Kodak EasyShare Z915 Performance, Timings and Image Quality

September 23, 2009 by David Rasnake Reads (6,345)

With a long lens and a full complement of manual controls, speed and overall performance are relatively serious considerations for the enthusiast-focused Z915. And as we’ve seen before with Kodak models, however, actual lab and field test results prove to be much more of a mixed bag with the Z915.

Shooting Performance
Kodak touts the Z915 as the zippiest camera in its class – one of those magical asterisk-ridden statements that quickly qualifies itself into meaninglessness. Which isn’t to say the latest Z camera is slow. In fact, where focused press-to-capture speeds are concerned, it’s a better than average performer. It came in just below the rest of our test sample, but a snappy 0.05 seconds is relatively fast.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS 0.02
Nikon Coolpix P90 0.03
Olympus SP-590 UZ 0.03
Kodak EasyShare Z915 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS 0.40
Nikon Coolpix P90 0.56
Olympus SP-590 UZ 0.57
Kodak EasyShare Z915 0.94

In our studio tests, the Z915 just couldn’t crank out a better performance in the AF acquisition test. Kodak claims much faster times here, and under ideal circumstances this may be the case. Then again, our test is about as ideal as circumstances come, and a full second or more from press to capture was in keeping with our experience of the Z915’s sluggish performance in the field.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Framerate
Kodak EasyShare Z915 1.6 fps
Nikon Coolpix P90 1.4 fps
Olympus SP-590 UZ 1.2 fps
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS 1.1 fps

Likewise, the Z915 won’t be winning any awards for its continuous shooting prowess, managing a merely acceptable three frames at 1.6 fps before stopping for several seconds to clear the buffer.

In general, the Z915’s AF system was this camera’s one consistent frustration. Multi-area focus point selection is the default setup, though users can opt for a locked down center point only option as well. Depending on your shooting mode, of course, face detection focusing is also available, though Kodak’s system certainly isn’t as snappy or as reliable as some others we’ve looked at.

The Z915’s overall speed wasn’t exactly class-leading when shooting outdoors, and the camera actually gets even slower indoors (though there’s not as much difference between focusing speeds in good and poor light here as in some competitive models). Even more frustrating is the Z915’s tendency to be unable to lock focus, even in routine shooting situations. Changing the mode to center-point focusing helps somewhat, but even then the Z915 struggled to find a lock an awful lot. If there’s a bright spot here, it’s that shooting toward full telephoto didn’t make as much difference in performance as I expected: admittedly, the Z915’s lens isn’t particularly fast (f/3.5) even at full wide, which makes the drop to f/4.8 at full tele a narrower step than is sometimes the case.

The Z915’s flash is about what you’d expect from a point-and-shoot, producing flat but generally well-exposed pictures. Four basic modes, toggled via the dedicated flash button on the camera’s top panel, include auto, red-eye reduction, fill, and suppressed options. The red-eye reduction mode worked as advertised, and the camera places flash power compensation where you can find it without hunting – right in the main heads-up menu. It is a little disappointing, though, that there’s no slow sync option here. All in all, the flash doesn’t have huge range or power, but these limitations also ensure that recycle times are kept well under five seconds regardless of shooting situation (assuming your batteries are fresh).

Speaking of batteries, Kodak’s choice to use AA-format batteries to power the Z915 is at once a blessing and a curse. Power the EasyShare with expensive but long-lasting lithium cells or even high-power NiMH rechargeables and you should be good to go for a long time – 300 shots or more. Choose to buy cheap disposable AAs at the corner convenience store instead and you’ll learn the hard way that this thing simply inhales alkalines. I was able to eke out 150 shots before the first set of Duracells gave up the ghost, and shooting a lot more video and flash pictures on the second set, I’m not sure that I even cleared 100 stills before the batteries were done for. Having the option to power the Z915 with easy-to-find alkaline AAs is great: for the sake of the environment and your wallet, though, don’t depend on them for day-to-day power in this case.

Lens Performance
The Z915’s lens does away with any references to Schneider-Kreuznach, coming with Kodak Retinar badging instead. Although it offers a lot of range and decent sharpness to boot, the Z915’s glass doesn’t manage to pull off the stellar performances from optics in some other compact ultrazooms out there.

For starters, barrel distortion at the wider end of the zoom range was severe enough to earn comment from just about everyone who played with the Z915 – it’s obvious enough to be noticeable on the camera’s display in normal shooting situations. There’s not much pincushioning to speak of at the other end of the range, but some inward bowing does make itself apparent when trying to capturing absolutely straight lines.

When it comes to usability, a three-position lens iris provides a bit more aperture control than the basic “open” and “closed” settings on many point-and-shoots. It’s obviously still not DSLR-style control, but Kodak deserves some credit for going a step beyond the basics in their optical design, and making the manual and aperture priority modes in particular a little more usefully usable than those on most the Z915’s competition.

Optically, the Z915 is relatively sharp throughout its range and across the frame, though narrow base apertures can make diffraction a detail-killer. The camera was also prone to haloing and fringing in high-contrast situations.

Kodak EasyShare Z915

Blow out the highlights against a darker background, as in the white cage bars in this shot, and you’re in for a bit of a visually distracting mess.

Kodak EasyShare Z915

Likewise, macro performance is another mild disappointment, with the Z915 struggling to lock focus on anything closer than about two inches – making for some otherwise pleasing, but relatively un-macro macro shots.

Video Quality
As noted, HD it isn’t when it comes to the Z915’s video capture. Not only is capture size not much to write home about, but quality wasn’t stellar either, with some strange choppiness showing up in our testing at times. Sound quality is average, and the Z915 even allows you to use the zoom while shooting video. That said, Kodak clearly makes no guarantees that the camera’s AF will be able to adjust, with the device often taking three to five seconds to find focus after tweaking the zoom while filming. Overall, compared to some of the Z915’s more expensive HD-equipped competition, this is one area where you definitely get what you pay for – which, considering the Kodak’s low price, is “not a lot” on both counts.

Image Quality
Vibrant color is Kodak’s specialty, and the Z915 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Shots from the EasyShare are punchy right out of the gate, and can be amped up further should you choose to do so by selecting the High Color processing mode. Conversely, a Low Color option looks considerably less processed and more natural than the default Natural Color setting.

Kodak EasyShare Z915
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

Kodak EasyShare Z915
Natural Color

Kodak EasyShare Z915
Low Color

Kodak EasyShare Z915
High Color

You do have to be careful with boosting saturation on the Z915 too much, however, as the camera can be prone to channel clipping (and the attending visual messiness) when shooting in High Color mode.

Kodak EasyShare Z915

Metering with the Z915 is accurate and generally reliable across the board. As is typically the case, the camera provides a handful of options, but I found the default multi-area setting (combined with the ocassional exposure compensation tweak, of course) perfectly acceptable for a point-and-shoot.

Kodak EasyShare Z915

In order to keep skies vibrant in higher-contrast scenes, though, you’ll need to ride the compensation control a little harder. With highlight-clipping tendencies similar to most other cameras with small sensors, the Z915 is about par for the course in this regard.

In terms of noise, the Z915 starts out with a little more noise and softness than I’d like to see at ISO 100. Thankfully, though, things don’t deteriorate as rapidly as expected from there, with the camera providing a very clean ISO 800 setting and even a print-usable ISO 1600 option. Not bad considering that the Kodak handily outperforms cameras costing twice as much in this area.

Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 100
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 100, 100% crop
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 200
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 200, 100% crop
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 400
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 400, 100% crop
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 800
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 800, 100% crop
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 1600
Kodak EasyShare Z915
ISO 1600, 100% crop

That said, you still don’t want to look too close at fine details on anything above about ISO 400.

Additional Sample Images

Kodak EasyShare Z915 Kodak EasyShare Z915
Kodak EasyShare Z915 Kodak EasyShare Z915
Kodak EasyShare Z915 Kodak EasyShare Z915



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