When it comes to pretty cameras, the preening Canon IXUS range takes some beating. But just lately, Kodak's design department must have changed their brands of coloured pencils and energy drinks, because this years' Kodak crop has seen some absolute stunners. Having wowed us with the military-grade Stark Industries sleekness of the M1033 and , attention has turned to the difficult job of making a superzoom look good. We got our hands on the Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS to see if they pull it off.
The answer is yes... and kind of. The Z8612 is a little boxy at the front, although we like the curvy hand grip and the two-stage pop-up flash. It's annoying that it pops up whenever you turn the camera on, though. The back looks absolutely... well, you'll just have to wait and see.
Anyway, we Cravers aren't so superficial enough to get hung up on looks. Delving under the 8612's bonnet, we find an 8.1-megapixel sensor and 12x optical zoom, with optical image stabilisation. The lens has a fairly average 35mm-equivalent focal length of 36mm at the wide end, up to 432mm at the telephoto end.
Features include HD pictures and VGA video (640×480 pixels) at 30 frames per second, with sound and on-camera editing. An interesting option is the ability to save single frames of video for email to family and friends.
Program, aperture, shutter priority and manual modes are available, as well as on-camera cropping, red-eye reducing flash and post-shot digital red-eye reduction. An orientation sensor automatically flips your pictures, and ISO speeds go up to 1,600, or 3,200 at 2.2 megapixel or less. Lord knows why.
The Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS is available online now for a very presentable £135. Click through to see how it shapes up from behind, and learn more about our favourite feature. -Rich Trenholm
Update: Read our full
Yes, from the back the Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS looks great: a slick black dune of ebbing fingergrips and flowing buttons. A surprisingly roomy-feeling 64mm (2.5-inch) screen is edged by ergonomic buttons that look terrific, although they're not as grippy as we'd like.
And our favourite feature? The chirpily-named Kodak Color Science Chip, complete with some classic PR-speak. According to Kodak, this little chap beavers away in the background "every time you click the shutter, performing an instantaneous and advanced analysis of collected scene data to identify and adjust multiple factors that influence picture quality." Like working out how many daiquiris you've had, or why Jerry from sales has his tie on his head, or whether anyone on Facebook actually wants to see 285 near-identical photos of you having a great time on a Costa Rican beach. Probably.