According to Kodak, its 7.1-megapixel EasyShare P712 was designed for "second- and third-time digital camera buyers". Appropriately, the camera includes a higher level of control than many of Kodak's cameras, such as manual white balance, full manual exposure and a trio of custom picture modes. It also sports a hotshoe, which can be outfitted with an accessory flash and can record images as raw, TIFF or JPEG files.
Anyone stepping up from a simple point-and-shoot camera is likely to be impressed with the level of control offered, as well as the 12x optical, 36mm-to-432mm, f/2.8-to-f/3.7 zoom lens, but a slightly sluggish start-up time and noisy images at higher ISOs will irk more advanced shooters.
The Kodak EasyShare P712's black-plastic body is small for a megazoom at 109 by 84 by 71mm with its lens fully retracted, and it weighs in at a comfortable, but not exactly light, 450g with its 1,800mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery and an SD card. The SLR-style grip's silver accent on the front also acts as a slight ridge, which helps during one-handed shooting. As usual, you'll find the shutter button above the grip, and it's surrounded by a jog ring that acts as the on/off switch and lets you access Favorites mode.
Dedicated buttons on the camera's top let you select options for focus, flash, drive mode and metering. There's also a button than can be programmed separately for capture and review modes, as well as to allow quick access to a host of options. Joining all these buttons is the mode dial, which includes direct access to movie mode, as well as three customisable shooting modes and full manual, aperture- and shutter-priority, program, auto and an array of 17 scene modes.
On the back, you'll find the 64mm (2.5-inch), 115,000-pixel LCD screen just below the 237,000-pixel electronic viewfinder. We were surprised to find such a low-resolution LCD screen and disappointed that neither the EVF nor the LCD did a very good job of automatically increasing brightness in low-light situations. To the right of the screen, there's a five-way joystick for menu navigation and selection, as well as buttons to control the amount of information displayed on the screen, menu access, image deletion, review mode and autoexposure and autofocus lock. Above these buttons are the wonderfully comfortable zoom lever, jog wheel and Set button, which together let you change options such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation (as much as plus or minus 2EV in 1/3-stop increments), flash power (as much as plus or minus 1EV in 1/3-stop increments) and ISO. Interestingly, ISO adjusts in 1/3-stop increments as well, spanning ISO 64 through to ISO 400, with ISO 800 available in only 1.2-megapixel mode.
Metering options include multipattern, centre-weighted, spot and selectable zone. Focus options comprise multi, centre or selectable zone, as well as manual. Both selectable zone options let you choose from 25 zones and are tied together when both selectable zone metering and focus are used at the same time.
Movie-mode junkies will appreciate this camera's video mode, which lets you capture clips at as high as 640x480 resolution and 30fps. Colours looked decent, and focus adjusted quickly. The only drawback is that, while you can use the zoom during recording, the lens's motor noise is clearly audible during playback.
While the Kodak EasyShare P712's start-up was sluggish, taking 2.9 seconds to power on and capture its first image, subsequent images took 1.6 seconds between shots without flash and 1.9 seconds with the flash enabled. Raw images took 2 seconds between shots, and TIFFs took 17 seconds. That's a lot slower than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7, which captures TIFFs in 7.7 seconds, but remember that few non-SLRs even capture TIFFs. In burst mode, we captured 1.2-megapixel JPEGs at 1.7fps and 7.1-megapixel JPEGs at 1.8fps.