Geeks.com, known for their cheap digital cameras, sent us in the Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS, a 14 megapixel digital camera with a 720p HD video recording capability. Geeks also threw in a Peak 8 GB Class 6 SDHC card to properly test the camera’s HD capability. We are taking the camera for a spin, and we have a small HD video shot for your own evaluation.
The Z1485 IS is an optically image stabilized 14 MP camera, with 5x optical zoom. It features SDHC support, full manual capability, face detection technology, a flash, exposure bracketing for those who would like to experiment with HDR photography, and much more. I won’t describe the camera features further in this article, because you can read most of its hardware and software/menu features at the specification page.
With the camera in the box, we also found a “Getting Started Guide”, a USB cable (proprietary connector on the Kodak’s side), a wrist strap , and a Kodak CRV3 Lithium battery. While the camera is listed as refurbished, there were no blemishes or problems with the hardware.
The camera has a good hand-handling form factor, the palm is easily wrapped around and the grip helps securing the camera when shooting handheld, or even with one hand. There is a dial with many choices around the shutter button, a flash on/off button, a timer button, and next to the LCD screen you will find the zoom rocker button, menu button, delete button and the joystick, among others. The Z1485 IS uses a higher resolution LCD than the previous Z series cameras and it is also brighter.
The camera’s biggest feature in my opinion is its full manual mode. There are easier modes to choose from, like the ISO mode, P mode (exposure compensation, gain and focusing), scene mode (select from 14 difference scene modes), panorama stitching mode and of course automatic, but the manual mode takes the cake. You can independently control aperture, shutter speed, gain, and focusing, while there is also exposure metering information on the screen at the same time. Because this is not an expensive DSLR, there aren’t any focusing/aperture rings or dial buttons for these options, but the manual control screen does a very good job navigating to each of these elements using the joystick button. For the price and the range, this camera is good for its software features. The only feature I am missing is manual white balance.
The picture quality is very so-so. There is this distinct Kodak “muddy” look as in all of their cameras. However, by the time you print that 14 MP image, or you resize for the web, the camera does a good job keeping its head held high. Regarding battery life, that was also so-so. I had only shot about 30 pictures and 25 minutes of HD video before the included batteries went dead. Another thing that was annoying is that the camera does not ask you to shut down when battery life is low. In the middle of a video shooting it will just shut down out of the blue. In some cases, it would even lose its date information and it would ask me to re-input the date/time again after a reboot.
Now, regarding the HD video. The Z1485 IS shoots in 720p MPEG4-SP MOV (same codec format as most modern cellphones) at over 10 mbps. Quality is pretty good, but as it’s evident from the video, there are exposure jumps and over-exposing, as there is absolutely no exposure control when in video mode. To make things worse, there is no focusing control either, other than auto-focusing. The V-series from Kodak at least support auto/macro/tele focusing. Regardless, for a point and shoot camera it shoots pretty good video. I used a similar 720p HD Kodak camera to this Z1485 IS to shoot parts of my niece’s baptism last year and the quality was arguably on par (if not better) with the professional videographer that was hired and who shot in SD.
You can download a directly-out-of-the-camera sample here (10 MB, with audio). The following YouTube video is color graded, to show a finished quality video instead. There is no audio. You can press the “HD” button to watch it in HD too.
This is nothing special really. If you want a compact camera with HD movie capabilities, rather go for the Panasonic DMC TZ5. It’s been out for ages, it has a 10x optical zoom, a quality lens from Leica and IS.
The megapixels don’t mean a thing when you have a tiny sensor anyway.