Even if you have a nice SLR, or a cell phone with a good camera, a dependable, inexpensive camera can be a smart buy for outdoors folk. The Kodak Playsport, which is waterproof, small, and reasonably priced at about $150, is a good choice. It is capable of shooting video in 1080p high definition and has a durable design to put up with just about anything you throw at it while playing outside.
This summer, I took the camera biking and hiking on several trips, keeping it in my shorts cargo pocket for easy access. I took it on a river trip in Nevada and to the Burning Man festival last month. Ironically, the camera built for the water is also ideal for the desert because it’s sealed really well and has zero moving parts that are exposed to the elements.
The camera is waterproof to 10 feet under the surface and has a built-in image stabilization feature to help keep shots sharp. Photos are 5-megapixel resolution. It has a 4X digital zoom. There’s 128MB of internal memory, plus you can add SD/SDHC cards to expand capacity to 32GB.
For $150, my bar was initially pretty low. But the camera did fine all around in the inferno of Burning Man and during outings this summer. Daytime photos? They are great — sharp and pretty with no fuss. The video is pretty good, too.
One issue: Battery life is so-so. The camera is capable of shooting only about 100 photos on a full charge of its li-ion rechargeable battery.
Using it primarily as a still camera, another gripe with the Kodak Playsport was its low-light performance. Most shots at night, even with significant ambient light, for example, are so dark that they’re visually unintelligible. And the Playsport doesn’t have a flash.
Overall, the camera has been handy and easy to use. I’m going to hold onto it. It’s durable, and after destroying the camera function on my Blackberry in a snowboard crash this spring, I need the Kodak. Moreover, since I’m ready to pick up a new $500 smartphone, there are times I’m gonna leave the spendy phone at home and take the Playsport instead.
—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. .