Kodak Z1012 IS Review

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The new Easyshare Z1012 IS digital camera from Kodak is packed full of new and exciting features to help everyone unleash their inner-creativity. The main feature of the Z1012 IS is the Optical Image Stabilized (O.I.S.) Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 12x optical zoom lens. The lens's zoom from 33mm to 396mm (35mm equivalent) is very quick and the f/2.8-f/4.8 allows for very fast shooting speeds. The camera also features a 10.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, face detection software,one touch Kodak Easyshare file sharing, shooting modes from full auto "Smart" mode to full manual shooting modes and full VGA and 1280x720 video capture modes. The "Smart" capture mode lets the camera automatically detect the proper scene shooting mode, adjust all camera settings and focus and adjusts the image processing to reduce noise and clear up dark areas. Its easy enough for anyone in the family to use, but at the same time it offers shooting modes for more experienced photographers and people looking to be a little more creative.

The mega-zoom style Z1020 IS has the look and styling of a dSLR camera without the price. All of the controls on the camera except for the EVF/LCD button are located on the right side of the camera and are all easily accessed with just the right hand. On top of the camera you will find the On/Off switch, and under that is the mode dial. To the right of the those, you will find the shutter release at the front and behind that are three buttons for the flash, focus modes and drive modes respectively. Starting at the top on the back of the camera you will find the zoom control and to the right of that is a dial that is used for changing the camera settings in program and manual shooting modes. Directly under the zoom control if the "i"nformation button. This will change the amount of information on the screen in shooting or playback modes and will also give you a detailed description of any settings or functions in the camera menus. Under that is the play button for switching the camera into playback mode. At the bottom of the camera you will find a row of three buttons, the delete button, menu button and the Easyshare button. Kodak has changed the bottom of the camera slightly by adding two doors at the bottom, one for the battery and a slim one for the memory card. This makes taking the memory card out a little easier since you do not have to contend with the battery, however, the door for it seems a little flimsy and may break off easily if bumped when open.

Above the row of three buttons you will see the 4-way control buttons. These allow you to search through your pictures as well as the cameras menu system. The menu system has been logically broken up into two sub menu systems in both shooting and playback modes, keeping the menu screens smaller and easier to navigate. The rest of the back of the camera has been taken up by the 202k-pixel electronic view finder at the top and the 2.5", 230k-pixel LCD screen. The screen has a wide angle of view and 5 brightness levels making it easy to see in all lighting conditions, bright enough to see in direct sunlight, but can be turned down so it is easier on the eyes for viewing at night or other low-light conditions.

Performance from the Z1012 IS is very good. From startup to the first image captured was just 2.8 seconds. When the camera was pre-focused, the shutter delay was less than 1/10 of a second and 4/10 of a second when allowing the auto focus to run. This was a little slower than the .23 that Kodak claims is possible. When shooting in single shot mode without the flash, the camera will capture 3 images in 4.3 seconds at which point the buffer fills and the camera has to stop and transfer the images to memory card. With the flash I was able to capture 4 images in 12 seconds before filling the buffer. The camera also features a "first 3" or "last 3" burst modes. These will either capture the first three shots then stop when you press and hold the shutter release or it will take them as long as you like but it will only record the last three images. In both of these modes, the camera captured the 3 images in 1.4 seconds. All of our tests were completed using a Patriot 2GB SD memory card, program mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings on the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The image quality from our outdoor images are excellent. The exposures and colors were both excellent, giving you crisp, clear images with realistic and vivid colors. The 12x (33-396mm) optical zoom with O.I.S. makes this an incredibly versatile camera. The wide is excellent for landscape and group photography, while the telephoto end allows you to single out a person for subject from a great distance away. The addition of the O.I.S. to the lens gives you the ability to take photos using the whole 12x zoom in less than perfect lighting conditions without a tripod. Normally a person would not be able to hold the camera still enough to prevent motion blur with that zoom. The wide end of the zoom will produce some barrel distortion and a little vignetting, dark areas around the corners of the image. You will also see slight chromatic aberrations through out the zoom range in some high contrast areas (see the sides of the museum sample).

Our indoor samples also showed excellent quality from the Z1012 IS. The exposures both with and without the flash did very well. The colors were slightly different as seen on our samples page with the M&M man shots. The auto white balance produces a cooler image when using the flash than it does without. Our sample portrait shot was taken in "Portrait" scene mode, showing an excellent exposure with the lowest possible ISO, and natural looking skin tones. The built in pop-up flash has a range of approx. 25' at the wide end and 14 1/2' at the telephoto end. This is very powerful and can be very useful when taking pictures outside in low-light or inside in a large room. The flash was also well controlled when shooting in macro mode by not blowing out our candy shot.

With the ability to shoot in VGA and QVGA already, Kodak has added the ability to shoot in 1280x720 30fps HD resolution (equivalent of 720p), with stereo sound. In both of our movie samples VGA and HD, the movies were crisp and smooth with excellent sound. The indoor HD sample was a little grainy due to the lower light shooting conditions, but still looks very good. This combined with the stereo sound is perfect for recording and playing back your videos on a HD tv or high resolution computer screen. There is also in-camera software that allows you to not only trim your movies inside the camera, but you can also save an individual frame as a picture or produce a series of images from the different frames. If shot in HD these shots are big enough to make a clear 4x6 print.

Providing the power to the camera is a Kodak Lithium CRV3 battery pack that is included with the camera. This also gives you the ability to use AA type lithium cells. Our tests were completed using the included CRV3 battery pack and it did an excellent job allowing us to capture well over 100 images, several videos with playback and complete all of our tests without having to recharge the battery. No matter what source you choose to run your camera, we always recommend having an extra set of good batteries ready to go. Batteries should never be an excuse for missing a photo opportunity.

Bottom Line - As one of the new Kodak Easyshare Z series cameras, the Z1012 IS is an excellent addition. With the second highest available zoom with optical image stabilization (O.I.S.) on a Kodak model, a 10-megapixel imaging sensor, full auto through full manual shooting modes and HD video mode (1280x720 30fps), this camera is packed full of features. The performance is good, however, it would be nice to see the camera able to capture more than 3 images at a time both in burst and single shot modes. The image quality both indoors and out is excellent with vivid, natural colors. With a MSRP of US$299.95, this camera would be a great choice for anyone looking for a mega-zoom model that doesn't mind the small burst modes.

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