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If ever a camera company had a corporate philosophy, it is Kodak. More than anyone else, Kodak is responsible for bringing photography to the masses. Back in 1888 George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, launched the original Box Brownie - the world’s first consumer camera - with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”. And it's that commitment to simplicity which carries on today with the company's EasyShare range of consumer digital cameras. If you’re in the UK, you’ve probably seen the recent television adverts about the EasyShare printer dock. The idea is that you simply plug your camera into the base station, press a button and your photos are printed out in a 6 x 4in format. All Kodak EasyShare cameras come with an adapter plate to allow them to plug into the printer dock, including this, the new EasyShare Z700.
This is a mid-range camera offering a 5x optical zoom lens, four megapixel resolution and a manual exposure mode. It is aimed one level up from the beginner, at the aspiring photographer who wants a little more than just point-and-click. Nonetheless, it lives up to Kodak’s design ethos by being very easy to use.
It is, to be honest, not the prettiest camera in the world. It has a blocky, no-nonsense shape with a minimum of moving parts. However, it’s well built, with a tough aluminium case and an automatic sliding cover over the lens, which in turn is deeply recessed into the body when not in use. Rather than the pop-up flash commonly found on cameras of this type, the Z700 has a fixed unit mounted in a moulded housing over the lens, next to the viewfinder window. The design is what has come to be known as ‘SLR–style’, which also means it has a large handgrip with a comfortable sculpted rubberized grip pad. Despite its chunky appearance the camera does feel comfortable to hold, and is well balanced and not too heavy.
In keeping with the overall build, the controls are also very solid, almost to the point of being uncomfortably stiff. They all operate with a distinct ‘click’, even the zoom control. The buttons are very small and closer together than they really need to be considering the size of the camera, and some of them are quite difficult to operate particularly if you have large fingers. Also on the small side is the LCD monitor, which measures in at only 1.6in with 74,000 pixels. The screen has a very wide border around it, giving the impression that a larger monitor was perhaps originally intended.
In terms of performance, the Z700 is average. It starts up in just over 3.5 seconds, mainly due to the slow roll-out of the zoom lens. However, once it’s up and running things do get better. For instance, the multi-zone AF system is nice and quick, and shutter lag is less than half a second. It does seem to have problems focusing in dim light, and since the Z700 has no AF illuminator (despite what it says on Kodak’s website), this is a bit of a drawback.
A 5x optical zoom lens is unusual, but not unique. It offers a little more versatility than the usual 3x zoom compacts, and with a focal length range equivalent to 35-175mm it is a useful combination of wide angle and short telephoto. Somewhat disconcertingly Kodak advertises the lens as being ‘all glass’. As opposed to what? Partially wood? The zoom action is slow, but also has a slight delay on it, making accurate framing tricky. It is also extremely noisy, cranking in and out with a loud whir.