The Kodak EasyShare Z950 is a fairly dry camera, but in a good way. After testing so many cameras with hot, new special features lately, the Z950's straightforward "I'm a camera, I take pictures" package is a nice change. Its most exciting element is a 35mm-equivalent lens with a 10x zoom in a moderately compact body. That's not even a wide-angle lens that other manufacturers have gravitated toward lately. There are no outlandish shooting options, either, but you do get manual and semimanual controls. As long as you can cope with its slightly finicky shooting performance, it's a reasonably priced way to get an uncomplicated point-and-shoot camera with a 10x zoom.
|Key specs||Kodak EasyShare Z950|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.3x2. x1.4 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||9.2 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-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)||4,000 x 3,000 pixels/1,280 x 720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 220 shots|
The design and controls for the Z950 are very similar to the less expensive Z915, but more polished. It comes in black only with a body made of a mix of metal and plastic as well as a dark gray rubberized grip and thumb rest. The overall feel is comfortable and solid. Though there are more compact 10x zoom cameras, the Z950 is a tight package able to slip into a larger handbag or coat pocket.
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. (Stabilized or not, though, you'll still want to use a support when you've got the lens fully extended.) On top is the shutter release and zoom ring, dedicated buttons for flash and timer/drive, Mode dial, and a tiny, but easily pressed power button. Icons for the flash, timer, and Mode position are backlit so you can find them in the dark. There's also an HD marking that's lit in red, but is purely cosmetic.
On back is a reasonably bright LCD, a vertical row of buttons (Delete, Menu, Info, and Play), a five-way joystick 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.
Kodak's menus are attractive and generally easy to navigate. None of the shooting options is obscure; however, should you come across a setting you don't understand, a press of the Info button brings up a text description of what the feature does.
|General shooting options||Kodak EasyShare Z950|
|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 Z950 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. Aperture options are limited to three stops at the wide and long ends: 3.5, 6.2, and 8.3 and 4.8, 8.5, and 11.3, respectively. Shutter speeds range from 16 sec to 1/1,000 of a second. Controlling them is reasonably simple, all done with the five-way joystick. You also get exposure bracketing, color effects, and sharpness adjustments.
Of course, you can use the Z950 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. There's a standard Panorama mode (shoot two or three photos and the camera does the stitching), Sport mode that boosts ISO and shutter speed for moving subjects, and a 720p HD Movie mode with use of the optical zoom while shooting (and yes, you'll hear the lens movement, but the video is very good).
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.