Superzooms: the best of both worlds or neither fish nor fowl? The 8.1-megapixel Kodak EasyShare Z8612 IS aims for the style of a compact, but has a giant zoom lens on the front. It's available online now for a compact-like price of £125.
The Z8612 is less chunky than many superzooms, despite taking AA batteries. The body is fairly slim, with a right-angled grip for the right hand. The large lens makes it feel a little unbalanced, but the rubberised, ergonomic grip at the front and curved thumb rest at the back are very comfy for steady one-handed shooting. It's finished in a classy black, with a couple of deep red details to give the retro styling a contemporary feel.
We like the slick design of the back: contoured buttons and a squared clickpad with red accents give it a sharp look. The buttons are too flat to push easily, though. They line the side of the screen, which gives the whole thing an uncluttered feel. This makes the the screen itself feel bigger than 64mm (2.5 inches).
The two-stage concealed pop-up flash is nicely done. But the power-on switch also pops up the flash, so it pops up every time you turn the camera on, which we found really annoying. Another odd feature is that if you forget to remove the lens cap before turning it on, the lens emerges and knocks the lens cap off. It's quite funny at first, but probably isn't very good for the lens.
That lens is a 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilisation, which is essential as longer zooms increase the effects of camera shake. The lens has a fairly average 35mm-equivalent focal length of 36mm at the wide angle. It goes up to 432mm at the telephoto end, good for zooming in for head-and-shoulder portraits.
Program, aperture and shutter priority and manual modes are available on the mode wheel. Settings are shown on screen and altered using the clickpad. It's a straightforward and accessible way of tweaking options.
Smart scene mode automatically selects from five preset scene modes, which work well in everyday conditions. One of the 16 available scene modes is stage mode for photographing concerts. It's a useful idea for a difficult shooting situation, which foxes most compacts. We found on our model that changing modes via the mode wheel could confuse the camera, displaying a 'processing' message for a second or even not registering the change of mode at all.
In playback mode, red-eye reduction does a reasonable job of clearing up glowing eyes, while an orientation sensor automatically flips your pictures. The crop tool is less useful as you can't specify the size or shape of the trim. Images can be tagged with generic preset tags like 'holiday' or you can add your own with an onscreen keyboard.