I have one and really like it, but it has it's limitations.
Low light sucks, but then so does low light on a whole lot of other cameras.
1080p mode has severe troubles with rolling shutter. You can use it on a tripod, but you're best to forget it's there if you're shooting handheld (which pretty much is the point of this small a camera.)
720p mode does an optical zoom, but it has the extra pixels to use on the sensor, so you can use it up to about half way in.
EIS works great in 720p modes, useless in 1080p.
60p mode is good for slow motion.
Mic has AGC circuit when using the internal mic, but can be used with manual levels with an external mic.
The mic input is great. It is stereo, has a manual level control with a single VU meter, and has DC bias voltage that can power Sony compatible powered mics. There are some great mics that you can use at microphonemadness.com.
Also, make sure to check the firmware version. Version 1.6 is the latest and fixes earlier problems.
Renaming the extension from mov to mp4 helps Vegas see the audio.
Neo Scene won't work with this camera's footage but Neo HD will. This should be fixed, after all, Neo Scene is the consumer level package and should work with consumer grade cameras.
>Given your observations of 1080i on this camera, would one be better off $-wise with the zi6?
That would make sense, but don't do it. I just gave away my Zi6 to a friend. Here are the problems with the Zi6 compared to the Zi8:
1: Zi6 is nowhere near as wide angle as the Zi8 in 720p mode. The Zi6 is simply not wide enough. The Zi8 is a lot wider in 720p mode than the Zi6. You need this wideness in order to frame anything properly.
2: The Zi6 has no image stabilization. The EIS of the Zi8 is quite nice in 720p mode and given that you are going to hand hold this camera pretty much all the time that is really important.
3: The Zi6's digital zoom is useless. The Zi8 sensor has extra pixels that are used in both the digital zoom and image stabilization. You can zoom in about half way on the Zi8 and still get a decent picture. On the Zi6 you can't zoom in at all.
4: The Zi6 has no mic input.
5: The Zi6 has rolling shutter problems in 720p mode. The Zi8 is pretty good rolling shutter wise in 720p mode and only has noticeable problems with rolling shutter in 1080 mode. Quite frankly, the rolling shutter problem in 1080 mode makes this mode unusable IMHO, but hey, at least you've got a decent 720p.
Of all these things, the lack of stabilization is the worst. The Flip camera has no stabilization either. Without the stabilization this sort of camera is useless. As far as I know, the Zi8 is the only camera of this form factor that has any stabilization at all and it is super important if you want usable footage.
So I installed 8.1 and changed all my file extensions to .mp4 (found an extension changing freeware on download.com which helped.)
I started to convert all my clips to avi (Sony YUV) for editing and went to bed. Found out this morning that both my PCs had restarted (perhaps a Windows update**) and my project was closed. Not only that when I opened Vegas and imported the same mp4 files, they were not recognized. I checked QuickTime and it was still 7.6 ( I did remember to turn Apple updates off.) So it seems like something in the latest Windows 7 update affected this.
**I know I should have Windows updates off, but it's a fairly new machine and I forgot to change that.