Another day, another advanced digital camera. This is what it felt like when we got the Kodak Z650 into the office. Sure, it is big, has full advanced functionality and boasts a 10X optical zoom lens, but compared to the current crop of advanced models, this just isn't enough to get us excited anymore (bring on the nerd jokes!). We were hoping that once we got down and dirty with the camera we'd find a few things that would make us sit up and take notice, but try as we might, we couldn't help but feel unsatisfied.
- Big zoom, Sharp pictures
- Poor colour representation, AA batteries
A decent advanced camera that really only has its 10X zoom as a point of differentiation.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Kodak are pushing the 10X optical zoom as the big selling point of this model, and that was the feature that most stood out to us. Many people won't need a zoom of such proportions, but for the budding amateur photographer or professional who needs a quick backup option, this may be a necessity. Keep in mind however, there are plenty of cameras out there today that offer a similar level zoom lens so shop around, or read some of our other reviews before rushing out and purchasing.
It sports a now fairly boring advanced camera design, with a jutting grip on the right hand side and an even more jutting lens on the left (although the lens is quite small by 10X standards). The body is constructed out of quite flimsy feeling plastic which could easily break in some places (the popup flash is particularly worrisome) and comes in a brushed silver colour scheme that is acceptable if not revolutionary. Overall, a decidedly average design.
This extends to the control system as well, which is setup in quite a strange way. Rather than offering all the manual modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, program and full manual) as options on the dial, Kodak have grouped them together under a single option, which you must then navigate through to make your selection. Why they would mess with what has become a standard and efficient setup is beyond us, it certainly makes the process that little bit slower. Aside from this awkward navigation, the menu system as a whole is quite good. Most of the controls you'll need are available on screen and can be altered with a flick of the thumbstick.
There is a reasonable selection of options at your disposal, ranging from shutter speed, white balance, aperture and ISO level. They aren't particularly fleshed out however. The burst mode is quite paltry, taking just four shots at roughly two a second, and ISO level only goes from 80 to 400. Shutter speeds extend from 8 seconds down to 1/1000th, but there are the now obligatory Kodak pre-set shooting modes, (17 of them to be precise) that is great for the amateur trying to progress further. We did feel the absence of full manual whitebalance however, which is a must-have for advanced cameras these days.
Of course all the features in the world aren't going to cut it if the image quality is poor, and whilst the Z650 performed admirably in many of our tests, it really came up lacking with regards to colour representation. Our Imatest score of 1358 showed the camera produces very sharp images that will be suitable for printing all the way up to A4 and perhaps a little beyond, however the shots were noticeably oversharpened in areas which detracts from the realism a little. Noise performance was particularly impressive, with the camera boasting an excellent score in this category. Generally when we test with the automatic function, we find cameras overcompensating for darkness, giving us fuzzy, low quality pictures. This model however produced clean, smooth pictures with only a bare hint of noise.
Unfortunately, the rather poor score of 10.6 on our colour tests told us that the Z650 had problems in this area, and our test shots confirmed it. Dark colours seemed the least affected, with blacks and browns being reasonably accurate. As you move through the colour spectrum however to blues and reds everything starts to go pear shaped. The inaccuracy varied from too pale (reds) to overly dark (blues), which seemed to indicate that it is not an attempt by Kodak to make the images more pleasing (as many manufacturers do) but rather a flaw in the processing. In any case, we weren't satisfied by the colour representation of this model.
The lack of a Lithium Ion battery compounds the problems of this unit. Needing two AA batteries for power, the Z650 suffers noticeably as a result. We managed about 150 shots before the camera died, and with batteries not getting any cheaper, you're looking at a hefty cost over the long run if you want to make use of this model.
We found the Z650 to be adequately quick, if not staggering. Shutter speed hovered around the 0.1 of a second mark, with startup taking just under 2 seconds. Shot to shot time was about 1.5 seconds, but slowed down noticeably as the memory filled up.
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