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Kodak Easyshare P712 Digital Camera Review
by Ben Stafford -  8/10/2006

The Kodak Easyshare P712 is the latest addition to Kodak's "performance" line of digital cameras. The P712 shoots at 7.1 megapixels, has a 12x optical zoom lens with image stabilization, a 2.5 inch LCD, and plenty of features to appeal to a wide audience. The camera is easy enough for beginners, but also has a full complement of manual modes to appeal to someone looking to get more creative.

kodak easyshare p712
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In the Box

Included in the box, along with the camera, you'll find the lithium-ion battery pack (KLIC-5001), battery charger, neck strap, lens cap with strap, Kodak Easyshare software CD, USB cable, A/V cable, Getting Started kit, and custom insert for Kodak printer docks.

Camera Design

The P712 is styled like a miniature SLR, with nice black finish, larger hand grip and larger lens. Plenty of "dedicated" function buttons and hotshoe for an external flash round out the SLR look. It's definitely not a pocketable camera (heck, it comes with a neck strap!), but it's much smaller than the smallest digital SLRs. It's official size is 4.3 inches wide x 3.3 inches deep x 2.8 inches high.

The build quality is very good. Despite the plastic body, the P712 has just about the right weight and a sturdy feel to it. Extra touches, like a rubberized ring around the lens for a better grip, make the camera very comfortable.

The controls are laid out well. With your hand on the hand grip, your index finger will settle nicely on the shutter release button and your thumb on the zoom control. If you need to access the drive mode, metering mode, or the programmable "Prog" button, all you have to do is slide your index finger towards the back of the camera. If you need to access and navigate through the camera menus, it's a minor adjustment for your thumb to reach the miniature joystick on the back. Your thumb is also in range of the other controls to the right of the LCD.

The front of the camera is dominated by the nice larger Schneider-Kreuznach lens. To the upper left of the lens is an "external passive AF sensor". The built-in, pop-up flash pops up when you need it (when its not disabled).

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The top of the camera, left to right, has a button for flash modes, a button for focus modes, the hotshoe (and built-in flash), the mode dial, button for drive mode, programmable button, and metering button. Situated around the shutter release is the power switch.

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The right side of the camera (when looking at the back) has the access door to the SD card compartment.

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The left side of the camera has a speaker and a rubber cover over the DC power jack and A/V out jack.

The bottom of the camera provides access to the battery compartment and has a tripod mount.

kodak easyshare p712
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The back of the camera has the LCD, electronic viewfinder with diopter adjustment, a button to switch between the EVF and LCD, zoom rocker switch, command dial, Set button, AE/AF button, display mode button, review button, miniature joystick, delete button, menu button, and the share button.

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Camera Features

The Kodak Easyshare P712 captures images at 7.1 megapixels with a 1/2.5 inch CCD. A 2.5 inch LCD allows easy framing and review even in outdoor light. The P712 also sports an electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 237K pixels of resolution. Both the LCD and EVF perform very well, with good refresh rates and plenty of resolution.

Images can be captured at resolutions of: 3,072 x 2,304 (7.1MP), 3,072 x 2,048 (6.3MP in a 3:2 format), 2,592 x 1,944 (5MP), 2,048 x 1,536 (3.1MP), and 1,280 x 960 (1.2MP). There are three settings for JPEG quality: fine, standard, and basic. Also, since this camera is a part of Kodak's "Performance" line, it will also capture images in RAW and TIFF formats.

Movies can be captured at 640x480 and 320x240 at 30 fps. Movies are captured as Quicktime MOV files. The lengths of the movies can be up to 80 minutes or when they fill up your storage media, whichever comes first.

The P712 lens has a focal length range of 36mm -- 432mm (35mm equivalent), giving the camera a 12x optical zoom. The lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 -- f/3.7. Kodak has also included their image stabilization system -- a must-have on a camera with the long zoom.

There are three modes of image stabilization. It can be disabled completely or enabled in Continuous, and Single modes. In Continuous mode, the IS is enabled all the time, so the effects of the IS can be seen on the LCD. During Single mode, the IS is enabled at the time of the image capture, saving a little bit of battery.

For storage media, the P712 accepts SD and MMC memory cards. It also has 32MB of internal memory. For an idea of file size, if you shoot in fine JPEG mode, you can save approximately 107 images on a 512MB SD or MMC card. If you shoot in RAW mode, you'll only be able to fit 40 images onto a 512MB card.

The P712 is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack (KLIC-5001). Charge time for the battery is 3 hours. Battery life was average. The drain of zooming the large lens, continuous AF, and continuous image stabilization kept my total count to fewer than 150 images. My usage was probably also a bit heavier than most users as I constantly review images, moved the zoom in and out, etc. Also keep in mind that if you have the camera on continuously for an extended period that it may reach the low battery warning before you're ready. If you give the camera a "rest", the battery will recover and provide a longer shooting time.

The P712 provides a full complement of shooting modes. A full automatic mode and several scene modes provide the simplest use. A program auto (P) mode, aperture priority (A) mode, shutter priority (S) mode, and full manual (M) mode round out the list of still capture modes. Also, you'll notice the C1, C2, and C3 selections on the mode dial. You can save sets of custom settings to these slots.

Auto mode provides the least control over the camera, but is good for the person who doesn't want to mess with any of the camera's settings. In full Auto mode, you can adjust the flash mode, focus mode, drive mode, and color mode. In many of the scene modes, your options can be even less. For example, the Portrait mode won't allow you to adjust the focus mode.

In the manual modes (PASM) on the P712, you'll become very adept at using the Set button and command dial since they're the primary way to set things. For example, in aperture priority mode, a press of the Set button turns on a little indicator that points to the aperture setting, exposure compensation, flash compensation (if flash is enabled), or ISO setting. You can use the command dial to cycle through those four options, or you can use the Set button to drill into one. Once that setting is enabled, use the command dial to change it. It's a pretty simple, but effective and quick way to make changes to the settings that are critical for your shooting mode.

If you need access to other setting during image capture, like sharpness, contrast, and white balance, the Menu button gets you into the menu system. The miniature joystick provides intuitive navigation of the menu system.

In the PASM modes, you can set the "AF control" and "AF zone". For AF control, your two options are Continuous AF and Single AF. When in continuous mode, the camera will focus all the time (drawing more power in the process). In single mode, AF is not determined until you depress the shutter partway. For the AF zone, you can choose between multi-zone, center-zone, or selectable zone.

While we're talking about auto focus, another notable feature of the P712 is that it has multiple methods to achieve auto focus. An external (to the lens) passive sensor provides sort of a "preliminary" focus to get the lens moved to the approximate focus point. A more standard TTL (through the lens) AF sensor then provides a finer focus control to zero in on the subject. This extra sensor provides a quicker, more accurate focus on subjects, something that ultra-zoom cameras can sometimes struggle with, especially at the telephoto end of their focal length.

This "hybrid" AF system, in normal focus mode and wide angle has a focus range of 19.7 inches to infinity. Move out to the telephoto end and the closest you can focus is 6.3 feet. In macro mode, at wide angle, you can focus as close as 3.9 inches (out to 23.6 inches). At the telephoto end, the macro can focus between 35.4 inches and 6.6 feet. The dedicated focus button on the top left of the camera lets you choose between normal AF, macro AF, landscape AF, and manual AF.

As a more advanced camera, the P712 also has several metering modes. By pressing the dedicated metering button right behind the shutter, you can select multi-patterned, center weighted, center spot, and selectable metering zones.

The built-in flash on the P712 has range of 2.9 -- 15.4 feet at wide angle and 6.6-11.8 feet at telephoto. The dedicated flash button on the top left of the camera lets you switch between auto, fill, redeye, slow sync (which can be front, rear, or front red eye) and off (in PASM modes). In auto mode, you lose the option of the slow sync.

Camera Performance and Image Quality

Kodak claims that the P712 has the fastest click to capture rate in its class (0.07 seconds). I will agree that it is fast, when you've already achieved focus lock (with a partial press of the shutter). The camera operates fairly quickly, with good shot to shot times. However, if you do shoot a burst of images and fill up the buffer, you may be asked, by the camera, to wait while it writes the images to the memory card. Start up and shut down do take a bit to handle the large lens, but not to worry -- it's just start up and shut down.

The P712 is very comfortable to hold. Even though it's pretty substantial in weight, the handgrip and slightly raised "bump" on the back for you thumb provide a stable handhold. The controls are logically placed and easy to access. The rubberized eye port to view the EVF is also nice to have when you push it up to your eye.

The long 12x zoom provided plenty of "steps" -- enough for good control of framing your subject. I counted at least 20 steps to traverse the entire zoom range. The zoom motor is a bit loud and is audible during movies, if you use the zoom during movie capture.

The image stabilization system also performed well. The IS system will allow you to shoot images 2-3 stops slower without increasing blur. In the images below, I took a macro shot of a keyboard, once with IS enabled and once with it disabled. Both images were taken with a shutter speed of 1/2 second.

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IS off (view medium image) (view large image)
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IS on(view medium image) (view large image)

The P712 achieved focus well, even at long focal lengths. The hybrid AF system really helps the camera to at least get in the right vicinity so the finer focus can perform better when you partially depress the shutter. The camera will struggle a bit in really dark areas, but that is to be expected. There is no focus assist light to help out in these situations.

I was very impressed with the flash. It handled completely dark rooms well, even when 15-16 feet away from the subject.

kodak easyshare p712 sample image
Indoors with flash (view medium image) (view large image)

Kodak cameras typically do well with the automatic white balance and the P712 continues the tradition. In the keyboard shots above, the keyboard was lit with incandescent light, and ambient light from an open window. The camera handled a wide range of lighting very well.

Overall, the image quality was good. Colors were accurate with what my eyes saw. Images also showed plenty of detail from edge to edge. Outdoor shots, especially of trees in the distance, looked a bit over-processed. By bumping down the sharpness a bit, things looked better. Indoor shots and other shots that have more defined lines looked just fine at the default sharpness. Chromatic aberration was noticeable at high magnification - you won't notice in prints. I did notice some vignetting (darkening of the image corners) at both ends of the zoom with a bit more at the telephoto end.

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Edge to edge detail (view medium image) (view large image)

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Vignetting at wide angle (view large image)
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Vignetting at telephoto (view large image)

The P712 offers quite a few ISO settings. You can leave it at Auto, or choose ISO 64, 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320 or 400. Once you get over ISO 100, the images were pretty noisy. You can also shoot at ISO 800, but only when in 1.2MP mode.

The macro performance was good. While you can't get as close to your subject as with other cameras, you also have to keep in mind the large lens. On the P712, you can get as close as 3.9 inches. Macro shots showed good detail.

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Macro (view medium image) (view large image)

Additional Sample Images

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 kodak easyshare p712 sample image
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 kodak easyshare p712 sample image
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Specification Highlights

Conclusion

The Kodak Easyshare P712 is the latest addition to Kodak's P or "performance" line of digital cameras. With a 7.1 megapixel sensor, stabilized 12x optical zoom, and plenty of advanced features, the P712 is meant to compete with some of the other ultra zooms out there, like the Canon Powershot S3 IS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7. While it has some features that the others don't, like RAW image capture, hotshoe for an external flash, and custom modes, there are a few things that still leave it behind the others.

Overall, the image quality was good.  There were a couple things that I noticed, however.  The images from the P712 showed a fair amount of chromatic aberration and got noisy quickly as you increased the sensitivity. While images were sharp from edge to edge, vignetting was noticeable throughout the zoom range. I was impressed that the optical zoom could be used during movie capture, but I feared that the louder zoom motor would be audible on the sound track, and it was. Battery life was also not as good as I would like to see in a camera with this feature set.

There were many things that liked about this camera. The image stabilization system worked well in a variety of conditions. The LCD and EVF were very good, with plenty of resolution and good refresh rates. I continue to be impressed with Kodak LCDs outdoors. I also feel that their "hybrid AF" system, with the additional AF sensor, was beneficial to getting that crucial focus lock. The almost non-existent shutter lag was also nice.

If you're looking for an ultra zoom with advanced features and think you'll use an external flash, or if you're a big fan of Kodak and their Easyshare system (sharing, printing, etc), then the P712 is a good option.

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