Kodak EasyShare Z990 Review

4.0
May 3, 2011 | Matt Grayson |

Image Quality


All the pictures in this test were taken at the full 12 megapixel resolution JPEG with the exception of the resolution test and when testing RAW. Image sizes vary from picture to picture but average out at around 6.15Mb in the fine setting JPEG. Knocking the quality down to normal drops the file size down to around 4Mb. A substantial difference if you're on a day out and want to take pots of pictures. Just remember the images won't look as good extra large. Our main grumble with the file quality settings is that there's no option for recording both JPEG and RAW.

On the surface, image quality from the Z990's new BSI sensor looks exceptional. It's always good to prepare yourself to find noise and loss of image quality because of the size of the sensor and the amount of pixels crammed onto it. This is true in the Z990 because noise starts to creep in quite early. Sure, there's a noise reduction facility and it works well in most cases but there's just one or two pictures that we found a bit too much image degradation. In most cases, we found that noise was controlled sufficiently up until around ISO 800 where there's a noticeable drop in quality. Sharp edges become more fuzzy and purple colouring starts to show in shadowy parts of the picture.

By ISO 3200, the Z990 has started damage control and begins to smooth out detail in an attempt to lose noise but it can't erase the green and purple blobs in the dark and mid-range areas. The final ISO 6400 setting shows invasive colour and nasty artefacts all over the pictures. It's not a setting for the faint-hearted, you should only use this if you really have to. But then, you have a flash built-in so unless you want flashless pictures in the dark, stay away from the ISO 6400 setting.

Colours are very realistic from the Z990 and Kodak have done an excellent job with the sensor. We really love how the primary colours are handled. They don't clash with any other colours and they're rich and saturated. However, the camera does suffer from chromatic aberration which, for the uninitiated, is a small purple line around the edges of high contrasting subjects. It's down to the colours not focusing correctly on the sensor and it's all very scientific so we're not going to go into the ins and outs. However as a general rule of thumb, the better the lens quality, the less chromatic aberration (AKA chroma, CA, colour fringing or purple fringing) in the picture. Most digital cameras suffer so it's not too much to worry about and we only found it on very high contrast images.

The built-in flash is a pop-up type that sits over the lens barrel. It can't be manually raised... well, it can but you have to ram your nails under the flash to do it, so it's not advisable! The flash works very well, there's a nice even spread regardless of the focal length. With portraits, there's a risk of getting red-eye but because the flash pops up, it raises it on an oblique angle to the lens so there's no trace of red-eye even without the red-eye reduction setting on.

The Kodak Z990 has two macro types: macro and macro plus. Normal macro mode has a middle-of-the-road 10cm close focusing distance but the super macro can get in even closer at the loss of the zoom. According to the Kodak website, the closest it can focus is 1cm, but we found that the lens was all but touching objects and we still got a satisfying two-tone beep.

Noise

There are 7 steps of ISO on the Kodak z990 Max from ISO125 to ISO6400. Noise performance is good with image quality only really starting to become an issue at ISO800. You can check the findings for yourself using the 100% crops below.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 

Focal Range

The Kodak EasyShare Z990's 30x lens has a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.

28mm

840mm

Sharpening

Straight out of the camera, the pictures do benefit from a standard sharpen in Photoshop. The great thing about the Kodak is that it has a sharpening menu in camera. However, the actual sharpening that's applied to the pictures is minimal to the point it's hardly noticeable.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

File Quality

The Kodak Z990 has two file quality settings, Fine and Medium. Here are a couple of 100% crops which show the quality of the two options.

12M Fine (6.18Mb) (100% Crop) 12M Medium (4.02Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Kodak does suffer from chromatic aberration but only mildly. It's to be expected with a digital compact camera and it does handle it quite well.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

With two macro functions, which one you decide to choose will depend on the subject you're shooting and whether you need to use the zoom function or not. We found that the macro plus gives awesome depth of field.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The only 3 flash functions (aside from turning it off) are red-eye preflash, forced on and auto. We managed to get some lovely shots of backlit subjects using the pop-up flash. There's also a flash compensation option in the unlikely event of the image being too dark or bright. There's no sign of light fall off at the edges of the frame at either end of the focal range which is great. The test pictures were taken at a distance of around 1.5m.

Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Fill-in - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Off - Telephoto (840mm)

Fill-in - Telephoto (840mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Flash On and the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any amount of red-eye.

Fill-in

Fill-in (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

You'd think that with manual settings, getting a perfectly balanced long exposure would be easy and it is easily adjustable. However, there's no indication that the picture will be over or under exposed without getting the histogram. Once focus is locked, the information on the display screen disappears so if the exposure changes, there's no way of knowing if it's out of exposure range.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

HDR

The Z990 has a HDR (high dynamic range) artistic effect, which can be turned On of Off.

Off

On

Panorama

The Z990's Automatic Panorama mode captures a 180 degrees horizontal or vertical view in a continuous burst until you release the shutter, much like Sony's Sweep Panorama mode.

Full-size Image

Passport

The Kodak Z990 has a passport scene mode which mimics the passport booths that you find in shopping centres.

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, 1080p, wide-angle, 12 megapixel, manual, super-zoom, RAW, cmos, 28mm, 30x zoom, bsi, sensor, kodak, exr, easyshare, max, z990, Kodak EasyShare Z990 Review

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