Some model names make no sense, but others, such as Kodak's EasyShare Z712 IS reflect specific details of the product. This Kodak is part of the company's line of superzoom cameras, hence the big Z. It includes a 7.1-megapixel sensor, so the model number starts with a 7. It's long 36-432mm f/2.8-4.8 lens totals a 12x optical zoom, therefore the model number ends in 12. Finally, since it includes optical image stabilization, the model name ends in IS. You won't find face detection, but you will find something more useful--manual exposure controls. Plus, its relatively small size makes the Z712 IS one of the more portable superzooms out there. You'll still have a hard time fitting it in a jacket pocket, but it shouldn't be hard to find a spot for this camera in your bag.
If you're thinking that this model looks a lot like some other Z-series Kodaks you've seen, don't second-guess yourself. Most notably, this camera resembles, the Z612, though Kodak changed from the 612's silver body to a black one. The Z712 IS sports a 2.5-inch, 115,000-pixel LCD, 15 scene modes, and sensitivity up to ISO 1,600 at full resolution and ISO 3,200 if you drop the pixel count to 1.2 megapixels.
One-handed shooting is possible, since almost all the controls are on the right-hand side of the camera. Of course, we always suggest using two hands for better stability. The EVF/LCD button, which switches between the LCD and the camera's electronic viewfinder, is the only button you won't be able to reach with your right hand, though that typically doesn't pose a problem. In manual shooting modes (aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual), you change the settings using the click wheel, which is mounted on the upper right side of the camera back. You rotate the wheel to choose the setting you want--all the settings appear on the LCD--then click the wheel to select that setting, rotate the wheel to change it to what you want, and click again to set it. Once I got used to it, which didn't take very long, I was able to change settings quickly and easily while shooting. In full manual mode, the exposure compensation readout tells you how far off you are (in third-stop EV measurements) from the camera's metered exposure.
We were pleasantly surprised with the Z712 IS's performance in our lab tests. While past Kodaks have had a tendency toward slow start up speeds, the Z712 IS was able to start up and capture its first JPEG in 0.9 second. Subsequent JPEGs took a slightly sluggish 1.9 seconds between images with the flash turned off and 2 seconds with the flash turned on. Shutter lag fared well, measuring 0.5 second in our high-contrast test and 1 second in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In continuous shooting mode, we were able to capture full-resolution JPEGs at an average rate of 2.6 frames per second.
Image quality is generally pleasing, especially at lower ISOs, though I did notice some purple fringing in high contrast areas of my images, and some artifacts which made some lines look jaggy and gave some blocks of color a mottled look. Overall colors generally look accurate, though slightly oversaturated. This isn't a problem, though, since most people prefer and are used to slightly oversaturated colors, since most consumer film has slightly oversaturated color. Even at its lowest setting of ISO 64 I saw a tiny amount of ISO-related noise, though it was only visible on a computer monitor and not in prints. At ISO 100 this increased very slightly though images were still impressively sharp and had plenty of fine detail and shadow detail. Noise remains about the same at ISO 200, and while there is a slight rolloff in overall sharpness and shadow detail, you should still get very pleasing prints. At ISO 400 noise remains fairly unobtrusive, though shadow detail and sharpness continue to slowly deteriorate. There is a noticeable increase in ISO-related noise at ISO 800, by which point a large amount of shadow detail is also lost. You should still be able to get decent 4x6-inch prints, though larger prints may not pass muster. ISO 1,600 yields very noisy images and should probably be avoided if at all possible. In general I'd suggest sticking below ISO 800 when you can.