There are plenty of sub-$200 compact cameras around, but few offer as much as the Kodak EasyShare Z915. The pocket megazoom camera has a strong feature set including fully manual and fully automatic shooting options. It's uncomplicated to use and has faster performance than much of the competition. It has some photo quality issues, but the level of concern about them should be measured by how you use your photos and how natural you like your colors.
|Key specs||Kodak EasyShare Z915|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.2 x 2.9 x 1.4 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||9.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.5-inch LCD, 230K dots/none|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||10x, f3.5-4.8, 35-350mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||3,648x2,736 pixels/640x480 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, rated life||AA (2, alkaline included), 150 shots|
Considering its 10x optical zoom, the Z915 is still compact enough to fit in a large pants pocket or handbag. It's available in three two-tone color schemes--blue/black, red/black, and matte black/black--and is made from a combination of metal and molded plastic. It's a very comfortable camera due mostly to the large right-hand grip. However, the grip is made from plastic and despite the rest of the body's sturdy quality, it gives the Z915 a look and feel commensurate to its price. Also, though I like the look of the camera, it's definitely not for everyone.
Up front is the camera's main attraction--an image-stabilized 10x zoom lens. It's not especially wide or fast, but it will get you closer to your subject. On top is the shutter release and zoom ring, dedicated buttons for flash, macro, and timer/drive, Mode dial, and a tiny, but easily pressed power button. On back is a smallish LCD (no doubt a cost-cutting measure), a vertical row of buttons (Delete, Menu, Info, and Play), a directional pad for setting and menu navigation, and Kodak's Share button letting you tag photos as favorites, as ones to upload to a favorite Web site for sharing, or both when the camera is connected to a computer.
Lastly, the Z915 is powered by AA-size batteries. If you plan to shoot regularly, do yourself a favor and don't use cheap alkaline batteries. Spend the money and get rechargeable NiMH cells, and you'll nearly double your shot count.
|General shooting options||Kodak EasyShare Z915|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Open Shade|
|Recording modes||Smart Capture Auto, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene, Panorama, Movie|
|Focus modes||Normal, Macro, Infinity|
|Metering||Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Color effects||High Color, Natural Color, Low Color, Sepia, Black & White|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||3 photos|
The Z915 gives you as much or as little control as you want over shooting, making it a good candidate for those wanting to step away from fully automatic snapshots or if there are many different user types under one roof. Except for white balance, you get full manual control as well as shutter speed and aperture-priority modes. (Note, though, the shutter speeds are only from 16 to 1/1000 of a second and three apertures at each of the wide and telephoto lens positions.) You also get exposure bracketing, color effects, and sharpness adjustments. Of course, you can use the Z915 as a standard point-and-shoot camera too, thanks to 17 scene modes and Kodak's Smart Capture mode that combines its Intelligent scene detection, Intelligent capture control, and Intelligent image processing. It's a reliable mode if you don't trust yourself--or others--to get a good shot.
Typically, megazoom cameras--especially lower-cost models--are slow performers, but the Z915 is surprisingly quick. Start-up to first shot is very good at 1.7 seconds. Time between shots is a fast 1.1 seconds and adding the flash only tacks on another second. Shutter lag in bright lighting conditions is excellent for its class at 0.4 second and only goes up to 0.6 in dim conditions. The Z915 has a three-shot burst mode, too, and it's capable of 1.6 frames per second. One thing worth noting, though, is the AF performance that was noticeably slow. This was particularly true in dim lighting where it would frequently take a couple tries to get the subject right.