Kodak Z612 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The latest addition to the very popular "big zoom" Z-series line of digital cameras from Kodak (as of 8/2006), the EasyShare Z612 is an appealing model offering 6-megapixels of resolution, a 12x zoom lens with optical Image Stabilization, large 2.5-inch LCD screen, and high-resolution (202K pixel) Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), all packed in a stylish SLR-style body. As with all Kodak EasyShare cameras, the Z612 can be used by the most inexperienced user with its fully Automatic exposure modes, while still being a versatile photographic tool with its more advanced modes like Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority and full Manual.
Ergonomics are excellent. I found the Z612's body felt comfortable and secure in my hands thanks to the extra large handgrip. The controls are well placed and functional, positioned within easy reach of your thumb and index finger. The onscreen menu system was logically organized, and can be accessed whether you're using the LCD or EVF. Both displays worked very well in various lighting situations. Outdoors the LCD was a pleasure to use, even with the bright sun shining directly onto it. While I was pleased with the quality of the EVF, I was sad to see there is no form of dioptric adjustment. In marginal lighting conditions, both displays "gain up" nicely, allowing you to successfully frame the subject.
The Z612's shooting performance was robust for a super-zoom model. From power up to first image captured measured just 3 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.1 seconds without the flash and between 1.3 - 2 seconds using the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The Z612 has two burst modes: Using First Burst, I was able to capture 8 images in 3.1 seconds. Last Burst continuously captured images at the same 2.5 frames per second, saving only the last 8 shots. The viewfinder (either EVF or LCD) briefly displays the last captured image in either Burst mode, allowing you to follow a moving subject. Once the buffer is full, it takes about 30 - 40 seconds to empty an 8 image burst, and allow you to start shooting again. This may seem like a long time, but you have to consider that the Z612 saves up to 8 frames, compared to the usual 3 or 4. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB (Plus USB) SD card, Program mode, flash off, preview off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON 12x optical zoom lens is one of the first things you'll notice when you pick up this camera. This is an impressive piece of glass, producing sharp images throughout its 35mm-420mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range. I did notice moderate barrel distortion and pin cushioning present at the wide-angle and telephoto extremes respectively, as well as traces of chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast areas); however, this is typical for "super zoom" models. The lens is relatively fast with a wide angle aperture of F2.8 darkening only to F4.8 at full telephoto. This allows the use of faster shutter speeds in marginal lighting conditions and reducing the possibility of motion blur in your pictures.
While camera shake is a major concern on models that feature such a powerful telephoto zoom, this isn't the case with the Z612. Its Image Stabilization (IS) feature works very well, in fact, I was able to consistently capture blur-free full telephoto shots at shutter speeds of 1/125 of a second, and about 50% blur-free at 1/50 of a second. However, we always recommend using some sort of camera support, like a monopod, when using a camera's telephoto capabilities. Its zoom mechanism is smooth and precise.
I was very pleased with our image quality results when using the 6-megapixel Fine mode. Our outdoor images showed nice exposure, with beautiful sky detail, and colors are richly saturated. Thanks to its versatile zoom range, you'll have no problems composing your shots; no more zooming with your feet. Its 35mm wide angle extreme is sufficient for landscape and group shots, while the 420mm telephoto end of the zoom range will bring your distant subjects up close and personal. Noise levels were average for a consumer model. As with almost all cameras, noise is almost nonexistent at the lower ISOs, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity is increased. Luckily, its IS feature helps you capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds, so you can keep the ISO set lower.
The Z612 also did very well with people shots. Both our indoor and outdoor portraits are sharp and display natural looking skin tones. The flash also produced good results. Kodak claims it can cover subjects up to 15.4 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto.) I was able to capture properly exposed close-up portraits from about 8 feet away, using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. Remember, as you zoom to telephoto the effective range drops off noticeably. I did see some instances of Red-eye in some of our shots, however switching to the dedicated Red-eye reduction flash mode seemed to take care of it.
You can also record high-quality 640x480 or 320x240 video at 30fps with audio. Unlike most cameras that record sound, you can use the zoom while recording. The image does get blurry as you zoom, but the AF system does a good job of focusing quickly after you have stopped zooming. Overall our movie samples were good with average compression noise. The AF system does well when following moving subjects, and I didn't notice much wind noise being picked up by the microphone.
Power comes from the included Kodak KLIC-8000 3.7v 1600mAh Li-ion battery pack, which is charged out of the camera in the handy AC rapid charger. Kodak claims this pack can power the Z612 for up to 225-300 shots. I found this was very true, capturing over 200 shots and about 25 ten-second movie clips on a single charge. You can also use CRV3 (one-use) batteries or the NiMH battery pack that comes with the Kodak EasyShare Camera and Printer Docks. Although standard AA type cells may fit, they can not be used.
Bottom line - Kodak has created yet another awesome digital package. With an affordable price of only US$399, it offers an outstanding value for a 6-megapixel super-zoom model. With great image quality, speedy performance, Image Stabilization, and loads of useful exposure modes, the Z612 is sure to be a very popular model this year.
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