Kodak P712 Overview
By: Dan Havlik
Review Date: 09/18/2006
The new 7.1MP, 12x zoom Kodak EasyShare P712 inhabits that slowly shrinking digital camera space previously known as the "chunky" category but these days referred to simply as "superzoom." Designed to be somewhat like a digital SLR but with a long-zooming attached lens and a complete system of bells and whistles -- including a very necessary "optical image stabilizer" -- the Kodak P712 is designed for advanced amateurs who haven't made the jump to a digital SLR yet. While a bit on the "chunky" side, the P712 is still surprisingly lightweight and portable given its long, image-stabilized zoom lens.
Because the Kodak P712 is an "EasyShare" camera it joins a long line of the simplest and most goof-proof models on the market. On the other hand, creative options abound on the Kodak P712 with an extensive array of automatic and manual exposure modes that give the camera great flexibility. Like the rest of the EasyShare line, the Kodak P712 is compatible with Kodak's popular Printer Docks, offering one-button printing. But does this hybrid of the advanced and the amateur, the sophisticated and the simple, the flexible and the automatic, work in a world where full-blown digital SLRs are being used by grandmothers? Read on and find out.
Kodak P712 User ReportRather Handsome. From a distance you could easily mistake the Kodak P712 for a digital SLR. It's all-black body, substantial hand-grip and hot-shoe on top bear all the trappings of a more professional model. Look a little closer though and you'll notice the camera's solid but compact all-in-one construction. Though it's made primarily of black polycarbonate, there are some nice rubber accents around the lens, on the eyepiece, and covering the ports and speaker on the left side of the camera, giving the Kodak P712 a sturdy weatherized feel. (Though I wouldn't recommend taking it out in the rain, let alone in the water.)
I was immediately comfortable holding the camera thanks to the great grip, even balance, and smooth black surface that's cool to the touch. Some rival superzooms, I feel, have gone too far in making their designs futuristic and slimmed down. Though it's great to have a camera that will fit in your pocket, there's no way most of these long-zoomers will squeeze into anything but a handbag no matter how many corners you cut off.
At 4.3 x 3.3 x 2.8 inches (108 x 84 x 72 millimeters) when powered down, the Kodak P712 is about as small as you really want to go for a camera with a 12x zoom. (When the camera powers up, the zoom extends an extra inch or so, and then just under half an inch further at the full 12x.). Though it has a classic style, there isn't a straight line on the entire camera, which strikes a good balance between a traditional and modern look. In short, this is the first superzoom I've seen in a while that actually looks rather handsome.
The first thing you'll notice about the Kodak P712 when you pick it up is the number of buttons -- I counted 13 in all, but that's not even including the shutter button. I've been an advocate of including dedicated buttons on digital cameras instead of having to weed through menus but the Kodak P712's array of small black dots seemed a bit excessive at first contact. Even more perplexing are the ones they left out -- a dedicated ISO and white balance button. For an advanced camera, having quick access to ISO and white balance is essential. Furthermore, the process you have to go through to access and change ISO settings on the Kodak P712 is unnecessarily difficult. But more on that later.
The placement of the zoom rocker on the back of the camera also seemed questionable. Though having it in the middle above the right corner of the LCD lets you access it with your thumb, wouldn't it have been more natural to put it on the top of the camera in front of the mode dial so you can more easily adjust it with your forefinger? The other quibble I had with the layout is the inclusion of the "Favorites" mode on the power switch. I kept accidentally switching it to "Favorites" when I thought I was turning the camera off. On a model aimed primarily at a slightly more advanced user, is it necessary to put this beginners feature in such a prime spot?
Impressive LCD. The Kodak P712 has a very bright, 2.5-inch color LCD with 115,000 pixels of resolution. Anyone who's read my reviews before knows I'm a stickler about decent LCDs and the P712's screen does not disappoint. Superb in playback and not bad at all in live preview, the P712's LCD gets it right. The camera also has an optional electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) that's a poor substitute for a decent "true" optical viewfinder, despite its impressive 237,000 pixel resolution. In a pinch -- such as in extremely bright outdoor settings -- I did find myself using the EVF but could never quite get comfortable with the slight lag you get when trying to compose an image. If at all possible, stick with LCD on the back of the camera for composing pictures. There's still a bit of a lag but there it didn't bother me as much -- maybe because I'm used to some lag on LCDs!
Blazing Fast. The P712 is slow to power on to first shot -- about 3.3 seconds according to our findings -- and slow to shut down -- 3.3 to 5.5 seconds depending on the zoom position -- but in almost every other performance category, it was very fast. In promotional literature, Kodak brags about the camera's speed capabilities, claiming the P712 has "best-in-class, click to capture rate." Though we don't normally do those sorts of one-to-one category comparisons, the camera did present very little shutter lag, particularly at wide-angle to normal focal lengths. Without prefocusing, the Kodak P712 took 0.14 seconds to capture an image when the zoom lens was at the wide-angle position. At the full telephoto position, it was 0.71 seconds to capture, still faster than many long-zoom models.
Though these numbers were good, when the camera was prefocused, it was a veritable rocket. We clocked it capturing a shot in a blazing fast 0.086 seconds when half-pressing and holding the shutter button before the shot itself. Very impressive. Too bad the focusing system on this camera -- especially in low-light -- is so darn slow and noisy. While it does a good job optically -- the 12x zoom and Optical Image Stabilizer are a potent combo -- the autofocus system still needs some work. Under daylight conditions, zooming and focusing is decent though the camera emits an annoying "scree" sound as the zoom racks in and out on a shot. Under dimmer conditions, the autofocus performance decreased dramatically, particularly at long zoom settings. This was also the case on the P712's predecessor, the P850, which also had a 12x optical zoom. The Kodak P712's autofocus is greatly improved over that model but still disruptively slow in low-light.
The zoom's action was also frustrating. Along with the "scree" sound mentioned earlier, the camera doesn't zoom very smoothly and takes a half a second to readjust its focus during each incremental focus. I often felt like I was moving the zoom forward and back in short uneven bursts while toggling the rocker with my thumb, never quite getting the distance I wanted.Whose Zoomin' Who?
While it may sound like I'm being harsh on the zoom, that's only because its amazing 12x (equivalent to 36-432mm on a 35mm camera) capability combined with its rock-solid Optical Image Stabilizer were so much fun to use once you properly locked in on something. I live in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Queens, New York so construction of new condominiums has been constant this summer. When I walk out my door these days, the sky is filled with cranes. Thanks to the Kodak P712 I was able to actually get some good close-ups of the construction workers on top of those cranes. The 12x telephoto shot shown at right is a little soft, but pretty amazing for a hand-held shot at an equivalent focal length of 432mm.
Overall, I recorded good detail and sharpness from the camera's f/2.8-f/3.7 Schneider-Kreuznach Varigon lens when fully zoomed in. The camera was surprisingly soft on the edges, however, when I pulled back to the wide angle. Kodak's Color Science Image processor favors pumped-up consumer-friendly color and many of the images I took had good pop to them though it might be a little oversaturated for more advanced user's tastes. Skin tones, however, did not have that distracting peachy pink glow that some rival consumer digital cameras produce. The camera defaults to the "Natural color" mode and I would not recommend the "High Color" setting unless you like very saturated shots.
Getting back to the Image Stabilizer, it comes in two flavors on the Kodak P712 -- Continuous and Single though the instruction manual does a poor job explaining the benefits of each. From my experience, Continuous means that the Image Stabilizer is on at all times which helps for composing shots in the viewfinder. In "Single" mode, the Image Stabilizer only engages when the shutter is half pressed. Single mode may help the camera deal with more severe shaking better, since it'll be less likely to run out of motion compensation while the camera is still exposing. Since this is such a huge plus on this camera, it would have been nice if Kodak had explained this feature more in depth in the manual.
Adjusting Your Images. Image quality was decent overall if not quite as sparkling as I would have expected for a camera with these specs. In outdoor settings, the Kodak P712 had a tendency to overexpose slightly, blowing out clouds and making warm sunlight look harsh. Because the camera is so adjustable, I'd recommend turning down the exposure at least a third of a stop if you plan on shooting in bright settings. When it comes to exposure, the Kodak P712 offers as much or as little control as you could want. An Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera offers Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Scene, Movie, and three Custom presets.
The Auto exposure mode gives the camera complete control over the exposure and most shooting options, though you can adjust focus and zoom, as well as image size and quality. Program AE opens up the creative tools, though aperture and shutter speed remain under automatic control. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes allow partial manual control, and Manual mode gives the user complete control over the exposure.
In the non-Auto modes you can adjust ISO for shooting in low-light without a flash. Getting to that adjustment is a little tricky though, involving a scroll though the various settings at the bottom of the screen using the Command Dial on back. Once you scroll all the way to the right to reach the ISO setting, you have to hit the SET button below the Command Dial and then turn the Dial again to adjust. Unfortunately, all this hard work doesn't really pay off -- ISO adjustments are meager with a maximum of just ISO400. (The Kodak P712 does offer an ISO 800 setting but it is selectable only in 1.2MP resolution, making it pretty pointless in my opinion.) Instead of fussing with the ISO, I'd recommend a liberal use of the camera's nice "fill flash" setting which gives just the right amount of flash to lighten shadows but not blow out detail or black out the background.
Custom settings on the Kodak P712 let you save a bank of user settings, useful if you frequently shoot in the same location or under a specific light source. An extensive Scene menu is available as well, offering no less than 18 preset modes for common yet tricky conditions. Scene offerings include Portrait, Self-Portrait, Sport, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Text, Flower, Sunset, Candle Light, Backlight, Manner/Museum, Fireworks, and Party.
Other advanced features on the Kodak P712 include multiple burst modes for shooting action; a very easy-to-use panoramic feature that stitches three images together in the camera; a live histogram; 25 selectable AF points; custom white balance with selectable compensation; highlight/shadow clipping displays; and support for RAW and TIFF files, along with the more common JPEG settings. The Kodak P712 also has a 30 frames-per-second VGA (640 x 480) movie mode.
The Kodak P712 features a built-in pop-up flash, in addition to an external flash hot-shoe. The hot shoe can be used with a range of third-party flash units, and works either in conjunction with the built-in flash or by itself. Battery life is rated an above average 290 shots per charge.
The Bottom Line
If you don't want to make the jump to a digital SLR yet -- for whatever reason -- the Kodak P712 offers a decent all-in-one, superzoom alternative. With a whopping 12x zoom that would cost an arm and a leg if you ever tried to purchase equivalent lenses for a DSLR, the Kodak P712 is great for capturing close-up shots that stay sharp thanks to the camera's optical image stabilizer. The P712's mix of ease of use in Auto mode with a broad range of control options also make it a good camera for sharing between two people of widely differing photograph skill levels: In Auto mode, it's push-the-button simple, yet still offers enough options and controls to satisfy more sophisticated shooters. Though its overall performance and image quality don't equal that of a decent digital DSLR, if you're looking for a less expensive, portable alternative, the Kodak P712 is definitely worth a look.
- 7.1-megapixel CCD (effective) delivering image resolutions as high as 3,072 x 2,304 pixels.
- Electronic viewfinder (EVF).
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor 237,000 pixels of resolution, five levels of brightness adjustment.
- 12x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 36-432mm lens on a 35mm camera.
- 5x digital zoom.
- Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus 18 Scene modes.
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 16 seconds. (1/1,000 to 1/2 second in Auto mode)
- Built-in pop-up flash with five modes and flash compensation adjustment.
- Hot shoe for connecting an external flash unit.
- RAW, TIFF, and JPEG image file formats, with three JPEG compression settings.
- 32MB internal memory.
- Images stored in internal memory or on SD/MMC card (not included).
- Power supplied by rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack (charger included) or optional AC adapter.
- Compatible with Kodak EasyShare camera and printer docks (dock adapter plate included).
- Kodak EasyShare interface software included on CD-ROM.
- Optical Image Stabilizer reduces blurring from slight camera movement; two modes, Single and Continuous.
- 30fps, VGA (640x480) Movie mode with sound.
- Burst and Time Lapse shooting modes.
- Auto Exposure Bracketing.
- 25-point autofocus area, with Center-weighted and Multi-pattern modes.
- Single and Continuous AF modes, as well as a manual setting.
- 25-zone Selectable metering system, as well as conventional Center-Weighted, Multi-Pattern, and Center-Spot metering systems.
- Custom exposure mode for saving user settings.
- Dual-mode AF system for faster focusing in low light.
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
- Color, sharpness, and contrast adjustments, plus black & white and sepia options.
- User adjustable White Balance setting with eight modes, including a manual option and compensation tool.
- Sensitivity equivalents from ISO 64 to 800. (ISO 800 selectable only in 1.2MP resolution.)
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
- A/V cable for connection to a television set.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Kodak EasyShare P712 camera
- Neck strap and lens cap
- Kodak Li-Ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Getting Started kit with manual and Kodak EasyShare software CD
- USB cable
- Audio/Video cable
- Kodak EasyShare dock insert
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card, 256MB as minimum
- Second rechargeable battery
- Kodak EasyShare Printer dock
- Soft carrying case
- External flash for hot-shoe, either third-party flash or Kodak P20 zoom flash.
As digital SLRs decreased in price and, consequently, increased in popularity, seemed the days of the "chunky" superzoom digital camera might be over. That hasn't fully happened yet though and it's because of solid all-in-one superzoom models like the Kodak EasyShare P712. Though this 7.1MP camera won't give you the performance or image quality of a decent digital SLR, its lightweight and portable construction makes it far easier to travel with. Plus with a 12x zoom (equivalent to a 36-432mm lens on a 35mm camera) and an in-camera optical image stabilizer, the Kodak P712 will give you a long, rock-steady focal range that would cost an arm and a leg if you were to try to buy equivalent interchangeable lenses for a digital SLR. The camera is also surprisingly responsive for a long-zoom model, with good shutter lag, and blazing response times when pre-focused prior to the shot. Thanks to Kodak's Color Science image processor, the P712 handles a wide variety of lighting with aplomb, and delivers images that are bright and colorful without seeming overdone.
On the down side, the Kodak P712's zoom motor is loud and slow and not nearly as responsive as even a low-end interchangeable lens on a DSLR. Focusing times in low-light were also quite slow and the zoom rocker not very responsive to the touch. Accessing the ISO on the Kodak P712 could also have been much easier as well, and with many cameras offering good low-light sensitivity ratings, all this model could muster at full resolution is a noisy ISO 400 setting. Finally, while sophisticated users will applaud the P712's much better-than-average color accuracy, some consumers may find its images slightly lackluster, particularly in strong greens and reds.
Having said all that, the Kodak P712 warrants a Dave's Pick based simply on its great 12x optical zoom, optical image stabilizer, and combination of ease of use in Auto mode with its broad feature set for more sophisticated shooters. The Kodak P712 takes great pictures even when zoomed all the way out to an extraordinary 432mm equivalent which is what being a superzoom camera is really all about.