ze2 is not alone with this limitation. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various high definition compression types.

The waterproof PlayFull has a meager amount of internal memory (32MB), but that memory should essentially be ignored as it is only enough to store a few seconds of video. For storing actual clips, you need to insert an SD or SDHC memory card into the Ze2's memory card slot that is located on the right side of the camcorder. The slot cover is a bit tricky to open since there are no arrows or directions telling you which way to pull the cover. But once you undo the slot lock you simply pull the cover out and you'll see that it is attached to a hinge at the top of the camcorder.

Inserting a memory card into the card slot looks easy, but the Ze2 has a strange design flaw that makes it hard to get cards to stick once they're in the slot. We found ourselves needing to push with the tips of our fingers (or fingernails) in order to get the card to click into place. The same kind of pressure was required to remove the cards as well. We guess this is better than a loose card slot where memory cards can slip out with ease, but it was still a nuisance. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.

Media Photo

We found it difficult to insert and remove cards in the Ze2's memory card slot.

The Ze2 has a basic still image mode, which you must switch the camcorder into in order to take photos (you can't take photos during video recording, nor while in video mode). The photos are limited to a 1280 x 720 resolution, which is the same resolution the camcorder records HD video, and there are no special still image controls or features. If you've purchased a new cell phone in the past year or two, it's very likely that it takes better still photos than the PlayFull Ze2.

During playback of video, you can capture a still image and the image will be the same size as the recorded video (either 1280 x 720 or 848 x 480). You can also digitally zoom in on still photos captured by the camcorder during playback.

Lens Photo

The lens on the Ze2 uses a fixed focal length and has no optical zoom.

The lens on the PlayFull Waterproof, like most camcorders in the ultracompact class, has no moving parts. This means there's no optical zoom, no adjustable focus range (fixed focus), and no aperture control (fixed at f/2.4). The sensor in the camcorder is a 1/4-inch CMOS, which isn't huge, but is similar in size to many entry-level camcorders (other ultracompact models do have larger sensors, though).

The LCD on the Kodak PlayFull Waterproof isn't huge, but it doesn't look all that small when you consider how tiny the camcorder is in comparison. The screen nearly takes up half of the camcorder on the back, and it's wide shape makes for much better framing than the tiny LCDs we've seen on other budget camcorders—like the Flip MinoHD and the original (non-waterproof) Kodak PlayFull Ze1. Basically, the Ze2's screen is smaller than what you'd get on a traditional camcorder, but it's a decent size for an ultracompact model. The LCD has a resolution of 112,300 pixels, which also isn't anything special, but is decent for a 2-inch screen.

And Kodak throws in a few LCD controls to boot. There's an LCD brightness control, as well as a glare shield that can turn on and off. We didn't find the glare shield made a huge difference when we turned it on, but it does do something to help out if you're shooting under the sun.

LCD Photo

The LCD is 2-inches diagonally and it takes up quite a bit of space on the back of the camcorder.

The PlayFull Ze2 isn't loaded with connectivity features, but we were impressed by Kodak's ability to fit the most important ports and jacks on the camcorder's body. Both collections of ports on the camcorder are protected by locking port covers, which are necessary to prevent water from getting into the connectivity terminals when the Ze2 is submerged. When you flip open the door on the right side of the camcorder you'll find a micro HDMI port, as well as the memory card slot and a small reset button. We're impressed Kodak included an HDMI port on the Ze2, as this kind of connection is something not all ultracompact, budget camcorders feature. Be warned, however, the camcorder does not ship with a cable that fits to this port, so you'll have to purchase a micro HDMI cable before you can connect the Ze2 to your HDTV.

Ports Photo 1

The micro HDMI port and memory card slot are grouped together here.

The bottom port cover on the Ze2 houses two more connectivity options: a small AV jack and a built-in USB arm. Both of these connectivity features have their faults, but we're excited that Kodak chose to include them nonetheless. Let's start with the USB arm. From the first look, the arm looks like a joke: it barely extends from the camcorder, it remains tethered to the Ze2's body with a flimsy plastic cord, and the flopping port cover consistently gets in the way when you try to connect the USB cable to a computer. But, the USB arm here is actually better than ones we've seen on numerous ultracompact camcorders (the Flip models come to mind here). Because of the flexible design of the USB arm, as well as the Ze2's ultra-thin design, we found connecting the cable to a computer wasn't all that difficult. Some camcorders with rigid built-in USB connectors are a pain to connect to computers, simply because the lack of flexibility makes it difficult (or impossible) to line up the connections.

Ports Photo 3

The built-in USB arm has a small reach, but its position is flexible. You can also see the small AV-out port here as well.

The AV-out port resides next to the USB arm, and, like with the HDMI port, the Kodak Ze2 does not ship with a cable that works with this terminal. The worst part, however, is that the AV port doesn't utilize the common 3.5mm jack size. Instead, it uses a 2.5mm jack, which means you have to find a special cable that will fit with this port. It's not that 2.5mm AV cables aren't insanely rare—you can easily find them on Amazon for under $5 bucks—but they are far less common than the traditional 3.5mm AV cables (which you may have lying around your house somewhere already).

If you're looking for a camcorder that allows you to swap out batteries, you should stop checking out the PlayFull Ze2 right now. The PlayFull Waterproof is loaded with an internal, non-removable battery pack that must be recharged via the built-in USB arm on the camcorder. For a camcorder like the Ze2, this is very common, but it's still something you should know prior to purchase.Find out how the PlayFull Ze2 performed in our battery life test.

The waterproof PlayFull has a meager amount of internal memory (32MB), but that memory should essentially be ignored as it is only enough to store a few seconds of video. For storing actual clips, you need to insert an SD or SDHC memory card into the Ze2's memory card slot that is located on the right side of the camcorder. The slot cover is a bit tricky to open since there are no arrows or directions telling you which way to pull the cover. But once you undo the slot lock you simply pull the cover out and you'll see that it is attached to a hinge at the top of the camcorder.

Inserting a memory card into the card slot looks easy, but the Ze2 has a strange design flaw that makes it hard to get cards to stick once they're in the slot. We found ourselves needing to push with the tips of our fingers (or fingernails) in order to get the card to click into place. The same kind of pressure was required to remove the cards as well. We guess this is better than a loose card slot where memory cards can slip out with ease, but it was still a nuisance. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.

Media Photo

We found it difficult to insert and remove cards in the Ze2's memory card slot.

The Ze2 has a basic still image mode, which you must switch the camcorder into in order to take photos (you can't take photos during video recording, nor while in video mode). The photos are limited to a 1280 x 720 resolution, which is the same resolution the camcorder records HD video, and there are no special still image controls or features. If you've purchased a new cell phone in the past year or two, it's very likely that it takes better still photos than the PlayFull Ze2.

During playback of video, you can capture a still image and the image will be the same size as the recorded video (either 1280 x 720 or 848 x 480). You can also digitally zoom in on still photos captured by the camcorder during playback.

Effects

The camcorder has four video effects: High Saturation, '70s Film, Black & White, and Sepia. None of these effects are particularly impressive, but they can be fun to play around with.

PAL/NTSC Output

If you're traveling overseas and want to connect the PlayFull Waterproof to a PAL television, you're in luck! The camcorder has the option of switching between NTSC and PAL video output. Switching this around won't change the way the camcorder records video, but it will fix certain output issues you may run into.

Waterproof Design

Like many of the new ultracompact camcorders we've reviewed, the Kodak PlayFull Ze2 is waterproof up to 3 meters (10 feet). In fact, Kodak even includes the word "waterproof" in the Ze2's full modelname: the PlayFull Waterproof Ze2. We mention this because we want to avoid confusion with the Kodak PlayFull Ze1, which is not waterproof, and is a very different camcorder than the Ze2. You can read our review of the PlayFull Ze1 here.

We put the PlayFull Waterproof under a few tests to see how well the camcorder kept liquid from getting into important places. We were somewhat surprised to see the camcorder did very well at keeping water out of the port areas. The rubber lining that Kodak uses on the PlayFull Waterproof is a bit different than what we've seen on previous waterproof Kodak camcorders, and it appears the design of the Ze2 may be better. We found no presence of water inside the port area on the bottom of the camcorder, and just a small amount of water inside the port area on the right side of the camcorder (but the water was relegated to the edges around the ports and not the ports themselves). Despite the fact that the Ze2 is designed well enough to keep water out of these areas, you should still make sure you dry the camcorder thoroughly after each use underwater.

Safe Mode

Safe Mode is an option found in the Ze2's menu system, but Kodak fails to outline what the feature does. You won't find any mention of Safe Mode in the instruction manual, nor could we find a description of the option on Kodak's website. We had to actually contact Kodak directly to find more about Safe Mode, so here it is: with the mode turned on, you can't delete, edit, or mark clips for sharing on the Ze2. It's basically a media protection setting to avoid people from accidentally getting rid of clips. It's not a big deal, just confusingly named, which is why we expected to see a description of the option in the instruction manual.

The Samsung HMX-W200 is the best budget camcorder we've reviewed this year, which is why it won our year end award. It's a waterproof model that sells for a good $50 bucks more than the Kodak PlayFull Ze2, but the improvement it offers in image quality is easily worth the extra cash. The Samsung ran circles around the Kodak in our low light performance tests, and in our sharpness and motion tests as well. The W200 is a larger camcorder than the Ze2, however, so you do have to sacrifice some portability in order to get a better performing camcorder overall.

But the W200 is still extremely portable. It's small enough to fit in your pocket and light enough to carry with you wherever you want to go—and it's just as waterproof as the PlayFull Ze2. So, we have no problems with the HMX-W200's size, but we weren't crazy about the camcorder's interface. The built-in USB arm was faulty, the buttons on the back of the camcorder weren't always responsive, and the camcorder didn't offer a great grip.

Despite its handling flaws, we liked the way the HMX-W200 performed in our tests. It's one of the few ultracompact camcorders that stood out from the crowd, so if you're looking for good performance from a tiny device, it's the camcorder for you.


/r:render
The GE DV1 is a very affordable camcorder that fits into the same class as the Kodak Ze2, which is to say it's both compact and waterproof. Like the PlayFull Waterproof, the DV1 struggled in many of our performance tests, but it did edge the Ze2 in sharpness thanks to its ability to record Full HD video (1080p).

Despite its reasonably price tag—the camcorder can often be found for less than $100—the GE DV1 is not a camcorder we feel comfortable recommending. It's performance is sub-par and the camcorder handled rather poorly overall. It wasn't incredibly hard to use, but the DV1 didn't offer the streamlined user experience that you get with Kodak camcorders. Not to mention the body design lacked any sort of grip or ergonomic shape, and the LCD offered an abysmal 92,000-pixel resolution.

Based on overall performance, the DV1 and the Kodak PlayFull Waterproof were just about even. Like we said, the DV1 had the edge in sharpness, but the PlayFull pulled out a win in low light, so the two cams were even all things considered. But we like the simple interface on the PlayFull Ze2 far more, and the Share Button App that lets you upload videos to the internet works like a charm (and it's far more effective than GE's built-in software). Since the two camcorders are both available at a bargain price, we think the PlayFull Ze2 is the better overall choice if you're looking for a cheap, compact camcorder.


/r:render
The PlaySport Zx5 and the PlayFull Ze2 both come from the same family, but they are two very different camcorders once you get beyond the prefix "Play" in their given names. A good general description would be to say the PlaySport Zx5 is a big brother to the PlayFull Ze2, as it's the larger model of the two. Both camcorders are waterproof up to 10 meters, both camcorders feature the same Share Button App software to assist with uploading clips to the internet, and both camcorders have reasonable price tags for what they offer.

The PlaySport Zx5 is a bit more expensive than the Ze2, however, but its higher price tag makes sense: it's got a more durable body, it can record Full HD 1080p video, and it takes higher resolution still images. Yes, the Zx5 is bulkier, but we found its extra size made it handle better. The PlaySport was easier to grip, which is very important when you're shooting video underwater, and it's shape fit better in our hand (making shooting video more comfortable).

There's no doubt in our mind that the PlaySport Zx5 is a better camcorder than the PlayFull Waterproof Ze2, and if you ask Kodak the same question they're bound to give you the same answer. The Zx5 costs an extra $40 - $80 bucks more than the Ze2 after all, but the higher price tag does mean better quality and a better overall product. And with these two models the difference comes down to just that. How much are you willing to spend for a better camcorder? Do you care enough about quality to fork over the extra cash?

We think the Zx5 is worth the extra money, and the fact that it's price has been dropping over the past few months is simply another reason to go with it over the Ze2.


/r:render
The Kodak PlayFull Waterproof Ze2 is far from perfect, and it clearly lacks the performance and image quality of its peers. The fact that the camcorder can't record Full HD 1080p video was more of a problem than we expected it to be, as the Ze2 put up some of the worst sharpness numbers we've ever seen from an HD model. The Ze2's low light results were more optimistic, but the camcorder was still unable to match the performance we saw from the top ultracompact models we reviewed this year.

That isn't to say there isn't a specific market for the PlayFull Waterproof. It's an incredibly cheap camcorder that can be purchased online for well less than $100, which makes it a good option for children or people who want a camcorder they don't have to worry about busting. The waterproof design helps in this area too, as it makes the Ze2 more durable than, say, the video camera on your cell phone.

We also like the Ze2's interface with uploading video to YouTube and Facebook, which is fairly easy with Kodak's Share Button App. It's not as streamlined as uploading video you shoot with your iPhone—you still have to connect the Ze2 to a computer to upload video—but the process is fairly straightforward (and the built-in Share Button App works on Macs and PCs).

So, the PlayFull Waterproof does have its positives, but it's certainly not a camcorder we'd recommend to anyone who cares about having good image quality. Even among cheap, ultracompact models, the PlayFull Ze2 is one of the worst performers we've seen all year.

Meet the tester

Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews

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