Kodak EasyShare Z612
At a Glance
Kodak EasyShare Z612 Bridge Camera
The Z612 offers some advanced features, and has a powerful 12X zoom, but image quality was disappointing.
The Kodak EasyShare Z612 is an affordable 6.1-megapixel camera ($400 as of 10/6/06) that's designed for beginners but has several advanced features. The camera, along with its included software and Kodak's EasyShare Gallery Web site, makes it easy to print, e-mail, and share images. Being a member of the company's High Zoom series, the Z612 sports a powerful 12X zoom lens.
The chunky handgrip makes shooting one-handed easy. The bright 2.5-inch LCD has a resolution of 203,000 pixels; you'll likely want to use the screen to compose your shots instead of using the electronic viewfinder, which is like watching television through a small hole.
The numerous closely arranged controls under your right thumb feel a little cramped, including the zoom control, which is difficult to operate accurately. Several more controls sit safely out of the way on top of the camera, yet are still easy to access. You set sports and night-portrait shooting modes directly from the mode dial; another 14 scene modes are available via the LCD menu. One nice touch: In the manual modes, you use a small thumbwheel to adjust the settings, which beats having to repeatedly press a button. Also, the camera offers both aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes--features not offered by most point-and-shoot models we've tested recently.
The Z612 earned below-average scores for image quality in our lab tests, receiving an overall image quality score of only Fair. This mediocre performance will disappoint expert photographers looking for advanced features at a low price; the biggest problem was the inaccurate exposures. The Z612's test images were underexposed--so much so that the camera earned the lowest score for exposure accuracy of any of the point-and-shoots we've tested recently.
On the bright side, the Z612 exhibited minimal shutter lag and was quick to focus. In my informal testing, these attributes came in handy when I was shooting a baseball game at night. As the light dropped, I adjusted the exposure compensation to keep my shots sufficiently bright. The maximum ISO sensitivity is 400, so I had to shoot at slow speeds, which made the players appear blurry when they moved fast. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of noise when I looked at the images on a computer screen.
In our battery tests, we took a respectable 342 shots on a single charge of the Z612's lithium-ion battery, earning the model a battery-life score of Very Good. If you forget to charge the battery, you can always drop in a widely available CRV3 cell. An adapter plate that lets the Z612 operate with optional Kodak camera docks is included. The $50 EasyShare Camera Dock Series 3 transfers images to your PC at the touch of a button and also charges the battery; the $130 EasyShare Printer Dock Series 3 is a dye-sublimation printer for making 4-by-6-inch snapshots. Also, you can increase the Z612's zoom to nearly 17X with an optional 1.4X telephoto lens ($150, plus $30 for the required lens adapter).