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They say first impressions last and my first impression of the Kodak is that it is impressive. £208 will give you 7.4Mp, 12x optical zoom, Image stabiliser and a fast click-to-capture at 0.26sec for those tricky action shots.
- Sensor: CCD - 7.4Mp
- Image Size: 3072 × 2304 pixels
- Lens: 36-432mm f/2.8-4.8 (12x Zoom)
- Focus: TTL-Auto
- Exposure: Auto, Macro, Infinity, Manual
- Metering: TTL-AF, Multi, CW, Selectable
- Monitor: 2.5in. LCD
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Storage: 32Mb internal, SD/MMC
- Batteries: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 104x74x70cm - 300g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
The Z712 is aimed at the consumer that enjoys to take control of the camera and is packed with features to allow it. Other cameras in the same price range are the Fuji S6500fd at £189 with face detection but only 6Mp and a 10x optical zoom, the Canon IXUS 800 IS which offers 6Mp, 4x optical zoom and image stabiliser priced at £209. The closest to the Kodak is the Fuji and there is not a great deal between them.
Modes and features
The Z712 is designed like a bridge camera, but doesn't have the same build quality or performance capability so cannot really be categorised as such but it does offer the same features like fully manual mode. The power switch is spring loaded and located on top of the camera in front of the mode dial. Also on the top of the camera are quick access buttons to Flash options, Macro/Landscape modes and Self timer/continuous shooting modes. The mode dial gives Auto, Sports, ISO push, Scene, Video and Favourites which seems pointless unless you like the thought of carrying your favourite pictures with you in low-resolution.
The resolution options available are 7.1Mp, 6.3Mp (3:2), 5Mp, 3.1Mp, 2.2Mp (3:2), 2.1Mp (16:9) and 1.2Mp which will cover most situations and there is also the added benefit of being able to change the compression between Fine, Standard and Basic.
The scene mode has a Panorama facility where you can take three images and stitch them together and I find this a useful thing to have on the camera if it works which it does to some degree. The image I took stitched everything together really well, but the sky had trouble as it is constantly moving.
The Z712 is another camera which explains what everything does when it is selected. Again, this is a useful feature, but after owning the camera for a year would get tiresome. On the back of the camera, the info button changes the display information on the screen whilst the menu button takes you into the set-up. In the menu is where features like the resolution, focus features, metering, as well as the technical set up for the camera takes place. Metering modes included are Multi-pattern, Centre-weighted and Spot. There are three AF modes which are Multi-zone, Centre-zone and Selectable-zone and these can be expanded to Continuous AF or Single AF. The Menu also gives the option of changing the colour definition from High colour, Natural colour, Low colour and Black & white. The Image stabiliser is effective when the zoom is extended to its full capacity. This is a useful feature and is optical, so it doesn't just zoom in on the CCD worsening the picture like an electronic image stabiliser.
Manual mode gives access to everything the camera provides and most options are available from the menu button. The ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture are accessed by scrolling the wheel on the back of the camera. To manipulate those options the wheel has to be depressed.
Build and handling
The camera has a plastic body, but isn't light. The build quality feels quite good and the camera is well balanced. It is small, but has a place for everything as the grip will easily fit a hand and a place to position your thumb. The screen for the viewfinder is bigger allowing easier picture taking, but the rear screen is the most favoured option. During bright sunlight, the viewfinder will come into its own as you still see the image to be shot. The quality of the screen is still marginally better than a camcorder with distortion and losing details like peoples faces from a distance. The lens is good quality Schneider Kreuznach Variogon. The only flimsy element is the selection wheel which is cheap, small and wobbly.
The camera only offers four flash modes of Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Flash override on and Flash override off. There is a Flash override on with red-eye, but that is accessed by selecting the Night portrait mode in the SCN button.
The camera took six images in the 10 second test. It did download all the pictures within the 10 secs, but then didn't start to take pictures again despite holding the shutter release button down.
The click-to-capture system is designed to take pictures very quickly in case you are taking pictures of sport and can take a picture in 0.26 seconds. These images have a lot of noise which suggests that the ISO is being raised to boost the shutter speed. The shutter speed can automatically be selected, reducing lag time as the camera doesn't have to think about what shutter speed to select, but is still a good feature though. The panoramic stitch feature has some delay to it and writing files to the card can take a while. Battery life is very good on the Z712, it takes a Li-ion CRV3 battery and they can be expensive, however the camera also takes regular AA batteries.
ISO64 gives excellent results with lots of detail in the petals and a smooth grey, it's only a shame that it cannot be used in all conditions. ISO100 seems to change the petals slightly more orange whilst at ISO200, they are bright and the image has started to soften. This is not detracting from the image. ISO400 sees a change in the colour of the petals again with a darker cast and noise is evident on the grey card whilst at ISO800 the image is starting to break down. ISO1600 should only be used as a last resort in really dark conditions as the image is really noisy.
There are some excellent features on the Z712 like the good lens, low ISO speeds, 12x optical zoom and panoramic stitch feature and is let down in other places like the Auto mode giving better portrait results than the portrait mode, the use of the wheel to change the ISO annoyed me and the favourites area seems a waste of space. However, if you are after a small SLR style camera with a large zoom and packed with features, then this camera meets those requirements and is worth considering.
12x optical zoom
Wheel to adjust ISO ratings
Explanations of settings on screen
The Kodak Easyshare Z712 IS costs £208 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.