The Kodak PIXPRO AZ521 is one of the new Astro Zoom cameras from Kodak and has one of the longest reach optical zoom lenses available at 52x, zooming all the way to 1248mm equivalent. It was announced in July 2013 and is available from Argos and Tesco with an RRP of £249.99. Let's see how the camera performs in our test.
Kodak PIXPRO AZ521 Features
The Kodak PIXPRO AZ521 has a 16.38 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and f/2.8-5.6 52x optical zoom lens which is a 35mm equivalent of 24-1248mm, with optical image stabilisation to reduce the effects of camera shake. The lens also has a minimum focus of 1cm when shooting wide which is great for macro shots.
There is an auto mode which adjusts the camera settings automatically, as well as PSAM modes for more control. You'll also find a panorama mode as well as a number of scene modes. There are also a number of digital filters (including vivid, sepia, partial colour and more) as well as the option to record HDR images where the camera combines three shots.
Videos are recorded in 1080p HD with optical zoom available or you can record high-speed videos at 120fps. You can apply one of the digital filters mentioned above to your videos.
The Kodak PIXPRO AZ521 has the look and feel of a small DSLR, although it wouldn't really be small enough to carry in your pocket. The grip is rubberised to help you to hold the camera, with a rubberised patch on the rear for your right thumb.
There is a mode dial on the top, this gives access to PSAM and auto modes, as well as panorama and face beautifier modes. The top has the zoom rocker and shutter release and also has buttons for continuous shooting on / off, and exposure compensation which gives access to ISO, aperture and shutter speed, depending on what mode you're using. The flash also has a button to pop it up.
On the rear the i button gives access to the filters, there are also menu, playback, video record and display buttons. Lastly, there is a d-pad with a set button in the middle. The directional buttons can be used to access focus, macro, flash and self-timer.
The menu system is fairly easy to navigate, but one or two things are a little different to most cameras - access of shutter speed and aperture settings via the exposure compensation, as well as using the set button to change the white balance. The 3.0 inch screen has a decent 460k dot resolution and is easy to see in bright light.
Battery life is rated at very respectable 340 shots according to CIPA test results. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting - High speed (VGA)
Continuous Shooting - Fast (4 megapixel)
Continuous shooting records a very respectable 9.6 fps at full resolution, this came as a surprise as it isn't mentioned on the list of features on the literature we were provided about the camera. The high speed and VGA modes both record at the same speed, which is a little strange. The speed isn't quite as quick when shooting HDR shots, but it is just about fast enough for handheld shooting.
Kodak PIXPRO AZ521 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Kodak PixPro AZ521 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Images have excellent colour reproduction and are well exposed. Portraits have good skin tones, particularly when using the face beautifier mode. Thanks to the optical image stabilisation it's possible to take sharp photos even when using the zoom at its longest. HDR's are created from three shots and results are rather good.
Kodak PixPro AZ521 Lens test images
Lens Performance - Images have decent detail in the centre, but are softer in the corners. Purple fringing and chromatic aberration is low though. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 1cm which allows a detailed macro shot to be taken.
Kodak PixPro AZ521 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low at ISO 100 and 200, but become a little soft in places at ISO 400. Detail is lost in places at ISO 800, with image quality becoming poor at ISO 1600. The highest setting available is ISO 3200, due to the image quality, it is best avoided where possible.
Kodak PixPro AZ521 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent lights the Auto White Balance (AWB) produces images with an orange cast, with the incandescent preset taking a much better picture. Under the fluorescent lights, the AWB does a much better job, the fluorescent preset also performs well.
Panorama | 1/640 sec | f/4.6 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
Panorama mode - Detail is reasonable in panoramas and they are reasonably well stitched together, although there is some slight ghosting in places.
Kodak PixPro AZ521 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The AZ521 is packed with a large number of digital filters, and we've included examples above.
Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD. Video quality is decent, when zooming the focusing sometimes takes a little while to catch up, but it's not much of an issue. You can watch a video using the optical zoom on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page.
Producing a camera with 52x optical zoom is a bold move for Kodak, given they had withdrawn from the digital camera market. At first, expectations were quite low, but after spending a few days with the camera, we are pleasantly surprised. If you're looking at a camera with 50x optical zoom or more, you'll struggle to find any at a lower price. Image quality is decent with excellent colours, and with the addition of HDR and fast continuous shooting, the AZ521 will certainly appeal to many. One of the major negative points is that there is no viewfinder, which generally makes it easier to take sharp shots when using the lens at its longest, but for less than £250, there's plenty on offer for your money.
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