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The Z950's photo quality is generally very good for its price and class. ISO 100 is the lowest the camera can be set to manually, but the Auto ISO will go as low as ISO 80. Using Auto means the camera will select sensitivities above ISO 200, and those photos tended to look soft and overprocessed (though detail was good up to ISO 800). That's not to say the pictures are unusable; only shots at ISO 1,600 might not be good enough for small prints. The highest selectable sensitivity is ISO 3200, which can only be used at resolutions below 3 megapixels and yields poor results.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
Taken at ISO 200 in Macro, the Z950 is still able to show and keep sharp the individual hairs on this kiwi fruit.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
For not being a wide-angle lens, the Z950 has some very visible barrel distortion (top), though no real pincushion distortion at the long end of the zoom range (bottom). Also, despite being handheld, the optical image stabilization did a fine job controlling shake when I took the bottom photo with the lens fully extended. I don't recommend relying on it all the time, but it still performed well.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Its exposure is fine, and the Smart Capture processing does a solid job of rescuing detail lost in shadows. On occasion, though, it will overprocess giving photos a washed-out look. Colors are very vivid, which many people--including myself--find pleasing. Blues and violets in particular appear punchy and sometimes a little unnatural.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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