Tech product reviews: Kodak Zi6, Microsoft Photosynth

Positive review of the Kodak Zi6, which is the little handheld video camera that's like the Flip except it shoots HD (720p up to 60fps).

I'm curious about the audio quality, but I have a Flip, and if the Zi6 combines the Flip's simplicity of use and portability with HD quality it seems like a handy little gadget. Not even film school students and camera snobs always want to deal with busting out a full-sized camera and pro-level gear.


Walt Mossberg reviews the upcoming Microsoft Live Labs release of Photosynth (releases this Thursday to the public for free). The demo seems to have floated around for years, and I'd long since given up hope of seeing it in the wild (when's the last time anything from Microsoft Labs made it into the public?). So to hear it will be released as a website for free for anyone to use is a pleasant surprise.

Mossberg has mostly positive things to say. Sadly, the Mac version is not ready yet, so it's Windows only for now.

I've been testing this service for about a week, and while it has its flaws, I believe that Photosynth offers a dramatic new way to use your photos and to share them with others.

Photosynth works within a Web browser, using a small plug-in you install. Currently, it works only in Windows, using Microsoft's own Internet Explorer browser or its rival, Firefox. A Macintosh version is in the works, but for now, you can't even view others' synths in the Mac operating system.

When Photosynth works right, the results are wonderfully satisfying. But it takes some skill to get a set of photos the service can match up well, a quality Microsoft calls being "synthy." Ideally, portions of each slice of a 3-D scene should show up in at least three photos, with 50% overlap between them. After you upload your pictures and Photosynth does its best to make them into a 3-D scene, the service assigns them a percentage number that indicates how synthy they were.

Interestingly, you can only run Photosynth on a Mac if it's running Windows XP or Vista via Boot Camp, not via Parallels or VMWare Fusion. The error message if you try to use Photosynth on a Mac:

Unfortunately, we're not cool enough to run on your OS yet.