on June 15, 2011
I wanted a superzoom camera. We have four other compact digitals in the family, all Canons. When I researched various super zoom models and compared images, I started to take notice of the clarity of the images and the colors from this Kodak Z990. The more I read about it the more I liked what I heard. It was sample images is what sold me.
Because of an old Chinon CP7m film camera I have, I know of their association with then purchase of Chinon in 1997. Chinon was a pioneer in digital photography and Kodak has endless experience in color so while they are not known for high end cameras any more, they sure have a solid history in the camera business both film and digital. I had no qualms considering a Kodak camera.
The Z990 from Amazon arrived fast and worked fine right out of the box. The controls are intuitive presuming you've had some digital camera experience. It came with pre-charged rechargeable batteries and a charger. The display is huge and bright. One reason we have Canon compact digital camers is they were among the last to offer a viewfinder. I find these very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight when the back screen is difficult or impossible to see. This Kodak Z990 has viewfinder that displays the exact same inforrmation and details as the big screen on back does! There is a single button that switches it back and forth from one to another...a fantastic feature. You also have single button access to start shooting videos, or to change to burst shooting mode, macro focus, and to activate the multiple types of self-timer modes it has.
I snapped perhaps 30 photos in full auto mode in the back yard. My intention was to see some shots in the easiest to use mode on the computer screen before I would read the manual and dig into the camera deeper. I also shot the same images with a Canon SD1100. When I put the test photos on the computer screen (I was using FastStone Image Viewer)and started looking at them, I was thrilled with the results and the comparisons. The little Canon is a flawless compact with very few unusable shots and great color rendition. The Kodak immediately proved to be the same way. Few wasted shots and great color. We have another neighborhood starting about 90 yards behind us across a creek. I took a number of shots with both cameras at things like their mail boxes, cars license plates, etc. at a distance. The benefit of the big telephoto lens on the Kodak was immediately obvious as you would expect, BUT what was not expected was the clarity of the images! The image stabilization in the Kodak is great and the focus and clarity of the long shots was fanastic. Straight across the board the Kodak produced superior quality images. I realize I was comparing a sub compact 8MP camera to a super zoom 12MP camera, but the benefit is quite obvious, which is why I bought this one... for those occassions where I want even BETTER pictures.
I then dug into the manual and started to come across some of the great features this camera has.
Here are a few, some you may have not read on even professional reviews:
- To capture a video (720 or 1080) press one button and start shooting. WHILE you are shooting a video, just press the shutter to also capture STILL shots at the same time. Even if you miss a few shots, you can still campture stills out of the video INSIDE THE CAMERA as you are viewing your video. The stills are high enough resolution fo yield good quality 4x6 prints.
- Remember the old Kodak film lineup? Kodacolor film had great, bright, realistic color. Kodachrome slide film was more saturated color. Ektachrome slide film had even more color saturation? You can select those same color renditions (in addition to B&W and sepia tone) to shoot with. A great concept and a clever leveraging of the Kodak brands of old.
- You can add borders to photos while you are reviewing the photo inside the camera.
- For RAW format images, you select which images you want to store in RAW format while you are reviewing them... you don't have to select RAW format before you start shooting. The only thing is RAW cannot be saved from shots done in full auto mode...but the P "program" mode sure seems nearly identical to full auto anyway!
- It has and HDR mode on the dial. In this mode the camera takes two photos with different exposure settings and then merges them into ONE image with a superior exposure for you automatically. Brilliant!
- Rather than changing to S (shutter proiority mode) to capture faster moving objects, there is already a SPORT mode on the dial that you can quickly change to for the same purpose.
- If you shoot a video but have some un-needed footage ate the beginning or end it is not a problem. You can edit the front end or back end off the video in the camera! There are also stereo microphones for the videos
- The SCENE modes not only function well but they are easy to access, just turn the dial to SCN, select your mode, and start shooting. With easy of access I will use them more.
- The whole camera feels great in my hands and seems very well built. The on/off switch is nice and hefty and one should be able to operate it even with gloves on. Once on, the indicator light comes on and it is also the light that indicates where your main mode dial is positioned.
- The screen on back is bigh and bright and the buttons and arrow switch is easy to use and understand. There is also a roller /button swithc for your thumb that controls things like changing you shutter speed when in P (program) mode.
- If you leave your memory card out and start shooting saving the shots to the internal memory, when you insert the memory card it asks you if you want to transfer all the internal images to the memory card. Very nice. Also, when you modify a photo inside the camera (RAW, cropping) it has, so far, asked if you want to save BOTH the before and after image.
- I shot some photos of a red rose in the back yard and on two of the shots, the sensor seemed to be "dazzled" by all the red. With this one flower the shots were oversaturated and the pedals were indistinguishable. I took similar close up shots of other red flowers out back and there was no problem. NOTE - I bought my daughter a mid-range Nikon compact for her birthday in October. Twenty test shots into it and she felt bad to tell me that so many shots were not in focus. Then we took a picture of our kitchen and the "biscuit" appliances looked pure yellow. It REPEATEDLY could not capture those tan colors correctly. Overall the Kodak does fantastic with colors. I only mention the Nikon because it taught me that a more impressive name brand does not guaranty anything.
- About 200 shots into practicing with this Kodak Z990, I was shooting some closeups and the zoom button simply stopped responding. I re-thought my settings and looked at everything and there was no reason for it. I then turned the dial to other modes and it worked and then stopped responding again. I shut it off then looked at some of the photos, when I turned it back on it was fine. My Palm PDA and eReader and laptop and netbook all have reset buttons for when those devices may "get confused" as well. It has not re-occurred but hope it doesn't happen very often or I could start missing shots.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT -
Yes, I would recommend this camera to anyone who wants the big lens without the SLR hassles. Be careful as this Z990 camera is quite different from the previous Z981 model. I believe it even has a completely different type of image sensor.
At $280+, the Kodak Z990 is a spectacular value. I would have gladly paid another $100 or even more for the features, the lens, the very effective image stabilization and the incredible image quality.
on November 30, 2011
(This review will be updated) I bought the camera bundle at Amazon because the price was so good (229). The included SD card is the Kodak "High-speed 100x" 8gb card, which is a class 6. It does pretty decent on photos, but on burst, I will probably try and buy a class 10 card. Also, while 8gb will give you 1,000 photos at fine jpeg compression (and less in RAW), it only affords you about 29 minutes in HD 1080 video. So, keep these things in mind of your needs and what card you'll want to use.
The camera body is plastic, with a strip of smooth non-slip rubber on the grip. Some peopele say it feels cheap, but no more so than their previous incarnations. I was shocked at how *light* this camera is! Even with the batteries, the size of this camera seems to justify a much heavier weight, but it isn't! I call this a plus, with a small minus. The minus being that the place where you attach a tripod is just plastic; no metal. That could suck in the long run :(. I had no issue with the battery door at all, and I have extremely small hands. I like that it has a 2-step process to make sure the battery compartment never accidentally opens.
Make sure you format the card before use, and after you do a firmware update. For some reason, burst mode photos were taking *forever* to process, and it was locking up the camera. After a format of the card on my computer (as suggested by Kodak help), and reinserting, it was about 30 seconds of processing after burst modes. Much better. Again, I'll be looking into a higher class of SDHC card, though. Overall, though, I've never really had much use for it, and it seems rather unimpressive on this camera. If you're buying to use burst mode ALOT and with large amounts of photos, this is not your camera, and you probably have to find something more expensive.
The kit comes with the 4 batteries that comes with the camera, as well as a retail pack of 4 more rechargeable AA's. They're 2100mah, 1.2v. The suckiness is: they must have been half dead by the time they got here. Pre-charged my patooty! Initially the camera recognized they had some charge, but quickly showed them in the red. Both sets. Sucky.
Luckily, the camera comes with a charger, which says it can take 11.5 hours to fully recharge these batteries. Ugh. I see Sanyo Eneloops are in my future (they're good batteries with a shorter charge time with their included charger). I will update on performance once the Kodaks are charged.
I immediately upgraded the firmware from the 1.01 to kodak's latest: 1.12. It was a single update, on the Kodak website, and took all of 2 minutes. Super easy.
I ran through the functions, and particuarly enjoyed playing with the super macro.. it's so awesome to get tiny, tiny things (my keyboard keys are alot dirtier than I ever realized! LOL). Sports mode does not seem overly faster than the smart picture mode, and was a little bit of a dissapoint. I was hoping for better than my old Kodak, an 812 IS. The photos are, of course, beautiful, and do seem to pick up the warmer hues well, just like every kodak digital I've owned. Video seemed smoother than my old one (better frame rate?) but about the same visual quality.
The big suprise was low-light situations. Pictures indoors with crappy lighting look really good! Even without flash, so long as your subject and your hands are still, it's like mid-day! Good plus, Kodak! Red eye also seems to be down quite a bit.
I will update once I get a chance to test night scenes, and see if the low-light situations are consistently better there than previous generations of kodak cameras.
The continuous autofocus has a neat feature where if a person or child moves, it follows them! Very cool. Not always correct the first time though, and you can change it. Picture taking speed is super fast if you half-click the shutter button and get your target in frame first. Good results, every time that way. Honestly, in most situations, you can just use the "red camera" option on the wheel, which is Kodak's Auto. It does really good in adjusting for light, situations, etc. It's pretty impressive, and I could see a basic family or around-the-house user never having to leave this option, and getting great photos. Back-to-back photos aren't too bad either. They may be a tad bit slower than my older camera, but not enough for me to really say for sure. Probably the same speed, it's just the review of the photo you just took isn't an option; you must look at it. You can press the shutter button half way to keep moving tho.
HDR will need a tripod. Seriously. There is no way you can be still enough with your hands to do this function. Just the vibrations from my small child running past the heavy table the camera was sitting on was enough for the camera to balk and refuse to take the pic, using HDR on a super macro.
I'm really interested in all of the manual features (PASM modes) for future photography learning, but was upset that there was no histogram! WTH! I followed the extended guide instructions.. no histogram showing! I used the Kodak website's chat help feature, and found out why: it's automatically turned off in the settings under UI. You have to turn that on before a histogram will show for you. Hmm... you'd think the manual would tell you that, and save the company some time with people contacting help. Ah well. At least it's there now.
Another con is the lens cap. No, the lens cap is not bad. It doesn't pop off randomly like on my 812 (but I wish they'd make one that screws on already!). But the camera throws a hissy if you turn on the camera while the cap is on, and you cannot review photos or video unless it's off. So much so, that if you dont act within like a minute, it just turns the camera off. This is probably an energy saving feature in case of accidental bumps.
The package did not include a cd of software, and I was kind of wondering why not... until I tested out the usb cord. As soon as I hook up the camera, it immediately wants me to load the kodak software, which is apparently imbedded into the camera itself! Which is pretty cool: as long as you have the camera, you have the easyshare software. However, for those of us who hate that slow software, it is annoying that you cannot see the SD card unless you load the software. So, the only way to avoid the easyshare software is to take out the sd card (which is sharing space in the battery compartment) and load the pics via card reader. Not a big deal, but it's an annoyance.
Also.. no DC power input anymore; it's all usb. Supposedly, it has a function to charge batteries using usb, but I don't know for certain. Regardless, it'd probably take forever to do that via usb anyway. Stick with rechargeables.
Other reviewers mentioned the strap quality and difficulty in attaching to the camera. The attachment is explained in a picture on the extended manual (online). It even has it's own section in the index! :) The strap quality is not professional, but a tad bit better than my old Kodaks had. Not bad, not great, and it's free. Fine with me!
So, overall.. I say this is a good addition to the Kodak family, but has a few initial quirks, and for those of us who are used to older models, it will take a little more adjustment, with new buttons and a different zoom function. But overall? I am already digging it, even with the dissapointing burst mode, and the so-so sports mode. There are some awesome new toys built in (HDR, ability to light paint at night, super macro, etc). I can't wait to try it out tomorrow out in the outdoors and get a feel for what it can really do. Updates to come, and hopefully pictures!!
Btw.. Amazon: awesome as usual. Bought this camera bundle direct from Amazon.com on Cyber Monday, delivered on Wednesday using Standard shipping! Woohoo!
*update: dec 01, 2011* - As I'm taking photos, I'm really annoyed by how yellowy they look, even changing color settings. However, upon loading to my pc, the colors are just as I see them with my naked eye, so if you notice this too, look at them again on your pc before you consider deleting in camera. I think the display, during photo review, is showing yellows and reds a little strongly. Also, after some time trying to get photos of my daughter running around on a sugar high: sports mode is working pretty good! Sometimes the auto mode doesnt get fast enough to keep up with her, *especially* using zoom. I've also noticed a little sluggishness after taking and deleting alot of photos. Again, I wonder if a faster card helps. I do notice, however, that battery power seems directly related to camera performance; it really, really preferrs full batteries. So far, it is sucking battery power, but the charger that came with it is a "dumb charger", so I dont really know how full my batteries are getting, and I don't dare leave them on a charger overnight not knowing. So, I cannot fault the batteries just yet until I can get a charger that tells me they're fully charged. I played around with the HDR and macro functions last night, and got some really pretty pics of my christmas tree lights and an ornament. HDR is tricky, because it balks with any movement. And HDR+ super macro?? Not worth the fight. I have only gotten this camera to do it twice out of probably 50+ tries. I think I can deal tho ;) (I uploaded some pics using HDR on my christmas tree lights)
*Dec 4th* I finally got some outdoor time with the camera, in adverse weather to boot! I was impressed how I got such beautiful pics of my daughter playing in rain/snow, and you could see her clearly as well as the snow and rain drops! Very impressed. Some looked as good as pro. I also did some video, and was very happy with that, except at the end of one, the focus went out for no apparent reason. Admittedly, it was trying to follow a fast toddler zooming all over the yard, with rain and snow, so I could see how autofocus could get confused. I even accidentally took a couple pics during the video, and was suprised at how good they looked. I would have never figured pics during video would come out nice and clear like that (they're certainly not 12mp, but they could probably get you a good 4x6 print okay).
I am a little annoyed at how slow the cameras software runs at times, tho. I really hope they continue releasing updates until it's as solid as it should be. Sometimes, it gets hung up and I have to change settings to get zoom functions back. Not a deal killer, but annoying. The lens, the colors, and the photos are still awesome quality, but it does feel like maybe they ran the camera out a little too quickly, and they still have a few quirks to get out of the system. This will be my 3rd or 4th generation Kodak, tho, and I know from my history with them that they usually do good work with updates and issues, so my 4 stars stand: great camera, but a few annoying quirks with the on board software/processing.
I hope to upload more pics later on.
*Dec 15th* Highly impressed by the low-light photo taking ability. Took photos at an indoor event, and was able to zoom 60ft+, without flash, and got fantastic photos. I dont believe I used the flash for the entire evening, and every photo came out clear! Software still glitchy at times, but is becoming second nature to work around the blips. Low-light abilities are so good, flash is sometimes detrimental, and creates washed out photos. Which is fine.. better battery life without it anyway, and no loss in indoor photo quality. Speaking of battery life.. I discovered my batteries are fine. The warning system just jumps the gun. I took photos and video and whatnots *hours* after the battery symbol went red, and still had battery to spare (one set the whole event, 160+ photos, in camera deletes, and 2 or 3 HD videos). I have a La Crosse BC-500 charger now, and it works much better and much more reliably than the included kodak charger.
*dec 19th* The new class 10 card seems to help. I took a couple videos, and the processing time was significantly faster!