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Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review

Joshua Waller tests the ultra zoom Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 - with a 30x optical zoom lens can it deliver the goods?

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Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

The Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 - is Kodak's top of the range digital camera, featuring Kodak's own 12 megapixel Backlit CMOS sensor, high speed shooting, manual controls, RAW support, and a huge 30x optical zoom lens.

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Features

The Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 is stuffed to the brim with features, a 12 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor lying at the heart of the camera gives the ability for the camera to offer Full HD video, and 9fps shooting at full resolution. The video mode also records stereo sound and allows you to use the optical zoom.

The huge 30x optical zoom lens, starting at 28mm wide angle and zooming all the way to 840mm equivalent features image stabilisation, a super macro mode, manual focus, and on top of that the camera also supports raw capture.

Composing and viewing photos is done with either the electronic viewfinder, or 3 inch screen, and a pop up flash takes care of all your indoor shots. Beyond the basics, the camera uses the high speed sensor to offer some clever "trick" modes such as a built in HDR mode, that combines 3 shots into one image for improved dynamic range.

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

The large body has a rubberised lens grip, and a rubberised hand grip ensuring you keep a tight grip on the camera, which is especially important with such a long zoom. As the camera is a Kodak Easyshare camera, there is the usual share button that allows sharing on popular social and photo websites, and building on Kodak's long history in the photographic industry, pre-digital, Kodak has includes a number of Kodak film modes, as well as digital creative modes.

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990
Key Features:
  • 12 megapixel Back-lit CMOS sensor
  • Kodak's first BSI CMOS sensor
  • 30x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation
  • Wide-angle lens, range from 28-840mm in 35mm equivalent
  • f/2.8 (wide) - f/5.6 (tele) lens
  • 3 inch screen HVGA 460k pixels / EVF
  • Artistic effects: HDR (high dynamic range), Dramatic, Night scene long exposure, Intelligent portrait
  • HD Video: 1080p (1920 × 1080 @30 fps), with stereo sound
  • High-speed burst mode: capture up to 60 fps @ 2 MP (max 20 shots)
  • P,A,S,M Modes, Face Detection, and Histogram Display
  • ISO125 - 6400

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Handling

The first thing you notice when you pick up the Kodak Easyshare Max is the weight, with four AA batteries loaded, the camera feels re-assuringly heavy, and well built. The front of the hand grip and lens surround are rubberised giving very good areas to grip, with the back of and right hand side of the camera having a slightly rubberised texture. There is also a slightly raised lip on the back to give your thumb an extra surface to grip. The battery and memory compartment is lockable and despite being made out of plastic it appears to be well designed with a good number of lugs? The memory card is easy to get out, with a spring loaded mechanism.

With a mode dial on top, changing modes is easy enough, and there is easy access to commonly used features due to the inclusion of dedicated buttons for continuous shooting, macro, self timer, flash, etc. There is also a command wheel on the back that can be used for changing settings, but the cameras sluggish response to these buttons often makes you wonder whether it's working, or whether you should be using the four-way direction buttons on the back.

The screen works well in bright sunlight, and is clear thanks to the high resolution of 460k pixels. The electronic viewfinder is decent and usable even with glasses, although it doesn't feature diopter correction.

Menus: The Kodak menus are a little odd - the camera gives you an overlay of the options you can "quickly" change, but then fade away (slowly), and always seem to be in the way when it would be really handy to be able to view the full frame, so you can compose your shots properly. The camera fades the top and bottom of the view to black, instead of simply overlaying the quick menu.

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

Battery Life: Battery life using the provided Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries is excellent, I was able to take well over 500 photos before the battery warning indicator appeared on screen. The provided batteries are rated as 2000-2100mAh and come pre-charged which is useful as you can start taking photos as soon as you've bought the camera and a memory card. It's possible batteries with a higher rating will give even longer life.

Speed: Despite the camera offering high speed shooting, the rest of the camera appears to be quite slow. Here we compare it to a CCD based camera, the Nikon Coolpix L120.

  Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Nikon Coolpix L120  
Shutter Reponse <0.05 0.05  
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.35 0.25  
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.35 0.40  
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.0s / 3.0s* 1.2s  
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.5-0.6s 2.1s  
Shot to Shot with Flash 5.5s 2.3s  
Continuous Shooting (full resolution) 2fps, 7 shots (L)^
5fps, 4 shots (M)^
9fps, 4 shots (H10)^
Continuous Shooting (2mp) 60fps, 20 shots (H60)^ N/A  
Continuous (RAW) N/A N/A  

The camera features a RAW mode, however, continuous shooting is not available when you are shooting RAW. Flash is not available when using any of the continuous shooting modes. Shot to shot time is quick for two shots, and will then slow down, and shot to shot time with flash on is very slow at around 5.5 seconds between shots.

* memory card removed - with a memory card it can be significantly slower while it displays "Processing", or when it's not displaying processing, it's more like 3.0 seconds.

^ after shooting the camera shows you the last shot taken and then "freezes" until it's finished writing the photos to the memory card - the camera doesn't flash any LEDs or give you any information on screen to let you know what it's doing, you simply have to wait and hope the camera comes back to life. H60 is particularly slow writing to the card taking upto 30 seconds to write the 20 photos!

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Performance

Here are a number of sample photos taken in a variety of settings, to show the image quality the camera is capable of. Click the images to view full size sample images:

Wide, 28mm, f/4.0 Roughly 3x optical zoom, f/4.0
Full optical zoom, 840mm, f/5.6 HDR, 28mm, f/7.1

Images are good at wide and mid-zoom telephoto with good details, little chromatic aberration or purple fringing, and detail remains quite good at full zoom, although some chromatic aberation becomes apparent. The HDR mode combines three shots into one image improving dynamic range  noticeably.

ISO and Noise Performance

ISO125 ISO200 ISO400 ISO800
ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400  

The camera produces images with extremely low noise levels at ISO125, ISO200, chroma noise (blotches of colour) start appearing at ISO400, and again increases at ISO800 with edge detail being eroded. At ISO1600 noise reduction becomes more aggressive, so you see less chroma noise, but detail suffers with edges losing detail. At ISO3200 noise reduction is very strong and detail is quite dramatically lost, as well as some of the darker colours. ISO6400 is best avoided altogether, as images start to resemble a watercolour picture.

Normal, 28mm, f/4.0 HDR, 28mm, f/7.1
Dramatic, 28mm, f/6.3 Water, 28mm, f/4.0

Some more example photos, taken at a variety of zoom settings, including the snapshot mode, that puts together four shots as though you'd taken them in a passport photo booth.

House Sparrow - full 30x optical zoom, f/5.6

Deer - 17x optical zoom, f/4.5

Yellow field, 1.6x zoom, f/4.0 Snapshots

Panoramic mode:

The camera has a built in panoramic mode that will combine three shots taken with the camera. It does not feature one of the more modern "sweep" panorama modes, where you simply press the button and pan the camera around.

Night shot, 2.8x optical zoom, f/3.6, ISO3200, 1/8s Portrait shot, f/3.6

Handheld night shot takes a number of photos and combines them to produce a sharp, low noise image. There is no red-eye in the portrait shot.

White Balance:

Auto white balance - Incandescent light Incandescent preset - Incandescent light
Auto white balance - Fluorescent light Fluorescent preset - Fluorescent light

AWB under tungsten produces acceptable results, but for more accurate colours the preset mode is worth using. Under fluorescent lighting the auto white balance, and preset modes work very well.

Film modes:

Kodacolor (Nostalgic colour) Ektachrome (vibrant, saturated) Kodachrome (bright, natural)
T-Max (Lustrous tone, fine grain) Tri-X (dramatic contrast and grain) Sepia

Tri-X boosts the ISO to ISO1600 to give a grainy image, and the rest of the film modes are quite self-explanatory. The camera defaults to produce images with bright colours, and high levels of saturation, the camera will also allow you to alter the colour mode (vivid, mid, low, black and white and sepia), contrast (high, mid, low), sharpness (high, mid, low), and image quality (three settings, and RAW).

Macro Performance: 

Macro Flower, 2x optical zoom, f/6.3 Macro Dandelion, 3.1x optical zoom, f/4.5
Macro (Baby Spider), 3.1x optical zoom, f/5.0 Super Macro, 3.1x optical zoom, f/3.6

The macro performance is really impressive, particularly super macro. You can get even closer by using manual focus when the camera doesn't want to zoom so close.

Video Mode

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Full HD Sample Video.

Video quality is very good, although when using the full optical zoom you will need to keep the camera steady and a tripod is highly recommended for best results.

Value for Money
The Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 is available for £250, this makes it quite competitively priced compared to the competition, which includes the Nikon Coolpix P500 (£299), Canon Powershot SX30 IS (£350), Olympus SP-800UZ (£229), Fujifilm FinePix HS20 (£329), S4000 (£209), and with less zoom the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 or FZ100 (£269). 

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Verdict

The Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 has some great features, and I really wanted to like this camera, but a lot of the time its sluggish responsiveness and delays writing photos to the card makes it awkward to use. The menu system and controls could definitely do with some improvement, as these were often quite awkward and seemed delayed. The full HD video, high speed shooting, long telephoto reach, and excellent macro modes make this an interesting camera, especially with some very good image quality and low noise, it's worth considering if you don't mind the sluggish and sometimes awkward controls, or recommended if you simply want to point and shoot.
Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Ultra Zoom Review:
The Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 packs everything into its rather clever body, and delivers some excellent macro photos.

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Pros:
Full HD video, stereo sound and optical zoom
High speed 9fps continuous shooting for 4 shots
Full manual controls and RAW support
Huge amount of zoom
Built in optical image stabilisation
Very good 3inch screen
Low noise upto ISO400

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Cons:
Slow writing photos to memory
Sluggish menus and controls
Screen overlay makes framing shots more difficult


Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Specification

Price £299
Lens 30x optical zoom, 28–840 mm (35 mm equiv.), f/2.8–5.6
Resolution 12MP
Sensor size 1/2.33in
Sensor type B.S.I CMOS
Monitor 3.0in colour LCD, 460k pixels
Shutter speed Smart Capture mode: ½–½000 sec, S/M modes: ½000–16 sec.
Focusing system TTL Contrast detection Autofocus system
Focusing range / modes Smart Capture mode: (wide) 0.1 m (3.9 ft)–infinity, (tele) 1.8 m (5.9 ft)—infinity, macro: (wide) 0.1–0.8 m (3.9 in.–2.6 ft), (tele) 1.8–3.5 m (5.9–11.5 ft), super macro: 0.01–0.2 m (0.4–7.9 in.) Modes: normal AF, macro AF, super macro AF, infinity, manual
File types JPEG, RAW
ISO sensitivity ISO125 - 6400
Metering modes multi-pattern, center-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation ±2.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps, exposure bracketing: ±1.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps, 3 images
Image stabilisation Optical
Movie mode HD: 1080p (1920 × 1080 @30 fps); 720p (1280 x 720 @ 30 fps)
Media type 128 MB internal memory available, SD/SDHC card expansion slot
Interface USB 2.0
Power AA batteries x4
Box contents KODAK EASYSHARE MAX Camera, KODAK Ni-MH Pre-charged Rechargeable Digital Camera Batteries AA, Charging solution, USB cable, Lens cap with strap, Neck strap, User Guide
Size 4.9 × 3.4 × 3.7 in
Weight 1.3 lb with batteries and memory card

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Photographs taken using the Kodak Easyshare Max Z990

Monastir-sunrisein the apt timeMonastir-TunisiaMonastir-la falaise/cliffrepairing a shipMonastir-Tunisia todayDoors of Monastir 2sunriseMonastir-TunisiaMonastir-Tunisia todaySUNSET IN JERSEYMacro Flower

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Voivod Avatar
"It does not feature one of the more modern "sweep" panorama modes, where you simply press the button and pan the camera around."

Actually, it does. Page 18 of the Extended User's Manual - 'Using Automatic Panorama in Creative mode'. "Pan up to 180 degrees horizontally or up to 120 degrees vertically."

"Screen overlay makes framing shots more difficult"

So turn it off in the settings menu.

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