PCC Photos

Kodak Z1085 IS EasyShare

The Bullet Points: The Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS is a 10 megapixel (3680x2770) digital camera that features a Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 35-170mm (35mm equivalent) f2.8-5.1 lens with macro focusing capabilities, 5X optical zoom, another 5X digital zoom (25X total), 8 sec. - 1/2000 sec. shutter speeds, 2.5 inch LCD, 80 to 8000 ISO exposure, 32 MB internal memory, HD 720p video, automatic exposure ("Smart Capture"), 15 presets for common exposure conditions, and a range of manual exposure controls. It can use both SD and SDHC memory cards. It has several options for battery power, and interfaces with an optional docking station to connect directly to HDTV.

What’s In The Box: Kodak Z1085 IS camera, wrist strap, 112 page multi-language user guide, software CD-ROM, 1 lithium CRV3 non-rechargable battery pack, USB cable, plastic adapter stand for the optional docking station.

The Competition: Canon PowerShot A720 IS, Panasonic DMC-LZ10, Samsung S1050.

The Review: When George Eastman invented dry roll film back in the 1880’s, photography was brought to the mainstream: he literally invented amateur photography. His company, Eastman Kodak, has been an American icon for nearly 120 years.

Kodak’s mainstay has been film, but digital photography changes all of this. Instantly available images, and elimination of all the chemical processes mark a seismic shift in the way we take pictures. With the evolution of multi- megapixel cameras with fast CCDs (Charge-Coupled Device), even professionals are turning away from film cameras. Plus, digital photos can travel via the Internet.

Kodak has been moving to reinvent itself. Their first efforts at digital cameras were not well received by critics (slow, clumsy interfaces, poorly positioned controls, poorly crafted). After floundering, Kodak has recently rethought their designs and has produced much more useable products. The Z1085 IS is one of their better efforts.

Out of the box, the Z1085 IS is matte black with a textured grip. The Mode ring on top is large and easy to turn. The buttons on the back are well spaced and well formed for easy operation. The case is mostly metal and the doors have metal hinges. The 2.5 inch LCD is recessed into the back of the case, which should help protect it. Install the included CRV3 lithium battery and it’s ready to go.

The camera soon reminds you that it is a thinly disguised computer that happens to have a good visual memory. A trip to Kodak’s Web site found updates for both the EasyShare software and the camera’s firmware. I got excited when the download page offered a Unix link, but when I went there it was only a Web page saying, "sorry, there’s no Unix version at this time". Rats. Turns out that’s not a penalty though, as Linux recognizes the camera natively, and Picasa sees it just fine. Downloading and installing the Windows software went OK, though. The paper manual is sparse, so I also downloaded the camera’s full manual in .PDF format. (When are these cameras gonna come with the manual in the camera itself?)

Basic ergonomics of the controls are quite good. They will, as our British cousins say, "fall readily to hand". The basic modes of operation are selected on a Mode dial around the shutter button. They are: Panorama, Manual, Programmed, Smart Capture (fully automatic), high ISO, SCN (scene), and Video. As you rotate the dial, the LCD screen displays an explanation of what the function does. This lets you rotate the dial without looking at it, handy in low light situations. If you bring up the Settings menus, you can get help on each menu item by pressing the Display/Info button; it displays a brief explanation of the item. The Settings menus are context sensitive, and change with mode selected by the Mode dial. This simplifies operation by displaying only the settings that work in the mode you’re using.

Smart Capture, Kodak’s name for automatic exposure mode, is self explanatory. Manual mode, as the name implies, lets you manually set shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed and focus. You are limited to 3 aperture settings, though, which limits your control over depth of field. A light meter on the LCD indicates over- or underexposure with the settings you’ve selected. Program mode is a semi-automatic Manual mode, where the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture according to lighting conditions and you control the ISO speed and focus. (Think exposure compensation in a conventional camera.) SCN mode (scene) contains the filters commonly found in most point-and-shoot cameras, 15 in all. Two of the more interesting ones are Museum, that makes all exposures with flash and camera sounds off to be unobtrusive, and the Stage mode, which biases toward fast shutter speed and high ISO with flash and camera sounds off.

The Panorama mode allows you to take panorama shots panning three exposures, your choice of left-to-right or right-to-left. After the first exposure, the camera places the trailing edge of the previous image on the LCD to aid in alignment of the next image. Pan the camera until the previous and next image align, then take the next image. When three images have been taken, the camera automatically stitches the three images together. It’s pretty smart, and it works without a tripod.

The Video mode is really rather good. It takes 30 fps in 1280x720 (HD 720p), 640x480, or 320x240 in Quicktime MPEG-4 format (.MOV). The 720p format is limited to 30 minutes: this is doubtless because the camera formats the SD card as FAT32, which has a 4 GB file size limit (do the math). The other formats record up to 80 minutes, assuming your SD card is big enough. In any event, you’d better start with a fully charged battery if you plan on reaching any of these maximums.

Sidebar: If you’re getting an SD card for your camera to take video, be aware that SD cards have different ratings for speed. Class 2 is 2 MB/s (MegaBytes per second). Class 4 is 4 MB/s, then Class 6 at 6 MB/s. Class 6 is commonly specified for digital video cameras. If you’re camera takes good pictures but jerky video, you may want an SD card upgrade. This also reduces the write time of still images, improving the camera’s response.

The Z1085 IS comes with a single non-rechargeable lithium battery, model CRV3. It took me one week, 40 still pictures 

filters commonly found in most point-and-shoot cameras, 15 in all. Two of the more interesting ones are Museum, that makes all exposures with flash and camera sounds off to be unobtrusive, and the Stage mode, which biases toward fast shutter speed and high ISO with flash and camera sounds off.

The Panorama mode allows you to take panorama shots panning three exposures, your choice of left-to-right or right-to-left. After the first exposure, the camera places the trailing edge of the previous image on the LCD to aid in alignment of the next image. Pan the camera until the previous and next image align, then take the next image. When three images have been taken, the camera automatically stitches the three images together. It’s pretty smart, and it works without a tripod.

The Video mode is really rather good. It takes 30 fps in 1280x720 (HD 720p), 640x480, or 320x240 in Quicktime MPEG-4 format (.MOV). The 720p format is limited to 30 minutes: this is doubtless because the camera formats the SD card as FAT32, which has a 4 GB file size limit (do the math). The other formats record up to 80 minutes, assuming your SD card is big enough. In any event, you’d better start with a fully charged battery if you plan on reaching any of these maximums.

Sidebar: If you’re getting an SD card for your camera to take video, be aware that SD cards have different ratings for speed. Class 2 is 2 MB/s (MegaBytes per second). Class 4 is 4 MB/s, then Class 6 at 6 MB/s. Class 6 is commonly specified for digital video cameras. If you’re camera takes good pictures but jerky video, you may want an SD card upgrade. This also reduces the write time of still images, improving the camera’s response.

The Z1085 IS comes with a single non-rechargeable lithium battery, model CRV3. It took me one week, 40 still pictures and about 10 minutes of video to run it down. There is no indication of battery state on the screen until it is ready to expire, so this was a rather unpleasant surprise. A run to Radio Shack for the two lithium AA batteries listed as an alternative produced similar results: they were expired in about a week’s use. After exploring several rechargeable battery options, I ordered the Kodak K-8500C charger kit listed by Kodak as an accessory for this camera. ($49 from Kodak, cheaper everywhere else.) Battery life with the included KLIC-8000 Li-Ion battery is much better, several weeks and 200 or so pictures between charges. The KLIC-8000 recharges in about 2 hours.

In general use, the camera’s optical image stabilizer (as opposed to digital image stabilizers) is effective. Sharpness is good as long as the ISO remains below 800. The lens shows some barrel distortion at wide angle and pincushioning at the telephoto extreme. In the tradition of Kodak films, color reproduction is very vivid, though there are settings in the camera to tone it down. Turning off the Quickview postview feature improves the camera’s response markedly, allowing you 

to shoot three frames in a little over one second, even with flash, before it writes them to the SD card There is a face detection technology that finds up to four faces while composing and adjusts the exposure to optimize face tones. Even works on pets (at least mammals).

Living with the Z1085 IS leaves some other impressions, some technical, some personal:

Nits:

  • The LCD seems small - 2.5 inches diagonal, when 3 - 3.5 inch LCDs are common in recent cameras. It’s a particular liability when using Panorama mode.
  • When you turn the camera on, it defaults to wide angle zoom and automatic flash. There is no way to tell it to remember the last settings used, as is common in other cameras.
  • The battery meter only displays when the battery level is low. There is no way to find out how much battery is remaining until it is on the verge of running out, so the only recourse is to carry a spare battery.
  • The flash control button is adjacent to the self-timer button and identical in shape and size. It’s too easy to start the self-timer when going for the flash control.
  • The EasyShare software hides the camera from Windows Explorer and works too hard to steer you into using Kodak’s services.

Picks:

  • The camera’s shape and texture makes it easier to handle than those of the pocketable-slim form factor.
  • The Mode Dial on the top of the camera is an excellent organizer of the camera’s features and functions.
  • The two manual modes, Manual (full manual) and Program (semi-automatic) give the experienced user nearly complete control over the exposure process. Changing settings is reasonably direct, without requiring a menu tour to access them.
  • Elementary image editing can be done in the camera, particularly useful if you print pictures directly from the camera to a printer.

Conclusions: The Kodak Z1085 IS EasyShare camera is a big improvement over Kodak’s earlier digital camera efforts and in some ways superior to much of its competition. Organization of the camera’s functions with the Mode dial is particularly effective in managing its features. Its very good lens and optical digital stabilization make sharp and clear pictures nearly every time. Smart Capture is very smart and seldom disappoints me. The camera is a bit bulkier than the slim point- and-shoot cameras, but it’s much easier to hold firmly, especially one-handed. Its flexible features and manual controls adapt to a variety of situations and give you some creative control. The HD video mode is very good and you’ll use it a lot. If you want a useful and usable step up from point-and-shoot cameras, this is a good one. Highly recommended.

Member-of-APCUG-Square-100-Wide

APCUG Best Web Site 2013

2013-Newsletter-1st-Place

PCC on Facebook

Sunny

55°F

Hayward

Sunny
Wind: NE at 7 mph
Friday 39°F / 62°F Mostly cloudy
Saturday 44°F / 62°F Mostly sunny
Sunday 44°F / 62°F Mostly sunny

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.