The super-wide angle abilities of the twin-lens, 7.1MP V705 ($299, street)
place it head and shoulders above the competition.
When picking up the solid and weighty 7.1MP Kodak EasyShare V705 ($299.95, street), one gets the illusion that it's a chrome brick with no moving parts. But then you push the power button and hear "thuuuuuuuunk" and you'd swear that you just closed the door of a '72 El Dorado -- it feels that solid. In reality, you've opened the protective slide that shows the two Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon lenses, and the differences between this point and shoot and all the others suddenly seems very obvious.
In comparison to ultra-compact point and shoot cameras aimed at the novice market, the V705 appears to have a bigger presence, but when held next to comparable models (such as the Nikon Coolpix S), the V705 is only about a quarter of an inch wider, squatter by about half an inch, and is identically thick. The simplistic design and low profile buttons give the Kodak a boxy appearance, but it's surprisingly comfortable and user-friendly when held. The buttons and controls, like the rest of the camera, have a solid feeling and are big enough to ensure that use of the controls is effortless. One big difference in the controls of the V705 is that many of the functions are controlled via the camera's "joy stick" rather than a directional pad. Once I realized this, I became quite fond of it.
• Image Quality Gallery
The V705 has a generous 2.5 inch, 230,000 pixel LCD screen that functions as the viewfinder when shooting and as a normal LCD for reviewing your images and settings within the camera. In all but the very strongest direct sunlight conditions, the LCD is bright and viewable from any angle. The screen has two distinct resolutions: one for shooting and one for reviewing images. In shooting mode, the screen has a lower, coarser resolution and some noticeable video smear. When reviewing images, the display is extremely sharp and it's obvious that you're viewing the image using the full LCD pixel count. Another nice feature of the V705 is that it shows the image you've just made in the correct orientation. In other words, if you shoot a vertical image, when it's reviewed on the LCD, it rotates 90 degrees to "horizontal" viewing, so the image doesn't display sideways.
The V705 uses a twin lens system with a fast 23mm f/2.8 super-wide angle (35mm equivalent) and a 3x zoom 39-117mm f/3.9 - 4.4 (35mm equivalent). Kodak claims the camera has a 5x zoom range, and technically this is correct if you consider the full range from the super-wide 23mm lens through the 117mm end of the zoom range. The idea of having two lenses sharing the load is interesting, but we had to wonder how well this system works. The short answer is that if you didn't know there were two lenses, you'd barely notice in your shooting. The camera zooms out to its widest zoom setting and then with a slight flash of the LCD screen, suddenly shows a much wider view of the same scene. Rack the zoom back toward the telephoto end and you've switched back to the "normal" lens, again with a slight flash in between. The only way to improve this configuration is to make the 23mm lens a true zoom, with a range of 23-38mm, and then let the 3x zoom take over. The end result would be a smooth zoom range with all focal lengths between 23mm and 117mm completely covered in very high quality glass. (It should be noted that Kodak V705's twin-lens sibling, the V610, has two 5x zooms, for an ultra-slim camera with a 10x range: see our V610 test).
The V705 has 22 distinct scene modes, most of which we found to be a little on the ho-hum side ("Fireworks," "Portrait," "Flower"...). There were a few surprises in the mode options that scored high for their coolness factor. In "Panoramic" mode for example, the V705 gives you the option of panning left or right and automatically stitches up to three images in camera. When shooting panoramas, the camera shows a 33% portion of the previous shot to allow you to overlay the scenes. There is also a distinct difference between using the "Close Up" scene mode and "Macro" mode. The "Close Up" mode sets the entire camera up automatically while the "Macro" mode allows you to choose settings for ISO, sharpness, AF zones, and long exposure options. In these two modes, we also learned that the camera automatically presets the focus and determines this setting by the focal length the camera's zoom is currently set for. "Macro" should definitely be the preferred mode simply because of the control it allows. The "Macro" mode also used the camera's digital image stabilization feature as well, a thoughtful addition to its abilities in our view.
Although there is a good range of controls available in the V705, there are no manual exposure options designed into the camera. Outside of changing the ISO or using the EV compensation up to +2 or -2 stops, all exposure calculations are made by the camera. Even with the 22 different scene modes, which cover many different lighting situations, it's still no replacement for manual exposure control. The EasyShare is not alone in this design flaw, however -- most cameras of this caliber share this shortcoming.