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Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS - Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

A big selling point of the Z712 is of course its optical image stabilisation system, which uses motion sensors and a moving element within the lens to compensate for camera shake at low shutter speeds. I found that it produced shake-free images at maximum zoom reliably at 1/40th of a second, and about half the time at 1/30th, which is pretty good. It’s about three stops below the recommended safe hand-held shooting speed for a 400mm lens.

One slight mystery is that the camera seems to be under the impression that a freshly formatted 1GB SD card is only large enough for 210 shots, which would be an average of about 4.8MB per image. In fact even in its highest picture quality mode the Z712 produces quite highly compressed files, averaging around 2.5MB, which is small for a 7MP camera (The rule of thumb is 500KB per megapixel) and should mean that a 1GB card would hold over 400 shots. In practice this does result in noticeable image compression artefacts, which is a great pity because apart from this detail the picture quality is very good indeed. The Schneider-Kreuznach lenses used by both Kodak and Samsung are some of the best you’ll find on any digital camera, and the 12x zoom on the Z712 performs brilliantly, producing a high level of detail, outstanding corner-to-corner sharpness and virtually no distortion at any focal length, which is very impressive on what is after all a fairly compact lens. With a maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.8 it is also faster than average.

Exposure metering is generally accurate, and colour rendition as good as ever thanks to Kodak’s Colour Science chip, but the dynamic range from the relatively puny 1/2.5-in sensor is limited, and produces a lot of black shadows and burned-out highlights. Noise control is better than average, with very little noise appearing until 800 ISO, and even at that speed the results were quite printable. All in all a pretty impressive performance from a relatively low cost camera, but I can’t help wondering what that excellent lens could do if paired with a better sensor.

Verdict

The EasyShare Z712 IS is Kodak’s top-of-the-range super-zoom, and it has an impressive specification. Build quality and handling are good, overall performance is well above average, low light performance is exceptional and the optical image stabilisation system is very effective. Picture quality is generally very good, but it could have been even better if the excellent Schneider-Kreuznach lens wasn’t let down by a small sensor and over-enthusiastic image compression.

Terry

August 16, 2009, 5:34 pm

The rope on the boat photo clearly shows the quality of this camera's lens. In the review comment is made about the "puny" sensor yet it seems comparable with other similar cameras where no comment is made?

Lasserman

November 30, 2012, 1:36 am

I've had this camera for a few years. Now, some 15,000 shots later still works great. I disabled the digital zoom, but I really like the 12X optical zoom, and on occasion I add a 1.6X telephoto lens which gives me ... well, you know, but since there is no way to attach anything to the camera itself, I need to hold both nice and steady.

The Image Stabilizer is good, but under low-er lighting conditions I need to do 'tactical breathing' aided by a hand-grip attachment.

The 'flash' pops up automatically and often quite unexpectedly, so one must keep in mind to turn it off when in borderline lighting conditions.

The lens motor is loud, but I hope that is synonymous with 'sturdy'.
On my first attempt at photographing 'wildlife' at the cottage, in the 2 seconds the lens finished deploying, all the chipmunks were gone.
Maybe because since I was sporting such an impressive looking camera, they must have thought I was one of the 'paparazzi'?

As you can see, it isn't a very portable camera that you can carry in a pouch clipped to your belt, and it's nearly impossible to use it single-handed.
The 'autofocus' is pretty quick but needs a lot of contrast to focus on something, so on a hazy day it is a challenge.

The videos are pretty good too. At 640x480 with Single Autofocus, they are great for the web.

The batteries are expensive but last a looong time. However, when I smartened up, as a much cheaper alternative I bought rechargeables online. One set of 2 Li-Ion lasted me nearly 2 years.

The rubber hinge on the card slot cover has lasted well.

My only complaint is that I can't replace the internal battery which keeps the clock running. Since the time this little battery 'died', I need to reset the time and date every-time I replace the batteries.

R_W_M

January 8, 2014, 3:21 pm

I'm aware that this camera is no longer available and has been rendered largely obselete by more advanced compact camera offerings; however, I thought I would add to Lasserman's comment below. I have had this camera since early 2008 and shot approximately 43500 images using it. I've used it in a lot of very harsh environments, including in extremely cold and wet conditions, and it has help up brilliantly.

The body, whilst being quite plasticky, is extremely tough, and the layout of the major buttons, in particular the dedicated focus, exposure and flash controls is very good indeed, something a lot of other manufacturers could learn from.

Autofocus and colour reproduction are both very good, and the built in metering does a perfectly acceptable job of dealing with even quite extreme lighting. That Schneider lens is really very good and provides huge versatility. The built in image stabilisation deserves a particular mention, I often use the full 12x (432mm equiv) in cold or precarious (or low-light) environments, and the camera normally does a very good job of sorting things out, however, at nearly 6 years old and a lot of abuse later this was also the things that finally developed a fault serious enough to render the camera unusable for some of the things I ask of it - though it is still only a problem for slower shutter speeds.

There are, inevitably, a couple of things that are less impressive. The Electronic viewfinder is frankly pretty poor, and there is no facility to add filters and other attachments without having a large piece of plastic stuck on the front of the camera. The onboard backup-battery also died after 3 years or so, causing time and date to be lost at a battery change - but given that its survived having a new screen fitted and the zoom motor gear-train rebuilt (both by me), that seems like a relatively small foible.

For a relatively cheap superzoom compact, this camera has performed extremely well, and a used example with less miles on it than mine could prove a very canny investment for someone searching for a camera that is light, compact, versatile, rugged, and capable of producing some really nice images if you ask it to.

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