Review: Kodak PlaySport ZX3 & ZX5 Action Camera – Waterproof & Shockproof

One of my intentions when creating Geek & Dummy was to review cutting edge and newly emerging tech but every now and again, I hit on an old favourite that just does its job so well it deserves to be re-visited.

Let me set the scene for my requirements in an action camera. I am an avid off-roader. I want a camera that can be bashed by branches, submersed in water and generally shaken to within an inch of its life. Through all that it still needs to shoot images of sufficient quality to edit into films.

I’ve tried numerous budget options where picture quality is laughable, especially in low light. I’ve also toyed with the high end GoPro range that, whilst capable, has so many drawbacks and reliability issues for such a high price tag, I struggle to see why they are the go-to answer for most professionals wanting an action camera.

So step up the Kodak PlaySport ZX3 and more recently the updated ZX5 variant. The action camera that makes the lofty claim of being shockproof, waterproof with in-built image stabilisation and HD quality images. Many action cameras claim it but is it true of the Kodak?

Kodak Playsport ZX3

The camera itself is mobile phone size (approx 55mm x 115mm) with a rubberised finish and feels comfy in the hand. It has only 5 buttons and the main control is a 5-way rubberised button, positioned ergonomically for its operation. On first inspectio,n given the shape of the camera when compared with a GoPro, you could be forgiven for making the assumption it simply won’t be up to the job. This camera is nothing short of astonishing, however. It has the standard 1/4” threaded adaptor on its base so, unlike the GoPro, your mounting options are cheap and varied.

The compartments that house the battery, SD memory card and charge points are all positioned under water tight sliding compartments. Having fully submerged this camera on a number of occasions, Kodak’s claim of a waterproof design is completely true. And I haven’t just dipped this in a pool or the bath. This camera has been through rivers of mud at speed and still come out smiling!

Here’s a short demo of the cameras size and compartments and some examples of a few of the knocks and dips it’s taken.

Pretty cool, right?

The image clarity is fantastic although I find full 1080p too detailed for the action footage I shoot. 720 at 60 fps gives a perfect balance between file size and quality. The in-built image stabilisation means it’s easy to mount on say a Land Rover bonnet and still get a relatively stable image as the car bounces all over the road.

Sure there are some trade-offs. There is no option for an external mic. The built-in mic is sufficient for close up action though. In my extensive testing and editing of the footage, the PlaySport takes better quality images than cameras costing triple the price.

Kodak has gone for the middle ground in firmware, falling between the idiot-proof Flip and the overcomplicated Toshiba Camileo, with simple and obvious operation. It still has everything it needs to be an action camera – even a decent zoom feature.

So after I’ve ticked the boxes for rugged build, quality image, waterproof and shockproof, what else is essential in an action camera? Battery life! It’s this area where all action cameras seem to be weak. I remember being particularly fed up with the GoPro because not only did the battery give me only 45 minutes of continuous video, it was a pain to open the waterproof housing and replace or charge the battery. And the battery cost silly money. Again the Kodak excels in this area. I get between an hour and 2 hours of continuous use, depending on the conditions. Then when it is time to change the battery it’s simplicity itself; the waterproofing is built into the camera and replacement batteries slot in easily. Considering the PlaySport’s battery is a standard 3.6V camera battery and can be bought anywhere for a few pounds this camera, on the market for 3 years now, is shaping up to be a Go-Pro killer!

I stumbled on this camera by accident but I’m so glad I did. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on handhelds, Go-Pros and everything in-between. In the end this little £80 marvel stands out in every area and puts far more expensive models to shame.

You’ll be buying this camera for its rugged and waterproof claims, and in those points the camera performs in a class of its own.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Fairly simple, point and shoot for good results” cat1rating=”4.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Almost everything it needs as an action camera” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Considering what other action cameras sell for, its a snip” cat3rating=”4.5″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”I literally haven’t been able to break one yet!” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”You can still buy these on Amazon but they are getting rare. If you see one then snap it up because they are amazing.”]

Review: SoundWave SW100 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

As for many other people, my phone has become my go-to device for all my mobile entertainment needs. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (yeah, the one with the ludicrously large screen), so it’s great for anything from internet browsing to watching films in HD quality. I also use it as an MP3 player and for listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

I recently started looking around for a portable speaker that I could take on my occasional travels and, not to put too fine a point on it, use in the bathroom. Surely I’m not the only one that likes to listen to audio books while I shower?

The Note 2 isn’t, er, noted for its high quality speakers. Very few smartphone manufacturers have been able to complete with Apple on this front. But even the mighty built-in speakers of an iPhone struggle to compete with the noise of my geyser-like shower or electric shaver.

As Dummy will tell you, I’m a bit of a tightwad when it comes to my technology purchases, so I was looking for a device that could combine the impossible requirements of sound quality, power and cheapness. I wanted the convenience of connecting by Bluetooth, with the option of a 3.5mm socket for greater flexibility.

Having considered many products and read a lot of reviews, the device I settled for was this, the SoundWave SW100:

Rear view
Rear view

Here are some vital statistics:

  • Small – about three inches tall
  • Reasonably light – I haven’t put it on the scales, but it feels about the same weight as my Note 2 + case
  • Loud – I can’t find any official information on wattage, but when I turned it up to max in my small kitchen, it was louder than I could tolerate; at that point, there was some mild distortion
  • Built-in microphone – theoretically you can therefore use this device for conference calls; I have not tried this, but for the sound alone it can only be better than putting your phone into speaker mode
  • A claimed 10 hours music/talk time
  • A claimed 800 hours standby time – I’m not sure what use this figure is though; I’ll either be using it or charging it

Out of the box, the speaker was fully charged in less than an hour. It comes with a microUSB cable for this purpose. For my first trial, I took it into my company’s noisy server room. About 80% volume was sufficient to hear music clearly and without distortion, over the cacophony of fans and aircon.

It paired over Bluetooth without fuss. I have noticed the occasional blip when playing through Bluetooth, but I think this is more likely to be down to the phone (of which I demand a lot!) than to the speaker. In any event, you can use a 3.5mm audio cable (supplied) if you prefer.

SoundWave SW100 and matThe speaker has a non-slip base, great for most surfaces. The manufacturers have thoughtfully included an additional non-slip mat, making the speaker very unlikely to budge during normal usage. The non-slip mat also slightly neutralises the effect of resonance transmitted through the surface on which you place the speaker. Unless you’re an audiophile (I confess I’m not), this probably won’t mean a lot, but for some, it will be important.

For the size of the speaker, I was impressed by the bass response. In fact this was one of the reasons I bought the speaker – to improve bass experience, without having to lug around a sub woofer and without having to spend thousands on a high-end miniaturised speaker system.

Build quality is good. The case is mainly brushed aluminium, and not unattractive. It passed the spouse test; no exclamations of,”Oh how hideous! What horrendous technological monstrosity is that?!”

SoundWave SW100 mic and buttonThere are two controls. First, there’s a button labelled with a phone symbol, for answering calls and setting up the initial pairing. Secondly there’s an on-off switch. There’s an LED to indicate connection status and charging status and there’s a microphone port along with the USB charging port and 3.5mm audio socket.

I paid £20 for the speaker. Although at one time it was available for less, it is still a bargain at this price. It receives favourable reviews (wherever you look) and I can only confirm what other reviewers are saying. Well worth the money, especially when you consider you can pay four times the price for a product that may have a pretty label but is otherwise no better.

Entirely up to you, but you can pick one up from Amazon here, or from eBay,
[easyreview title=”Geek rating” icon=”geek” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”BlueTooth synced very easily. There’s an off/off switch. Simples.” cat1rating=”5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”It has no on-board track control buttons and lacks the ability to daisy-chain other speakers. Higher-quality speakers may handle bass better, but that’s being very nitpicking.” cat2rating=”3.5″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”It competes well with speakers three times its price.” cat3rating=”4.5″ cat4title=”Build Quality” cat4detail=”Very solid. Has survived several downward lunges!” cat4rating=”4.5″ summary=”If you want a portable speaker, on the go, don’t mind that the output is mono, and don’t expect the sound to fill a concert hall, this is the device for you. Highly recommended.”]