Kodak EasyShare Z990 Review

May 3, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Following the runaway success of recent super-zoom cameras, Kodak are hoping to take a slice of the action with the introduction of the Easyshare Z990 "Max". Complete with a Schneider Kreuznach 30x zoom lens, 12 megapixel CMOS sensor, full manual controls with histogram and 3 inch LCD screen, the Z990 looks to be all the camera that a keen photographer would need if a DSLR isn't a viable option. Designed like a DSLR, the Kodak sports a large grip and command dial but also throws in elements of being a compact camera such as the zoom rocker around the shutter release button and the direct record for the HD video. The Kodak Z990 retails for £299 / $329.95.

Ease of Use

When Kodak introduced the Easyshare system in 2001, the idea was that everyone (probably in the world) should get a Kodak, then the cameras would be loaded onto any Kodak Easyshare dock so that pictures could be seen and adored by anyone.

Things don't always work out as planned and although Kodak retain the fundamental elements of the sharing system, the way they go about it has changed. The dock is now out and there's a three step technique. When you're viewing the pictures on the rear screen, press the Share button, choose the way you'd like to share the picture from email or Kodak digital picture frame and connect the camera to the computer. The camera will automatically upload your pictures to your desired location.

With this simple structure to sharing pictures, it would be nice to see Kodak take a similar approach to the rest of the menu system, but that's not the case. There's no strict menu which is something that everyone is used to. All the settings are on display on the screen and they're accessed from here with the exception of the Settings menu which has a new area to go into. The main problem is that the screen on the back looks quite cluttered. The Kodak has an electronic viewfinder which switches on if you press the EVF/LCD button on the back but this is quite dark, although it's better than trying to use the screen in very bright sunlight.

Kodak EasyShare Z990 Kodak EasyShare Z990
Front Rear

Kodak have opted for a BSI CMOS sensor with the Z990 camera. BSI stands for Back Side Illuminated and has nothing to do with the derriere. On a standard sensor, pixels are surrounded by circuitry which transfer the information that the pixels collects through the processor and stores them on the memory card. The circuitry hides a portion of the pixel making it less responsive to light. ISO then needs to be increased to work in low light situations. On a BSI sensor, the circuitry is placed on the back of the sensor meaning the entire pixel is exposed. This means a lower ISO can be used and noise is reduced. The name comes from when looking at the sensor, as it looks like it's been fitted in reverse because the circuits are at the back. This is Kodak's first BSI sensor so our noise tests are of particular interest.

The BSI sensor also allows for a new HDR feature which creates a HDR image in the traditional way. Some cameras have an intelligent contrast feature to cap burn out and boost detail in shadows. Nikon call it D-Lighting and Canon call it iContrast. Most companies have one now but Kodak seem to have gone down the other route. The camera physically takes three pictures in succession before merging them into one. It takes a while to process the information which is something that we instantly had issues with. Pictures take longer to process on the Kodak, especially in RAW mode, while video seemed to take an age. We missed a few opportunities because the camera was busy downloading information.

Designed to reflect a DSLR with its large grip and command dial sporting manual commands such as aperture and shutter priority, the Kodak Z990 has a large 30x optical zoom which stretches from a wide-angle view of 28mm to an eye-watering 840mm. This kind of range is great for really distant subjects such as ships at sea or people on cliff-sides. It also means that you don't have to walk as far.

Kodak EasyShare Z990 Kodak EasyShare Z990
Top Side

An optical image stabiliser is fitted to the Z990 to prevent shake, but we found that even in bright sunlight, if we were on a low ISO, we had to have the aperture wide open to prevent camera shake and even then we still got it. We also think Kodak have missed a trick with the zoom. It's operated using the rocker switch that wraps around the shutter release button. The lens barrel has a huge expanse of space that does nothing. Converting this to a zoom ring would have allowed for smoother zooming, no stepping and would have been more responsive. The zoom isn't very responsive at all as it happens. We were sometimes stood frantically flapping the rocker while nothing happened for what seemed like minutes. In reality it was only a few seconds but in photography, every second can count.

The Z990 feels solid and positive with all the controls falling at fingers or thumbs. Buttons are easy to press and the command dial doesn't stick. The camera takes 4x AA batteries which are included in the box along with a charger. It's a nice touch because usually there's just a set of one-use batteries in the box. After a full charge, the batteries lasted us through a full day out at an event with the camera being switched on and off constantly as well as reviewing pictures. That evening, the camera read the batteries as half full which is pretty good. One disappointing area to see is the lack of a metal tripod bush. With a camera such as this, it could become a part of the camera that sees a lot of use and will wear down quicker.

Playback is certainly entertaining if nothing else in the Kodak Z990. The dedicated button is located towards the bottom of the camera on the back. It brings up a small menu of how you'd like to locate pictures. You can either view all of them, search by all, people, date, keywords or videos. The people section is for the face recognition system that the camera has. It allows you to name people that the camera will search out in a picture and give priority to them in a picture. If you've not set this up, you'll see a grey box. Interestingly, if you have a video as the preview, you can't zoom out to see the smaller thumbnails. To do this function, you must have a still image on the screen. After doing this, videos can still be seen though.

Kodak EasyShare Z990 Kodak EasyShare Z990
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

In a similar vein to what Fujifilm have done with the FS range, Kodak have installed simulations of their popular films onto the camera. The films available are; Kodachrome, Kodacolor, Ektachrome, Tri-X, and T-Max. Sepia is also available in this mode.

Another interesting feature that the Kodak Z990 has is the Photobooth mode. It takes four successive images and stacks them like an old passport booth would do (these days they're generally in a square). The pictures are self timed and you get a beep counting down.

Out of all the Kodak digital compact cameras we've tested, the Z990 appears to be the most feature laden, intuitive and clued-up camera of them all. It's bursting with features, has upgrades on top of upgrades and generally feels pretty good. Kodak seem to have gone to town on the Z990 Max and maybe that's where the name comes from. All the stand-out features in the world will amount to nothing if the camera can't take a good picture, so let's take a look at its image quality next.


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.


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.




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)


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


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 (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


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)


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




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


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

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Kodak EasyShare Z990 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Kodak Z990 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Kodak RAW (KDC) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 31 second movie is 83.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Video Mode

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu


Kodak EasyShare Z990

Top of the Camera / Image Search

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Bottom of the Camera / Processing

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Rear of the Camera / Image Playback

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Top of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Bottom of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Side of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Side of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Front of the Camera

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Memory Card Slot

Kodak EasyShare Z990

Battery Compartment


It's easy to say that the Z990 is arguably one of the best digital compact cameras that Kodak have released. The picture quality is excellent, we were extremely impressed with the tonal rendition and accuracy of colours. The new sensor seems to be doing its job by reducing noise very well at the low to mid-range ISO settings. It's great to see that Kodak are getting into the back illuminated sensor market simply because it means a better quality image for the consumer.

The build quality is very good although there are notable flaws such as the plastic tripod bush and unresponsive buttons. One of the biggest issues with the Z990 is the buttons and switches being so unresponsive. If you want to shoot in a hurry, forget it. Choose a different camera.

At times it took us up to a minute to turn the Z990 on, we had trouble zooming in and out as the camera seemed to ignore the commands entirely and entering the menu at the top of the screen could be a nightmare. The weird thing was that sometimes the Z990 would execute commands straight away and other times it seemed to take an age.

At one point when we were shooting a football match, we missed a lot of opportunities because the Z990 wouldn't zoom in or allow us to choose a different ISO setting. Another key issue regarding speed is the processor. Pictures take a long time to download onto the card from the sensor and don't expect the camera to allow you to do anything. It completely locks up. It would have been nice of it to allow us to make adjustments to the settings or something but we just got a half black, half blue image that simply said processing. It's extremely infuriating but if you're not in a rush, then you won't be bothered by this.

There's lots of features packed into the Z990 and the long zoom just adds to it. The image stabiliser seems to work well and the range is enough to contend with the latest 30x optical megazoom cameras. For the price, you get a lot of camera. It would be nice to see past innovations such as the vertical grip, but it's not detrimental to the camera. The Z990 certainly has enough going on it to keep a photographer interested. This camera would suit a keen photographer who likes to enjoy nature without the tediousness of having to walk everywhere, especially one who isn't in a rush to get the job done. If that's you, I think you'll really like the Kodak EasyShare Z990.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5


Sensor type 1 / 2.33–type BSI CMOS
Effective pixels 12 MP (4000 × 3000)
Zoom 30X SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON Optical Zoom Lens, 5X advanced digital zoom
Focal length 28–840 mm (35 mm equiv.), f/2.8–5.6
Image stabilization still: optical, video: digital
Shutter speed
  • Smart Capture mode: 1/2–1/2000 sec.
  • S/M modes: 1/2000–16 sec.
Viewfinder electronic (EVF)
Display 3.0 in. 460K dots—TFT color LCD with smart display feature
Storage 128 MB internal memory[1]available, SD/SDHC card expansion slot
Focus Type TTL contrast AF system
Focus range
  • Smart Capture mode: (wide) 0.1 m (3.9 ft)–infinity, (tele) 1.8 m (5.9 ft)—infinity
  • macro: (wide) 0.1–0.8 m (3.9 in.–2.6 ft), (tele) 1.8–3.5 m (5.9–11.5 ft)
  • super macro: 0.01–0.2 m (0.4–7.9 in.)
Focus modes normal AF, macro AF, super macro AF, infinity, manual
Auto focus zones multi-zone, center-zone, selectable (25 zones), face priority
AF (Auto Focus) assist light yes
Exposure metering multi-pattern, center-weighted, spot
Face Detection yes
Face Recognition yes
ISO sensitivity auto, 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
Exposure compensation ±2.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps
Exposure bracketing ±1.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps, 3 images
AE (Auto Exposure) lock when shutter button is depressed 1/2-way
White balance auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, open shade
Flash range
  • (wide) 0.5–8.9 m (1.6–29.2 ft) ISO 800
  • (tele) 1.8–4.4 m (5.9–14.4 ft) ISO 800
Flash mode auto, fill, red-eye reduction, off
Flash compensation ±1.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps, 3 images
Shooting modes (still)
Smart Capture yes
Scene modes sport, portrait, children, backlight, high ISO, bright, sunset, self-portrait, night portrait, candlelight, night landscape, landscape, stage, fireworks, flower, panorama
Artistic effects HDR, night scene long exposure, dramatic, intelligent portrait, photo booth
Photobooth yes
Manual exposure control P (programmed AE with access to manual settings), A (aperture priority), S (shutter priority), M (manual exposure)
Self-timer Smart Capture burst–1.1 fps; PASM burst–5 fps, max 5; 10 fps, max 5; 60 fps @ 2 MP, max 20; self-timer (2 sec., 10 sec., 2 shots)
Still capture/review
Still format JPEG/EXIF v2.21 DPOF, KCD RAW
Picture size
  • 12 MP (4000 × 3000)—4:3
  • 11 MP (4000 × 2664)—3:2
  • 9 MP (4000 × 2256)—16:9
  • 6 MP (2832 × 2128)—4:3
  • 3 MP (2048 × 1536)—4:3
Compression level PASM: fine 1:3.2, JPEG normal 1:5.3, JPEG basic 1:6.5, RAW; Smart Capture: standard
Color modes vivid, full, and basic color; black and white; sepia; film effects
Sharpness sharp, normal (default), soft
Orientation sensor yes
Internal Memory yes
Review options viewing: Face Recognition (date, face), single-up, multi-up/ thumbnails, magnify, multi-select, delete, undo delete, slideshow, properties info; tagging: Smart Share, print, e-mail, favorite, keyword, keyboard input
Editing crop, KODAK PERFECT TOUCH Technology (if not applied during capture), RAW file develop, copy, date stamp
Video capture/review
Format H.264 (MP4), AAC stereo
  • HD: 1080p (1920 × 1080 @30 fps); 720p (1280 x 720 @ 30 fps)
  • VGA: 640 × 480 @ 30 fps
  • WVGA: 640 × 352 @ 30 fps
AF (Auto Focus) during video yes
Zoom during video optical
Microphone yes–stereo
Speaker yes–monaural
  • HD: < 4 GB or < 29 min.
  • VGA: < 4 GB
Review options FF, rewind, pause, by frame, volume control
Editing make picture, trim, 9-up action print, bookmarks
Share menu KODAK Gallery, KODAK PULSE Digital Frame[2], FACEBOOK, FLICKR, YouTube, TWITTER, ORKUT, YANDEX, KAIXIN001 Sites[3], and e-mail
Custom settings Share destinations, LCD brightness, camera sounds, people tag, slide show, reset all camera settings, computer connection, safe mode, date & time, video out, language, format, about
Physical specifications
I/O interface A/V output (NTSC or PAL selectable), digital USB 2.0 high speed, micro-HDMI
Power 4 AA Ni-MH batteries (included), single use alkaline
Dedicated buttons power, shutter, video record, zoom switch, burst, macro, self-timer, mode dial, jog dial, EVF/LCD, effect, flash, display, review, delete, Share, 5-way switch
Tripod mount ¼ in. standard
Dimensions W × H × D: 4.9 × 3.4 × 3.7 in.
Weight 1.3 lb with batteries and memory card
Direct printing PictBridge-enabled
Software works with KODAK EASYSHARE Software, includes one-time download of Kodak’s Share button app
Remote Control yes, sold separately
Standard features
Megapixels 12 MP BSI CMOS
Display size 3.0 in. HVGA high-resolution LCD
Face Recognition Yes
Smart Capture Yes

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