So far then the Z950 is looking like a pretty decent camera, with a good range of features for the price. However next we come to performance, and that’s where it all goes horribly wrong. It starts up briskly enough in well under three seconds, and in single-shot mode it appears at first to operate quickly and smoothly. For the first three shots the shot-to-shot time is approximately 1.2 seconds, which is nice and quick, but then it runs into a wall. When you try to take a fourth shot, instead you get a message saying “Processing…” on the screen, and then you have to wait. It takes 8.5 seconds before you can take another picture, and an absolutely ridiculous 25 seconds to completely empty the buffer. I thought that maybe it was a memory card problem, so I tried it with the latest ultra-fast class 10 SDHC card, at got exactly the same result. Not too surprisingly considering, there is no continuous shooting mode. This is a very, very slow camera.
It’s even more annoying, because the autofocus system is actually very good. It’s not exactly lightning-quick, but it’s fast enough and works exceptionally well in low light, even at full zoom, thanks to a very bright AF assist lamp. This is the exact opposite of the Z915, which had excellent overall performance, but a slow autofocus system. Perhaps Kodak could somehow combine the two cameras and produce one good one?
In terms of image quality the Z950 is very similar to the Z915, and has similar problems. The Schneider-Kreuznach lens still produces significant barrel distortion at wide angle, but has good edge-to-edge sharpness. Colour rendition in standard mode is fairly neutral and records bright colours without distortion. Dynamic range is pretty limited, as is usually the case with 12MP compacts. Noise control is genrally good, producing usable images up to 400 ISO, although detail does fade into the pixel-binning at 800 and 1600. The main image quality problem plaguing the Z950 is exactly the same as the Z912 and most of Kodak’s other cameras; that of severe over-compression. File sizes average around 2.5MB, which is ridiculous for a 12MP camera, resulting in compression artefacts and poor rendition of fine detail.
The Z950 could have been a really good camera. It has decent build quality, looks good and handles well, with accessible controls. It has optional manual exposure features that others in its class lack, and the HD video with optical zoom is a nice extra. It’s a real shame that it’s let down so badly by extremely slow performance.