Kodak as we all know, have been around for a very long time, providing great affordable digital cameras to the masses, but they haven’t often ventured into the what I would call ‘Beginner photographer’ market. By this I mean the Bridge camera as this is often seen as the stop gap between a blooming photographers becoming a professional user, the obvious next step after a bridge camera is a DSLR which are A LOT more expensive than this one.
I have in for review a brand new Bridge camera from Kodak named- Kodak Easyshare Max Z990. Will this stack up against the competition or fall flat on its face due to relative inexperience in the field of bridge cameras?
Read on to find out.
The 10 second review:
- Product: Kodak Easyshare Max Z990
- Price: £299 and below
- Summary: An OK attempt from Kodak that could have done with a better lens to go with the price tag, it’s easy enough to use but photo quality needs work.
- Best of: 30X Optical Zoom, 1080P video recording, LCD Display
- Worst of: Picture quality overall, ease of use, too heavy.
- Buy from: Various
What’s in the box?
- Kodak easyshare max Z990 digital bridge camera
- USB to MicroUSB cable
- Charging adapter for provided Batteries
- 4 rechargeable batteries (Ni-Mh)
- Warranty information
- User manuals for both camera and batteries
On top of the camera are the camera flash flap, zoom, power switches. Also on the top is the mode dial, power LED, shutter button, burst, focus and finally the self timer button.
The back of the camera is where the magic happens. The LCD display is back in the middle covering most of the surface area but next to that on the right are the display, flash, effects and delete buttons.
Above the LCD display to the left is the EVF-LCD button, and then there is a speaker next to that. Above and to the right of the display is the video camera button, then jog dial and finally below this is the share and view buttons along with the D-pad.
Finally the front of the camera has the AF assist/self timer/video LED. The main feature on the front of the camera is the Schneider-Kreuznach lens. Then finally on the front are the stereo and microphone speakers.
Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 review
This review might seem a little out of the norm for me as, if you have previously read any of my reviews you will notice that they are mostly of mobile phones. So when I got offered the chance of reviewing a top of the range Kodak camera I jumped at the chance because I don’t often get asked these things.
When the package arrived I immediately opened it, and was greeted with a surprise as I thought it would just be a standard smaller digital camera, but it wasn’t it was a flipping beast of a bridge camera! I have personally had little experience with bridge cameras so I was a little apprehensive about the review at first but once I had used the camera for a few days I eventually got used to the idea.
So onwards and upwards with the review then! First of all I think I will talk about the build quality and design as I think it is a necessary part of the review. The design of the product on the whole isn’t too bad at all really, I mean I do have a problem with the weight of this camera as it is a little too heavy to be classes a ‘portable’ bridge camera but it isn’t a massive deal. The button layout is pretty good compared with other cameras of this type that I’ve seen previously. The way that the camera feels in the hand is really good also; it feels as though it is meant to be there which is obviously good! If it wasn’t this heavy then I might even say it’s the best I’ve ever held but due to the weight I can’t say that.
I think the best way to sum the design up is to say that it is a very standard, very simple design and I think that is the reason it will likely sell really well.
Onto build quality now and the overall quality has really impressed me with this camera, it is made in such a way that you would feel safe in the knowledge that your photos are safe even if you dropped it on a hard floor. It feels very robust yet soft at the same time, and to be honest I will go as far as to say that this build quality is brilliant!
Onto the user interface next and I will say that it is actually really easy to get used to after just a couple of days working with the camera. I think the reason for this is because most of the hard work is done for you with the ‘Mode dial’ on top of the camera, this has all of the relevant settings that you are likely to use on it and all it takes to change it is a twist. If you did however want to tweak the settings for a particular type of photograph for yourself then you are in luck. There is a single settings menu when you set the camera to auto mode, you access this by pressing the up arrow and then pressing OK and it has simple settings such as the resolution, ISO setting, share button settings, video, language etc. The rest of the important settings can be tweaked via the Model dial such as white balance, scene modes etc all of which will be explained further into the review.
I think that Kodak have put real thought into how simple to make their camera to use, and I would say that they’ve done a great job in making it simple to use and to understand for anyone. Good work Kodak! Big Thumbs up from me.
As this is a ‘Bridge’ camera it comes with lots of settings for you to get excited about, to be honest with you though a lot of the settings aren’t required as more often than not these days people purchase cameras for fun photography rather than serious stuff, (unless of course you are in fact a professional photographer). To be fair though even if there are professional photographers reading this review I doubt very much that this camera would come close to being the overall great camera for you.
I will attempt to explain why I say that as we move on through the review, so let us begin with my first experience with the camera.
The very first setting that I used was ‘sports’ this setting is on the ‘Mode dial’ (As shown in general section). As I was on my way to visit a friends’ 6 week old kitten, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to test how responsive the camera was to moving objects. The thing that struck me with this setting is that the cameras’ response times were lagging a tad compared to what I am used to with my Panasonic Lumix G10, I found this quite annoying to get to grips with because of my previous experiences with a much higher quality camera, another reason I found it annoying to cope with at first is because the kitten is very lively.
The below photograph was taken with the camera set to ‘Auto’ the auto settings were- 1/400s, Flash on, an aperture of F.3.2 and finally an ISO setting of 1000.
As well as the sport mode on the mode dial there are a number of others to choose from, all of which do something a little different from the last.
A picture of the mode dial is shown below.
As you can see in the picture above there are 10 different modes to choose from and they are as follows: Auto, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Special effects, Portrait, Sport, Scene modes, Manual, Shutter speed, Aperture and finally Program.
As this is not a review of a professional camera such as a DSLR I don’t feel that it’s necessary to explain all of the above settings, so what I thought I would do is take a few of the ones that used most often and explain those for you.
When taking the following photographs on this camera in auto mode or any other mode for that matter, there seems to be a hint of dullness to the colours. That is until you set the camera mode to HDR, now the only other product on the market that I have seen to have this mode is the Apple iPhone 4, what HDR stands for is High Dynamic Range. On its own that most probably means nothing to lots of you reading this review, so I will try and explain in as simple terms as I can. HDR basically creates a higher level of ‘True to life’ imagery; hopefully in the images below you will be able to clearly notice the difference between a standard image and the HDR image. One thing that I would also like to add is that the photos below were taken with the flower scene mode as well as the HDR mode, during taking these photos I found it very difficult to find focus close up to the flower, this I found to be really poor considering the camera was on flower mode but as you can see I did finally find a happy medium zoom.
I have been really quite impressed by HDR and couldn’t wait to try it on a camera. HDR is now used in a lot of new cameras and camcorders and to be honest I can fully understand why that is as the image mode does definitely improve the quality of the photograph almost all of the time.
Once I had a play around with the settings I decided to go outside and try to use it to its potential, the results were quite astonishing. I have never seen a bridge camera with such a large optical zoom which can focus objects sharply, the maximum I have used was 15x optical zoom and I thought that was a joy to use. When zoomed into its maximum capability (30X optical) you need to make sure the camera is on a tripod or a flat surface as the image stabilisation isn’t as effective as when the camera isn’t zoomed, once the camera was placed on a tripod and on a flat surface then the camera lens focused on the subject clearly. Overall the zoom has impressed me quite a lot, I’ve not personally used a camera with 30 zoom before so didn’t really know what to expect but honestly I was surprised by the quality of the image after a full zoom.
Below is a full 30X optical zoom photo.
As well as the ability to take photos this camera, like many others on the market today has the capability to record video in full 1080P HD resolution, other resolutions include: the iPad compatible VGA and WVGA along with those is 720P HD.
During my time with the Z990 I did a lot of recording in all of the different resolutions, and have played them back on a variety of different screens such as my Asus eee pad Transformer Android tablet, an iPad 1st Gen, a 1080P Panasonic HDTV as well as my laptop screen which has a 1366 X 768 resolution. The reason that I have mentioned the devices is because no matter which device I played the videos on they seemed to be flipping great! I mean on the tablets the playback was so smooth and crisp in 720P and on the 1080P TV the picture was even better!
Whilst I was recording the video below I decided to leave the settings in Auto, simply because I prefer it that way as the content seems to be overall the best quality, with this camera in particular.
This camera is a full of features but for the purpose of this review I will talk about one of my favourites, the film effects. There are six different film effects to choose from all of which can give your photos a creative effect. Here is a list of film effects:-
- Kodacolor- provides a nostalgic colour effect
- Ektachrome – provides a vibrant saturated colour effect
- Kodachrome – gives the photo a bright natural colour
- T-Max – this is a black and white effect
- Tri-X – black and white with a brighter contrast and grain which in turn makes a standard black and white photo more interesting to look at
- Sepia – gives the photo a reddish brown tint creating an old fashioned film camera look
As well as the above film effects there is another type of effect which will appeal more to the teenage market rather than the budding professionals. The feature is called Photobooth, what this feature does is allows your passport photo taken easier and cheaper. So basically instead of paying a fee to sit in a Photobooth in a public place and then find that none of the photos taken are suitable, with Photobooth on the Z990 you can take 4 photos at a time and print them out at your own leisure on your own printer, having been able to take the photos in the comfort of your own home.
Earlier in the review I mentioned the flower scene mode, this was one of 14 scene modes in total. The 14 scene modes are children, backlight, high ISO, bright, sunset, self portrait, night portrait, candle light, night landscape, landscape, stage, fireworks, flower and panorama. During my time with the camera I was only able to use several of these scene modes, due to the variety of them. The first mode I used was sunset; this is a very popular mode among photographers, as the results are more often than not fabulous (depending on the camera lens). The mode gives you a low shutter speed to capture as much detail as it possibly can, which in basic terms takes the photo slower than some other modes to enable the lens to capture as much of the subject as it can and in as much detail as it can too.
The portrait scene mode was the one that I liked to use most of all, I think the reason for this is because it worked really well in any lighting, light or dark and the camera stabilisation seemed awesome compared to other cameras I’ve used in the past, I personally don’t possess the steadiest hands that the world has ever seen so to see that the camera noticed that for itself and corrected it was superb.
To be quite honest with you guys the scene modes are a feature of a camera that I don’t really like using, due to the fact that the Automatic modes and mode dials on cameras being brilliant most of the time. Another reason why I prefer not to use them is because of the flipping British weather! You can never guarantee perfect sunset, self portraits are pointless and flower mode is basically just a fancy way of saying MACRO MODE! So you see my point?
The Z990 has a funky feature up its sleeve, it has a share button! Which to be quite honest I do not see the point in what so ever but, nevertheless Kodak have seen it fit to add to their cameras. Basically what the share button allows you to do is organise you photos and videos to be shared/uploaded to social networks such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, as well as the Kodak Gallery. The issue with this feature is the fact that the camera doesn’t possess Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or any means of connecting to an internet source to be able to upload anything! So you have to consume a lot of wasted energy to install the Kodak easyshare App and easyshare software onto your computer, then you have the option to upload your ticked photos/videos to your chosen source. This process took me around 30 minutes to complete which on my phone would usually take me around 2-3 minutes if that!
The upshot of my rant is basically, why the heck do we need a share button on our camera when it is just as simple to copy our content from the SD card to our PC?!
When you have finished with the uploading of any pictures of videos the setup will then prompt you to install the Kodak easyshare software, this process took another 10-15 minutes which wasn’t really necessary but hey ho!
Once installed the software will again prompt you with a question asking you if you want your entire picture/video library uploaded into the software, this process was really quick for a change! The software reminds me of a cross between Google’s Picasa and Windows live movie maker. On screen the software shows you any photos or video content with the folder name etc, also it will allow you to again upload any of your photos to the chosen social networks (it begs the question why was the App required?!).
The software on the whole was very simple to use but I have to say that the good old drag & drop function is still my preferred choice because it is so much simpler than using fancy software.
Unfortunately I must end the review on a major low point (sad faces all round) the reason for this is because this camera is powered by 4 AA batteries! Why on earth do manufacturers think it’s still a great idea? Kodak have provided 4 of their own 2500Mah rechargeable batteries with this camera but to be frank they don’t even last as long as it takes to charge the damn things!
Apologies again for the poor end to the review but I feel that honesty is the best policy and I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t appreciate me lying to you by saying that this camera has the greatest battery life known to man?
The end of another eventful review and I have to be brutally honest and say that I have been severely underwhelmed by the Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 (Why such a long name?!) It has a claim on its head as being a ‘top of the range Kodak’ but to be honest top of the range Kodak says everything you need to know, if it had been ‘top of the range in its category’ then I would have probably felt differently but it doesn’t.
The camera does a few things very well, but to do a few things very well doesn’t make it a very good camera by any means it is in my whole hearted opinion simply a basic beginner’s bridge camera with a price tag way too high.
Reviewed by: Chris