Compact ultrazooms are becoming increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why. It’s very convenient to be able to take close-in macro shots and zoom out to long distances without having to change lenses or reach for another camera. The Z950 has a 10x optical zoom with a focal range of 35-350mm. While 35mm isn’t exactly wide angle, it is sufficiently wide for most purposes.
While using the Z950 I found the startup time and shutdown time to be somewhat slow – in the realm of three seconds. Shot-to-shot time seemed relatively speedy for the first few shots, after which the camera would download the images to disk. Kodak claims a shot-to-shot time of 1.5 seconds which appears to be accurate. Shooting tests show that the Z950 is in the mainstream as far as shutter lag and autofocus acquisition is concerned. It did fairly well in continuous shooting, or burst mode, averaging almost two shots per second.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Nikon Coolpix S230||0.02|
|Canon PowerShot A2100 IS||0.04|
|Kodak EasyShare Z950
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150||0.22|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Nikon Coolpix S230||0.51|
|Canon PowerShot A2100 IS||0.60|
|Kodak EasyShare Z950||0.65|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25||0.80|
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150||1.15|
|Nikon Coolpix S230||2||2.2 fps|
|Kodak EasyShare Z950||3||1.9 fps|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25||5||1.7 fps|
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150||13||1.3 fps|
|Canon PowerShot A2100 IS||∞||1.1 fps|
* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The Z950’s shooting performance does not seem to be affected by low light conditions, probably due to its AF assist lamp. Kodak specifies the flash range at 400 ISO of 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) for wide angle and 3.9 meters (12.7 feet) for full telephoto. I was generally pleased with the photos I took with the flash. The Z950 fires two flashes to combat red-eye and it appeared to work as I didn’t see any red-eye in the photos I took.
The Z950 is equipped with optical image stabilization, which compensates for minor hand movements. This is a necessity when working with the long zoom end of the Z950’s 10x telephoto lens and it appeared to work well.
Kodak claims a battery life of 180 shots with its lithium ion battery. After a day of shooting over 150 pictures and several videos I still had plenty of battery power left.
The Z950 is equipped with a 10x, 35-350mm Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon zoom lens with maximum apertures of f/3.5 at wide angle and f/4.8 at telephoto. With many ultrazoom cameras sporting 20x or even 26x optical zooms lenses, 10x may not seem like a lot but it can make a big difference. Looking at the top photo, you can barely make out the people standing on the overlook, but you can see them quite well at full zoom.
There was considerable barrel distortion at wide angle but minimal pin cushion distortion at telephoto. I noticed some minor chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high contrast areas, but not as noticeable as in some small cameras.
The Z950 can take videos at HD (1280×720), VGA (640×480) or QVGA (320×240), all at 30 frames per second. Video and audio quality seemed good. The Z950 can shoot up to 29 minutes of continuous HD video or 80 minutes of VGA or QVGA video, as long as there is sufficient memory card capacity. I was able to use optical zoom while taking videos, which many cameras do not permit, though using the zoom made the camera lose focus for awhile. I did not use optical zoom in the video sample shown below:
The Z950 has many color options you can access in manual mode – color (low, natural, high, sepia, black and white), contrast (normal and high), and sharpness (soft, normal and sharp). I preferred natural color, normal contrast and normal sharpness.
The Z950 has white balance settings for auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. The auto white balance did a good job, producing images that were less warm in incandescent light than found in most cameras.
In general, picture quality is similar to that of other Kodak cameras – bright and pleasing, if not particularly striking. The camera sometimes has a problem with overexposure, despite its intelligent image processing feature.
Noise begins to appear at ISO 200 and increases gradually through ISO 1600, though the image is still pretty good at ISO 400 and 800, with minimal softening from noise reduction and only a minor loss of color. Although the Z950 uses the same sized 1/2.33 inch sensor as Kodak’s larger ultrazoom, the Z980, reviewed by DCR back in June, the Z950 does significantly better at higher ISO’s.
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop