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In single shooting mode and the highest resolution setting the camera can manage a frame every two seconds, but has to stop after six frames to write to the memory card. For high-speed shooting there are two different burst modes. In the ‘First Burst’ mode, the camera shoots six frames at three frames per second (fps), and then pauses to save them to the memory. In the ‘Last Burst’ mode, the camera shoots 30 frames at 3fps, but only saves the last six. Other cameras have modes similar to this and many do it better, for example Fujifilm’s S5500.
The Z700 has a rather unusual set of features. It has an Auto mode which offers only the most basic options, with white balance, metering, AF mode and ISO all set automatically. In the more advanced PAS (Program, Aperture, Shutter) mode these functions can be controlled manually. As noted earlier, the camera does have a full manual exposure option, but no discrete aperture priority or shutter priority, which are usually standard features on cameras in this class. Nonetheless, with a range of apertures from f2.8 to f8.0 in 1/2-stop increments, and shutter speeds from eight seconds to 1/1000 of a second, creative control is possible. In both Auto and Program modes exposure compensation is also available, adjustable over a plus/minus two stop range, in half-stop increments.
The Z700’s movie mode is, sadly, nothing special. It offers only 13fps in VGA (640 x 480) mode, which is slow and jerky. Even in QVGA (320 x 240) mode it can only manage 20fps, which is still too slow for smooth movement. At least it can shoot until the memory card is full, and with such low quality the file sizes are small.
Still picture quality is adequate for snapshots, but does have a few problems. Our test shots showed a lot of JPEG compression artefacts, not surprising since the file size is only around 1.25MB. Pictures from a four megapixel camera in fine mode are usually around 1.6MB. Unfortunately there is no option to change the compression setting, only the resolution of the output image. The second major problem is the flash. At any range under about two metres it horribly over-exposes everything it touches, burning out highlights and leaving colours looking bleached and pale.
When shooting outdoors in normal sunlight the results are reasonably good. Image noise is controlled at ISO 80 but does become bad at 200 and severe at 400. Colour rendition is good, thanks to the excellent Kodak Colour Science processing engine. Lens distortion is kept to a minimum even on wide-angle shots, and focus is sharp right across the frame. Exposure under normal circumstances is good, but it doesn’t cope well with very strong highlights, often burning them out. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) are noticeable in some images too. Generally, however, image quality is acceptable considering the price.
If you’re looking for a little more than a basic snapshot camera without spending a fortune then the Z700 is worth considering. It is well made, easy to use and has enough versatility for creative photography, albeit on a fairly limited scale. The 5x optical zoom lens is a good compromise between a pocket compact and a full-scale super-zoom. Picture quality is reasonable in good conditions, and the optional Kodak Printer Dock should make printing your pictures child’s play. At the time of writing the Z700 bundled with the Printer Dock costs approximately £230.
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