Kodak EasyShare Z885 Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 10/10/2007
The Kodak EasyShare Z885 features eight megapixels of resolution coupled to a generous 36 to 180mm equivalent Kodak-branded 5x optical zoom lens. The Kodak Z885 also includes a 2.5 inch, 115,000 pixel LCD display, 24MB of built-in memory, SD/MMC card slot, USB and NTSC/PAL video connectivity, and power from two AA batteries (with disposables in the product bundle).
EasyShare Z885 shooting modes include smart scene, high ISO, video capture, SCN, P/M, and digital image stabilization. Kodak notes that the Z885 offers a maximum ISO sensitivity of 8,000 at reduced resolution. Z885 scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Close up, Night portrait, Night landscape, Snow, Beach, Text/document, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/museum, Self portrait, Children, Backlight, Panning, Candle light, Sunset, and Panorama stitch.
Z885 movies are recorded in QuickTime MPEG4 format with audio, available in VGA (640 x 480) and QVGA (320 x 240) resolutions, both at 30 frames-per-second with lengths up to 80 minutes based on memory capacity.
The Kodak EasyShare Z885 started shipping in May 2007 priced at U.S.$199.95.
Kodak EasyShare Z885 User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. The list price for the Kodak Z885 is $200 but its street price is around $166, so you'd think that would make this review a discussion of trade-offs and compromises. But the Kodak Z885 has some surprising features.
Like a 5x optical zoom (with a 5x digital zoom, delivering a 25x range). Or Smart Scene modes so you don't have to tell the camera what it's looking at. Or ISO sensitivity to 3,200 at any image size and 8,000 at 2.2-megapixels. Or the Kodak Z885's 8.1-megapixel sensor to make enlargements so big you can't afford to frame them.
There's a lot about the Kodak Z885 that suggests it would be perfect for kids, but it really isn't. The problem is the zoom lens, which protrudes quite a bit from the Kodak Z885's body, and is just asking for trouble. By "quite a bit," I mean an inch and a half in telephoto (and nearly an inch at wide angle).
While the feature list was exciting, my experience with the Z885 wasn't a great one. Oddly enough, some people on the staff didn't agree. Let's see whose side you're on.
Design. I do find the Kodak Z885 an attractive, if boxy, camera. Little boxes have their charm, after all, and this little black box is practically wearing a tuxedo. It isn't very photogenic, though. Looking at these photos of the Kodak Z885, you can be forgiven if you think it takes two hands to pick it up.
The Kodak Z885 does have some heft to it. I always like a little heft. It helps stabilize the camera. The Z885's Shutter button doesn't require any great force, but it's nice to know the camera isn't going anywhere in a light breeze.
A chrome accent slices down the front of the Kodak Z885 from the Mode dial to serve as a very elegant finger grip. There's a little thumb pad on the back, too, making a very comfortable grip. And a nice corner loop for the indispensable wrist strap. Sometimes you have to work too hard to get a wrist strap looped through the camera. Not on the Z885.
The back of the camera has just a few controls and a nice 2.5 inch LCD. Let's take a closer look at both of them.
Controls. The Kodak Z885's controls are very simple. After you've found the Shutter button surrounded by the Mode dial, look to the left to see the tiny (really too small) Power button next to the Flash mode and Shutter mode buttons (for the self-timer and continuous mode shooting).
On the back panel to the right of the Kodak Z885's 2.5-inch LCD, a column of controls is topped by the Zoom lever. The Delete and Display buttons are under the zoom control, but above the four-way navigator and OK button. Under them is the Menu and Review button and to the right of those two is the Share button with which you tag images for transfer.
That's really not much to learn, or forget. The Z885 is not above reminding you what exposure mode you're in and what it does, either.
Display/Viewfinder. There's no optical viewfinder on the Kodak Z885, but the LCD is 2.5 inches, which is pretty common generally, but still a luxury on inexpensive digicams. It was usable in bright sun but it smudges easily.
The Kodak Z885's LCD only has 115,000 pixels, which isn't much. Text looks a little crude. Luke complained that the fuzzy display made it hard to find focus on the test targets. But it does display a live histogram in record modes.
It also presents a very accurate view of your scene, as our test shots show. That measures 100 percent at wide angle and 102 percent at telephoto, in fact.
Performance. One big surprise was the battery life, but more about that below. As for the rest of our benchmarks, the Kodak Z885 was no surprise, ranking average in most categories. That's nothing to be ashamed of at a street price of $166, though.
Startup time was a bit long at 3.2 seconds, but still in the high end of average. The Kodak Z885's big lens is probably to blame because shutdown is only average, too, at two seconds.
The Kodak Z885's autofocus lag and prefocus lag times were both below average, taking 1.53 seconds at wide angle and 1.16 seconds at telephoto, so this isn't the best camera for action shots or pictures of wiggly kids.
Download time was decent, with a USB 2.0 port that achieves 1,423KB/second.
Once the Kodak Z885's lens is out and the LCD ready for action, the Zoom lever is your focus of attention. Optical zoom, a generous 5x that also works in Movie mode, is smooth. It's easy to compose your image. But the 5x digital zoom really labors. You want to press the lever harder to speed it up but it won't help.
Exposure Modes. I didn't get my usual dose of Macro fun. The Kodak Z885 doesn't really have a Macro mode. Instead, there's a Closeup Scene mode. You can get as close as 8.0 inches in wide angle but it never really seems like it.
It also had a hard time finding focus in low light with the Kodak Z885 (it has no assist lamp, just a self-timer/video light). Which, given the High ISO options, is a pity. My attempt at taking my usual doll shots failed on that score.
The Kodak Z885's Mode dial surrounding the Shutter button makes it pretty easy to see what's cooking. Your choices are Anti-Shake, High ISO, Program/Manual, Smart Scene (Auto), Scene, Movie, and Favorites.
If you can't find it there, look in the Kodak Z885's Scene mode. That's where Kodak puts Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Close Up, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Text/Document, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/Museum, Self Portrait, Children, Backlight, Panning, Candle Light, Sunset, and Panorama Stitch.
Kodak digicams have one of the nicest Scene mode layouts I've seen, running your options in two rows of icons at the bottom of the screen with a big title and a text explanation of what the selected option does on the top half of the screen.
But why look with the Kodak Z885's Smart Scene, Kodak's green Auto mode? Smart scene mode automatically selects from 10 Scene modes, including Portrait, Night Portrait, Backlight, Candle Light, Flower, Text, Close-Up, Landscape, and Snow/Beach. If the camera can't guess which scene to use, it defaults to Auto.
That's handy, but our Smart Scene closeups weren't any better than our Scene closeups. We didn't remember you really can't get too close with the Kodak Z885 (just eight inches in wide angle), so our shots were blurry.
The Kodak Z885's High ISO mode is also something of a disappointment if you're expecting the same quality you get in the other modes. It's really an experimental X15 super spy sort of mode. Think of it that way and it's amazing. But, as our test shots show, there is very little detail in them despite the fairly good color retention.
Set the Kodak Z885's image size to no larger than 2.2-Mp (which is not much, frankly) and slip into P/M mode. ISO now includes 6,400 and 8,000 in addition to the normal range of 80 to 3,200 in Auto. The idea is to provide a faster shutter speed than would otherwise be available so you can get sharper shots in low light and stop fast action. Faster shutter speeds mean you can capture the details in both low light conditions and fast action situations.
There's not much to say about the Z885's Anti-Shake mode. It's not mechanical so it isn't really image stabilization. The camera simply optimizes its settings to avoid blur due to camera movement. That could mean firing the flash or kicking up the ISO.
The Kodak Z885's exposure modes are greatly helped by a live histogram you enable by pressing the Display key a couple times. You don't often see that on an inexpensive camera, but it's really helpful. Review mode on the LCD can be deceiving because no LCD really displays all the colors you're capturing.
The 36-180mm (35mm equivalent) Kodak lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at wide angle and f/5.1 at telephoto. Our test shots show resolution hits about 1,300 lines resolution both horizontally and vertically, not at all bad.
It does protrude 7/8 inch at start up and a full 1.5 inches in telephoto. Not kid safe. Not even bumbling adult safe, come to think of it.
AA Batteries. There was a time, not very long ago, when AA batteries were a desirable feature. Back then no battery lasted as long as you wanted and with AAs, you could just pop into a drugstore and get another set in a pinch.
If you bought rechargeable NiMH batteries, they probably outlasted your camera, providing reliable power for years -- as long as you charged them before you popped them in the camera. They tended to lose quite a bit of their charge in storage.
Then proprietary rechargeable lithiums started to take over the camera world because they were small, and small cameras were all the rage. They didn't last long enough either, but they held their charge in storage. So, they were a bit more convenient. And you didn't have a choice.
These days, those little batteries last for hundreds of shots -- more than you take at a birthday party or a wedding, say. They will probably outlast your camera (who buys a second battery any more?) and you can find a quick replacement at the drugstore, too (but is it charged?).
So the Kodak Z885's AA batteries are not the feature they used to be -- and in fact might be something of a liability. Except they keep the cost of the camera down a bit by not requiring Kodak to include a battery charger or a lithium battery, just a couple of alkaline AAs. For very infrequent use, buy a couple of AA lithiums, which hold their charge over the years; otherwise, warm up some of those old NiMH AAs.
The Z885 seemed to manage its battery power very well, however. The Kodak alkalines lasted much longer than I thought they would.
Shooting. Our lab notes for this camera were less than enthusiastic. Rob complained, "I don't like cameras that will let you fire a picture if you have flash forced on and it has not recharged. This one does that."
Luke added that the fuzzy, lo-res LCD made framing test targets difficult. He had a few upbeat observations, too. "Shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure bias controls are actually easy to use, and it doesn't lose all my settings when I turn it off."
But there are some things we learn about a camera only in the field. Shooting some dahlias at the Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park, I was just astonished to see the LCD go dark when I turned the camera into a portrait orientation. It was so astonishing that I didn't believe it.
In fact, it wasn't until the next morning when I was downloading a firmware update, that I resolved the mystery. I tried the camera again to confirm my experience, but it was fine, no blackout when I rotated the camera. So what happened?
Outdoors I was wearing polarized photo gray sunglasses. Turning the LCD 45 degrees darkened the image. Not all LCDs do this, but if you like to wear polarized sunglasses, this is not the camera for you. Believe me.
The firmware upgrade promised to improve the quality of the LCD and the operation of the camera in "very hot weather." The camera had version 1.02 so I installed version 1.03 by creating a "System" folder on the SD card and copying the KZ885103.pak firmware to that folder. Popping the card into the camera and then turning the camera on brought up a firmware upgrade screen. I confirmed and the upgrade took just a few seconds to perform. When I restarted, the Kodak Z885 asked if I wanted to do the upgrade again. Kodak apparently doesn't delete the firmware upgrade from the card when it has finished upgrading.
The irony of this story is that Kodak can publish a firmware upgrade for the Z885 that can be installed from a memory card but it can't do it for its all-in-one printers.
My first outings with the Kodak Z885 were a disaster. While I liked the way it fit my hand (it's smaller than it looks), the big lens takes a good while to uncrank itself. Some of the smarter exposure options were unreliable and I quickly put the Kodak Z885 aside to try it again another day.
But Dave had a completely different experience. "I actually had a great time with that camera on our trip to Vancouver earlier this Summer. It's clearly not an enthusiast model, but I was calling it 'the little camera that could' for the great job it did under a variety of lighting conditions. Noisy at high ISO, its prints still looked good as 5x7s, great as 4x6s. It did great with white balance, its color was a bit oversaturated, but typical of a lot of consumer digicams."
I share Dave's enthusiasm for Kodak's Color Science chip, responsible for the virtues he enumerates. But the Kodak Z885 itself is another story. The slow startup, the difficulty finding focus with no assist lamp, the reliance on Scenes (and Smart Scene detection) all rubbed me the wrong way. If you wait a good long while it writes your shoot to the memory card.
I can also appreciate the pleasure of using the Kodak Z885 for snapshots. At intermission of Opera in the Park, I wandered around Sharon Meadow taking snapshots for the gallery. Some I liked, like the instrument cases taking a break, or the bike with no brake. Others were less successful, like the crowd scenes.
After the concert, I took a walk to the Dahlia garden (where my sunglasses amused me) and was so disappointed in the Kodak Z885's closeup options that I switched cameras.
EasyShare. One advantage the Kodak Z885 has over its competitors is the EasyShare universe. That starts in the camera with Favorites (images retained in the camera's internal memory) and easy docking to make 4x6 prints, but it extends to Kodak's free EasyShare software that can import your images when you attach the camera to your computer with a USB cable. And it goes even further to Kodak Gallery where you can share your images and turn them into prints and all sorts of gifts. EasyShare is the really valuable accessory that comes with every Kodak digicam.
It's a shame the EasyShare experience doesn't extend to the product's Web site, though. While you can read about the camera's features, its specifications, click through the manual, and get firmware updates, the page design and navigation need work. I was always losing the Kodak Z885-specific pages when trying to drill down to a specific topic.
Perfect Touch. The Kodak Z885 does include some in-camera editing functions like Kodak's Perfect Touch, which displays the automatic enhancement in a split screen view so you can decide whether to keep it or not. You can also crop pictures in the camera, and edit video, too, saving a frame as a still, or trimming the video of unwanted segments. You can add video bookmarks to skip to interesting places in a movie, and you can make a 4-, 9-, or 16-up image from video frames.
Analysis. Overall, it was a mixed bag. The Kodak Z885 was able to make some good snapshots for a low priced camera, but its high ISO feature and supposed digital image stabilization left much to be desired. Movie mode was good, and so was the camera's connectivity to the many EasyShare printer docks. Image quality is good up to about ISO 400, with reasonable clarity considering the 8-megapixel resolution, but noise suppression starts to tamp detail down from ISO 200 on up. Prints from the Kodak Z885 look good at ISO 400 up to 8x10, and ISO 1,600 is usable for 4x6, but avoid the higher ISO unless you want to save time and money on making water color paintings, because that's just what the output looks like at ISO 3,200 to 8,000. The Kodak Z885 is not a bad snapshot camera on a budget.
- 8.1 megapixel sensor delivering 3,275 x 2,459 pixels
- 36-180mm equivalent, 5x optical zoom; 5x digital zoom
- 2.5-inch LCD
- 80-8,000 ISO sensitivity
- 8-1/2,000 second available shutter speeds
- f/2.8 maximum aperture
- SD/SDHC memory card capability
- 32MB internal memory (24MB available for photo storage)
- Powered by 2 AA batteries
- 5.6 ounces (161 grams)
- High ISO mode
- Digital Image Stabilization (not real image stabilization)
- Smart Scene Mode, switches modes depending on scene, includes Face Detect
- 10 Scene modes: Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Close up, Night portrait, Night landscape, Snow, Beach, Text/document, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/museum, Self portrait, Children, Backlight, Panning, Candle light, Sunset, and Panorama stitch
- 640x480 Movie mode, capturing video at 30 frames per second
- In-camera video editing
- In-camera still editing, including cropping and digital red-eye reduction
- Compatible with EasyShare printer docks
In the Box
The Kodak EasyShare Z885 ships with the following items in the box:
- Z885 Zoom Digital Camera
- Oxy-Alkaline Digital Camera Batteries AA
- USB cable
- Wrist strap
- Getting Started Guide with Kodak EasyShare Software
- Custom camera insert for optional docks
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. These days, 1-2GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
- Set of four AA-size NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger.
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection.
Dave liked the Kodak Z885, Luke said some nice things about it, Rob found it flustering, and I'm not really a fan. You break the tie. Consider the charming, simple design but the slow startup with a lens that protrudes an inch and a half. Factor in the High ISO mode that can get you to ISO 8,000 but the difficulty focusing in low light without an assist lamp. Take into account the Smart Scene modes, but don't forget you can't get very close in Macro mode. And don't discount the annoyance of the long write times. Printed results are good at 4x6 up to ISO 1,600, so it will do decent duty as a snapshot camera even at night if your subject's close enough. The Kodak Z885 is reasonably good for the money, but you might want to look around a bit for other bargain cameras that deliver a little more.