The appearance, size, and weight of the camera haven't changed much from its predecessor, the Zx3. The PlaySport is fractionally bigger and heavier than other minicamcorders, but not in any meaningful way. You'll still have no trouble slipping it into a pants pocket or small handbag and it certainly won't weigh you down. The body is primarily plastic--but it feels like thick, tough plastic--and the slightly textured back and ribbed sides help you keep a good grip on it even when wet. The PlaySport Zx5 is waterproof to 9.8 feet (meeting IEC standard 60529 IPX8, so my guess would be that's only for up to 30 minutes) and dust resistant (IEC standard 60529 IPX6). It's also shockproof (MIL-STD-810F, Method 516.5) meaning that it's capable of surviving a drop of up to 5 feet. However, this is for a drop onto plywood; just because something is rugged doesn't make it indestructible. The PlaySport is not freezeproof, meaning it likely won't function properly when exposed to subfreezing temperatures.
There are two doors on each side of the device that protect its ports and card slot. Though they lock firmly, an extra latch to prevent accidentally opening them would be appreciated. Behind the left-side door are Micro-HDMI port and Micro-USB ports. Unfortunately, there is no swing-out USB arm for directly connecting to a computer so you'll always need a USB cable for charging the device and transferring movies and photos. The battery isn't user-replaceable and charging takes about 3.5 hours by electrical outlet or 4.5 hours by computer. Also, with previous models Kodak included an HDMI cable, but not with the PlaySport. Instead, you'll need to register the device on Kodak's Web site to get the cable sent to you for a $6.50 shipping and handling fee. That's cheaper than buying one, but still a nuisance and an extra expense.
The right door covers an SD card slot (there's only 20MB of available internal memory, so you'll need to buy a card for recording). There had been reports that the PlaySport would not work with Class 10 SDHC cards, but a firmware update was released to fix this problem. I tested with both Class 4 and Class 10 cards and both worked fine. There have also been complaints that the device freezes or locks up after several minutes of recording. Again, I did not experience this in my testing, but the previously mentioned firmware update fixes this issue as well.
On top is the power button. The video camera starts up and starts recording relatively quickly. On the bottom is a standard tripod mount, though it is plastic so it may eventually wear out if you use it a lot. Given that this is designed to be a basic shoot-and-share video camera, there are no jacks for headphones or an external mic; for those, you'll have to get a Kodak PlayTouch (or a Zi8 if it's still available).
As is typical of minicamcorders, the lens on front is unprotected, so you'll need to remember to keep it safe and clean. Next to the lens is the mono microphone, but that's it; there's no flash or video light, which are still a rarity on this type of pocket video camera. The problem is that smartphones typically have them, so not having them is a negative (regardless of how helpful they actually are).
Controls are simple enough, requiring just a little use to master. Compared with the Zx3's button layout, the only thing new is that Kodak's Share button that lets you tag the stuff you want to share online to your choice of sites or by e-mail. You can send things to Kodak's line of Pulse digital frames, too. The weak link here is that you're still required to connect the PlaySport or insert your SD card to a computer to do your sharing. Otherwise, Kodak's three-step sharing process is pretty great.
Above the controls is the bright LCD. I rarely had trouble seeing the screen in bright sunlight, and when I did, Kodak's Glare Shield feature helped by bumping up the screen's color saturation.
The Kodak PlaySport Zx5 is a near-excellent minicamcorder. The shortcomings are relatively minor given its price, size, and results. It's just a nice, simple, pocket video camera that you can feel comfortable handing off to just about anyone. And if it gets wet or takes a small tumble it has a better chance of surviving than a regular minicamcorder or a smartphone.
Find out more about how we test camcorders.