What makes the Kodak EasyShare Z700 a viable offering in the universe of low-cost, noncompact, non-EVF 4-megapixel cameras is what you get for the price. The surprising amount of manual control with programmed, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority modes, the 5X zoom lens with unexpected telephoto reach, and the Z700's decent image quality all exceed what you might expect from a camera in this class. And for just a little more than the camera-only price, you can buy it packaged with a handy
Welcome touches such as diopter correction for the viewfinder, Kodak's one-touch sharing and printing features, and a burst mode that saves the five shots captured before you take your finger off the shutter release make the Z700 a good value for new digital photographers. That seems even truer once you check out the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 3, a convenient companion for this camera that charges the battery and lets you view, print, and transfer photos. The Z700 has only 16MB of internal memory, however, so you'll want to add an SD/MMC card to your shopping list.
We didn't like the Kodak EasyShare Z700's smallish viewfinding options. One is a low-magnification optical finder that shows only 80 percent of the scene; the other is a coarse (72,000-pixel) 1.6-inch LCD that blacks out between shots and displays prodigious ghosting with camera or subject movement. Adding to our viewing woes, the green LED ready light next to the optical viewfinder was a bit too brilliant.
Aside from the distracting LED, we liked the Z700's ergonomics. We could grip its chunky 10-ounce body with one hand and fire away, using an index finger to press the shutter release and a thumb to rock the zoom lever. On top of the camera are separate buttons for flash options and the self-timer and burst modes. The knurled mode dial has direct-setting positions for programmed-automatic, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority (PAS) modes, as well as macro, landscape, and movie-clip options. It also has a notch for viewing images marked as favorites. Twirl the dial to the SCN setting, and you can select an additional 13 automatic scene modes: Beach, Flower, Fireworks, Snow, Backlight, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Museum, Text, Self-Portrait, Children, Party, and Portrait.
On the back panel are the following: buttons for display and photo-information options; a four-way cursor pad with a central OK button; delete, menu, and review buttons; and a red Share button that summons Kodak's versatile transfer, printing, e-mail, and favorites menu.
The 5X zoom extends from 35mm to a sports- and wildlife-photography-friendly 175mm (both 35mm-camera equivalents) and focuses down to 2 inches in macro mode. You can cycle the autoexposure system through multipattern, center-spot, and center-weighted exposure in the PAS modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/8 second to 1/400 second in auto mode and 8 seconds to 1/1,000 second in shutter-priority mode. While the camera sets the ISO automatically between 80 and 160, you can manually adjust sensitivity up to ISO 400. At ISO 140, the flash range supposedly extends out to 12 feet, but our tests suggested that's stretching it a bit.
The Kodak EasyShare Z700's formal performance tests proved frustrating in some ways. Once this camera awakened from its power-off slumber in 4.18 seconds, we were able to snap off pictures every 1.65 seconds (or 2.35 seconds with flash), which would have been more useful if the LCD didn't blank out for most of the time between shots. The blackouts happened in burst mode, too, so the five full-resolution frames we squeezed out in about 2 seconds were shot blind. The poky non-lamp-assisted autofocus created shutter-lag times of 0.9 second under contrasty illumination and 1.4 seconds under low-contrast lighting.
The Kodak EasyShare Z700 has good image quality for a camera in its class. Photos were crisp, with ample detail in both highlights and shadows, though they tended to be underexposed. Chromatic aberrations, chiefly purple fringing, were particularly apparent at long telephoto focal lengths. Colors tended to be muted and not fully saturated. The camera's red-eye prevention was only moderately successful; in many of our shots of people, their pupils glowed dull red. Multicolored noise flecks were a problem at all sensitivity settings; noticeable at ISO 80, they became prominent at ISO 400.