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DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 20, 2008
Last Updated: August 20, 2008

Front of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

The Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS ($249) is a fairly compact camera with a 10 Megapixel CCD, 5X optical zoom lens with image stabilization, 2.5" LCD display, and a high definition movie mode. And, like all Kodak cameras, it's very easy to use.

The EasyShare Z1085 IS has a less expensive sibling, known as the Z1285 ($199). The main difference between the two is that the Z1285 has a higher resolution sensor instead of image stabilization.

Is the EasyShare Z1085 a good choice for an inexpensive, mid-zoom camera? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The EasyShare Z1085 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

As is the case with most cameras these days, the EasyShare Z1085 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The Z1085 has 32MB of built-in memory (of which only 21MB can be used for photo storage), which holds just five photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a large memory card, and fast. The Z1085 supports SD and SDHC cards, and I suggest a 1 or 2GB card to start with. Buying a high speed card is a good idea, though you don't need to go overboard.

The camera can be powered by several types of battery. In the box you'll find a non-rechargeable CR-V3 lithium battery, which will take around 400 photos before it runs out of juice. The camera can also use AA lithium batteries, but Kodak insists that alkaline and NiMH cells will NOT work. If you want an environmentally friendly power option (read: something you can recharge), you'll have to use the KLIC-8000 battery pack. This li-ion battery packs a strong 5.9 Wh of energy, which is quite good. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot A590 IS * 500 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix J50 150 shots NP-40N
GE E1050 200 shots GB-40
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS * 250 shots KLIC-8000
Nikon Coolpix P60 * 410 shots 2 x 2000 mAh NiMH
Olympus FE-310 N/A 2 x AA
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 * 460 shots 2 x 2600 mAh NiMH
Pentax Optio V20 200 shots D-LI78
Ricoh R8 * 270 shots DB-70
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 * 390 shots NP-BG1

* Has optical image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Thanks to strong performances from several models on the list above, the EasyShare Z1085's battery life ends up below average in its class. You can get better numbers out of the camera if you use a lithium CR-V3 battery like the one included with the camera, but keep in mind that once it's out of juice, it goes into the trash (or preferably, the recycling bin). The only rechargeable option is the KLIC-8000, which costs at least $22, and requires the purchase of an external charger (which is another $30).

Kodak EasyShare Z1085 in the hand

As with most compact cameras, the EasyShare Z1085 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

There are a number of accessories available for the Z1085 IS. One of them is a video cable, which Kodak never seems to bundle with the camera anymore (grrr). Here's what you can buy for your camera:

Accessory Model # Price Description
Video output cable AV-8 From $19 View photos and movies on your TV with this composite cable. Should be included with the camera!
HD camera dock 8951956 From $71 View photos and videos on your HDTV, and charge your camera's battery too. Component video output. Remote control included.
Rechargeable battery KLIC-8000 From $22 The only rechargeable battery you can use
Universal battery charger K7600 From $28 Charges all Kodak batteries, including the KLIC-8000 (in 3.5 hours)
Rapid battery charger K8500 $45 Charges the KLIC-8000 in 4 hours; includes a spare battery
AC adapter 1042720 $40 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
Prices were accurate when review was posted

Not the world's most exciting list of accessories (there are no add-on lenses available), and I'm still peeved about the video cable, but there you go.


EasyShare 6.0 for Mac OS X

The Z1085 comes with Kodak's EasyShare 6 software for both Mac and Windows. As is often the case, the Windows version (6.4) is superior to the Mac version (6.0) of the software, offering full integration with the EasyShare Gallery photo sharing website.

The main screen in EasyShare is where you'll organize your photos after they've been imported from the camera. You can view your photos by date taken, and you can create both regular and "smart" albums as well.

On this screen you can also view your photos in a slideshow, edit or rotate them (see below), get exposure data, burn them to a CD or DVD, or even upload them to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery for printing and sharing. You can also e-mail them (directly or via a website) and print them in numerous ways.


EasyShare 6.0 for Mac OS X

On the edit screen you've got a bunch of nice tools for fixing up your photos. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness and contrast, color, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion. For some edits, you can split the screen (see above) so you can see a "before and after" view of your proposed changes. The Windows version adds a few other "fun effects", as well as the ability to create greeting cards.

Documentation is really a mixed bag. Kodak's writes very easy-to-read product manuals, but they only include a short "User Guide" in the box with the camera, which has just 22 pages of actual content. If you want the full manual, you have to go to Kodak's website and download it. That manual reveals a lot more information, though it's still not very detailed.

Look and Feel

The EasyShare Z1085 is a camera that straddles the border between compact and midsize. It's made of a mix of plastic and metal, and it feels quite solid, especially considering its price tag. The only thing that feels a bit cheap is the mode dial, but I don't think it's going to break off or anything like that.

Ergonomics are decent, with the most important controls within easy reach of your fingers. The power button is a bit hard to find, and the buttons on the back of the camera are cluttered and small.

Now, here's a look at how the EasyShare Z1085 IS compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot A590 IS 3.7 x 2.6 x 1.6 in. 15.4 cu in. 175 g
Fujifilm FinePix J50 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 141 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 in. 13.1 cu in. 164 g
Nikon Coolpix P60 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.4 in. 13.3 cu in. 160 g
Olympus FE-310 3.7 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 10.7 cu in. 140 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 11.9 cu in. 141 g
Pentax Optio V20 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 130 g
Ricoh R8 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 9.2 cu in. 168 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g

The EasyShare Z1085 IS is one of the largest and heaviest cameras in the group, with only the Canon PowerShot A590 above it. The Z1085 is probably too big for your smallest pockets, but it still travels well in a jacket pocket or small camera case.

Alright, let's begin our tour of the camera now, beginning with the front!

Front of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

The EasyShare Z1085 IS features an F2.8-5.1, 5X optical zoom lens that carries the Schneider-Kreuznach label. The lens has a focal range of 7.5 - 37.7 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 175 mm. Since the lens isn't threaded, conversion lenses are not supported.

Inside the lens is an optical image stabilization system. If you've been frustrated with blurry photos, then this can help. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of the camera that can blur your photos, especially in low light. The Z1085 shifts a lens element to counteract this movement, which makes a sharp photo a lot more likely. Now, OIS systems won't freeze a moving subject, nor will they allow for 1 second handheld exposures, but they certainly help. Want proof?


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

Both of the photos you see above were taken at a shutter speed of 1/8 second. As you can see, the image stabilization system did exactly what it's supposed to, producing a tack sharp photo. You can also use image stabilization in movie mode, as demonstrated in this short video clip.

Directly above the lens is the camera's built-in flash. Kodak is pretty vague about the flash range, saying only that the maximum reach in Smart Capture mode is 8.3 m at wide-angle, and 4.4 m at telephoto. That's pretty darn good. You cannot attach an external flash to the Z1085, which shouldn't come as a surprise.

The last two things to see on the front of the camera include the microphone (to the upper-right of the lens) and the self-timer/video lamp. The EasyShare Z1085 does not have an AF-assist lamp, and we'll see how that affects its low light shooting abilities later in the review.

Back of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

The first thing you'll probably notice on the back of the camera is its 2.5" LCD display. There are bigger screens out there these days, but it was more than adequate for me. The screen has 230,000 pixels, so everything is sharp. Outdoor viewing could certainly be better -- the screen was hard to see in direct sunlight. Low light visibility was better, with the screen "gaining up" automatically in those situations.

You've probably noticed by now that the Z1085 lacks an optical viewfinder. That may bother you, or it may not. In this class of camera, they are very uncommon.

Now let's talk about all the buttons on the right side of the LCD. Starting at the top, we find the zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just about two seconds. I counted just seven steps in the camera's 5X zoom range, which was disappointing.

Below that we have buttons for deleting a photo, or toggling the information shown on the LCD. Continuing south, you'll find the four-way controller, which you'll use for menu navigation and reviewing photos that you've taken.

Share menu Selecting e-mail recipients

The final three buttons on the back of the camera are for invoking the menu, entering review (playback mode), or "sharing" a photo. The Share feature has been on Kodak cameras for years, and the basic concept has not changed. Press the red button and a menu comes up, allowing you to tag a photo for printing or e-mailing. You can select more than one recipient for an e-mail, and you can set those up on either the camera or your PC. Naturally, photos aren't actually e-mailed until you connect to a computer.

Let's continue our tour, shall we?

Top of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

On the left side of the above photo you can spot the EasyShare Z1085's speaker. To the right of that we find three buttons:

In case you're wondering, the 2X self-timer feature does indeed take two photos. The first one is taken after a ten second delay, with the next coming eight seconds later.

What about those two burst modes? The "first burst" mode is quite simple: it takes three shots in a row, at 1.7 frames/second. If you don't want to miss a shot, you can use the "last burst" mode, which keeps shooting at 1.7 fps (for up to thirty shots), saving the last three photos that were taken when you took your finger off the shutter release button.

Next up we have the mode dial, which has the shutter release button inside it. The options you'll find here include:

Option Function
Panorama mode Helps you create panoramic photos
Manual (M) mode Lets you adjust the shutter speed and aperture. Shutter speed range is 8 - 1/1000 sec, while aperture range is F2.9 - F14.8
Program mode Automatic shooting, with full menu access
Smart Capture mode Point-and-shoot, with most menu options locked up. Features auto scene selection, face detection and auto image enhancement (via PerfectTouch).
High ISO mode Boosts the ISO as high as needed (up to 3200) in order to get a sharp photo
Scene mode You choose the situation and the users the proper settings; choose from portrait, sports, landscape, night portrait, night landscape, snow, beach, text, fireworks, flower, manner/museum, self-portrait, stage, backlight, candle light, and sunset
Movie mode More on this later

Lots to talk about before we move on. First, the panorama mode. This helps you create three-shot panoramic photos, taken left-to-right or vice versa. After you're done taking the photos, the camera stitches them automatically, though the original (separate) images are not saved.

The Smart Capture feature has correctly selected macro mode for this photo. The face detection feature, only available in Smart Capture mode, found four of the six faces in our test scene.

The camera has tons of scene modes, plus a fancy auto mode called Smart Capture. This mode automatically selects the scene for you, choosing from portrait, macro, night scene, landscape, and more. All photos get run through the PerfectTouch auto-enhancement feature that I'll tell you about later in the review, this is the only place that you'll find face detection AF, as well. Kodak provides almost no details about the face detection system (like how many faces it can find), but it performed fairly well in my tests, typically locating four of the six faces in our test scene.

Like many cameras these days, the Z1085 has a high sensitivity mode. And, as usual, I recommend passing on this feature, instead boosting the ISO manually, as needed. The reason for this is that high ISO photos can be quite noisy, as you can see in this example.

Finally, I want to mention those manual exposure controls. While there's no shutter or aperture priority mode here, you can set the both of those properties at the same time using the "M" mode. There are some limitations, though: you can only select from three aperture values at any one time, so you have to take what the camera offers you.

Left Side of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

Nothing to see here.

Right Side of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

There's more to see on the other side of the Z1085 IS. Here you'll find the memory card slot (protected by a plastic cover of decent quality), the USB + A/V output port, and the DC-in port (for the optional AC adapter). I should point out that swapping memory cards requires you to power cycle the camera.

I'm not a fan of the location of that USB + A/V port -- you have to open the memory card door to get to it. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast photo transfer to your Mac or PC.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery compartment, the dock connector, and a plastic tripod mount (hidden from view). As I mentioned earlier in the review, the Z1085 supports AA, CR-V3, and Kodak KLIC-8000 batteries. If you're using AAs, they must be lithium!

The dock connector mounts the camera onto Kodak's optional camera and printer docks, including the HDTV dock that I mentioned in the accessory section.

The included lithium CR-V3 battery is seen at right.

Using the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

Record Mode

You'll wait for around 1.4 seconds while the EasyShare Z1085 extends its lens and prepares for shooting. That's not bad at all.


A live histogram is available in record mode

Autofocus performance was good, in most cases. At wide-angle (and in good lighting), the Z1085 took between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to lock focus. Telephoto focus times ranged from 1/2 to 1 second, rarely exceeding the latter. Low light focusing was disappointing. The camera had lot of trouble locking focus in those situations, and I think the lack of an AF-assist lamp has a lot to do with this.

Shutter lag wasn't a problem at faster shutter speeds, though I noticed a bit of it at slower shutter speeds, where you should really be using a tripod or the flash in the first place.

Shot-to-shot speeds were great for the first shot, but as the buffer memory starts to fill (after three shots), things start to slow down. Don't be surprised if you see a "processing" screen while the camera writes the images to your memory card. It took around five seconds to save each image onto my high speed SD card. Adding the flash into the mix did not effect shot-to-shot times.

You can delete a photo right after you take it by pressing the Delete button on the back of the camera.

There are many resolutions to choose from on the EasyShare Z1085 IS, though you can't adjust the quality (amount of compression) applied to each of those. The list below shows the resolutions available in all modes except for Smart Capture, where there are a few more.

Resolution # images on 32MB
on-board memory **
# images on 1GB memory card (optional)
10.0 MP
3648 x 2736
6 286
8.9 MP (3:2)
3648 x 2432
7 333
7.5 MP (16:9)
3648 x 2064
8 381
5.0 MP
2592 x 1944
12 571
3.1 MP
2048 x 1536
18 857
2.2 MP (3:2)
1800 x 1200
24 1143
2.1 MP (16:9)
1920 x 1080
25 1190
1.2 MP
1280 x 960
35 1667
** Only 21MB is actually used for image storage

And now you see why I always recommend buying a memory card right away -- that built-in memory doesn't store many photos!

The EasyShare Z1085 doesn't support the RAW or TIFF image formats, nor would I expect it to. The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.

There are two menu systems on the camera. The first is an overlay-style menu, which is only available in the Program and Manual modes. This menu lets you adjust the following camera settings:


The only thing from the overlay menu that I want to mention is the manual focus feature. While Kodak's intentions are good, their implementation of this feature is poor. While the camera enlarges the center of the frame, the focus distance guide is completely unhelpful. Why they couldn't throw some units into the guide is beyond me.

The camera's regular menu system is attractive and easy to navigate, though I think they could've combined the first two tabs into one. If you're confused about any of the menu options, you can press the Display/Info button to see a help screen. Here's what you'll find in the full record menu:

The only thing I want to mention here are the image stabilizer options. Continuous IS really lives up to its name: it's ALWAYS operating, even if you're not touching the shutter release button. This definitely puts extra strain on the battery. I'd recommend using the Single IS mode, which activates the system when you halfway-press the shutter release. You can turn the system off entirely, which is a good idea when the camera is on a tripod.

Alright, enough about menus, let's move on to our photo tests, shall we?

The EasyShare Z1085 IS did a good job with our usual macro test subject. The subject is sharp, and the colors are quite vivid (the reds a little too much so). The camera's tungsten white balance handled my studio lights with ease, which is unusual. I see a tiny bit of noise here, but you really have to look hard for it.

The camera won't win any awards for how close you can get to your subject. The minimum focus distances are 20 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto. Remember, if you're in Smart Capture mode, you don't need to turn on macro mode -- it's automatic.

The night shot didn't turn out quite as well. You can bring in enough light for a nice photo using the manual mode, or the night landscape scene mode (which may be automatically selected by the Smart Capture feature). The photo is on the soft side, with visible noise and noise reduction artifacting -- and this is at ISO 80. There is some purple fringing here-and-there, but it's fairly minor.

Let's use that same scene to see how the EasyShare Z1085 IS performed at higher sensitivities in low light:


ISO 80
ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

As you'd expect, there's little difference between the ISO 80 and 100 shots. At ISO 200, we get more noise, plus a bizarre greenish color cast. That's as high as you want to take this camera in low light, as image quality goes downhill quickly after that point. There's substantial detail loss at ISO 400, and you can watch the buildings fade away into mush as the sensitivity increases. The ISO 3200 looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph. The Z1085 can use even higher sensitivities, but I figured I'd save those examples for the studio ISO test.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the EasyShare Z1085's 5X zoom lens. While corner blurriness wasn't a major issue, the Z1085 had a consistent problem with vignetting, specifically in the top-left corner. This issue may be specific to my camera, but it's something to look out for.

The EasyShare Z1085 has two ways it can attack redeye and, unfortunately, neither of them worked. If you have the redeye preflash turned on, the camera will fire the flash an extra time, hoping to shrink your subject's pupils, which reduces the risk of redeye. If that feature is off, the camera will detect redeye, and digitally remove it. The results were the same either way -- bad redeye. Strangely enough, there's no tool in playback mode that you can use to remove it!

Now it's time for our studio ISO test, which can be compared with other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. I included the whole 80 - 8000 ISO range here, though keep in mind that the two highest sensitivities must be taken at 3 Megapixel or below. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise levels at each setting, I always recommend viewing the full size images to get the complete picture (no pun intended).


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 8000

The ISO 80 though 200 shots are both pretty clean, though you will spot some noise and NR artifacting if you look closely. Noise reduction starts to smudge away details at ISO 400, though there's enough left to make a small or midsize print. When we get to ISO 800 there's a noticeable softening of the image (due to noise reduction), as well as a drop in color saturation. This is as far as I'd take the EasyShare Z1085 in good light, unless you're absolutely desperate. Images continue to soften as we hit ISO 1600, and it only gets worse, as the photos illustrate. The two highest settings are really there for marketing purposes -- I don't know what you could do with those images.

Overall, the EasyShare Z1085's photo quality was decent, with a lot of room for improvement in terms of noise reduction. The camera generally took properly exposed photos, though there was some occasional highlight clipping, especially in our purple fringing torture tunnel. Like all Kodak digital cameras, colors are very saturated, and perhaps a little over-the-top at times. Images are slightly soft, due to the heavy amount of noise reduction being applied. This same noise reduction smudges details and makes the sky look like a blotchy mess. This does keep more traditional noise at bay, at least for the lower sensitivities. As I touched on earlier, I had vignetting in many of my photos, though it's unclear if it's a problem specific to my camera or not.

If you're sticking to small prints, most of the issues I raised won't be a problem. If you plan on making larger prints, or inspecting your photos on your computer screen, you may be a bit disappointed.

I invite you now to take a look at our EasyShare Z1085 IS photo gallery. View the full size images, print a few if you can, and then you should be able to decide if the Z1085's photo quality meets your needs.

Movie Mode

One of the big selling points on the EasyShare Z1085 is its high definition movie mode. The camera allows you to record movies at 720p -- that's 1280 x 720 -- at 30 frames/second, with sound. While I can't find anything about a file size limit in the manual or on Kodak's website, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that it's 4GB (which is the limit of the file system). You can't record HD video to the internal memory, so you'll want a large, fast SD or SDHC card for movie recording. A 2GB card holds over 16 minutes of video.

Don't need HD video? There are two lower resolutions available: 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 (both at 30 fps). A 2GB card can hold about 28 mins at the VGA setting, and 80 minutes at QVGA.

The Z1085 is somewhat unique in that it lets you use the zoom lens while you're recording. The lens moves slowly to reduce the amount of motor noise picked up by the microphone, but you'll still hear it. Same goes for the image stabilizer and autofocus system (if you're using Continuous AF), so if you may be recording in quiet places, take note.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the efficient MPEG-4 codec.

Here's a sample movie taken at the 720p setting, complete with a little zoom-out action. Enjoy!


Click to play movie (20 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

You'll find plenty of features inside the EasyShare Z1085's playback mode. The basic ones include slideshows (with music and transitions), DPOF print marking, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the image by as much as 8X, and then move around it. This is great for checking focus or making sure that your subject had their eyes open. There are also the Sharing features that I described earlier in the review.

An edit menu lets you crop a photo (there's no rotation or resizing options available), add a voice caption, or apply Kodak's PerfectTouch technology to a photo you've taken. My only question is, where's the redeye removal tool? PerfectTouch brightens the dark areas of your photos, which can certainly come in handy at times. You can't use PerfectTouch on a photo taken in Smart Capture mode, as it's run automatically in that mode. Here's an example:


Straight out of the camera


After PerfectTouch

If you look at the first image, you'll see that while Flame is well exposed, the rest of the image is pretty dark. After running the photo through PerfectTouch, everything is nice and bright, though maybe a bit too much -- it would be nice if you could adjust how much brightening is applied. You can choose to overwrite the original image, or save the retouched image as a new one.

If you have a movie loaded up on the screen, you have a whole other set of Edit options at your disposal. You can grab a frame from a movie, trim unwanted footage off the beginning or the end of it, or create an "Action Print", which is basically a collage made up of frames from the video. You can also place "bookmarks" in a video, which allow you to jump to sections of the clip that you find particularly interesting.

The top level of the Search screen Browsing the month of August

The camera allows you to "tag" photos, either as favorites, or with a tag of your creation. You can use tags to help organize your photos both on the camera, and in the Easyshare software on your PC. The Z1085's Search feature lets you locate photos by the date(s) they were taken, or by their tag (favorite or custom).

If you've ever accidentally deleted a photo, then you'll appreciate the Undo Delete feature on the Z1085 IS. This lets you bring the last photo or video you deleted back from the grave, as long as you didn't leave playback mode or power off the camera first.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you anything about the photos you've taken. However, if you press the Info button you'll get a lot more, including a histogram.

The EasyShare Z1085 moves from one photo to another almost instantly.

How Does it Compare?

The Kodak EasyShare Z1085 is an inexpensive camera that offers a 5X zoom, optical image stabilization, and an easy-to-use interface, all in a fairly compact body. It also offers a high definition movie mode, which is impressive given the price of the camera. Unfortunately, the Z1085 has a host of flaws, including heavy noise reduction and redeye in photos, poor low light focusing, and below average battery life. The negatives end up outweighing the positives on the Z1085, so I think you're probably better off looking at another camera.

The Z1085 IS straddles the line between compact and midsize. It's not going to fit in your jeans pocket (at least, not easily), but it's easy to carry around with its wrist strap, or in a small camera bag. It's made mostly of plastic, with a little metal here and there, and feels pretty solid considering its price tag. The only real weak points are the plastic tripod mount and a mode dial which feels cheap. The camera is easy to just pick up and use, with buttons logically labeled (though they're on the small side). The Z1085 features a 5X optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 35 - 175 mm. Inside the lens is a somewhat noisy, but still effective optical image stabilization system, which helps reduce the risk of a blurry photo. The camera's flash is quite powerful, though its proximity to the lens makes the Z1085 a redeye machine. On the back of the camera is a standard-issue 2.5" LCD display, with average outdoor visibility. In low light, the screen brightens automatically, so your subject is still visible. There's no optical viewfinder on the EasyShare 1085 IS.

While it has several manual controls, the EasyShare Z1085 is mostly geared toward the point-and-shoot crowd. The feature that illustrates that best is called Smart Capture, which is the auto shooting mode on the camera. It'll automatically select a scene mode for you (and it does this fairly well), look for any faces in the frame, and brighten the shadows -- all on its own. There's also a panorama mode that will help you line up the photos side-by-side, which are instantly stitched into a single image. If you're confused about any of the menu options, a help screen is available. One of the hallmark features of Kodak's cameras is their EasyShare system, which allows you to tag photos for printing and e-mailing by pressing the Share button.

If you want manual controls, they're available, but somewhat limited. If you want to set the aperture or shutter speed, you'll need to use the full manual (M) mode, as there are no "priority" modes on the camera. I was disappointed to see that the camera only makes 3 aperture settings available at any one time. The other manual control is for focus, which would be a lot more useful if the actual focus distance was shown on the LCD. The camera lacks a custom white balance function.

If you like taking movies, then you'll enjoy the HD movie mode on the EasyShare Z1085 IS. You can record video at 1280 x 720 (30 fps) with sound until you hit the 4GB file size limit (as far as I can tell). You'll hit that limit in 29 minutes. You can use the optical zoom and the image stabilizer while you're recording, though their sounds may be picked up by the microphone. The Z1085 allows you to trim unwanted footage off of the ends of your clip, grab a frame, or create a collage made up of various frames of your movie.

Camera performance was a mixed bag. The Z1085's 1.4 second startup time is about average for a camera in this class. Focusing times were generally good, except in low light, where the Z1085 struggled considerably (it really needs an AF-assist lamp). Shot-to-shot speeds are okay at first, but the buffer memory fills quickly, leading to a "processing" screen that can last several seconds. The Z1085 IS's burst mode lets you take up to three shots in a row at 1.7 fps. The battery situation on the Z1085 is a bit of a mess. The camera supports Kodak's rechargeable KLIC-8000 battery, as well as AA or CR-V3 lithium batteries (which are not rechargeable). Kodak makes it very clear that alkaline batteries are not supported, which is both unusual and disappointing. With the KLIC-8000 installed, the Z1085 turns in below average battery life numbers.

Photo quality also had its ups and downs. Exposure was generally accurate, though I ran into some clipped highlights here and there. Like all Kodak cameras, colors are super-saturated, perhaps too much so. Photos are on the soft side, due to the heavy noise reduction being applied. This same noise reduction smudges fine details, and gives the sky a mottled appearance. This does keep "traditional" noise at bay, at least for a while. The Z1085 can crank the ISO all way the to 8000, though frankly I wouldn't take it any higher than 800 in good light, and 200 in low light. Purple fringing levels were fairly low. I noticed some vignetting in my photos, though this may be specific to my particular camera. Something that will affect most everyone is redeye: the Z1085 picks up a lot of it, and the two built-in removal methods didn't work for me.

There are a few other issues I want to bring up before I close this review. The camera's bundle leaves something to be desired, in three ways. One, the 21MB of usable built-in memory is very little for a 10 Megapixel camera. Second, the full manual isn't included with the camera -- you have to go download it. Once you do that you'll get more answers, but Kodak still leaves out a lot of details that users might find helpful. The third bundle issue is the lack of a video output cable. Every other manufacturer includes this useful accessory with their cameras, but Kodak has chosen to try to sell it to you for $25 instead. My final complaint is that the zoom controller doesn't let you control the lens with any precision. There are just seven steps in the zoom range, on a 5X lens!

All things considered, the EasyShare Z1085 is just an average camera. The best thing it has going for it is its value: a 5X zoom lens, image stabilization, and an HD movie mode, all for under $250. Unfortunately, it needs work in a lot of areas, which is why I think your money is better spent on another camera.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot A590 IS, Fuji FinePix J50, GE E1050, Nikon Coolpix P60, Olympus FE-310, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10, Pentax Optio V20, Ricoh R8, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the EasyShare Z1085 IS and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

 

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