Kodak’s unusual hybrid AF system is also good, although a little idiosyncratic. I took the camera to an air display, and found that it had little problem locking on to distant fast-moving aircraft in flight. Similarly, low-light focusing on a night out at the pub proved to be no problem. However when I tried to do the ISO test shots, I found that it wouldn’t focus on objects on a table just a few feet away when slightly zoomed in. At wide angle it has a minimum focusing distance of 50cm, but this grows to 1.9m as soon as you zoom in a little. Even in macro mode, zooming in gives a minimum distance of 90cm. How can that even be called a macro mode?
Fortunately all the small problems can be forgiven for one very good reason: picture quality. Considering the small physical size of its high-powered sensor, the P712 consistently produces excellent results, even under quite demanding conditions, and thanks to a RAW file mode you can really make the most of them. The Schneider Kreuznach lens lives up to its reputation, with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, no corner blurring and no chromatic aberration, and only a minimum of spherical distortion at wide angle.
The Kodak Colour Science engine takes these results and ensures that exposure and colour reproduction are close to perfect. The P712 produces among the best images I’ve seen from a camera of this power and specification, comfortably beating most of its main rivals. Especially noteworthy was the low image noise at the maximum 400 ISO.
My only regret with the P712 is that it doesn’t have a larger 1/1.8in CCD. Comparing the results with the 7-megapixel Olympus C-7070, which does have the larger sensor, reveals a slight lack of fine detail, sharpness and dynamic range. However that camera is bigger, heavier and more expensive, and doesn’t have the same zoom range. For the price, the P712 represents a good compromise between affordability and creative capability.
With 7-megapixel resolution, a full range of manual shooting modes, a high quality image stabilised 12x optical zoom lens, good overall handling and the all-important RAW mode, the P712 has specification closer to a professional SLR than a compact. However the small sensor size limits its otherwise excellent picture quality, and unnecessary complexity makes it difficult to use.