The 10-megapixel Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS is deceptively good. A straight-laced compact, it doesn't try to stand out with a flashy design and there are no overtly special features. Judging by its price of around £120, you wouldn't expect much from it, either. But the Z1085 is a decent camera that's easy to use and produces very good photos for little investment -- of time or money.
The 207g Z1085 is relatively compact at 89mm by 64mm by 38mm, and will fit in a large trouser pocket, although the protruding lens surround and handgrip will prevent you from sliding it out easily. That grip, however, makes one-handed shooting possible.
Buttons are large, clearly labelled and well spaced out. On top, buttons for drive mode, flash and power, as well as a mode dial, surround the shutter release. On the dial, together with Kodak's 'Smart Capture' auto mode, sit manual and programme options, panoramic shooting (left to right or right to left), scene mode with 16 setting choices, and movie capture.
The Smart Capture mode integrates scene and face detection, optimised auto ISO, and a broader dynamic range, among other things, so you truly don't have to worry about settings to take a decent picture. This mode also applies Kodak's 'Perfect Touch' technology to help improve detail and contrast. In general, this system works, producing fine photos regardless of subject or lighting conditions, and is one of the better automatic modes we've tested.
The Z series is Kodak's megazoom line, and currently goes all the way up to 24x. The 5x f2.8-5.1 35-175mm-equivalent lens on the lowest-end Z1085 doesn't even really qualify as a megazoom. It does have barrel distortion at its widest setting -- typical of its class but too much given its relatively narrow 35mm-equivalent angle of view. Still, it's good to have the extra power compared to similarly priced 3x models, and you get optical image stabilisation, too. For framing shots and photo playback, there's a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD on the back.
While we wouldn't call the Z1085 sluggish, it's not speedy, either. It takes 2.9 seconds to go from off to first shot. Shutter lag is pretty good at 0.4 seconds in bright conditions and 0.7 seconds in dim. Although its typical shot-to-shot times of 2.6 seconds and 3.2 seconds with flash may be average for its class, that's still fairly slow. Its burst mode is limited to three shots -- first three or last three -- but the speed is a respectable 1.3 frames per second.
In general, the Z1085 produces good photos for the price. Colours are generally accurate, as is white balance, both indoors and out. Detail remains good up to ISO 200, with little to no noise and no issues from suppression. At ISO 400, however, aggressive noise reduction in the red channel turns red objects smeary, and the photos develop a typical over-blurred look.
The camera boasts ISO settings up to 3,200 at full resolution and up to ISO 8,000 at a 3-megapixel resolution. The results at these ISOs are pretty useless. You'll capture something that may be acceptable for Web use at a small size, but, if you're expecting to get the same performance that the camera gives you at ISO 800, you'll be disappointed. Exposure also tends to be slightly off, with occasionally blown-out highlights.
The Z1085, like many Kodak cameras, records 30fps 720p HD video (1,280x720 pixels) in MPEG-4 format. The video quality is very good for a point-and-shoot camera, especially if you're keeping the camera focused on the subject and not moving around too much. Otherwise, the camera's exposure metering and focus will abruptly change, causing scenes to suddenly become blurry and exposure to be off, and it takes a few seconds to correct it. The Z1085 supports optical zoom in movie capture, which we like.