Shooting performance is a bit of thing with this camera. If you're the type to take a single shot and not need to quickly take another and another, then you should be fine. You can take up to three photos in a row without slowing down, but as soon as you try to take a fourth, the camera puts up a "Processing" screen as the camera catches up with storing the shots you just took. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take in excess of 5 seconds for it to finish. Then, if you take another photo once the "Processing" stops, it will capture the fourth photo and put the warning up again if you try to take an immediate fifth shot. For a lot of people this won't be a problem, but those who like to keep shooting will likely be frustrated. The burst modes on the Z950 (set through the Timer button) are limited to three continuous shots as well. However, you can set it to record the first three or the last three of up to a 30-shot burst.
All of that said, the raw numbers from our lab tests put the Z950 behind the competition in all areas except continuous shooting, which again, is only for three shots at a time. From on to first shot is 3.2 seconds. Because of the shoot-process cycle discussed earlier, the shot-to-shot times averaged 3.5 seconds; with the flash on the time goes up to 7.4 seconds. Shutter lag is long at 0.6 second in bright lighting, but short in dim light at 0.7 second. Lastly, that three-shot burst mode fires at a fast 2.2 frames per second.
Photo quality is generally very good for the Z950's class. ISO 100 is the lowest the camera can be set to manually, but the Auto ISO will go as low as ISO 80. Using Auto means the camera will select sensitivities above ISO 200, and those photos tended to look soft and overprocessed (though detail was good up to ISO 800). That's not to say the pictures are unusable; only shots at ISO 1,600 might not be good enough for small prints. The highest selectable sensitivity is ISO 3,200, which can only be used at resolutions below 3 megapixels and yields poor results.
For not being a wide-angle lens, the Z950 has some very visible barrel distortion, though no real pincushion distortion at the long end of the zoom range. Lens sharpness was consistent edge to edge and there was little to no purple fringing in my test shots.
Exposure is fine and the Smart Capture processing does a solid job of rescuing detail lost in shadows. On occasion, though, it will overprocess, giving photos a washed-out look. Colors are very vivid, which many people--including myself--find pleasing. Blues and violets in particular appear punchy and occasionally, a little too unnatural. In the end it comes down to how you plan to use your photos. If they're only going on the Web, a digital photo frame, or printed at or below 5x7 inches with the occasional 8x10, then the photo quality should suffice.
The Kodak EasyShare Z950 is overall a solid compact megazoom. It has a narrower lens than newer models, but does give you manual and semimanual controls lacking on much of the current competition. Outside of its Smart Capture system, the camera lacks gimmicks, which is refreshing. And as long as you're OK with the performance issues and photo-quality limitations, then by all means, pick one up.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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