Image stabilized (IS) mega-zoom digicams are currently one of the hottest products in the high tech marketplace. Kodak's first foray in this highly competitive arena, the Kodak Easyshare Z612, was designed to compete directly with Canon's S3 IS, Sony's H5, and Panasonic's FZ7. All four cameras share remarkably similar features -- compact SLR like bodies, good ergonomics, long zooms, and a broad range (Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes) of exposure options. The Z612, like its competition, tries to balance point-and-shoot convenience and enhanced usability with prosumer level flexibility and creative control.
The Kodak EasyShare Z612 features 6 megapixel resolution, a 12X Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon optical zoom, and a 2.5 inch LCD screen. AF is fairly quick, but I could only count 6 steps (the Sony H5's AF has 45 steps) and that makes it harder to frame images precisely and requires lots of unnecessary zooming with the feet. Kodak's Color Science processor produces consistently sharp images with neutral color rendition (except for reds which are highly saturated in sharp contrast to the rest of the Z612's color spectrum), accurate (Caucasian) skin tones, and good shadow/highlight detail. The Z612's LCD and EVF are not very fluid, movement is a bit jerky and the LCD/EVF freezes briefly when the shutter fires.
How does the Z612 stack up against its competition? The Z612 has more warts than a bullfrog, but in the final analysis it's all about the pictures and when it counts and where it counts (except for macro) the Z612 delivers. Check back in a few days for the complete review.
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