I mentioned last week that I had purchased a new Kodak Easyshare Z650 camera for my birthday. While I haven't played around with it enough for a comprehensive review, I've put it through (some) paces and suffice to say that it beats my previous camera to a pulp, yet it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Sorry, that was way too many idioms in one paragraph.
I wanted to give kudos to DPReview.com, whose galleries eventually led me to make the choice of this particular model. Their sample photo galleries were a great tool -- when it comes down to it, the quality of the photos is what really counts for me.
After taking about 400 photos over a period of two weeks, I can say that the camera takes pretty great pictures in "AUTO" mode, and it has manual mode if you want to go all "professional photographer" on it. If I could figure out what the settings were, this would, in theory, let me do nighttime, and maybe even daytime lightning photography (the shutter will stay open for as long as 8 seconds).
SAMPLE PHOTOS (SEE BELOW FOR LINKS)
It also takes decent video, which didn't even factor into my purchase decision, and I was quite surprised at. In reality, capturing screens from the Quicktime videos produced by this camera was both easier and higher quality than doing video captures from my Hi-8 video camera. (This works for lightning photography, for now; see sample lightning screencaptures and videos).
The only downside is that it has to be changed out of AUTO mode to take cloud photos. There are a couple of different landscape modes, which supposedly put it on "infinite focus" but even with that, sometimes closeups (even with the non-digital zoom) get blurry.
The battery life is a whole new world -- the CRV3 lithium battery supposedly will last for 350-400 pictures. I've taken 400 so far, plus 10 minutes of video, and the battery replacement light hasn't come on yet. My old camera required 4 new AA's every 40 pics or so.
And finally, my favorite feature is probably the 10x optical zoom (plus 5x digital), which is just phenomenal when compared with my paltry 3x zoom on my previous camera.
I got the camera on a day of thunderstorms here in State College, PA, so of course I was struggling with figuring out how to use it A.) While driving and B.) While photogenic storms raced overhead. For the record, this was the first picture the camera took, showing storm clouds right outside my house. Here is a permalink to other storm photos from that day, most of which do not appear below.
Here are some other test shots with comments, (most shots were taken in AUTO mode, sometimes with the Landscape setting on).
ZOOM DEMONSTRATION. This is my house, shot from across a field. The 10x Optical is great, 5x digital, though typically lower quality, really gets you in there.
NO ZOOM: Pay attention to the road in the center.
MAX OPTICAL ZOOM (10X): We're zooming into some guy on his lawn.
MAX DIGITAL ZOOM (x5x): We've got him in our sights!
OBLIGATORY FLAG SHOT. Nice detail on the optical zoom (max). Notice that there is very little "digital camera noise" in the original. The shots in the gallery at DPReview.com also bore this out.
6.1 MEGAPIXEL DEMO: This is my desk at AccuWeather. Great color! I have highlighted three areas which I cropped from the original below. Check out the detail you get with 6.1MP (and no zoom!) You can read the name of my VCR or the books in my cabinet, or see the raindrops falling outside my window!
SPRING STORM IN TECHNICOLOR: This is a great example of something my old digital camera wouldn't have captured -- the stark contrast between the bright green spring leaves and the dark gray clouds (something I have always enjoyed).
STORM CLOUDS OVER SATELLITE DISH. I took this at AccuWeather HQ. I thought this one, of all the storm pics I took that day, came out really well.
SOCCER DAY. One of the tests of my camera was to take it to my daughter's soccer game. Those fields are bigger than the look, so keep in mind this is the distance I was dealing with:
Can you see the kids? I didn't think so. They are over in the opposite corner, where all the action always takes place during kids' soccer games. But check out the next shot, in which I stopped the action:
UNFORTUNATELY, NOT MY KID. Nice color & stop-action ability. Note that this required the "burst" mode where the camera takes a picture every 0.5 seconds (my old camera took a good 10 seconds to reset for the next picture). You do pay for this mode by waiting a few seconds after it's done, to process the pictures. Still, it's a good way to get the action if you can see it coming.
OBLIGATORY SUNSET PHOTO. Good color, pretty much true-to-life.
ANOTHER ZOOM DEMONSTRATION. Even in landscape, not great detail on the moon, but the point of this illustration is to show the zoom capability.
NO ZOOM: Where's that moon?
MAX OPTICAL ZOOM (10X): Oh, now I see it.
MAX DIGITAL ZOOM (x5x): One small step for man-kind...
And finally, my first video (we're having construction in front of the AccuWeather building and I thought it best to document the veracity of some of the dips in the road, after I scraped the bottom of my car on one).
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