Camera Test: Kodak EasyShare Z885

8.1 megapixels, ISO 8000, $166. You do the math.



Just how much camera can you get for less than $200? A whole lot, it turns out. Our test case: the Kodak EasyShare Z885 ($166, street), which comes with 8.1MP capture (more than enough), a 5x zoom (a leap ahead of the usual 3x), and an ISO 8000 setting (holy cow!).

As for image quality, you also get a whole lot. At ISO 80 and 100, the Z885's Certified Lab Test results were Excellent, with average resolution over 1700 lines, Very Low and Low noise, respectively, and Excellent color accuracy. At ISO 200 and 400 there was no significant drop-off in resolution, while the noise did bump up to Moderate.

By ISO 800, noise increased to the Unacceptable level -- although not by much -- with a mild drop of about 7 percent in resolution, to about 1590 lines, ranking Extremely High. At ISO 1600, additional noise reduction obviously kicked in, with resolution just squeaking into Extremely High at about 1500 lines. So the Z885 is still quite usable at ISO 800-1600, as long as you stay with moderate enlargement. (Compare it with other current compacts: Its noise performance at these ISOs is considerably better than the noise from the much pricier Canon PowerShot G7, Nikon Coolpix P5000, and Ricoh Caplio GX100.)

ISO 3200 is a different story, though, as the Kodak's noise headed way into Unacceptable territory, and resolution dropped below 1300 lines. We don't think this loss of image quality is worth the bother for 1 extra stop of speed above ISO 1600.

That brings us to the superspeed settings -- ISO 6400 and 8000. These are available only by dialing down the resolution to 2.2MP. Sure, they're noisy, but ISO 8000 images still show resolution of over 1000 lines -- quite respectable for 2.2MP, and far better than the Nikon P5000 at ISO 3200! It's enough for photo-quality, if quite grainy, 6x9-inch prints -- fun for handheld shooting of candlelit events, dark street scenes, cave candids… you get the idea. And anyone who remembers pushing E-6 slide films to ISO 1600 ("golfball grain" was the term) might be impressed with these ISO 8000 photos.

The gunmetal-gray Z885 is a solidly made, well-finished camera. With no optical viewfinder, you must compose on the 2.5-inch LCD monitor; this added to the clumsy feel we found in shooting with the camera. (At 115,000 pixels, the LCD's resolution is coarse, but it still looks pretty good.)

Simultaneously keeping your thumb on the zoom toggle and index finger on the shutter button requires contortion. And the control buttons on the back, small and closely spaced, are an open invitation to inadvertent settings.

The menu system is the Kodak EasyShare standard -- clear, concise, and very legible. And every menu item has a help screen at the press of a button. Both program and manual exposure modes are quick and uncomplicated to use. In manual exposure, you press the four-way controller buttons left or right to select aperture or shutter, then press up or down to adjust the setting. In program, the same procedure sets exposure compensation up or down. The camera has neither shutter- nor aperture-priority automation, but, hey, it costs only $166.

While the Z885 has saturation and sharpness adjustments, there is none for contrast, and its imaging tends toward the contrasty side. (We got greater color accuracy in test images by reducing the contrast slightly in Adobe Photoshop.)

Scene modes, 19 in all, include the usual portrait, sports, night portrait, snow, and beach. Our favorite one is panorama. Plenty of cameras offer panorama stitch assist like the Kodak's, which shows you on the LCD where to position the edge of the previous frame to shoot the next one. The Z885 goes one better, stitching three images together automatically -- no computer or additional software necessary. Another thing we like: The insert that lets you snap it onto a Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock for no-brainer printing of 4x6s.

Although the camera lacks a focusassist lamp, it focuses quickly even in dim conditions with little detail. In normal shooting mode, its 36-180mm f/2.8-5.1 lens focuses only to 3 feet at tele position; you need to switch to macro mode to get closer. Not a big hassle, but an extra step. One more gripe: It comes with disposable oxy-alkaline batteries rather than a set of rechargeables. Still, with the Kodak Z885, your bucks buy you a lot of camera.

Imaging: 8.3MP CCD captures 8.1MP images (3275x2459).
Storage: 32MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC card slot. Stores JPEGs.
Burst rate: Up to 4 highest-res JPEGs at 2 fps (tested).
Video: 640x480 at 30 fps with mono sound.
AF system: TTL phase detection system with 5 (autoselect) or single central AF zones; selected zone is highlighted on LCD monitor. Single-shot and continuous AF; manual focus.
Shutter speeds: 1/2000 to 8 sec.
Metering: TTL multipattern evaluative, centerweighted, and central spotmetering; EV 4 to 17 (at ISO 100).
ISO range: 80, 100 to 3200 in 1-EV increments; ISO 6400 and 8000 available at 2.2MP.
Flash: Built-in TTL autoflash, GN 27 (ISO 100, feet).
LCD: 2.5-in. TFT with 115,000-pixel resolution.
Output: Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and video.
Batteries: 2 AA; 150 shots with supplied oxy-alkaline batteries (CIPA rating, 50% with flash).
Size/weight: 3.5x2.5x1.2-in.; 7.4 oz with card and battery.
Street price: $166.
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George Washington Bridge in NYC shot at dusk with the Kodak Z885's amazingly high ISO setting of 8000. Sure there's noise, but what other digital camera has an ISO setting that high?Photo By Linzee Karasik


Same shot taken at ISO 1600. The noise is greatly reduced, especially in the truss and sky.Photo By Linzee Karasik


Taken at night, this photo shows off the ISO setting of 8000 again. While it's a dark and noisy photo, the ISO 8000 setting could make the Z885 usable as a security camera.Photo By Linzee Karasik


A tele shot of the George Washington Bridge at ISO 8000 with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/5.1.Photo By Linzee Karasik


We were impressed with the Kodak's sharpness and color accuracy, evident in this ISO 80 shot.Photo By Linzee Karasik