EASYSHARE Z712 IS
For those looking to take the next step up from their compact camera, an advanced, ultra-zoom model is the logical progression. Offering bigger zoom and more features, these units typically provide a more hands-on feel for the user. Kodak's EASYSHARE Z712 IS falls firmly into this category, with a 12x optical zoom and a suite of manual features that will please budding photographers. It does have some image quality issues, which mean it isn't as strong as some other units in this category.
- 12x zoom, Speedy burst mode, Image stabilisation
- Some over-sharpening issues, Colour reproduction isn't great
A solid, but not exceptional, advanced ultra-zoom camera, Kodak's Z712 IS offers a big zoom backed up by optical image stabilisation. However, its pictures aren't quite as good as some of the competing models on the market.
Price$ 299.95 (AUD)
One of the big selling points of this model is its optical image stabilisation. This is becoming an increasingly popular feature in many digital cameras, as it helps compensate for one of the key factors that can ruin photographs; handshake. By compensating for minor movements of the hand, optical image stabilisation helps remove blurring often caused by the camera shaking. With the Z712 also packing in a 12x optical zoom, image stabilisation becomes increasingly important, as at high zoom levels every hand motion is magnified. It becomes extremely difficult to take clear photographs by hand if you zoom much past 5x, but optical image stabilisation certainly helps. It is also important to note that some cameras offer digital image stabilisation, which is applied after the shot is taken, and isn't nearly as effective as the optical variety provided on this model.
Unfortunately, while the big zoom and optical image stabilisation will certainly be a big boon for some users, the images produced by this model leave a little to be desired. We ran our standard combination of Imatest software and test shots to determine the quality of the pictures, but the Z712 only received modest results.
It scored 1468 for sharpness, which is slightly below what we normally see from 7.1-megapixel sensors, but the difference wasn't big enough to really be noticeable. However, what was evident in our shots was a fair amount of over-sharpening, and Imatest corroborated this, giving is a 26.9% score in this area.
Over-sharpening has a mixed impact. If shots are enlarged and looked at by someone with a bit of photography experience, it's fairly obvious that the edges are too strong and emphasized. To novice users, this can actually look alright. In our test shots, it was fairly noticeable in areas of intense detail, such as foliage, but at small magnifications it isn't likely to bother most users.
However, the pictures weren't razor sharp in all areas, with the Z712 exhibiting some noticeable chromatic aberration. Normally this makes itself visible as blurring towards the edges of your shots, but that was somewhat minimal here. What we did see was some noticeable haloing around areas of high contrast, which degrades clarity a little. There was also some fringing in several of our test shots.
In our colour test, the results were similar, with the Z712 achieving a result of 9.51, which is a moderate result. No colour exhibited any overwhelming inaccuracy. Reds actually came out a little dull, which is unusual for a consumer camera, but other than that everything was relatively well balanced. Despite scoring slightly worse than some competing models, it shouldn't be a big deal to many users.
In our final test for image noise, we were hoping the Z712 would make up some ground, but again the results were modest. With a score of 1.00% at ISO 100, it's a little behind most of the competition. However, our test shots themselves were relatively clean and the noise that was present was extremely tiny, meaning it won't be visible unless you make sizeable enlargements. Furthermore, the noise scaled well with higher sensitivities. We'd say the shots are usable all the way up to ISO 400 if you're making enlargements and ISO 800 if you're simply doing standard 4x6in prints, which is a good result.
Aside from the image stabilisation, the feature-set is fairly standard, although the absence of manual white balance is troubling. Instead, you have a variety of presets to choose from; auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. ISO sensitivities extend to ISO 1600, and the usual array of shutter, aperture and program priority as well as full manual mode are on offer. The burst mode operates quite speedily at three frames per second, but it's limited to just three shots. There is also an exposure bracketing mode and the regular selection of metering and focus options.
The unit's design follows the standard Kodak advanced camera theme, with a black, plastic chassis and a jutting right-hand zoom. It doesn't feel all that sturdy, but should do the job. Thanks to the massive 12x zoom-lens, the unit is far from small, but that's to be expected of an ultra-zoom camera.
The controls are relatively complex, with a string of buttons along the top and more on the back, next to the display. However, those familiar with the standard function-wheel and directional-pad setup, which can be found on so many other models, should have no issues puzzling out the Z712's interface.
Its operating speeds are decent. It exhibited 0.09 seconds of shutter lag, which is a tad sluggish, and took two seconds between shots. Meanwhile, its power-up time of 2.3 seconds is also a little slow, but that's often the case with ultra zoom models, as they have a bigger lens to extend before taking that first snap.
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