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The Z950 is a fairly simple camera but still manages to offer a few advantages not commonly found on compact zoom cameras of this type. Most offer only fully automatic operation, but the Z950 has optional manual exposure, with aperture priority, shutter priority or full manual. The range of control isn't great, with shutter speeds from 16 seconds to 1/1000th and only three aperture settings, but it's better than nothing and does at least offer some potential for more creative photography.
In manual and program auto modes the camera is controlled via a series of icons along the bottom of the screen, adjusted by the small joystick that the camera has in place of a D-pad. It's a quick and easy-to-use system, and again would be ideal for someone who finds the usual D-pad and tiny buttons difficult to use. It's even fairly easy to use while wearing cloves.
The main menu is very short, and offers only the most basic options, including metering modes, AF zone, white balance and exposure bracketing. Bizarrely it also offers adjustable sharpness, but colour control options are limited to high or low saturation and monochrome.
As well as this the Z950 offers all the usual automatic amenities, including program auto, scene mode with 19 scene programs including face detection in portrait mode. The is also an intelligent auto mode, which automatically selects the correct scene program.
The Z950 is equipped with Kodak's optical image stabilisation system. Kodak makes no particular claims about the number of stops of extra stability, but I found that at full zoom it would reliably capture sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/30th of a second, which is an advantage of about three and a half stops, pretty impressive stuff for what is supposed to be a budget camera.
The video mode is also a cut above the average. It can shoot a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps. Audio recording is monaural only, but unusually for a compact camera the optical zoom can be used while recording. The zoom motor is very quiet and can barely be heard on the soundtrack. The zoom control itself is very smooth in both video and still shooting modes, making it nice and easy to frame and compose shots.