More bad luck with the Zi6

I got my replacement Kodak Zi6 today, and this one has an even more severe offset in the audio (about 12db) than the last one. That’s pretty disappointing. On the plus side, it’s running a newer firmware build which allows you to disable the annoying chimes.

For now though, I guess the message is to avoid the Zi6. I know there are good ones out there, without this issue, but obviously it’s not that uncommon an issue.

Err, maybe I need to put out a press release

<rant>, a site that I mentioned a couple weeks back, put out a press release today in which they brag about having a good google ranking.

Wow. Here’s hoping in the future they spend more time updating their camera guides, and less time on press releases (like, adding the Sony HDW-650).

It’d bad enough that my RSS feeds get filled with “such and such company has hired a new editor,” but c’mon guys…


Cheap Camera Audio Braindump

The other day, I set up three cheap cameras (and one expensive camera) in the studio, stood a distance away, and rambled. Every camera was using all the default settings, and fully zoomed out. The goal was to see how the onboard mics compared, without any post processing or anything fancy.

The contenders are the Sanyo HD1000, Kodak Zi6, Pure Digital Flip Ultra and the Sony XDCam EX1. The last one was just for fun.

To start with, you can watch the video, where I cut between the various cams. I won’t speak to the video quality right now, as I want to do some more extensive tests once I get my replacement Zi6, and the results weren’t particularly shocking – the XDcam wins soundly, particularly when looking at dynamic range, and the rest are various levels of crappy.

If you listen to the audio though, you’ll hear a pretty wide range of results. The Sanyo is by far the loudest, the Zi6 is in the middle, with the Flip and the XDCam being the quietest. The XDcam is also far less noisy than the others – accurately reproducing the hiss in the room, without introducing its own noise – as you’d expect. The Flip also does a nice job, particularly with a bit of normalization.

The Zi6 picks up the audio well enough, but introduces horrible compression artifacts. I’ll withhold final judgement until the replacement comes, just in case it’s just another issue with my example, but i doubt it.

If you had to pick a camera from this bunch for audio that wouldn’t get the benefit of any post-processing, it’d have to be the Sanyo. If you were going to do a normalization pass, it’d be the Flip.

But, my ears suck, so lets look at the charts.


Amplitutde, no normalization


Frequency response

It’s a bit tough to see in the unnormalized charts, but the Sanyo doesn’t pass any audio above 18khz, the Zi6 above 15khz. The Flip and the XDcam pass all the way up to Nyquist.

In search of the holy grail

Andy Ihnatko has a review comparing the Kodak Zi6 and Flip Mino HD. It’s very thorough, though I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions.

In truth, comparing image quality on these is almost pointless, as they’re all kind of crummy. They both have terrible rolling shutter effects, way too much sharpening and strange tonal reproduction. I think it’s more about ease of use, feature sets, etc.

The things I like about the Zi6 are the ability to switch to SD mode, the ability to take stills, and the support for memory cards. The macro switch is rad as well. Things I don’t like? The lack of a “recording time left” indicator, the strange battery life and the horrid audio on my example.

Follow the jump for my chart of how things stack up. Ugh! I’m including the Sanyo, because it records in QT-Native files, unlike the other cameras in its price range, which record AVCHD. Otherwise, I’d throw the Canon Vixia series in as well, as a very strong contender.

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Kodak Zi6 Secret Menu

While trying to troubleshoot my “freakin ears” problem, I discovered how to enter the service menu on the Zi6. Simple really – hold both buttons (“stop” and “play”) and then power the camera on.

From there you can access a bunch of menus that don’t seem to do much without special SD cards, but conveniently, you can format the SD card.

Photo 3

Kodak Zi6 – Ow, My Freakin’ Ears!

Our Zi6 arrived yesterday. I’ve got a larger review, comparing it against the Flip Ultra, Sanyo HD1000, and others, on the way. But, while the video is quite nice, given enough light, I couldn’t help but notice that the audio was making my ears bleed.

The cause? DC Offset on both the left and right channels. Easy enough to fix after the fact, but not acceptable. I’ve gotten some source files from a few other Zi6s and haven’t seen similar issues, so I’m hoping I’ve just got a bad one. Which will lead to a fun conversation with some poor outsourced tech support rep on Monday.

I wanted to get a post up, in case anyone else is having similar issues. The issue manifests itself as an out-of-phase sound, like the audio isn’t placed quite right in the stereo field. Or just open it in a waveform viewer and look for the offset.


Bad Audio


Fix it with magic software


Waveform now centered at zero, hoorah!