The Good 12X optical zoom; full manual exposure controls; optical image stabilization.
The Bad Noticeable fringing and image artifacts; ISO 800 not available at full resolution; no manual white balance.
The Bottom Line The superzoom Kodak EasyShare Z612 has style and plenty of features, but its image quality leaves a bit to be desired.
Kodak EasyShare Z612
Kodak's 6.1-megapixel EasyShare Z612 looks like a Lilliputian SLR. But as with the crafty little people in Jonathan Swift's novel, there's more to it than meets the eye, some of which should be approached with caution. Like most superzooms, it uses an electronic--rather than optical--viewfinder, so if you don't like looking at tiny LCD screens, this isn't for you. On the plus side, it's fairly high-res at 202,000 pixels and doesn't blank out as much as some EVFs when in burst mode, though the image is still a bit herky-jerky compared to an optical finder's. If you don't frame with the EVF, you'll use the Z612's 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD, which is viewable even in bright light and brightens--that is, gains up--in low light to make it easy to frame in dim situations. Its 12X optical, 35mm-to-420mm (35mm equivalent), f/2.8-to-f/4.8 Schneider-Kreutznach zoom lens gives you plenty of reach, and the camera's image stabilization should help keep things steady at the longer end of the zoom.
The silver-colored, beautifully sculpted plastic body feels solid and should stand up well to normal wear and tear. Unfortunately, its sleek styling has some drawbacks. First, the SLR-style grip, while neatly accented with reflective silver along the front and top, is perhaps too smooth. For example, the shutter release, well placed at the front of the grip's top and recessed to be even with its surface, is a little difficult to find by touch and is less comfortable to use than shutters that are raised above the surface of the camera. Furthermore, the three buttons lined up behind the shutter--flash, macro, and self-timer/burst--are the identical size and shape, making them difficult to tell apart by touch.
Since the camera is so small--4 by 2.9 by 2.7 inches and 10.6 ounces without battery or SD card--the grip also leaves your pinkie, and in some cases your ring finger too, dangling off the bottom of the camera. This isn't normally a big problem, but in this case, it's difficult to create the necessary leverage to reach the mode dial or some of the buttons on the camera back with your thumb when shooting one-handed. Thankfully, though, the zoom rocker is still easy to control and contoured nicely. Of course, these minor gripes can be alleviated by shooting with two hands, which we always recommend anyway, due to the increased stability that comes along with it.
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