The Kodak Z950 is a 12MP point and shoot camera with a 10x optical zoom. It has built-in optical image stabilization and features a large 3-inch LCD. What surprises me about the Z950 is the number of features and amount of control available in a camera at a price point around $200.
Kodak Z950 Key Features
- 12MP Sensor
- 10x Optical Zoom (35-350mm equivalent)
- Optical Image Stabilization
- 3-inch LCD
- Auto, P, A, S & M Shooting Modes
- ISO 100-1600
- 720p HD Video Capture
Kodak Z950 Handling, Ergonomics and Control
Somehow the Kodak Z950 pulls off a simplistic design but offers a ton of control for those who want to dive into it. The Z950 is a little beefier than a lot of point and shoot cameras out there; however, it fits in the hand very well. This fit is thanks to the rubberized and slightly raised grip on the right-front of the camera, which makes the Z950 comfortable to hold in one hand, if desired.
The basic control setup is very straightforward so new users should not be intimidated by a gaggle of bells and whistles to choose from. If your goal is to simply point and shoot with the Z950, you can leave the mode dial in “Smart Capture” mode and ignore everything else on the mode dial.
More advanced users, however, will appreciate the up-front location of the mode dial atop the Z950. This mode dial provides access to common shooting modes that offer more control (e.g., P, A, S & M modes), along with Video, Sports, Panorama and Scene settings. The Scene setting offers up a number of camera presets for shooting common scenes – portrait, night portrait, landscape, night landscape, flower, sunset, backlight, candlelight, manner/museum, text, beach, snow, fireworks, children, self-portrait and stage. When navigating through the Scene modes, the Z950 provides a short dialog about each mode to help with your shooting decisions.
To the right of the Mode dial are indentations that house the On/Off button and buttons for timer modes and flash settings. Rounding out the buttons on the top of the camera is the shutter release aptly placed to the far right, which is surrounded by a zoom rocker switch.
The Z950 has a focus assist light on the front and far right (opposite the grip). The flash and mic are placed between the grip and the lens, which is a poor placement in my opinion as I frequently found my fingers in the way of both. I would have much rather see the flash and microphone placed on the opposite side of the grip in order to stay out of the way.
The rear of the camera is rather bare of controls. Most the Z950′s rear section is covered with a large, 3-inch LCD, which offers a 230,000 dot resolution. The LCD is not quite as special as some of the other cameras offer today; however, it is competent in most respects.
There is a set of four buttons adjacent to the LCD that enable quick access to image previewing, info screen settings, menu and trash. The menus and settings are navigated and adjusted thanks to a 4-way joystick on the right side of the rear panel. You simply move the joystick up, down, left or right to make selections and push it down to choose a given setting. It’s a pretty intuitive menu system and navigation method.
If you are in one of the more custom modes, you can get quick access to settings for aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, flash compensation, focusing mode and ISO values. This kind of quick access is hard to come by on some DSLRs. So, big kudos to Kodak for putting such powerful controls at our fingertips.
Shooting With the Kodak Z950
Even with all the custom controls available on the Z950, it’s overall shooting performance is average. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from the crowd. The AF speed is not the fastest; however, it’s plenty competent for a point and shoot camera. The camera’s start up time is on the slow time, with the first loading screen taking too long to fire up. Once the camera is on, however, it is, again, competent in terms of shutter delay. While I enjoyed using the camera and never grew frustrated with the performance (aside from the slow start up time), it never really did anything that made me think it was faster than any other camera.
One thing I really appreciated about the Z950 is the ability to zoom in and out during video recording. It can be frustrating (even a deal killer for many) to record video without the ability to zoom the lens. Thankfully, the Z950 lets you move with your kids or other moving subjects.
While I was happy with the video performance of the Z950 for a point and shoot still camera, the continuous focus was not perfect. It tended to move off target, particularly with moving subjects. There are a lot of point and shoot cameras that do a much better job with video autofocus than the Z950. If you are looking to pick up a camera to serve as a dual purpose camera for both stills and videos, the Z950 may not be your best bet.
The zoom action for the Z950 is not incredibly fast; yet, it is smooth throughout the range, which makes for precise maneuvering to the desired focal length. I would prefer to be able to cover the distance from wide angle to telephoto a little quicker, but I can’t dock it too many points as I didn’t encounter any real problem with the zoom speed other than my personal preferences.
The great thing about the zoom though is the range. The 35-350mm equivalent zoom range is great on such a small camera. The above images show the wide and fully zoomed positions of the lens.
While the Z950 offers a macro focusing mode, it doesn’t let you get anywhere near as close as some other point and shoot cameras. The closest focusing distance is somewhere around 4-inches or so, which is about 4-inches further than other cameras like the recently reviewed Sony TX7. As a result, the macro mode is somewhat limited. If getting extreme closeup shots of flowers, bugs or whatever is your bag, then this is something you’ll miss on the Z950.
I tended to like the auto white balance performance of the Z950 more than most, particularly when using flash things seemed to come out a little more neutral than other point and shoot cameras I’ve used. In some very dim and tungsten-lit settings, however, I felt like the auto white balance missed the mark somewhat and the resulting images were a bit too cool.
Image stabilization works well in the Z950 and helps you use lower than normal shutter speeds, which in turn allows you to capture low light images that might not otherwise be possible. Below are a couple of crops taken from images that I shot with IS turned on and off at the max zoom setting, which is the equivalent of 350mm, and 1/8s shutter speed.
Kodak Z950 Image Quality
The Z950 produces competent images that won’t rival more advanced point and shoot cameras (particularly the newer models with CMOS sensors) or DSLRs; however, the images should be more than competent for most users’ family albums, as well as low-res web and email sharing.
Below are a few crops from images shot throughout the ISO 100-1600 range of the Z950. Note that the Z950 can capture images at ISO 3200; however, it does so at 3.1MP and, as a result, this setting is not included in the following samples. You can download the full resolution versions of these images for your own personal inspection by clicking the respective link below each image. Just right-click the link and choose “Save link as…”
Kodak Z950 Accessories
Kodak KLIC-7003 Battery – The Kodak Z950 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Memory cards – I used several SD cards in the Z950; however, the basic Kingston SD cards worked just fine. There’s no need to go all out on fast memory cards with the Z950. Cheap cards from reputable brands will work just fine. The Z950 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.
Kodak Z950 Conclusions
The Kodak Z950 is a surprising camera. Frankly, I never think that much of Kodak’s camera. It’s just not a stand-out brand to me. But the Z950 was a pleasant surprise, especially when you consider the available control that the camera offers. The Z950 is a definitely a camera that you can grow with over time.
The Z950 has the basic mode and simple controls in place for the novice user. Once you are ready to explore more of the camera though, there is plenty more left to find on it. The ease of accessibility to these custom controls is impressive as well – given the fact that some DSLR manufacturers hide some of these settings away in the menu system with no means of quick access once the user is ready to learn.
While the overall performance is very average, the controls and image quality is somewhat redeeming, which makes the Z950 an attractive camera for anyone shopping for a capable point and shoot camera on a budget.
The Kodak Z950 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:
By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.