The PlayFull Waterproof isn't much larger than a credit card, and it weighs just about three ounces.
The ultra-compact design of the PlayFull Ze2 certainly has its benefits in terms of portability. This is a camcorder that can easily slip into any pocket, and it is so light that it will never tire out your arm (even after long periods of shooting). On the other hand, the PlayFull Ze2 may actually be too light for some. The compact size of the camcorder makes it difficult to get a good grip on the product, and without much weight it is also hard to balance.
The PlayFull Ze2 lacks a tripod mount on the bottom of the camcorder, perhaps because the Ze2 is too thin to accommodate one. This missing tripod mount shouldn't bother most users, but if you're looking to strap this camcorder to a tripod to record a concert or event, then you'll need a backup plan. The Ze2 is waterproof up to 10 feet, which is something that surely makes the camcorder more durable. Kodak also claims the Ze2 can handle a fall of up to 16 feet without a problem, but I'm not so sure about this spec. The Ze2's body doesn't feel all that strong, and, while the camcorder is very light, it's not light enough to float through the air like a feather. I'd be worried about the Ze2 getting banged up when dropping it on a hard surface. You're much better off dunking it in the water.
Aside from its waterproof coating, the PlayFull Ze2 suffers from serious design flaws. Its buttons aren't good, the camcorder feels cheap, and it has a terrible grip. Still, it's one of the smallest and lightest camcorders we've ever seen, and Kodak somehow added waterproof capability to the Ze2's tiny frame.
Kodak limits the PlayFull Waterproof to 720p HD recording, and the camcorder has no manual controls to speak of.
Once you cover the fact that the Ze2 is a small, cheap, waterproof camcorder, there's really not much else to talk about. The camcorder is extraordinarily limited, confining video recordings to just 720p HD recording—there's no 1920 x 1080 full HD record mode on this little guy. There's also a basic still image mode on the Ze2, but photos are limited to just one megapixel. That's likely a whole lot worse than the photos your cellphone is capable of taking.
The Ze2's photos and videos are stored on separately purchased SD memory cards. Even the card slot suffers from serious design flaws, as I had repeated trouble inserting and removing my memory card from the camcorder. There are a few digital effects on the Ze2, including a 70s film setting, a black & white mode, and a sepia tone option. None of these functions are all that impressive, though, and they're all filters that you can add later using editing software (or even YouTube).
If you can't say anything good, then don't say anything at all.
If our reviewing ethos forced us to only focus on the positives, then there would be nothing to say about the Kodak Ze2's performance results. Images were blurry, colors were inaccurate, and motion looked awful. Even the camcorder's battery life was worse than the competition. If you want a camcorder that captures high-quality video, don't get the PlayFull Ze2. It will disappoint you to no end.
The cheap cost of the Ze2 makes this camcorder impossible to ignore—despite its glaring performance weaknesses.
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 a serious problem, as the Ze2 put up some of the worst sharpness numbers ever recorded from an HD camcorder. The Ze2's low light results weren't quite as horrendous, but the camcorder was still unable to match the performance of its peers.
Even with its abysmal video quality, there are some compelling reasons to purchase 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 a more durable option than, say, using your cell phone as a video camera. The Ze2's YouTube- and Facebook-enabled upload interface, made even easier with Kodak's Share Button App, is also a solid asset.
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 so far this year.
Even before we started testing the Kodak PlayFull Ze2, we had some serious doubts about its capabilities. The Ze2 is one of the few HD camcorders that tops out with a 720p resolution, which means the camcorder is not capable of recording a full HD (1920 x 1080) image. As a result, the Ze2 did a lousy job with sharpness and motion, and its videos in low light looked extremely dull. Low noise levels were perhaps the camcorder's only positive test result, but these levels were only so low because of the Ze2's inability to capture video with much detail. When the image is mostly a blur, then there isn't much noise either.
The limitation of 720p video recording seriously restricted the Ze2's sharpness capabilities.
The Kodak Waterproof PlayFull put up very low numbers in what is arguably our most important performance 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. It's true that 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 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.
The PlayFull Ze2 records video using a 30p frame rate no matter what video quality setting you use (720p HD or the standard-def WVGA option). In both modes the motion results weren't 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. Even among other cheap ultracompact models, the Ze2 was not up to snuff in this test.
Colors weren't accurate in bright or low light, but saturation levels weren't too bad.
In both bright and low light, the Ze2 struggled to render accurate colors. In bright light, the camcorder posted a color error of 8.94, which is very high. Most of the problem stemmed from the camcorder's image skewing warm (red), with white and gray tones having an orange/pink tint. In low light, the color error was a tiny bit better at 7.42, although that's still a very poor score. The camcorder didn't have an issue with colors skewing too warm in low light, which suggests the Ze2 was able to white balance a bit better in our low light test than our bright light one. Despite these inaccurate colors, the Ze2 did report strong colors in both kinds of light. In bright light, the camcorder registered a 98% color saturation, and its colors certainly looked vivid to the naked eye. In low light, the saturation level was a little lower at 80%, but that's still a decent performance for the camcorder.
Low light color accuracy wasn’t great, but sensitivity and noise levels were decent for an ultracompact model.
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. But despite the underexposed image, the camcorder did manage to produce colors with decent saturation.
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.
The Ze2 also measured very low noise levels in our low light test—around 0.6% noise—but this good score was diminished by the fact that the camcorder’s low light image looked downright ugly at times
Meet the testers
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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