Gear Guide 2012: Kodak Playfull Video Camera

A palm-sized video camera that still performs.

Bulky cameras often get left behind when space is tight, but even ounce-counters happily toted this granola bar-size unit. It’s waterproof down to three meters, fits into a chest pocket, and image quality is solid: Photos (five megapixels) and videos (1080p* HD at 30 frames per second, or 720p at 60 fps) are sharp enough for digital uses. Bonus: No cords or special software required.

An attached micro USB (which charges the battery and exports files) tucks into the camera body and is sheltered from gunk behind a super-protective (but tough-to-open) tab. The main buttons, located on the middle back of the unit, are thumb-sized, and features like sharing files via Facebook are easy to navigate once you connect the Playfull to your computer.

The glare- and scratch-resistant screen proved big enough (1.5 inches) to let shooters see what they were capturing at a glance, but is too small for expertly framing wide shots or seeing detail in close-ups. Battery life is decent, with enough juice to power three days of intermittent shooting. Gripe: Footage shot in bright sunlight can look washed out, and dark interiors like tents remain shadowy. But those are acceptable tradeoffs, testers concluded, given the camera’s relatively low price and tiny size. $130; 3 oz.; kodak.com