BUILD AND DESIGN
The EasyShare Max Z990 looks and feels like a small DSLR. It has a comfortable, rubberized right hand grip and a solid, composite body. The lens has a rubber coating as well, which gives it added protection. The camera is no lightweight at 1.3 pounds (about 589 grams) including batteries and memory card, but the weight is distributed well. Overall, the camera has a very good "feel."
The camera comes with four rechargeable NiMH batteries and a charger, a USB cable, a lens cap with a strap, a neck strap, and a brief User Guide in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. According to the User Guide, when the camera is connected to the computer, a software downloader automatically runs and will download and install Kodak's software for transferring images to the computer and editing pictures. The software downloader did not work for me but I managed to load it from Kodak's website. Kodak's website also contains an Extended User Guide.
Ergonomics and Controls
The camera's rubber-coated, right hand grip permits you to easily hold the camera with one hand, though two hands are sometimes needed for added support, especially when using the long end of the zoom. The huge lens dominates the front of the camera, where it's bordered on both sides by stereo microphones. On one side of the lens is a combination auto focus assist/timer/video lamp. On top of the lens is the flash, which must be manually opened unless auto-flash is enabled and the camera decides that use of the flash is appropriate, in which case the flash will pop open.
The right side of the camera contains HDMI and USB ports that are covered by a rubber flap with a fragile-looking rubber tether. The camera's bottom contains the centrally located tripod mount which, unfortunately, is constructed of plastic, rather than metal. The compartment for the batteries and memory card is covered by a thick plastic door that I found difficult to open and close. The camera has 128MB of internal memory and uses SD and SDHC memory cards.
The camera's controls are located at the top and rear. On top is a chunky mode dial, with selections for Smart Capture, HDR, Creative Modes, Portrait, Sport, Scene Modes, Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Program. The large, metal shutter button has a zoom control lever around it and both work well. You'll also find an on/off switch and buttons for continuous shooting (endless, 4 pictures at 5 fps, 4 pictures at 9 fps and 20 pictures at 60 fps), focus (normal, infinity, macro (as close as 10cm), super macro (as close as 1cm), and manual) and timer (10 seconds, 2 seconds and two shots).
At the rear is the large, 3.0-inch diameter LCD monitor, electronic viewfinder and a viewfinder/LCD switch. The rear also contains a speaker, a one-touch movie button, a selector wheel for selecting menu items, a four-way selector, a playback button and a share button, which allows you to automatically send your pictures and videos to social networking websites and email address once they are transferred to your computer. Next to the LCD are buttons for display, which adds or removes information from the LCD monitor, flash (auto, fill, red-eye reduction, off), film effects (simulates the classic Kodak films of Kodacolor, Ektachrome, Kodachrome, T-Max, Tri-X and Sepia) and delete.
Menus and Modes
The menu on the EasyShare Max Z990 is different than in other Kodak cameras I've used and it took some getting used to. The menu choices are always on the LCD screen, except when the display button is pressed. The menu items are on a black semi-transparent background that obscures the view of the LCD at the top and bottom, so it's a good idea to press the display button when you no longer need to refer to the menu. Menu items change depending on the mode selected. The camera's shooting modes are as follows:
The EasyShare Max Z990 has a 3.0-inch diameter LCD monitor in a 4 x 3 aspect ratio with a resolution of approximately 460,000 dots. The monitor has three different brightness settings - auto where brightness is automatically adjusted based on the environment, high power and power save. The LCD monitor is a good one, and can be seen well in both shady and conditions but, like most LCD monitors, it is hard to see in bright sunshine. Fortunately the camera also comes with an electronic viewfinder. While the viewfinder is small and lacks a diopter adjustment for use without glasses, it is bright and sharp.
I found myself using the viewfinder almost exclusively when out of doors. The viewfinder serves another useful function. When shooting at the long end of the zoom, holding the viewfinder against your eye stabilizes the camera and helps to minimize blur.
DCR tests cameras for LCD screen quality, measuring for contrast ratio and a brightness unit called nits. The best LCD monitors have a contrast ratio above 500:1 and at least an output of 500 nits of a full white screen. The LCD monitor of the EasyShare Max Z990 was found to have a contrast ratio of 537:1 and to measure 446 nits for peak brightness and 0.83 for dark. These are all good scores and confirm my assessment of the high quality of the camera's LCD monitor.
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