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DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 23, 2007
Last Updated: February 25, 2008

The Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS ($249) is a low-cost, but full-featured ultra zoom camera. It features a 7.1 effective Megapixel CCD, 12X optical zoom, optical image stabilization, full manual controls, a 2.5" LCD display, and the ease-of-use that Kodak cameras are known for.

After I received the Z712, Kodak announced a newer model, known as the Z812 IS ($299). It's quite similar, with the notable changes being a higher resolution (8.2MP) sensor and a 720p video mode.

The Z712 IS has some really tough competition, especially from the likes of Canon, Panasonic, and Sony. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The EasyShare Z712 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

As is the case with most cameras these days, the EasyShare Z712 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The Z712 has 32MB of built-in memory (of which only 28MB can be used for photo storage), which holds just ten photos at the highest quality setting. Therefore, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and I'd recommend a 1GB card as a good place to start. The camera supports both SD and MMC memory cards, plus the newer, high capacity SDHC cards, though they don't actually tell you that anywhere. While it improves camera performance slightly, a high speed card isn't a necessary purchase.
[Paragraph updated 9/24/07]

The Z712 can use several types of battery. It comes with a lithium CR-V3 battery, which will soon find its way into your trash can. After that, you can use two AA batteries (NiMH, lithium, or alkaline), another lithium CR-V3, or Kodak's KLIC-8000 rechargeable battery ($20). Now, here's how the Z712 compares with ultra zooms in terms of battery life. I only have numbers for the KLIC-8000 battery, so I can't say how the camera performs with NiMH rechargeables.

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S5 IS * 450 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S700 500 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS * 275 shots KLIC-8000
Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS * 275 shots KLIC-8000
Nikon Coolpix S10 * 300 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom * 530 shots 4 x 2300 mAh NiMH
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 * 380 shots CGR-S006
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7 * 300 shots NP-BG1

* Has image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

As you can see, the Z712's battery life falls well below the average for the group. It's possible to get better numbers out of the camera by using NiMH rechargeables, but since Kodak doesn't publish them, I can't say that with 100% confidence. So, you'll probably want to get yourself a spare battery -- the KLIC-8000 rechargeable sells for about $20.

There's no battery charger included with the camera, and you have various options there too. If you're using the KLIC-8000, then you can use the Kodak K7500 (priced from $33) or K7600 ($35) chargers. The Kodak camera and printer docks can charge the battery while it's inside the camera, as well. If you decide to use NiMH rechargeables (which are certainly a better value than the KLIC-8000), then any fast charger will be fine.

Kodak includes a lens cap and retaining strap in the box with the Z712 IS, so that big 12X lens will be protected from scratches or worse.

Kodak offers a decent amount of accessories for the Z12, and I've compiled them into this chart:

Accessory Model # Price * Why you want it
Telephoto lens 8756488 From $110 Boosts focal range by 1.4X to a whopping 604.8 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Conversion lens adapter 8379166 From $29 Required for conversion lens; you can attach standard 55 mm filters to it as well
Camera Dock Series 3 8512089 $50 Charge your battery, connect to a computer or a TV
AC adapter 8919409 $40 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
External battery charger K7500-C
K7600-C
From $33
$35
Charges the KLIC-8000 (and other Kodak proprietary batteries); does NOT charge AA's
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

Not too shabby... though a wide-angle conversion lens would've been a nice accessory to have.


EasyShare 6.0 for Mac OS X


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows lets you view your Online Photo Gallery right in the software

The Z712 comes with Kodak's EasyShare 6 software for both Mac and Windows. As is often the case, the Windows version (6.2) 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


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows

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.


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows

Something else that the Windows version lets you do is create greeting cards. The software includes templates, and Kodak sells packs of additional templates for around $10. Just plug in your photo and you're ready to print your card either yourself or via Kodak's EasyShare Gallery service.

All-in-all the EasyShare package is pretty darn good for bundled software, especially if you've seen the stuff that some other companies give you.

On their recent cameras Kodak has taken a step backwards in the documentation department. In the "old days" (meaning last year), you used to get a nice thick manual in the box with the camera. Now you get a thin "getting started guide" which has just 22 pages of actual content. Want the full manual? You'll have to go to Kodak's website and either view it there, or download it as a PDF. I'm sorry Kodak, but people should not have to do this -- especially those who aren't terribly techno-saavy.

Look and Feel

The EasyShare Z712 IS is a fairly compact ultra zoom camera. It's made of a mixture of plastic and metal, and feels pretty solid. The camera's grip is just the right side, so the camera fits snugly in your hand. Your thumb conveniently sits on the zoom controller, so there's no stretching necessary. The Z712 does have more than its share of buttons, but they're all well-labeled. The only thing that bothered me was the command dial on the back of the camera -- I think it spins too easily.

Now, here's a look at how the Z712 compares to other ultra zoom cameras in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot S5 IS 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.1 in. 45.6 cu in. 450 g
Fujifilm FinePix S700 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.2 in. 40.3 cu in. 306 g
Kodak Easyshare Z712 IS 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.7 in. 32.1 cu in. 300 g
Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS 4.3 x 2.9 x 3.0 in. 37.4 cu in. 330 g
Nikon Coolpix S10 4.4 x 2.9 x 1.6 in. 20.4 cu in. 220 g
Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in. 44.2 cu in. 365 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 4.4 x 2.8 x 3.1 in. 38.2 cu in. 310 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7 4.3 x 3.3 x 3.4 in. 48.2 cu in. 375 g

The Z712 is the smallest "normal-looking" ultra zoom camera. The Coolpix S10 (and a few other models not listed here) are smaller, but they have a rather unconventional design that's not for everyone. Also, for some bizarre reason, the nearly identical Z812 is a bit larger and heavier.

Let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?

The lens is really what makes an ultra zoom camera, and the one here is a Schneider-Kreuznach (probably in name only), 12X optical zoom model. This F2.8-4.8 lens has a focal range of 5.9 - 70.8 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 432 mm. While the lens itself is not threaded, the barrel around it is. Thus, with the optional conversion lens adapter, you can attach the telephoto lens I mentioned in the previous section, or any 55 mm filter.

Inside the lens is an optical image stabilization system. If you're a current digital camera owner then you may be familiar with camera shake, or at least the effects of it. The tiny movements of your hands can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. Sensors inside the Z712 can detect this motion, and the camera ships a lens element to compensate for it. Image stabilization won't let you take really long exposures without blur, nor can it freeze a moving subject. What it can do, however, is give you a few extra stops of shutter speed that would be unavailable otherwise.

Want to see how Kodak's OIS system works? Have a look at this:


Image stabilizer on


Image stabilizer off

Both of the above photos were taken at 1/5 second, which almost guarantees a blurry shot. Sure enough, without the stabilizer, that's exactly what I got. Turning on image stabilization produced a much sharper photo, as you can see. If you want another example of the effectiveness of the OIS system, then have a look at this brief sample movie.

Directly above the lens is the Z712's pop-up flash, which is can be released automatically or manually. This is a pretty powerful flash, with a working range of 0.5 - 7.8 m at wide-angle and 1.2 - 4.4 m at telephoto. These numbers are calculated at Auto ISO (as they almost always are), so if you're using a fixed, lower ISO (strongly recommended), the range won't be quite as impressive. You cannot attach an external flash to the Z712 IS.

In-between the lens and flash are the camera's AF-assist lamp and microphone (hard to see here). The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations. It doubles as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

The main event on the back of the Z712 is its large 2.5" LCD display. With just 115,000 pixels, the LCD isn't terribly sharp, and you can tell when you're using it. I noticed some "dithering" on the screen as well, which is a fancy term for gradients that don't transition smoothly. The LCD has good outdoor visibility though. and in low light the screen "gains up" automatically, so you can still see your subject.

At the top of the photo is the camera's electronic viewfinder, which has double the resolution of the main LCD. An "EVF" is basically a small LCD screen that you view as if it was a regular optical viewfinder. You see the same things that are available on the LCD (including menus) and there's no parallax error to worry about, but it's not nearly as sharp as a true optical viewfinder. That said, you won't an ultra zoom camera with anything else. One thing missing from the EVF on this camera is a diopter correction knob, which is used to focus the image on the screen. If your vision isn't perfect, then you may want to try out the viewfinder before you buy the Z712.

To the left of the electronic viewfinder is the button which toggles between it and the LCD.

Jumping over to the right, we find the zoom controller, followed by the command dial. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about two seconds (it moves slower in movie mode). I counted a whopping thirty steps in the camera's 12X zoom range.

The command dial, which I find to be too "loose" and easy to turn, is used for adjusting exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, ISO, and the Z712's various manual exposure settings. The range for both types of exposure compensation is the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments.

Below the zoom controller we have the Info and Review buttons. The former toggles the information shown on the LCD/EVF, shows a help screen in the menus, and displays shooting information in playback mode. Speaking of which, the Review button enters playback mode.

Next up we have the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation. Below that are buttons for deleting photos, entering the menu, and activating the camera's EasyShare system. When you press that red Share button, a menu pops up offering these options:

Let's say you want to mark an image for e-mail. Here's what you'll see:

You can select a person or persons to whom you want to e-mail this picture. Once you connect to your computer, the EasyShare software will send the pictures to the chosen recipients.

Selecting photos to print later is just as easy. Just select the photo and the number of copies, and the next time you dock with a printer, it'll prompt you to make those prints. This works with both the Kodak Printer Dock as well as the scores of PictBridge-enabled photo printers on the market.

The first things to see on the top of the Z712 IS are its power button and mode dial. The options on the mode dial include:

Option Function
Smart Scene mode Fully automatic mode which can select a scene mode for you; most menu options locked up
Program mode Still automatic, but with full menu access
Aperture priority mode You choose the aperture, and the camera selects the correct shutter speed; aperture range is F2.8 - F8.
Shutter priority mode You select the shutter speed, and the camera picks the proper aperture; choose from a range of 16 - 1/1000 sec
Full manual (M) mode You choose both the aperture and shutter speed; same ranges as above
Favorites mode View photos that you've tagged as favorites
Movie mode I'll have more on this later
Scene mode You choose the situation and the users the proper settings; choose from portrait, panorama, landscape, night portrait, night landscape, snow, beach, text, fireworks, flower, manner/museum, children, backlight, candle light, and sunset
High-ISO mode Boosts the ISO as high as needed in order to get a sharp photo
Sport One more scene mode, this time for action shots


Scene menu

As you can see, the Z712 IS has a full set of manual controls (save for white balance), plus more scene modes than you could possible desire.


Panorama created on the Z712 IS

The two scene modes I want to talk about before we move on are panorama and High-ISO. The panorama mode helps you line up three photos side by side (either left-to-right or right-to-left), and the camera automatically stitches them into a single photo for you. The individual images are not saved, though. The High ISO mode boosts the sensitivity as high as 1600 in order to get a shutter speed fast enough to obtain a sharp photo. I'd only use this mode if you know that you'll be making small prints, as the camera produces fairly "muddy" photos at higher ISO sensitivities.

Getting back to our tour now: at the top-right of the above photo are four buttons, one of which is the shutter release. The other three are for:


Manual focus

Lots to talk about before we move on. The Z712 has a manual focus feature, which lets you use the four-way controller to set the focus distance. While the camera enlarges the center of the frame, the tiny focus distance guide borders on useless.

There are two burst modes on the Z712 IS: first and last. In "first burst" mode, the camera took six shots in a row at 2.1 frames/second. Last burst mode keeps shooting at 2.1 frames/second (for up to 30 shots), but it only saves the last six photos that were taken. The LCD keeps up fairly well with the action, with just a slight freeze between each shot. I did notice that it took the camera quite a while to finish saving the six photos (around 25 seconds), and that's with a high speed memory card too.

Also found in the burst mode menu is auto exposure bracketing. This takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure. You can select the difference in exposure between each shot in the record menu. If you have the space on your memory card, then this is a good way to ensure a proper exposure every time.

The only thing to see on this side of the EasyShare Z712 IS is its speaker.

On the other side of the camera you'll find the I/O ports, which include USB+A/V (one port for both) and DC-in (for the optional AC adapter). A rubber cover keeps dirt and other unwanted materials out of the ports. Unfortunately, the EasyShare Z712 IS does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so photo transfers to your computer will be very slow.

The lens is at the full telephoto position in this shot.

On the bottom of the Z712 IS you'll find a metal tripod mount, the connector for the optional camera or printer dock, the memory card slot, and the battery compartment.

The memory card slot has an unremarkable plastic cover over it, while the battery compartment has a more substantial reinforced plastic door. More than likely, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

Using the Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS

Record Mode

The EasyShare Z712 has one of the fastest startup times that I've seen on an ultra-zoom camera: just one second.


A live histogram is available in record mode

Focus performance was also quite good. In good light, at the wide end of the lens, you'll wait for between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds for the camera to lock focus. At the telephoto end you'll wait for a bit longer, but focus times rarely exceeded one second. Low light focusing was quite and accurate, due in part to the Z712's AF-assist lamp.

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 anyway.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, with a one second delay between shots, even with the flash. You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing the delete button on the back of the camera.

Now, here's a look at the various image size and quality options available on the camera:

Resolution Quality # images on 32MB* onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)
7.1 MP
3072 x 2304
Fine 5 210
Standard 11 454
Basic 18 706
6.3 MP (3:2 ratio)
3072 x 2048
Fine 6 235
Standard 13 508
Basic 20 786
5.0 MP
2592 x 1944
Fine 7 292
Standard 16 625
Basic 24 961
3.1 MP
2048 x 1536
Fine 11 459
Standard 24 962
Basic 37 1445
2.2 MP (3:2 ratio)
1800 x 1200
Fine 16 654
Standard 34 1338
Basic 50 1955
2.1MP (16:9 ratio)
1920 x 1080
Fine 17 680
Standard 35 1384
Basic 52 2015
1.2 MP
1280 x 960
Fine 28 1091
Standard 54 2118
Basic 75 2933
* Only 28MB available for photo storage

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

There's no support for the RAW or TIFF formats on the EasyShare Z712 IS, which doesn't come as a surprise.

The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.

The EasyShare Z712 has a fairly straightforward menu system. For any of the options shown you can press the Info button to get a description of that option (see screenshots). Keeping in mind that not all of these options will be available in the automatic shooting mode, here's the full record menu list:

Sadly, the EasyShare Z712 IS lacks a custom white balance option. While this doesn't affect your typical point-and-shoot user, I'll show below you what it can do if you shoot in unusual lighting.

There are two AF control modes on the camera. The first, single, is the normal "push the button halfway to lock focus" mode that everyone's used to. The continuous mode is always trying to focus, which can reduce focus times, but at the expense of battery life.

There's also a setup tab, available from both the record and playback menus. Here's what you'll find in the setup menu:

The only thing I want to mention here are those image stabilizer options. Continuous mode has the IS running as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release button, which allows you to compose your shot without any camera shake. For better stabilization performance you'll want to use the single mode, which doesn't activate the IS system until the photos is actually taken. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is a good idea if you're using a tripod.

Okay, enough menus, let's talk photo quality!

The macro shot above would've been a whole lot better had the camera offered a custom white balance function. Unfortunately, it does not, hence the greenish cast. If you shoot under unusual or mixed lighting, then you should really find a camera that has custom WB, but for the average user, this should not be a major issue. Aside from the white balance issue, the news is good. The subject is sharp, and the colors are quite saturated.

The Z712 IS doesn't let you get terribly close to your subject in macro mode. The minimum distance is 12 cm at wide-angle and 1.2 m at telephoto.

The night scene turned out nicely. The camera took in plenty of light, thanks to its ability to manually control the shutter speed. The buildings are fairly sharp, though you can see that noise reduction is eating away at some of their edges. This same noise reduction also gives the sky a slightly blotchy appearance. There is some purple fringing here, but it's fairly minor.

I have two ISO tests for you in this review, and the first one uses the above night scene. The exposures aren't perfect from shot-to-shot, as the moon was descending into the frame as I was taking the pictures. Here's how the camera performs in low light at various sensitivities:


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

One interesting thing I noticed right away is that purple fringing levels jump noticeably at ISO 100, possible due to the brighter exposure. In terms of noise and noise reduction artifacting, the first two shots are nearly the same. The sky is a bit more blotchy at ISO 200, though it's still a very usable image. Noise reduction really starts to eat away details at ISO 400, so I'd really avoid using this setting or anything above it, unless you're absolutely desperate. While there hasn't been much in the line of noise thus far, it finally appears at ISO 800, and is especially bad at ISO 1600 (where there's also a color shift).

I'll show you how the camera performs in better lighting in a bit.

There's mild to moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the Z712's 12X zoom lens. To see what this does to your photos, have a look at the building on the right side of this photo. While blurriness in the corners wasn't much of a problem, I did notice some vignetting (dark corners) in a few of my real world photos.

There's no redeye to be found in our flash photo test. The camera uses the usual preflash system to shrink the pupils before taking the photo, and that did the job here.

Now it's time for the second of our ISO tests. You can compare this shot with those in other reviews on this site. The green cast caused by the white balance system can be seen here, but we're looking more at noise than color, so try to ignore that.


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

The ISO 64 shot is pretty clean, with just a hint of noise reduction artifacting. This artifacting picks up a bit at ISO 100 and 200, giving solid colors a mottled appearance. At ISO 400, detail loss becomes more noticeable, though a midsize print is still very possible. At ISO 800 we have noise and noise reduction artifacting, with noticeable loss in detail, but I still got a 4 x 6 inch print out of it that's suitable for the refrigerator door. ISO 1600 really isn't usable, with lots of detail loss. Speaking of which, I didn't include the ISO 3200 shot above, since it can only be taken at the 1.2 Megapixel resolution. If you really want to see it, click here.

Overall, the EasyShare Z712's photo quality is very good. Exposure was generally good, though the camera blew out the highlights in our purple fringing torture test. The Z712's photos are a perfect example of "Kodak color", which translates to "very saturated" (and a little over-the-top at times). Images were slightly soft due to noise reduction, and this also smudges fine details and gives solid colors a mottled appearance, as you can see here. While these issues are noticeable when viewed on your computer screen, they tend to go away when you print the photos, as long as you're not making huge prints. Since the camera is applying a lot of noise reduction, there isn't much in the line of noise until you reach the highest ISO settings. Purple fringing was fairly well controlled.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few photos if you can. Then decide if the Z712's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The EasyShare Z712 has a very good movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card is full. Since the camera uses the efficient MPEG-4 format, you can fit 41 seconds of video onto the internal memory, and nearly 30 minutes onto a 1GB SD card. For longer movies you can drop the resolution to 320 x 240, which almost triples recording time.

The Z712 is one of the rare cameras that actually lets you use the optical zoom while recording a movie clip. Despite the slow moving lens, the sound of its zoom motor will be picked up by the microphone. Another sound that may be picked up is the focusing motor, if you're using the continuous AF mode. To avoid that, just change the focus mode to single AF.

The optical image stabilizer is available in movie mode, and it's very effective.

Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the VGA resolution. It's a loud one, so you may want to turn the volume on your computer before you view it.


Click to play movie (8.8 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The EasyShare Z712 has a fully equipped playback mode. Basic features are all here, like slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge your image by as much as 8 times, and then move around in the zoomed-in area. Photos can be cropped in the camera, but not resized or rotated.


Photos grouped by date; a calendar view would've been more useful

The camera lets you view photos by date, or by album. And speak of albums. you can put photos into one or more albums that you've previously set up on your computer. When you transfer the photos to your Mac or PC, they'll automatically be sorted into albums in the EasyShare software.


The PerfectTouch feature lets you see before and after views of a photo you're enhancing

The EasyShare Z712 has Kodak's PerfectTouch technology built in, which is an "auto enhance" feature that has been on Kodak's retail photo printing kiosks for some time. Press a button and a few seconds later the photo is looking a lot nicer (and noisier, which is the trade-off). Here's an example of what it can do:


Straight out of the camera


After PerfectTouch

Nice improvement if you ask me!


"Oops"

Another neat feature is the "undo" function that becomes available after you delete a photo. If you hit the wrong button and deleted a photo, you can bring it back to life, as long as you don't do anything else first.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you anything about the photos you've taken. However, a quick press of the Info button brings up the above screen, which has more information than you could possibly want, including a histogram.

The EasyShare Z712 moves from one photo to another almost instantly.

How Does it Compare?

Kodak's EasyShare Z712 IS offers a big lens, image stabilization, a nearly complete set of manual controls, and a ton of scene modes, all for less than $250. Competing models from the likes of Canon, Panasonic, and Sony, cost anywhere from $100 - $200 more than the Z712. While it's not the best ultra zoom on the market, the EasyShare Z712 is certainly one of the best values.

The EasyShare Z712 is a compact (relatively speaking) ultra zoom camera made mostly of plastic. Despite that, it's well put together. The camera is easy to hold, with the important controls in the right places. The only real ergonomic annoyances were the too-loose command dial, and the fact that you can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. The most appealing features on the Z712 are its 12X optical zoom lens and image stabilization system. The lens covers the typical ultra zoom 36 - 432 mm range, and you can expand the top end via an optional teleconverter. The image stabilizer did a good job at reducing the risk of blurry photos, and it smoothes out your videos as well. On the back of the camera you'll find a 2.5" LCD display that's a bit lacking in the resolution department. While it's not the sharpest screen out there, both outdoor and low light visibility were very good. The camera also features an electronic viewfinder, with double the resolution of the main LCD. Those of you without perfect vision, beware: there's no diopter correction on the EVF.

The Z712 IS offers features for both beginners and enthusiasts. Those of you just starting out will appreciate the numerous scene modes, and an automatic mode which selects a scene for you. There are help screens for all the menu items, so if you don't know what white balance does, an answer is just a button-press away. Photos can be tagged for e-mailing or printing, and they can also be put into predefined albums right as you're taking them. I also liked the PerfectTouch feature, which brightens up dark photos in seconds. There are plenty of features for more advanced users, too. They include manual shutter speed and aperture adjustment plus manual focus, though the latter isn't very well implemented. One manual control that I really missed was for white balance, so if you shoot in mixed lighting, you may want to look for a camera with this feature. Regardless of your skill level, you'll probably like the EasyShare Z712's movie mode, which allows for unlimited recording of VGA-sized video with both optical zoom and image stabilization available.

Camera performance was very good in most areas. The EasyShare Z712 IS has a very impressive 1 second startup time, so you can start taking pictures at a moment's notice. Focus speeds were snappy as well, with wide-angle times of 0.1 - 0.3 seconds, and around double that for focusing at the telephoto end. Low light focusing was very good, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. The two weak spots here are battery life (well below average) and USB transfer speed (no USB 2.0 High Speed to be found). It also seemed to take a long time for the camera to finish writing photos to the memory card when using the burst mode, though this doesn't prevent you from taking additional photos.

Photo quality was generally good, though a few issues did arise. The Z712 took well-exposed photos, with highly saturated colors (perhaps too much so). Images were on the soft side, with noticeable noise reduction artifacting, even at the lowest ISO setting. Noise reduction really starts to eat at details until ISO 400, but small prints were still very good at that setting. Above that, things get dicey, so I'd avoid ISO 800, 1600, and especially 3200 unless you're really desperate. The lens displayed some vignetting (dark corners) as well, which is something you rarely see on an ultra zoom camera. On a more positive note, the camera did a great job at eliminating redeye -- there was none to speak of. Purple fringing wasn't much of a problem, either.

There are a few final issues to mention before I wrap things up. First, I really have to knock Kodak (again) for not including a full manual in the box with the camera. It's one thing to have it on the bundled CD-ROM (which I don't like), but making people download it from your website is a poor move in my opinion. The only other negative is related to memory capacity: the included 32MB of built-in memory (of which 28MB is available) just doesn't hold very many 7 Megapixel photos.

All things considered, the EasyShare Z712 IS offers a lot of bang for the buck. It's not the best ultra zoom camera on the market, but it's arguably the best one for under $250. I can recommend the Z712 to just about everyone, with the exception being those of you who shoot in mixed or unusual lighting, in which case you'll want a camera white custom white balance.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other ultra zoom cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S5 IS, Fuji FinePix S700, Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS (higher resolution, with 720p movie recording), Nikon Coolpix S10, Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EasyShare Z712 IS and its competitors before you buy!

[Conclusion updated 9/24/07]

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality looks? Check out our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

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.

Want a second opinion?

You'll find another review of this camera at CNET.

 

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