We tested the camera’s ability to reproduce color by photographing an industry standard color chart manufactured by GretagMacbeth. Once again, Imatest imaging software pored over each and every image and found the most accurately colored one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as accurately colored as it should be.

The chart below shows the original colors of the GretagMacbeth chart in the vertical rectangle of each tile, the Z650’s produced colors as the outer portion of each tile, and the exposure-corrected ideal on the inside of each tile.

Z650-Colors.gif

In the optimal lighting of the studio, cameras usually perform their very best as compared to shooting outdoors and in low light. From this chart, colors look off. To see exactly how far off they are, the chart below shows the original chart’s colors as squares and the Kodak EasyShare Z650’s colors as circles.

Z650-ColorER-CH.gif

The line between the two shapes ideally wouldn’t be there; it tethers the colors together so viewers know which is which. The Z650’s results are puzzling. Most digital cameras exaggerate the red end of the spectrum to enhance skin tones. However, the Z650 exaggerates blues and is simply erroneous with most other colors – and red is perhaps the strongest end of the spectrum. The mean color error is a horrible 13.4, although the saturation is maintained at 113 percent.

The Kodak EasyShare Z650’s 4.48 overall color score is very poor, and it is a big step down from the much older Z740’s 10.9 mark.

White Balance*(4.83)*

Auto*(3.65)*

Avoid the automatic white balance setting if at all possible. The presets do a much better job of accurately portraying white. The poor 3.65 automatic white balance score should say something: stay away.

Preset*(6.00)*

The Kodak Z650’s preset white balance settings are hit and miss. Most of them perform better than the automatic setting, but the flash preset had a lot of trouble. The flash fires so unevenly that our software program couldn’t even read the image. The Z650’s strongest setting is the fluorescent preset. It performed most accurately under white fluorescent light.

**Still Life Scene

***Click on the thumbnails to view the full-resolution images.*

Resolution*(3.92) *

To test the Z650’s 6.1-megapixel image sensor, we photographed an industry standard resolution chart and uploaded the pictures to Imatest imaging software. To eliminate any bias from the 10x lens, we photographed the chart at various focal lengths and apertures. Imatest evaluated all of the images and selected the sharpest shot, taken with a focal length of 16mm and an aperture of f/8. The ISO was manually set to 80 to keep noise low.

Z650-Res-sm.jpg


Click to view high-resolution image The image is decently sharp but certainly not amazing. There is significant purple fringing in the corners too. When Imatest evaluated this image, it output numerical results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). This unit measures how many black and white alternating and equally thick lines can fit across the frame vertically and horizontally without blurring. The Kodak Z650 resolved 1202 lw/ph horizontally with 6.5 percent oversharpening and 1200 lw/ph vertically with 4.4 percent oversharpening. This resulted in a lackluster 3.92 resolution score that is typical of Kodak EasyShare digital cameras.

Noise – Auto ISO*(4.18)*

After allowing the camera to automatically set the ISO, the Kodak Z650 chose an ISO sensitivity of 160. This produced minimal noise and resulted in a good score of 4.18, which is better than the ultra-zoom Z740’s 3.88 score. Many compact digital cameras don’t do well on this test, but it’s good news that this one did because many of its users will allow the camera to automatically set the ISO.

Noise – Manual ISO*(5.52)*

The Kodak Z650’s manual ISO range isn’t expansive. It only extends from 80-400 at a time when most digital cameras include an ISO 1600 setting. We tested the four settings available on this digital camera and analyzed the amount of noise in images. Below is a graph showing the percentage of the image overtaken by noise on the vertical axis and the ISO settings on the horizontal axis.

Z650-Noise-GR.gif

There is a steady rise in noise up to ISO 400 that looks almost identical to the Kodak Z740’s graph. It is recommended that users keep the ISO as low as possible although the Z650’s 5.52 overall manual ISO noise score isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.

Low Light*(7.13)*

Digital cameras aren’t always used in gorgeous lighting; in fact, many manufacturers are including perks like image stabilization and high ISO sensitivities to grab better pictures in low light. To see how well the Kodak EasyShare Z650 performed in low light, we photographed the color chart at diminishing light levels. The tests were done at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux with the ISO pumped up to 400.

The 60 lux test is roughly equivalent to two softly lit lamps in an otherwise darkened room. The 30 lux test is similar to the light from a 40-watt bulb. The 15 and 5 lux tests are very dark and are done with the purpose of discovering any limitations the image sensor may have in darkness.

Usually digital cameras perform far worse in low light than in optimal lighting. The Kodak Z650 wasn’t much worse though. At 60 lux, its colors were actually more accurate with a mean color error of 12.4 as opposed to the 13.4 mean color error at 3000 lux. The accuracy did get worse as the light decreased from resulting in a mean color error of 14.5 at 5 lux. However, illumination remained in tact and noise was surprisingly under control.

Perhaps because the camera’s top ISO is 400 and its slowest shutter speed is 8 seconds, there is less opportunity for noise to sneak into the image. Noise did increase as the shutter was opened longer though, as is normal on digital cameras. The graph below shows the exposure time on the horizontal plane and the percentage of the image degraded to noise on the vertical plane.

Z650-LongExpNoise-GR.gif

From 1-5 seconds, noise slowly slopes upward. At 5 seconds, the amount of noise in the image is still under 2 percent. This is quite good. In the light or dark, the Kodak EasyShare Z650 can produce clean images – although in funky colors.

Dynamic Range*(4.96)*

To see how well the Kodak EasyShare Z650 could capture light and dark subjects simultaneously, we photographed a backlit Stouffer step chart designed to measure dynamic range. The chart consists of a row of rectangles that vary from very light to very dark and represent 13 values of exposure. We loaded the Z650’s photos of this chart to Imatest software and it found the one with the most dynamic range. Below is a chart showcasing the best results; the number of exposure values is on the vertical plane, and the camera’s four ISO settings are on the horizontal plane.

Z650-DynRange-GR.gif

The ISO 80 and 100 settings produce very similar results just under 7 exposure values, which isn’t that great when compared to other digital cameras. It gets much worse at ISO 200 with less than 5 exposure values represented. At ISO 400, only 4 exposure values are present. This is disappointing and a poor score indeed.

Speed/Timing

Startup to First Shot*(4.1)*

The Kodak EasyShare ultra-zoom digital cameras are slow to awaken. The older Z740 took 3.66 seconds, and the Z650 is much worse than that. It takes this digital camera 5.9 seconds to start up and snap its first picture.

Shot-to-Shot*(9.5)*

When the camera is set to the single drive mode, it snaps a picture at a leisurely pace: every 2.1 seconds. There are three burst modes on the Kodak EasyShare Z650 that snap away much faster. The first and fastest burst mode snapped 4 shots in a half-second, which is incredibly quick. But then it took an insane 35 seconds to recover. During its recovery, it could still snap pictures but only one shot at a time and at random intervals. The last burst mode snapped 30 shots, but it only saved the last 3. The shots were 0.6 seconds apart.

Shutter-to-shot*(9.0)*

When the exposure was locked and the camera was otherwise ready to go, shutter lag was hardly measurable. But when the shutter release was pushed halfway and the auto focus system’s lag was counted, it took 0.3 seconds.

Processing*(0.7)*

"Slow" is the word for this camera’s processing time. It took 35 seconds to recover from the 4-shot burst and 27 seconds to process the delayed 3-shot burst. It took the Kodak Z650 8.5 seconds to process one shot, although others could be taken during this period.

Video Performance*(1.08)*

Bright Light - 3000 lux**

Videos look much better than still images on the Kodak EasyShare Z650. Colors cleaned up to an improved 9.53 mean color error, and the noise dropped to a low 0.32 percent. Colors were undersaturated at 92.54 percent though. Still, this is better than still pictures’ 13.4 error and oversaturation.

Low Light - 30 lux**

We recorded specialized video charts in low light, and colors returned to their usual inaccurate state. The mean color error dropped to 13.6; saturation plunged to a drab 71.56 percent; and the noise increased to 1.72 percent. The saturation is the worst result out of the three.

Resolution**

After recording a very boring production of the resolution chart, we determined that the video resolution isn’t all that bad. It is right around its competitors as it resolved 214 lw/ph horizontally with 27.8 percent undersharpening and 426 lw/ph vertically with 9.4 percent oversharpening.

100% Crops

*Outdoor Motion

*The video looked decent indoors, but it didn’t perform as well outdoors. We took the Z650 to the streets and recorded the cars and people going by at different speeds. Motion was jumpy and jerky, which looked awkward. Add the finicky metering, abundant color moiré, and the overall splotchy sharpness, and the video was just about useless.

z650_viewfinder.jpg


*
*Viewfinder***(6.0)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 has an electronic color viewfinder that is activated by pressing the EVF/LCD button beneath the lower-right corner of the eyepiece. The viewfinder is large enough to use, and the eyepiece made using this feature feasible. However, it is hard to use the viewfinder and manual controls if viewing with the left eye because of the limited size of the camera body and the close proximity of the controls to the viewfinder. Using the right eye made this a non-issue, but this may not be an option for users with certain eye conditions. The viewfinder measures 0.2 inches in width and has 201,000 pixels. The LCD screen and viewfinder cannot be used simultaneously, and both have a preview frame rate of 27 fps.

**

z650_lcdON.jpg
LCD Screen ***(6.0)*

The LCD screen is positioned directly beneath the electronic color viewfinder on the left side of the Kodak EasyShare Z650’s back face. This 2.0-inch LCD screen has a black frame and is raised slightly from the camera body. The screen color and preview quality are underwhelming with only 110,000 pixels. The monitor has little chance when compared to other models on the market that boast 230K pixels and a 2.5 inch width. The poor quality of the screen made accurately judging images in review mode difficult. It was often necessary to export images to a computer to review focus, white balance, and exposure of images.

**Flash ***(6.75)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650's pop-up flash is located on the top of the camera body. It can be opened by a switch located to the left of the flash housing. Pressing down on the actual housing closes the pop-up flash manually and makes a slight click when it locks into place. The flash has a range of 2 to 16 feet when shooting in wide-angle and 6.6 feet to 12 feet in telephoto. The flash was aggressive when capturing portraits and shooting subjects at a close range. The fill-flash was a much better option for close-up situations. The fill-flash setting as well as the auto, red-eye, and off flash options are accessed by pressing the flash button located on the top face of the camera. The current flash mode is indicated at the top middle of the LCD screen.

z650_flash.jpg

Zoom Lens*(7.25)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 has a Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 10x optical zoom lens. This lens extends out from a protruding housing when the camera is turned on. The lens is an aspheric all-glass lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 in wide-angle and a focal length of 38mm to 380mm (35mm equivalent). The lens is threaded for accessory customization, and there is an included plastic adapter ring for both wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Additionally, Kodak is currently selling a circular polarizing lens and a neutral density filter.

The user can traverse the zoom range by engaging the zoom toggle located on the back of the camera body. This toggle is undersized considering its importance. It is also difficult to use since the control is too close to the raised section of the camera body that surrounds the EVF and the LCD screen. This makes pressing the wide-angle half of the toggle nearly impossible. Despite this, the zoom toggle moved through the 10x range in a few seconds. The user will find upwards of 40 possible settings within the 10x range. It isn’t the fastest zoom on the point-and-shoot market and making minor adjustments to zoom wasn’t the easiest, but it functions well without passing the appropriate level or zipping from one end of the range to the other.

In addition to the 10x optical zoom, there is also an included 10.6x to 50x digital zoom. The digital zoom range is displayed to the right of the optical zoom display shown in the upper-left corner of the LCD. The digital zoom range is displayed in orange, and the optical zoom range in off-white. The user can choose to deactivate the digital zoom in the setup menu (the recommended option since digital zoom immediately compromises image quality) or use it sparingly. There is a temporary pause between the full 10x optical before transitioning into the digital zoom.

Since the Z650 lacks the optical image stabilization system of the Z612, its 10x optical zoom lens at the full 10x suffers from handshake. As a result, it was often necessary to either use a tripod or another stable surface.

Model Design/Appearance*(5.75)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 is constructed of matte metallic silver plastic with a polished silver lens ring and black rubber on both the lens housing, and the front edge of the right hand grip. The camera body design seems to be inspired by SLR cameras currently on the market. The rounded edges of the Z650 and clean design make this camera an attractive option for the point-and-shoot user not concerned with having a petite camera.

The camera's design with its limited number of external controls and electronic color viewfinder is actually a usable feature. The design will help ease novice users into the realm of digital photography. While the EVF is well sized and positioned for functionality, the LCD screen is another matter. Measuring 2.0 inches and having a total pixel count of 110,000, the LCD fell far short of the quality mark compared to other cameras currently on the market measuring 2.5 to 3 inches and having 230,000 pixels. The images shown on the LCD of the Z650 were washed out and hard to judge for quality in focus and exposure.

Size/Portability*(6.0)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 isn’t a camera that will easily slide into a pants pocket or purse for a night out on the town. It takes its design cues from bulky digital SLR cameras. Although it's noticeably smaller and lighter than models like the Rebel XT, it weighs 10.1 ounces without batteries and measures 3.9 inches in length, 3.1 inches in depth, and 2.9 inches in height. Luckily this camera does have eyelets for a neck strap, included with purchase, that lets the user carry this model while not in use. The neck strap did not compromise shooting efficiency in the slightest, but rotating eyelets, instead of stationary ones, would have allowed for the neck strap to be moved with greater ease and comfort.

**Handling Ability ***(7.5)*

The great thing about a camera like the Kodak EasyShare Z650 over a smaller and sleeker digital camera like the Samsung NV series is that the photographer can actually have a proper stable grip during shooting. Adding to the stability, the pronounced right hand grip, which has rubber on its front edge, makes one-handed shooting a breeze. The grip performed admirably during shooting, and the rubber continued to help with handling once shooting outdoors in colder temperatures and light snow.

The Z650 can be powered by three types of batteries: the included and non-rechargeable lithium ion battery, a Ni-MH battery, and two AA alkaline batteries. None of these power options are lightweight. Kodak could greatly improve portability if it replaced these battery options with a rechargeable lithium ion battery like the ones found on petite point-and-shoot cameras. At 10.1 ounces without batteries or memory card, the Z650 is certainly not a featherweight and its heftiness should be seriously considered if portability is of great concern.

z650_buttons.jpg
Control Button/Dial Positioning/Size*(5.0)*

The number of controls on the Kodak EasyShare Z650 is limited. Their size and labels make using them a breeze. By simplifying the exterior of their camera lines, Kodak ensures straightforward shooting right out of the box. But while sizable and few in number, the controls were not without their subtle problems. The most noticeable issue was the positioning of the zoom toggle beside the upper right corner of a raised frame that surrounds the LCD and EVF components on the back face of the Z650. With the zoom positioned beside this raised frame, it was often a hassle to engage the wide-angle half of the zoom control. Often the frame just got in the way and made it nearly impossible, on first attempt, to fully press the control. With the control only pressed halfway, the zoom went nowhere. Also, the joystick located in the center of the mode dial could use improvement. It’s undersized, smooth and touchy, and makes moving through the expansive shutter speed range or the menu system an unnecessary hassle. It’s unfortunate that with so much thought put into simplicity and ease of use, the joystick would be such a stick in the spokes for the Z650.

Menu*(7.5)*

The menu structures for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 continue the Kodak investment in overt simplicity that encourages novice users to quickly familiarize themselves with the camera without memorizing the manual. Pressing the menu button on the back of the camera beneath the mode dial opens the menu system. Once in the menu system, the joystick in the center of the mode dial is used for navigation. Pressing the joystick inwards selects sub-menus.

The shooting menu appears as an opaque blue background with a yellow scroll bar on the left side. It has both icons and text to describe each sub-menu. The trick with the Z650 menu is that the actual sub-menu parameter is listed in the upper right corner of the LCD while the headers being scrolled in the menu itself represent the current setting for each menu parameter. In other words, if the heading currently highlighted reads "Daylight" the listing in the upper right corner of the LCD will read "White Balance." This is true for the shooting, setup and playback menus. It’s an interesting design that lets a user immediately ascertain both the sub-menu topic and its current setting without navigating through a more complicated two-screen setup.

The problem with the shooting menu system, regardless of mode, is that there is no live view. The lack of a live view means that adjustments to metering, white balance, color or sharpness can only be judged once the menu is fully closed. Opening, altering, closing and reopening again to make further adjustments will cause delays.

The playback menu uses the currently selected captured photograph as its background instead of the opaque background found with the shooting menu. The playback menu uses the same navigation structure and menu style as the shooting menu.

The setup menu style is identical to the one found with the shooting mode and even novice users should be comfortable making adjustments to the camera system.

Ease of Use*(8.5)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 is a camera that excels in ease of use. In pairing an understated and logical menu system with basic external controls and a minimal interface, novice photographers won’t feel overwhelmed by this more advanced point-and-shoot camera. Improvements could have been made to the zoom toggle position and the size of the joystick; however, external controls are well labeled and positioned. Shooting modes can be accessed by the large mode dial on the back of the camera body. The Z650 exterior is intuitive, and the included manual is well laid out. The manual also provides concise information for further clarification. Adjustments to shutter speed and aperture in the PASM modes can be a pain with the undersized joystick. Users will find that thumbs can slip during adjustment and cause unintended alterations to settings located on either side. Printing with the Z650 using a PictBridge printer eliminates the need for extra docks, excessive cabling, or other unnecessary shenanigans that would typically frustrate a user.

Auto Mode*(7.0)*

The Z650's auto mode is as it should be. It is the easiest shooting mode with the fewest controls and image options. The end result is a streamlined point-and-shoot image capture process. Options still controllable in auto mode include settings like picture size, AF control, color, album, image storage, and the setup menu in the shooting menu as well as flash, macro/landscape, self-timer, and burst mode. Auto focus and exposure take a little over a second to make the proper adjustments. The auto white balance results were off and overemphasized the red and orange sections of the color spectrum. Despite this, the auto mode will be helpful for point-and-shooters.. The menu system in this mode is identical to the other modes in design with fewer options.

Movie Mode*(4.25)*

Turning the mode dial on the back of the camera body to the video camera symbol switches the camera into movie mode. The movie mode for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 captures MPEG-4 coded QuickTime videos with simultaneous monaural audio to either internal memory or SD/MMC memory card. Photographers can capture video at an amusingly horrid 11 fps at 640 x 480 resolution or an improved but still anemic rate of 20 fps at 320 x 240 resolution. There is nothing about the movie mode that is impressive and even the audio is worse than the underwhelming quality always found with point-and-shoot cameras. The slow frame rates result in poor video quality when compared either to video captured on a regular video camera or on a digital camera with the standard 30 fps rate. The frame rate and resolution options are listed within the shooting menu only in video mode.

Sure, the quality is better than a cell phone but just barely. The camera does have an internal speaker for audio monitoring in playback that is helpful but nothing astonishing considering the camera's price tag. Want a camera with strong video and audio potential that includes stereo recording? Consider the slightly more expensive Kodak EasyShare Z612; it not only has this benefit but also a massive improvement on control options, features, settings, design and shooting modes.

To read more on the Z650's movie mode, refer to the Video Performance section of the review.

**Drive/Burst Mode ***(6.25)*

The burst mode can be entered by pressing the burst button located on the top of the camera body directly behind the macro/landscape button and to the right of the in-camera speaker.

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 has two burst modes. The first burst mode option captures four images while the shutter is pressed. The Z650's specs claim to capture images at a frame rate of 2 fps; we found it shot at around 1.5 fps at best. In addition to this mode, a user can shoot up to 30 images with only the final three being captured to memory. This mode also worked, but like the first burst mode, the processing time eliminated any chance of using two burst series back to back with marginal delay. Expect over a half-a-second delay when saving images to memory in either mode.

Users must first scroll through the self-timer settings before being able to select a burst mode. The burst modes display in the upper right half of the LCD. The delay following capture from resetting and processing makes the burst mode an option that will likely only be occasionally used.

**Playback Mode ***(7.5)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650's playback mode has a simple design, which makes it easy to use. The in-camera editing options aren’t extensive, and photographers familiar with the Canon PowerShot series will find the options to be underwhelming by comparison. In playback mode, images can be viewed in single, 9-image multi-up or slideshow display. Additionally, in the single display mode, viewers can toggle the zoom control to view images at up to 8x zoom. Also included in review mode is a crop option as well as the possibility to copy, protect and change the image storage method. Users can tag images as favorites, for printing, or save images to a specific album like birthday, holiday and wedding. If in-camera image manipulation is what you are looking for, look towards another manufacturer like Canon whose My Colors mode would be an advisable alternative to the Kodak Z650.

**Custom Image Presets ***(7.5)*

Custom image presets or scene modes are accessed by turning the mode dial either to the scene setting or one of the three additional settings that are listed directly on the mode dial. The three additional settings listed on the mode dial are the sports, portrait, and night options which are most often used. The position of these settings on the mode dial enables quick access. In scene modes, the options are displayed along the bottom of the LCD in a series of icons. The scene mode options can be scanned by pressing the joystick in the center of the mode dial to either the left or the right. Once a scene mode is highlighted, a brief description will be displayed in the center of the LCD screen providing more information. If several seconds pass and the joystick is not activated again, the symbols at the bottom of the LCD screen will disappear. Pressing the joystick inwards will make these symbols reappear enabling a scene mode switch if desired. The scene mode options for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 tailor the camera's shooting style to perform with greater accuracy when shooting the following: Children, Party, Beach, Flower, Fireworks, Snow, Backlight, Close-up, Night Portrait, Landscape, Night landscape, Manner/museum, Text and Self-portrait. Obviously, these modes only provide a partial adjustment to the camera’s default capture settings and can only really do so much. If a particularly complicated composition is being compromised with auto mode or scene options, the best bet is to move into the PASM shooting modes, which provide more manual control options. With that said, the options included with the Z650’s scene modes should be quite helpful in providing the novice photographer with a number of options that are easy to engage and understand.

Manual Control Options

With the exception of the exposure compensation setting found in the auto mode, the manual controls for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 are found in the PASM shooting modes. The Z650 doesn’t provide a manual focus option, but it does include control over metering, exposure, white balance (although only in presets), image sensitivity, aperture, and shutter speed. The lack of a custom white balance and manual focus will deter photographers seeking full manual control. At the price of the Z650, consumers can find alternate options like the Canon PowerShot A630 that include control over white balance which will greatly improve the color accuracy in photographs, regardless of lighting source.

Focus

***Auto Focus
(6.0)*

There are several auto focus settings on the Kodak EasyShare Z650 . Within the shooting menu of the PASM modes, there are two AF mode options for both AF control and focus zone while in all other modes only the AF control parameter is listed. When opened, the AF control option reveals options for continuous or single AF shooting. The focus zone sub-menu only found within the PASM modes allows shooting in either multi-zone or center-zone. The multi-zone focus option evaluates three zones to provide the focal setting while the center-zone evaluates a small area in the center of the composition and is mostly used when attempting to focus on a very specific subject. Auto focus is set by the user when the shutter is pressed halfway, a setting method that will be familiar to all point-and-shoot photographers. The auto focus will be set when and only when the frame switches from light blue to bright green. If auto focus cannot be set, a red flashing dot and AF symbol will appear in the upper right corner of the LCD. Auto focus performed competently in well-lit situations and adjusted in just around a second. However, when auto focus was forced into lower lighting or more complicated scenes, the resulting AF time slowed to several seconds.

Manual Focus*(0.0)*

There is no manual focus option when shooting with the Kodak EasyShare Z650.

**Metering ***(7.25)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 does feature manual control over exposure metering with three possible settings that can handle more complex lighting situations. The metering options for the Z650 are listed in the exposure-metering sub-menu of the shooting mode menu. The options allow for selection between multi-pattern, center-weighted and center-spot modes. These options will adjust exposure to compensate and meter accurately even when shooting backlit subjects or scenes that are lit by multiple lighting sources. The metering options are only provided when shooting in the PASM modes. While it makes sense to include this option in the mode with the most manual control, it would be nice to find this feature also listed in the menu of the auto mode. It isn’t an overly complicated feature, and novice users would be able to make appropriate adjustments to metering without too much reading or practice.

kodak_z650_menus_metering.gif

Exposure*(7.5)*

Many of the Z650's modes have an exposure compensation system for making overall adjustments to exposure levels. The exposure compensation scale for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 is displayed as a small number with arrows bracketing it vertically and can be adjusted in auto, aperture, shutter speed, and program modes. The scale for this Kodak digital camera is +/-2 and adjustments of 1/3 and 1/4 steps EV (depending on position within the exposure scale) are made by pressing the joystick in the center of the mode dial up or down. The scale can be traversed quickly and beside the joystick being too small the interface isn’t hard to engage or understand. The helpful thing about the exposure compensation feature in the auto mode is that photographers are provided with a continual live view as adjustments are made. This isn’t a possibility with the exposure metering settings in the PASM modes since they are listed within the shooting menu with its unchanging opaque blue background.

kodak_z650_menus_exposure.gif

White Balance*(5.5)*

The white balance options for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 are limited. If looking for custom white balance in a point-and-shoot camera, an alternate model like the Canon PowerShot A630, which has the option to shoot in auto, preset and full manual white balance, would be a better choice. The white balance options for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 are only available in the PASM modes, just like adjustments to exposure metering. The white balance options are listed within the shooting menu. Users will have to make selections and leave the menu system to see how changes to white balance affect the final image. This time-wasting design is due to the lack of live view. This is an unfortunate decision since many users might overlook or avoid these features. The white balance options for the Z650 are auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. Many point-and-shoot cameras on the market today have, in addition to a custom setting, the possibility of two fluorescent settings, incandescent, and other lighting situations that are easily encountered in the everyday world of snapshot photography.

kodak_z650_menus_wb.gif

To see how the Z650's white balance settings performed during testing, refer to the Testing/Performance section of the review.

ISO*(5.25)*

When shooting in aperture, shutter, and manual modes of the Kodak EasyShare Z650, photographers can manually adjust image sensitivity. ISO alterations can be made in both auto and program modes. The ISO settings for the Z650 are 80, 100, 200 and 400. The ISO symbol and current setting are situated directly above the lower right corner of the LCD screen and can be adjusted once it has been selected by toggling the joystick to the left or right. When highlighted, the joystick can be toggled up or down to move through the ISO range. The small size of the joystick made these adjustments a hassle, and oftentimes, the desired ISO setting was accidentally skipped when trying to adjust quickly. Noise was pronounced at 200 and 400 . For users comfortable with manual controls like shutter speed and aperture, it may be wiser to rely on these options to brighten subjects when capturing in low light situations.

kodak_z650_menus_iso.gif

Shutter Speed*(5.5)*

The shutter speed for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 can only be controlled when the camera is in PASM mode, manual, or shutter priority modes. Along the bottom of the LCD are both the shutter and aperture controls. Adjustment to shutter speed settings can be accomplished by pressing the up and down arrows. The manual shutter speed range is from 8 seconds to 1/1000th of a second.

The problem with making adjustments to the shutter speed parameter is the physical design of the joystick. It’s undersized and when attempting to move through the shutter range quickly, there was a tendency for the joystick to inadvertently move left or right and highlight either aperture or ISO or both. It’s a hassle and an annoyance. Considering the functional design of the camera, ease in menu navigation, and physical layout, the undersized joystick and resulting mistakes are unacceptable. Other than this setback, the actual shutter speed range captures quality images in low light situations without engaging the aggressive pop-up flash.

Aperture*(7.0)*

Aperture can only be controlled when the Kodak EasyShare Z650 is switched into the manual or aperture priority modes. These listings are located in the lower left corner of the LCD screen and can be cycled through by pressing the joystick up or down when the aperture is selected. The aperture range when in wide-angle will allow the photographer to shoot from f/2.8 to f/8.0. While in telephoto, the range becomes truncated to f/3.7 to f/8.0. As mentioned in the shutter speed section, adjustments to the aperture settings were complicated by the small size of the joystick and the tendency for the control to accidentally slip left or right and highlight instead shooting mode, shutter speed or ISO options.

Picture Quality / Size Options*(6.0)*

kodak_z650_menus_quality.gif
The Kodak EasyShare Z650 has a picture quality sub-menu listed at the beginning of the shooting menu system. The Z650 size settings are 6.0 MP (2832 x 2128), 5.3 MP (3:2) (2832 x 1888), 4.0 MP (2304 x 1728), 3.1 MP (2048 x 1536) and 1.7 MP (1496 x 1122). Pressing the joystick up or down scans through the image size options, and users will find that this menu structure is cyclical so that the user can move directly from 6.0 MP to 1.7 MP without scanning the full menu system. These options should provide users with a number of resolution options for a number of situations such as sharing via email as well as full resolution printing.

Picture Effects Mode*(6.5)*

The picture effects options are in the shooting menu. These options are listed in the color and sharpness sub-menus. The color options found in the color sub-menu will enable the user to select between natural color, low color, black & white, sepia, and high color. The sharpness sub-menu enables the selection between high, normal and low. The problem with these options isn’t in the settings provided but the lack of a live view when adjustments are made. If users choose to switch from the default settings, they will have to leave the menu structure each time an adjustment is made in order to gauge whether or not the resulting effect is desirable. Moving in and out of the menu system takes time and could have been easily avoided by Kodak with the inclusion of a live preview.

Users looking for more in-camera digital effects options should consider the Canon PowerShot camera line.

Connectivity

Software*(7.0)*

Photographers interested in a moderate amount of post-production image editing will find the Kodak EasyShare software program included in the purchase of the Z650 to be a helpful starting point. The software for this camera loaded onto a Windows-based computer without issue and ran following the first installation attempt which took about seven minutes to complete. The included software is a welcome relief to the sub-par offerings found with many point-and-shoot camera manufacturers who rely on third-party companies to produce their software. This is one of Kodak's strong points since the EasyShare software system links to the online gallery and store at initial startup. It also provides seamless transfer of images from a hard drive to an online account in order to print photos and customize gifts for friends and family.

The actual EasyShare software program uses a simple format with storage folders listed along the left side of the screen, while editing and sharing options are along the top. These two banks of controls flank the first display shown that is a thumbnail display directory of captured images. These images change as the storage folders on the left side are cycled through and various albums are selected. The storage folders present upon first opening the program allow for the user to move through the entire collection, the last acquired photos, my favorites, date taken, my smart albums, and my albums.

Along the horizontal axis, as previously mentioned, are two rows of options - one rotating between My Collection, Print at Home, Email and the EasyShare center. Each of these options has basic screens that lack tacky kitsch logos or other obtrusive visual clutter. Instead there is a function first format that is simple to work with. Underneath these options are a series of controls that can be chosen to alter selected images, import new images, or create new albums. The image editing sub-windows enable the photographer to edit currently highlighted images, receive information about a particular image, rotate a chosen image, play slideshow of selected images, burn a CD or DVD of images, or upload images to the online store.

The edit mode enables the user to select a number of basic image alteration options and adjust for overexposure, red-eye, and a number of other common problems . The edit options are listed on the horizontal axis near the top of the sub-screen and enable the photographer to select between rotation adjustment, image cropping, red-eye fix, automatic image enhancement, adjust image, adjust exposure and fun photo effects. The final option is really rather understated in its offerings especially when considering the vulgar frames, fun house mirrors, and other garish effects being hawked by point-and-shoot camera manufacturers in their current software programs. The fun photo effects options found here will convert images to black & white or sepia as well as apply oval or rectangular vignette soft-edge frames.

The other editing options provide users with the ability to manually adjust brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation on individual sliding scales in image adjust mode. In addition, this process and other adjustments can be made automatic with the automatic fixing option. The software also has an exposure control that adjusts with a sliding scale much like the process within the Z650.

These options will help novice users gain a solid working knowledge of post-production image editing options. The software isn’t replete and doesn’t begin to provide the flexibility or complexities of programs like Photoshop, but then again, this program is free and is intended for novices, not advanced professionals. With time and practice, many beginners will find themselves outgrowing this program, but with so many shareware programs on the market for image editing, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a replacement.

Jacks, ports, plugs*(5.75)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 has ports positioned on the bottom, right, and left sides of the camera body. On the left side, in the back lower corner, is an uncovered port for optional connection to a DC IN 3V power source.

On the right side of the camera body is one of the best design features of the Z650: the SD/MMC memory card slot and cover. By positioning the memory card slot on the right side of the Z650, photographers can easily switch cards without having to remove the camera from a tripod. This overcomes a design problem that often occurs with point-and-shoot digital cameras when the memory card is positioned on the bottom of the camera and is blocked by the tripod plate. Also located beneath the cover for the SD memory card slot is the AV out port for connection to a monitor, printer, or personal computer. The cover is constructed of thick, plastic, sturdy hinges that connect the cover to the body of the camera.

The batteries are located beneath a port cover on the bottom of the camera body. The batteries are held in place by a cover that opens by pressing lightly and sliding it to the right. To the left of the battery cover and directly beneath the LCD screen is the dock connector for direct connection to the Kodak EasyShare printer system.

*Direct Print Options (8.5)

*The Kodak EasyShare Z650, like all cameras in the Kodak digital camera series, excels at direct printing ease and simplicity. The Z650 is compatible with Kodak EasyShare printers, PictBridge and ImageLink compliant printers, and offers printing through Kodak’s website. If a PictBridge printer is used, a PictBridge specific in-camera display lets users select between printing current picture, tagged pictures, index print, all pictures or image storage. The Z650 easily connected to the printer. The selection and printing of images occurred without complication.

Kodak has always had digital cameras that enable users to easily print at home without hassle or frustration. The 2006 additions to the Z-series are no exception. Other models by Kodak necessitate the use of an included stand and dock adapter or other extraneous implements. To print, the Z650 uses only a basic dock adapter for Kodak EasyShare printers or a USB connection on the right side of the camera body to connect to PictBridge compliant printers.

Battery*(4.5)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 comes with a CRV3 non-rechargeable lithium ion battery. The camera can accept the included CRV3 battery, a Ni-MH battery, or two AA batteries. It would have been nice if Kodak would have included a rechargeable lithium ion battery, but this setup gives users the advantage of interchanging powerful rechargeable batteries with convenient AAs. There is a problem with the battery compartment itself since it lacks a safety catch. Because of this design flaw, whenever the battery cover is opened the batteries tend to slide out and fall to the ground. While not always a problem, the prospect of searching on a bar floor or in a muddy field for lost batteries is not appealing.

Memory*(4.0)*

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 includes 32MB of internal memory that can come in handy when having either filled or forgotten a memory card and needing to capture just a few images. While helpful in a pinch, 32MB of internal memory is hardly going to suffice for an evening out or a family reunion. It is highly recommended to purchase optional SD/MMC memory cards. The memory card slot for the Kodak EasyShare Z650 is positioned vertically on the right side of the camera body under a well-built cover.

Other Features*(6.0)*

Live and Playback Histogram Display – The histogram feature is both a live histogram while recording and is present in review mode. The live histogram provides a graphic display of exposure information. Standard optimal lighting for scenes like tourist photography or portraits depict a peak in the center of the graphic display. If the current composition is overexposed, the peak will be all the way to the right. If it is underexposed, the peak will be located on the left.

**Value ***(5.75)*

With the 6.1 MP CCD, 10x optical zoom lens, 32MB of internal memory, an electronic color viewfinder, an interface with options and design for both the beginner and advanced user, the Kodak EasyShare Z650 could be seen as a strong contender in the compact advanced point-and-shoot camera market at its current price of just under $250 online. However, with a marginal price difference between this model and the overall better EasyShare Z612 it’s hard to market this camera as a real value buy. The Z650 falls short of the competition, and it's slightly more expensive sibling with an unimpressive 2-inch LCD, fewer burst mode options, and a choppy movie mode. The advantages of this camera over many similarly priced cameras are the inclusion of an electronic color viewfinder, manual control over metering, exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. In comparison to other models on the market though, the lack of manual focus and a full manual white balance as well as the bulk of the camera body itself could really be deal breakers when compared to sleeker and more replete cameras.

**Comparisons

***

z612.jpg
Kodak EasyShare Z612* – Currently found online for around $50 to $100 more than the Z650, the sleeker Z612 is a strong alternative to the Z650. The Z612 has a 6 MP CCD, a 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, separate program, manual and aperture shooting modes in addition to the full manual mode that controls ISO, exposure compensation and metering, shutter, aperture and the ever important manual focus control which is not found with the Kodak EasyShare Z650. Unfortunately, like the Z650, the Z612 does not have a custom white balance mode. However, the Z612 is stronger than the Z650 in several areas. It has a 640 x 480 resolution 30 fps video mode with stereo audio capture, flash compensation, a more replete burst mode, and 16 preset shooting modes. Externally, the camera has a vastly superior 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel LCD screen and an automatic pop-up flash. With sleeker menu structures and a cleaner design, the Z612 is worth the extra money.

s10.jpg
Nikon Coolpix S10 – This compact digital camera by Nikon uses a unique split-bodied swivel design which theoretically will enable more dynamic shooting experiences. While that claim is tenuous, the Nikon Coolpix S10 does have a number of features. The S10 has a 6 MP CCD, a 10x optical zoom lens, and a superior 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD screen. The S10 has a full auto mode, 15 scene mode options, and burst shooting modes. The Coolpix S10 has a face-detection AF system and the D-Lighting correction system. In addition to these still image capture modes, the Coolpix S10 also has a movie capture mode that can save videos with a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second. The camera comes with an included 16MB of internal memory, half the memory of the Z650, and can be accessorized by purchasing additional SD memory cards.

nv10.jpg
Samsung NV10 – The Samsung NV10 has a sleek and sophisticated exterior design that marks a departure to the standard point-and-shoot digital camera market. It is a far more portable option when compared to the Z650. The NV10 does have numerous features also found with the Z650 and consumers shouldn’t sell it short. Included with the camera is the ability to control aperture, shutter speed within a range of 1/1500th-15 seconds, ISO from 100 to 1000, white balance, two metering modes, burst and 11 preset scene modes. It doesn’t have manual focus; instead it relies on a TTL AF and a focus lock system for shooting. Like the Z650 and other cameras listed in the comparison section, the NV10 does have a movie mode and shoots higher quality video than the Z650 with a 640 x 480 maximum resolution at 30 fps. The camera comes with an included 20MB of internal memory. Memory levels can be increased by purchasing additional SD/MMC memory cards for longer shooting sessions or when capturing video files lasting more than around half a minute in length.

a630.jpg
Canon PowerShot A630 – The Canon PowerShot A630 is a smaller and compelling alternative with many similar, if not better, features and controls when compared to the Z650. This similarly priced camera features a folding, rotating 2.5-inch LCD screen, a 4x optical zoom lens, a 16MB SD memory card and an 8.0 MP CCD. The A630's one major setback is the lack of an electronic color viewfinder that is found on the Kodak EasyShare Z650. The A630 also has manual controls that challenge those found with the Z650. It provides metering control, aperture, shutter, ISO to 800 at full resolution and the really important manual white balance mode. This is a great advantage for photographers shooting in complicated lighting situations where the preset Fluorescent falls short of the mark. In addition to these manual control modes, the novice photographer will also find that the A630 comes with a whopping 21 preset shooting modes and a full auto mode. With all these features, a smaller camera body, and a lighter weight, the Canon PowerShot A630 is a formidable contender.

**Who It’s For

***Point-and-Shooters* – Even with manual control over shutter, aperture and other manual control options included with this camera, the simple interface, uncomplicated menu system, good handling, and stripped-down external interface make the Z650 a novice-friendly digital camera. With the included manual options, photographers looking to advance from the point-and-shoot level will have the option to begin exploring before having to buy a new camera.

Budget Consumers – Priced at $229 through Kodak online, the Z650 is geared toward budget consumers who want lots of zoom and don't want to pay much for it. The price is nice, but the movie mode is not.

Gadget Freaks – The Z650 is a straightforward digital camera with an SLR-inspired design, an unfettered interface, and few gimmicks. For the gadget freak looking for the newest and latest, the Z650 isn’t going to be a camera of notice with features and controls that have been on the market in prior years.

Manual Control Freaks – Without only preset options for focus and white balance, the manual control freak may find the Z650 to be somewhat disappointing. It does have control options over shutter, aperture, exposure, flash, metering, and ISO.

Pros/Serious Hobbyists – The pro or serious hobbyist isn’t likely to examine the EasyShare system for their next camera purchase due to the simplicity and novice-friendly interface.

Conclusion

The Kodak EasyShare Z650 brings a lot of features and controls to a compact SLR-inspired digital camera that pairs a simple and understated camera interface, and menu system with more advanced manual control. The advantage to this pure point-and-shoot camera is that it allows the beginner room to grow without needing to buy a new camera once the restrictions of full auto mode become too limiting.

The novice user will find the auto and preset shooting modes simple to engage. The external interface is laid out and labeled with minimal controls with the ability to navigate menu systems quickly and competently. For the advanced point-and-shoot photographer, the Z650 has control over exposure metering, exposure compensation, ISO, aperture and shutter speed with only presets provided for white balance. The lack of a manual white balance and focus may be a problem for true manual control buffs.

Although a strong digital camera, the comparison to the features and design of the Kodak EasyShare Z612 is inevitable and leaves the Z650 the obvious defeated party. The Z612 offers an immense improvement in a variety of areas that include exterior design, LCD screen, a 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, more autonomous shooting modes, a jog dial that independently controls manual settings, the clarity of the menu systems, and flash levels and settings. The only area where the Z650 may have an advantage is in the positioning of black rubber grip pads on the right hand grip and a lens housing that enables more confident handling.

Despite the Z650's strong points, it’s hard not to advise consumers to spend a little more on the Kodak EasyShare Z612. If money is a little tight, the Z650 will suffice as it does have a number of impressive features and controls that will enable competent shooting and image results. These include the streamlined shooting, editing, uploading, and printing systems that connect the camera easily to printers, personal computers, and the EasyShare software program. Pair this with the threaded lens barrel for accessory lenses and filters and throw in all of the other competent features and options of the Z650, many consumers may choose to opt out of spending more money and settle for this compact advanced point-and-shoot digital camera.

Sample photos

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