Kodak PlayTouch Review

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Pros: Intuitive touchscreen operation; Able to edit video footage directly on the camera; Social network integration for sharing photos and video

Cons: Unimpressive video quality; Limited built-in memory; No flash

Verdict: On-screen editing and clever sharing features make this Flip alternative worth a look.

With 1080p HD video, on-screen editing, and built-in sharing via Facebook, the Kodak Playtouch offers a convenient way to document your adventures and share them with friends. But are the nifty features enough to justify shelling out $199?

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Design and User Interface

At 3.5 ounces, the 2.3 x 4.3 x 0.6 Playtouch is reminiscent of a candy bar cell phone. The device is black with rounded edges, and a large square Record/OK button (for taking photos and recording video) sits under the 3-inch touchscreen. Other color options include Chrome, Orange, and Teal. The Playtouch also offers an LCD Glare Shield feature, which helped us to see the screen when shooting in bright outdoor locations.

On the right side of the Playtouch, you'll find the power button along with the battery compartment for an SD/SDHC card expandable up to 32GB (the device has just 128MB of built-in memory), with up to 10 hours of HD video recording. On the left side, there are ports for A/V out and a mic/headphone jack. The top of the Playtouch is home to the Focus button, which can be toggled between Close-up and Wide modes. We like how the USB arm extends from the body of the camera; you don't need the included USB cable to transfer images to your PC.

Navigating the camera's menu with the capacitive touchscreen was generally easy. Once the device is turned on, you'll see six icons: Battery life, Current mode, Settings, Capture mode, Playback, and Effects. Zoom in and zoom out icons sit in the middle of the screen. Our one criticism of the Playtouch's design is that the Record/OK button wasn't the most responsive--especially when we were framing a shot.

The Playtouch also comes with an HDMI port, which is handy for showcasing your shots on an HDTV--especially if you're leveraging the camera's HD 1080p shooting mode. Unfortunately, the device does not include a flash.

Image Quality

The Playtouch lets you pick from a variety of shooting resolutions: 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 60 fps, 720p at 30 fps, WVGA at 30 fps, and a 5-megapixel mode for stills. HD videos of ice skaters at Bryant Park captured motion smoothly, but colors appeared considerably darker than in real life. Kodak recommends shooting 720p at 60 fps for action and movement, and it does make a noticeable difference; footage of the skaters was crisper, and we detected less blurring.

One thing to keep in mind when shooting with the Playtouch: Setting the focus mode to Close-up (the picture of a flower) renders images blurry and dark. Even when we attempted close-up shots, we had trouble capturing clear images. Stick with the wide focus setting to play it safe.

The included effects (1970's film look, black and white, high saturation, normal, and sepia) made for some fun, Facebook-worthy photos.

Photos taken with the 5.3-megapixel camera were generally crisp, though it was hard to make out finer details. Shots captured in a dimly lit apartment were washed out when near the light source and pixelated as we moved away from the light. Colors were not as bright as we would have liked, and the Playtouch delivered inaccurate yellowish tones while shooting in our office. Photos taken outdoors on an overcast day captured more true-to-life color, and the Playtouch captured all the details--including reflections in windows--in a shot of buildings in Midtown.

Editing and Sharing

What impressed us about the Playtouch was the ability to edit videos directly on the device. Granted, the editing options are limited to removing frames and extracting stills, but it's incredibly convenient. It took us a few tries to successfully remove unwanted frames from a video recorded in our office, but we got the hang of it once we realized that we had to indicate where we wanted the footage to start and stop.

Kodak also touts the Playtouch's sharing tools, which allow users to upload photos and videos to e-mail, Facebook, Flickr, Kodak Gallery, ORKUT, and YouTube. To select an image to share, tap the Review icon and select Share at the bottom of the screen. Check the boxes for the social networks you'd like to use, and next time you connect the Playtouch to your computer, the footage will be forwarded to the sites of your choice.

Before your images can be shared, however, you'll have to install the Arcsoft MediaImpression for Kodak software. To accomplish this, we simply had to connect the Playtouch to our PC via its swing-out USB arm. Once our machine had registered the Playtouch, a window popped up asking us to install the software and a "share button app," which gives you the option to compress photos and send them to your e-mail address. Once we had installed everything, we just had to provide our Facebook account information before our images appeared on our wall. Happily, we could even upload 1080p video.

In theory, the shortcuts for sharing on social networks are nice, but we wish you could upload photos directly from the camera.

Battery Life and Warranty

Fairly good endurance means that the Playtouch won't leave you stranded if you forget to charge it every day. Kodak rates the camera for two hours of continuous use. After four days of moderate shooting and filming, the battery was at about 50 percent. The Playtouch comes with a one-year warranty

Verdict

At $199, the Kodak Playtouch is an easy-to-use, pocket-friendly camera with some compelling features. The Share option and the ability to edit video directly on the device mean you can have your images up on Facebook and Twitter in no time--provided you can plug the camera into a notebook. The camera captured motion well, but the Playtouch delivered less-than-bright colors. Ultimately, the Playtouch is a handy device for those who love sharing videos just as much as they enjoy taking them, but Flip's cameras offer better video quality.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Size 3 x 4.3 x 0.6
Weight 1.4 pounds
Company Website http://www.kodak.com