Showcase showdown! Flip Mino HD versus Kodak Zi6

I’m actually planning a rather ambitious comparison of cheap HD cameras in the next week or so. But there’s certainly been an enthusiastic — bordering on, well, “annoying” — amount of interest in a direct comparison between the Mino HD and its natural commercial enemy: the Kodak Zi6.

And no wonder. They’re both the same sort of beastie: pockatable 720p HD cameras in an iPod-ish form factor, selling for about the same money.

(Yes, the Zi6 is about fifty bucks cheaper, but remember: that’s without any memory. Toss in a 4 gig card and you’re more or less square a bit closer to the Mino in price.)

With the holidays coming up, and the chance that Todd from Process Control will make as big an ass of himself at the breakroom holiday party as he did last year, lots of people want to know which of these Discreet Little Cameras to buy. Well, my uniform is proud to serve.

I took both cameras out for a jaunt or two and shot a bunch of clips in a variety of environments. Watch. Draw your own conclusions. And then read on and see if you’re so absolutely brilliant that your conclusions are identical to mine.

Click on the “fullscreen” button to watch it at 1280×720 resolution…just keep in mind that this is nowhere near as good as the original video files.

Flip Mino HD vs. Kodak Zi6 from Andy Ihnatko on Vimeo.

Okay. Based solely on this footage…it’s a clear win for the Mino. I think it’s obvious even in the Vimeo (which has been processed twice already). But here in iMovie, where I can see the original footage straight from the camera…t’s absolutely no contest. The Mino video is more agile, the colors are more accurate, and the lighting is more balanced. The Zi6 routinely produces over-saturated colors and doesn’t appear to have enough bandwidth to record a full range of colors and tones. And low-light shooting is a bit of a mess.

Three full-sized frame grabs illustrate my point. These were taken straight from the original MP4 files. Click the thumbnail for the full 720p frame.

Pulling Out Into Traffic

Mino HD: Note the gray tones in the sky and the cream color of the sign. There's lots of shadow detail inside the car, too.

Mino HD: Note the gray tones in the sky and the cream color of the sign. There's plenty of shadow detail inside the car, too.

Kodak Zi6. The sky <i>and</i> the sign are white all of a sudden. And inside the car, shadows have turned to mud.

Kodak Zi6. The sky and the sign are white, all of a sudden. And inside the car, shadows have turned to mud.

Outdoors, On A Tripod

Mino HD. Nice shot. It's maybe a <i>bit</i> flat but the lighting is very natural and the colors are spot-on.

Mino HD. Nice shot. Maybe it should be a tad brighter. But the lighting is natural and the colors are spot-on.

My shirt is purple, my skin is <i>way</i> too rosy, given my lifestyle. And again: where are the subtle details in the shadows?

My shirt is purple, my skin is a little weird (even for me). I think the Zi6's designers told it "Humans like punchy contrast and saturated colors. Err accordingly."

Inside Panera Bread

Mino HD. Nice, bright image with (again) natural colors...not an easy trick, as we're inside a Panera Bread.

Mino HD. Nice, bright image with (again) natural colors...not an easy trick, as we're inside a Panera Bread with its muted soup-oriented lighting.

Zi6. Boy, what a crummy at-bat. The wall should be avocado, not lime green. Any shadows have turned into grey mud. And it shows that dim lighting is the Zi6's Waterloo. Its only solution in a situation like this is to extend the shutter speed and cut the frame rate in half. This clip was recorded at 15 frames per second instead of the Mino's 30.

Zi6. Boy, what a crummy at-bat. The wall should be avocado, not lime green. Any shadows have turned into grey mud. My sunglasses are no longer transparent, nor did the Zi6 capture any reflections off the lenses. And it shows that dim lighting is the Zi6's Waterloo. Its only solution in a situation like this is to extend the shutter speed and cut the frame rate in half. This clip was recorded at 15 frames per second instead of the Mino's 30, creating choppy, blurry footage.

Rainy Street Corner

Mino HD. Hmm. The sky is a <i>bit</i> purple. But otherwise...a nice shot.

Mino HD. Hmm. The sky is a bit purple. But otherwise...a nice shot. Check out the brick building on the corner. You can see the bricks on the outside and the details of the warm shop inside.

Zi6. This still frame doesn't look too bad. It did a better job with the night sky. But again we see muddy shadow details...and the actual video is shot at 15 frames per second instead of 30...very noticeable as the cars drive by.

Zi6. This individual frame doesn't look too bad. The Zi6 certainly captured the sky more naturally than the Mino did. But as usual, shadow details have turned to mud...and the dim light has forced the Zi6 to shoot this at 15 frames per second. Quite noticeable when cars drive past.

Okay, so this is a total slam-dunk for the Mino HD, right? It’s time for the Zi6 to slink off to the corner bar to drink itself into a state of apoplexy alongside the Zune and the Sony eBook Reader and every other bit of technology that’s been roundly spanked and made irrelevant by a superior competitor?

Naw, not at all.

Based on two days’ worth of side-by-side shooting, I’m convinced that the Mino HD’s videos are far more natural and pleasant. But I wish that Mino HD videos sounded as good as the Kodak’s. I don’t know if the Zi6’s designers did something as simple as choosing a high gain level for the microphone. Whatever the reason, the “outside Panera” clip handily demonstrates the Kodak’s superiority in this category.

The Zi6 also has the intriguing advantage of being able to go on forever. Which is something that the Mino emphatically cannot do.

The Mino is sealed up as tightly as an iPhone. Its memory and battery are locked inside and can’t be swapped. You record one hour’s worth of video and then the Mino HD becomes nothing more than a conversation piece.

But the Zi6 takes standard SDHC memory cards. To hell with the Mino’s built-in 4 gigs! Buy yourself a 16 gig card and record hours and hours of footage. And because it runs on 2 AA’s, it’ll can run forever. The Zi6 comes with a pair of rechargeables and natcherly, if you ever get caught short, you can just run to the store for some Energizers.

That’s not an inconsiderable advantage.

The Zi6 and the Mino are both “lifestyle” cameras. So I suppose the choice comes down to the sort of lifestyle that you intend to lead.

If image quality is a big item on your wish list, it’s the Mino. If your style of shooting is casual and unplanned — you want to have something handy to shoot baby’s first steps, keep something in your back pocket or your desk drawer in case the opportunity to direct and produce the next “Don’t Taze Me, Bro!” should unexpectedly present itself — it’s the Mino. If you’ll be shooting lots of stuff in low-light situations…the Mino. Already own a “real” camcorder, and want a second one for more casual shooting and the ability to shoot an event from two angles? Mino.

(Oh, I didn’t mention that the Mino is exactly the same size as the original Mino. The Zi6 is small enough to fit inside any pocket, but the Mino is so small that you’ll have to pat yourself down to figure out what pocket it’s even in.)

But if you’re going to shoot “events,” then you’ll want the Zi6. Although you’ll yearn for the higher quality of the Mino, the fact remains that (God help us all) most family weddings go on for more than an hour. And you have better things to do on vacation than keep running back to your hotel room or cabin to free up space on your camcorder. You can shoot a whole week’s worth of travelly hijinx on the Zi6.

As for the ease of editing your footage…it’s a draw. Both of these cameras record plain MP4 movie files. They imported into iMovie as easily as any other MP4 file.

Weird thing about the Flip, though: iMovie recognizes it as a camera and it immediately loads up thumbnails of all of your clips, ready for import…but the import will fail. Huh. But if you import the clips via the “File” menu — treat the Mino as though it were just a USB storage device — iMovie will copy the files into your library without a hitch. No transcoding necessary…it’s just a straight file copy.

Of course, neither of these are “real” camcorders. Spending a couple of days shooting with them made me miss the zoom lens, image-stabilization, and manual features of even a cheap standard-def camera. I guess the “lifestyle” implied by the Zi6 and the Mino involves walking straight up to people instead of recording them from a safe distance, and maintaining a steady posture as you do so.

If this is the case, then clearly I lead an alternative lifestyle.

57 thoughts on “Showcase showdown! Flip Mino HD versus Kodak Zi6

  1. Pingback: gedblog » Blog Archive » We Have A Winner

  2. Allison Sheridan

    Andy – I’m so pleased to see the rigor with which you engage your turn signals. Aside from that I would have sworn you would pick the Zi6 at first – I guess the saturated colors do make me happy. The audio quality might have also overridden what I was seeing, might have to watch the comparisons with the sound off!

    On the paragraph that begins with “But if you’re going to shoot “events,” ” you may want to stick “With the Zi6” before the sentence that says “you’ll be able ot shoot a whole week’s worth of vacation with it.” The unskilled reader may think you’re referring to the Mino as that’s what you mention in the first sentence.

    Excellent way to compare the cameras.

  3. Blake Helms

    I like the saturated colors in the Kodak but I definitely noticed the washout during the interview portion outside Panera. You could easily bump up the saturation on the Mino in post. The one thing I will say about the Kodak, the audio is much better, I mean ALOT better! Good comparison video!

  4. Ihnatko Post author

    @Allison – Good one. FIxed.

    And of course, all of these observations are subjective. In fact, many consumer cameras are hardwired to produce images that “the Humans find pleasing,” if not actually faithful to the scene. People respond to higher-contrast, higher-saturation images.

    My disconnect with the Zi6 is that it’s failing to record information that’s there in the scene. If I look at the Mino footage and think “I’d like the colors to be a bit punchier,” I can just twitch a slider to the right and it’s fixed. When I look at the Zi6 footage and think “Geez, I wish it had captured more detail in the shadows…or even some detail, actually” there’s really no answer for that.

  5. Operator99

    Thanks Andy – that is a great comparison and I would have to agree, based on the footage as shown, that the Mino comes up the winner in terms of image quality. That does of course presume the production quality control is the same for all the units out there – wouldn’t be overly surprised to see some variation in color temperature over a 1000’s of units. There certainly was a difference in sound quality. Did you find the audio could be tweaked on the Mino by some post processing?
    Thanks again for taking the time to go to a diner, Panera Bread and a bagel shop to do the shoot :-)


  6. Ihnatko Post author

    @Operator99 – Indeed. As for the audio…the Mino is fab at close range (a couple of feet) but at four feet or so your voice just sort of blends into the background. Audio is definitely not its strong suit. I’d certainly be willing to pay $30 more for a Mino HD with a microphone jack.

  7. Jeremy Johnstone

    Nice comparison. I wanted to comment on the audio portion. The reason the Zi6 has better audio capturing in the speaking scenes is due to the much higher gain microphone. This is especially apparent in the bagel scene. Go back and compare those two, notice how much more background “hiss” you hear with the Zi6 compared to the Mino? It’s extremely obvious there and almost made me feel the Mino had better audio, despite being less sensitive in general.

  8. Jeremy Johnstone

    One other point I forgot to make, the most annoying thing about the Zi6, IMHO, is it’s extremely aggressive white balance correction. While I personally like the more contrasty image (albeit hate the loss of shadow detail like you pointed out), the over aggressiveness of the white balance clearly makes it a loser. Notice how it constantly forces your near white shirt collar to a full on bright white? The sign in the beginning (like you pointed out) is another biggy. Towards the end of the video when you were shooting the pictures on the wall and that upstairs area it’s also extremely obvious. Somebody needs to teach the Zi6 engineers that not every scene has a pure white object in it.

  9. Jason Arber

    Whoah! That video made me feel seasick! When you knocked the shop’s open sign off, did you have the cameras strapped to your body, because it certainly seemed like it. Cinéma vérité FTW! Actually, joshing aside, an illuminating side-by-side comparison. Scott McNulty’s test made me think the the Zi6 came out on top. Your test is making me re-evaluate that.

    However, as a UK citizen I object that neither camera records PAL HD (25fps) and forces me to shoot in NTSC HD (30 fps). My HD TV can handle 30fps, but if I want to shoot something for my folks and burn it to a regular DVD, I’m not sure their older TV will do anything other than 25fps. Yes, I could conform it to 25fps, but in my experience, unless you’re paying for a fairly expensive conform, 30fps > 25fps looks a bit crap, with ghosted frames and so on.

    Not ideal.

  10. Beau Colburn

    Thanks Andy, I really appreciate the time you put in to this. The Flip seems like the clear winner to me. I used to do a lot of live recording, and the high-gain and resulting ambient noise on the Zi6 is really tough, especially when you see them side by side. It seems sound editing would be required in almost any public setting to lower the levels down, and with a small camera like this it seems like public places would be where I would get a lot of use.

  11. Pingback: iFelix Technical Stuff » Blog Archive » Flip Mino HD

  12. Keith

    Thanks for the awesome review, Andy. Based on your movie, I think I like the Flip video quality, but the flexibility and audio quality of the Zi6. Can I mix and match? Kinda like half-and-half on a pizza?

  13. Pingback: Andy Ihnatko’s Flip Mino HD vs Kodak Zi6 comparision - Future Steve

  14. Peter

    Thank-you so much for doing this Andy. It makes the purchase of one of these great little HD cameras a little less overwhelming. One question though. Does Vimeo jump and hesitate for everybody? It happened several times when I was watching your video and it happens to nearly all of my Vimeo videos. Is it me or is this a common problem? Guess that is two questions…:)

  15. Pingback: Kodak Zi6 vs. Flip MinoHD comparisons | Geek stuff

  16. Neil

    Doesn’t the Zi6 give you the option to shoot 720p at 60fps? That’s enough to put it over the top for me. 60fps means I can do slow-mo that doesn’t look like a slideshow.

    I am a bit confused though, does the Zi6 adjust frame speed automatically (i.e. 15fps low light)? And since when does a 4 gig SD card cost $50?

  17. Ihnatko Post author

    @Neil – Yup, the Zi6 does indeed have a 60 fps shooting mode. But for the kind of shooting I do that’s not a big enough advantage to make up for the camera dropping down to 15 in low-light conditions. Particularly when the Mino is such a champ.

    re: $50 SD cards…er…well, they’re that expensive if you buy ’em at the drugstore.

    (Yeah, it depends on what I mean by “more or less square.” I think $50 is a significant price difference. Cut it to $30 and you’re within close reach. But o’course I’ve just checked prices for a 4 gig card and they’re like $10 on Amazon.)

  18. Marco

    Interesting to see video following the same traits as the still market – consumer still cameras tend to oversaturate and oversharpen…so the Mino’s rendition is a pleasant surprise, especially in a lo-cost camera. But like colour tv, it has a lot to do with what you’ve been socialized to believe looks “good”, as is apparent from M. Ged’s recent disparaging tweets.

    Then there’s audio – I think Kodak did very little in the way of filtering of the audio, whereas the Mino seems to be (at least) dramatically rolling off the very low- and high ends which is great for avoiding wind noise. This too may have diminished the punch of the shot outside the Panera bread – with high volume of hissy audio from the nearby tires on pavement.

    Surprising amount of distortion from both camera during the mad “jigglez” test – but that’s progressive capture for you, I guess. Shake may be attributable in both camera from the absence of a truly wide viewing angle, which would have made the handheld bearable – as it was, I was nearing my nausea threshold here and there. Small camera in general suffer from this effect simply because of their lack of mass. Time to add a screw mount to a barbell…

    Be nice to see how the two compare outdoors with some intense sunlight, or warm magic-hour light, as most of your exteriors were either low-light or overcast (ie: either very warm with incandescent lighting, or very cool color temperature).

    And finally, Mr. I is one handsome feller.

  19. Paul Salzman

    I have to contend with Andy’s assessment of Kodak’s goals, “Humans like punchy contrast and saturated colors.” As a human, I have to somewhat agree with Kodak. My initial inclination from this footage, was to say the Kodak blew away the Mino. However, upon reading the article, Andy points out some very valid points about both units.

    Kodak’s digital products all tend to have robust colors and high contrast. Some call it “processed” or “fake” — I call it making an image really pop. In some cases, of course, this can bite you in the ass and all go wrong–like the Panera indoor images–however, I thought most of the outdoor images really looked rich, even if the color was somewhat inaccurate. I wonder if the higher contrast of the Zi6 somehow blended with the factory tint on your car’s windows to cause the camera to sort of filter the sign’s cream color into white? In that still image, I did notice the reflection of your side window, which I don’t see in the Minio.

    The audio is the Minio is downright pathetic and even though I’m an iPhone owner, who drinks plenty of Apple-flavored Kool-Aid, I think with video cameras, having removable memory is paramount–especially shooting what becomes large HD files.

    From what I see here, if you’re shooting inside more than outside, the Minio is probably the way to go. However, if you’re shooting outside and need really great audio, the Kodak is the big winner to me.

    Andy, thanks for doing this shootout–I’ve been waiting for someone to do this comparison and I like the style by which you chose to do it. Thank you, Mr. Ihnatko.

  20. geogray

    Hey Andy,
    Very nice comparison. The side by side is great. One little niggle, though…why slam the Zune? It’s a great little media player!


  21. Dave Bittner

    Just got my Zi6 over the weekend from Amazon, and so far the only real head-scratcher for me is that it doesn’t seem to have any sort of “Time Remaining” indicator. As far as I can tell there’s no way to tell how much record time is available on the card. Sure, you could put a 16gig card in there and know that the remaining time is likely “gobs”, but this strikes me as a serious limitation.

    There’s another, somewhat less extensive comparison here –

    We’re planning on using the Zi6 as a disposable/lipstick cam for situations where our pro HD cams aren’t practical. (And the Dirty Jobs crew must be buying these things up by the dozen!) I can also imagine having one in the glove compartment of your car, just in case you come across, say, Bigfoot snacking on that roadkill deer and want to document the moment. (The ability to use regular AA batteries is a big advantage here, too, because they tend to go much longer without bleeding away their capacity.)

    Having these kinds of cameras available at this price is a pretty exciting development.

  22. Scott

    Thanks so much for the fantabulous review, Andy. One question about the Mino buttons – are they like the 3G iPod touch-sensitive buttons or is there any level of resistance before the button activates? The iPod buttons are incredibly sensitive, and I can see that eventually bugging the crap out of me (and my wife).

    Also, you might want to edit “And because it runs on 2 AA’s, it’ll can run forever.”

  23. DB Cooper

    I just picked up the Zi6. The Flip is the clear winner picture wise. But no SD slot and no removeable battery were the deal breakers for me. You get one hour of shoot time with the Mino. Subtract time for watching what you just shot, letting your friends watch themselves, and general tinkering with the device, and I suspect you may not get a full hour worth of video shot before you lose juice. Then you have to wait for a recharge.

    I don’t run home and upload every second of video I shot that day, and I like to carry my digital cameras around and upload once or twice a week. With the Mino you’ll be doing a lot of uploading or you’ll run out of space quickly. The devices actually look like they were made for different demographics. The Flip looks iPod-ish, and I think would better suit those who are uploading to their computer daily. The Zi6 favors larger camcorders aesthetically and I think would better suit “events” as stated by Ihnatko. I’d take the Zi6 to a concert or baseball game. The Flip would be great in the bar, hanging out with friends or for short bursts of YouTube type content.

  24. Gareth

    Andy, great review. You really should do more video on your site.
    Quick question, what did you use to keep the camera’s so steady in the car?

  25. Pingback: First Impressions – Flip MinoHD : Accidental Technologist

  26. Forest Royse

    Nice job with the video comparison. I’d have to agree that the Mino delivers better quality with a little post-production; however, I suspect most users will be going straight-to-web. Lots of people will be buying these as gifts for relatives. Which cam provides a simpler/easier/better user experience for a non-technical person?

    Also, I haven’t seen any info on typical battery life for the Zi6 yet or if either cam can be used directly as a webcam.

    It will be interesting to see how the Creative Vado HD stacks up against these.

  27. Charles

    Thanks for the reports. I owned one Aiptek Action HD product. I used to shoot 30 fr/s video. After I switched to 60 fr/s, I have decided to stick with 60 fr/s. 30 fr/s is hard to get the video right unless tripod is used. I was considering to buy minoHD but it lacks of 60 fr/s features. Kodak Zi6 offers 720p60. So it is quite important when I shoot my daughter running around. It also makes huge difference when you convert it to DVD which is 60 field interlaced requires 60 fr/s original video shooting. So I might get kodak Zi6 instead.
    Just my experience to share!

  28. john m flores

    Thanks Andy for the thorough evaluation – it’s good to stumble upon a name I used to see in the early 90s in the Mac mags.

    I was really attracted to the Flip but ended up with the Kodak. Why? I wanted a camera whose files I could upload to the Internets without any post – no boost to the volume, no tweak to the colors. I’m shooting family and friends making fools of themselves – in these situations, image quality doesn’t matter as much as being able to hear the ridiculous things that they say LOL! If I want to make cinema, then I’ll choose another camera.

    And just to contradict myself in a single post – the macro mode of the Kodak is pretty cool and can open up some interesting creative possibilities…

    Thanks again!

  29. Pingback: X’mas Lights in HD with the Flip MinoHD

  30. chris

    “A person called a Philistine, is said to despise or undervalue art, beauty, intellectual content, and/or spiritual values.”

    ‘Heil, Hitler’ is neither art, beautiful or has some sane spiritual value.


  31. Marco

    @Chris The song in question is called “Springtime for Hitler” from the very funny Mel Brooks film entitled “The Producers”, concerning a couple of crooked theatre producers who attempt to produce the worst musical ever so as to profit from overselling the plays production. But it’s sooo bad that everyone who sees it thinks it’s a brilliant satire, it goes on to great success and the producers in trouble. It features Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in the title roles.

    “Philistine” can also refer to a tribe who were in conflict with the Semites in ancient times.

    And lighten up.

  32. Ihnatko Post author

    I honestly had no idea where the “really stupid” comment was coming from until you made your followup comment. If you haven’t seen “The Producers,” you should if you’ve seen it and think that the song is stupid and has no artistic merit, then that’s one of those areas where we simply have to agree that I’m right and you’re wrong. :)

  33. chris

    I haven’t seen “The Producers”. Maybe there’s some artistic merit in this movie. I’ll follow your recommendation and watch this movie sometimes.

    Now, given that I didn’t know this movie and was simply looking for a review of the Flip mino and I ended up watching a guy in his car crying ‘Heil Hilter’, let me rephrase my original comment:

    Maybe your choice of songs isn’t the best, but the review was very useful for me.

  34. Sue VB

    Hi Andy – thanks for the wonderful review, that i found _after_ I bought my husband the Zi6 for Christmas.. I think the battery life issue might have made the Zi6 the best choice for us — we’ll have to see what my husband thinks!

    My question for you is, do you know if I need a high spped SDHC card for the Zi6? If so, what speed do you recommend? Also, do you know how much footage time you can store on a 16 GB card vs say, a 8 GB card? Trying to decide what I need to purchase to make the gift complete…


  35. Doubting Thomas

    You parked @ Chelos in Cranston! That’s right down the street from where I live.

    Anyhow.. great review.. the HD looks tempting, but I think I’d miss my Ultra too much.

  36. Pingback: 2008 HDTV Year in Review « Media Experiences 2 Go

  37. Jim

    Hi Diddley Ho There Andy,

    Thanks for your time “investment” in this project.
    It helped to justify the Mino HD purchase for my “Lovable Ludite Wife”.
    Just opened it up a couple of hours ago and she’s really “wowing” over the ease of use.
    It’s got enough “geek cred” to keep me tinkering as well.
    Video looks sweet on 47″ LCD streamed via Xbox360 from the G5 server.
    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to You and Yours.

    Thanks again!

  38. Peter

    Great comparison!! Can you tell me (or anybody else) how long last full recharged batteries in Kodak Zi6? Hard to find any information about that. I don’t have experience neither with Mino nor with Zi6 up to this moment. Thanks and greetings from Germany.

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