My love/hate relationship with Kodak and the Flip

Dear Cisco, Kodak, and everyone else in the ultra portable video camera market,

Stop fucking around! You are about to get slaughtered by the smartphone market and from all I’ve seen of your product launches you just don’t give a shit. I’m going to start with Flip because they were the first real contender in this area. You guys set the bar for these cameras. Was the video quality the best around? No, but it was damn good for what it did and you garned a lot of attention and love from filmmakers and families alike. Filmmakers loved it because it was perfect for location scouting, behind the scenes footage, and even roughing together a quick take for review. Families loved it because it was portable and could be used to capture those moments when the kids are being unbelievably cute or the father was being unbelievably stupid. However, like all great products the imitators were not far behind. We saw a deluge of other video cameras in this market space, but you held the title for a long time (relatively speaking of course). Then, without much fanfare, a true competitor came up behind you and started giving you a run for your money. Enter Kodak.

Kodak’s first releases were clunky and ham fisted, but had the right idea. Their implementation just kinda sucked. By the time they created the Zi8 things were serious. You had the Flip Ultra HD and they had the Zi8 and the battle was on. You had brand recognition, they were Kodak. You had much loved releases, they had iffy releases. You got all the attention, they had the superior product. The Zi8 could shoot WVGA, 720P30, 720P60, AND 1080P30. You could shoot 720P30. Their video was amazing for the quality of camera. Your video was just kinda blah. They had 2 focus modes. You had 1. They could swap memory cards allowing for virtually unlimited shooting so long as the batteries held out or were changed often. You had a fixed amount of memory. Once you filled that up it was time to dump the drive and wait. They had an external microphone jack. You had jack squat.

It wasn’t all roses for Kodak though. Their stills were only 5MP and the codec they used was really processor intensive. Neither one a real killer when you consider all the other benefits and it gave them something to do for the next version. And that is what I want to really talk to you guys about. Kodak, are you listening? I am gonna need your attention here too. You have both released at least 1 version upgrade since these two wonderful products. I know I seem down on the Ultra, but it is a tough love. Flip offered us the Flip slide. And what do we get for improvements with the Flip Slide? A sliding touchscreen. Period. No features that actually improve the shooting of the video – ya know, the very thing the camera was DESIGNED TO DO. A fucking SLIDING TOUCHSCREEN. How does that help me?? Yes, it makes it easier to show your friends what you just shot, but what do you do more of: show your friends the video or SHOOT THE FUCKING VIDEO?!? What’s that? The screen is a little bigger and the recording time is doubled? Whoop-di-freakin’-do. An extra inch of screen isn’t gonna make my life all that much easier and if I wanted more recording time I’d buy the damn Kodak since it lets me swap cards. You now have 16GB of internal memory. They let me put a 32GB card in there. Point Kodak.

Ah Kodak. You’re probably thinking you’re off the hook after that, aren’t you? I’m sorry to say that my tough love for you is even greater. You I have invested my own money in. I chose you in the great battle and as of today you have made it clear that it is a battle you have no real interest in. I vouched for you. I sold my friends on your camera. I touted the joys of the Zi8 to the heavens. I still stand by those words, but with praise like that I expected a little more from you on the next release… and you’ve had 2! Your first release after the Zi8 was the Playsport. I’m still not sure why you bothered with this one. The new features: a redesigned housing that was semi-waterproof. Now that’s nice and all, but you also removed the dual focus mode option. Why would you go and give me a reasonably neat feature and follow it up with removing a really neat feature, especially one that your competition didn’t have? And what other features did it add? Different colors. *sigh* You really weren’t even trying, were you? It’s ok; you had a killer release and wanted to cash in a little more by catering to a slight different market segment – the sports folks. Did you have to be half-assed when you did it though? Why not keep all the great features of the Zi8 and then add the new stuff. And if you’re going for the sports market, why not add more than one feature that they need. How about a still camera that is worth a shit? You have to admit, your stills suck, even for 5MP. And no flash? What are you? Apple? No, you’re fucking Kodak. Man up and make a fucking camera like you use to. So no, this was not a good release.

Get back over here Kodak – I’m not done with you yet. This morning I received an email from you touting your latest addition to the lineup: the PlayTouch. I’m going to overlook the fact that it sounds like this is just you trying to break in to the porn market and talk about the specs, but I seriously think you need to have a work with whoever names your products. I’ll be honest; despite your lackluster showing with the Playsport I was excited. I thought maybe you had learned a few lessons, added a few new badass features, and fixed some things that needed fixing (did I mention your shitty still camera?). What did I get when I browsed your spec sheet? Disappointment and heartache. You had learned nothing and instead decided to go back to copying the product you had already started outpacing. Why Kodak, why? Instead of making my video look better, play better, and sound better you decided I needed… wait for it… A FUCKING TOUCHSCREEN. Fine, I’ll admit a touchscreen is a general nicety, but there has to be something else right? I mean, your touchscreen doesn’t even slide (That was not a hint. Do not dare make a sliding touchscreen the focus of your next release). What else do you have? Hm… A slightly bigger sensor. Ok, that would be fine, if the stills WERE NOT STILL 5MP!!! I don’t think you understand. If I am going to carry around my phone and your video camera I sure as hell don’t want to carry a decent camera too. I will remind you again. YOU ARE KODAK. You use to revolutionize the photo industry. Why have you given up that drive and settled for a still camera that is put to shame by most smartphones on the market? And that leads me to where we first began.

I’m back to speaking to everyone here and honestly, you should have all been listening the whole time. We, the consumers, do not want to juggle 3 devices. I do not want a phone, a camera, and a video camera. I want all of that in one device. There are times when two are acceptable, but even then the specs on smartphones are getting to a point where that point will be moot in a couple years. Your time is now. You don’t have a couple years to get it right. You had this year and maybe next. You’ve blown it for this year because there are still too many times when I will want to take better pictures than what you have to offer. I will always want better video than my phone has to offer. That is why I love you so much. However, looking at the specs of the phones coming out I think it is time for you to start worrying. Phones are shooting 720P video now. How long do you honestly think it will be before Apple has it shooting 1080P? I’m gonna guess it won’t be much longer. And Kodak, if you think adding your little camera effects to this latest release is anything special than I’m guess you haven’t even bothered looking at the iPhone. To add insult to injury their stills are already infinitely better than yours. That device alone is going to take most of your market and eat it for dinner. A lot of filmmakers already shoot rough video on their iPhone and the bonus for them is they can edit it right there on the phone as well. So what are you gonna do? How are you going to compete? Based on what I’ve seen in the last year, you just aren’t. It was fun while it lasted guys, but I’m not sure you’re gonna be around much longer.

Yours truly,
Tom

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