There are plenty of sub-£200 compact cameras around, but few offer as much as the £160 Kodak EasyShare Z915. This 10-megapixel, pocket-friendly superzoom camera is simple to use, has a strong feature set, including full manual and automatic shooting options, and offers faster performance than much of the competition. It suffers from some photo quality issues, but how important a consideration they will be depends upon what you intend to do with your photos.
Compact and comfortable
Despite its 10x optical zoom, the Z915 is still compact enough to fit in a large trouser pocket or handbag. Made from a combination of metal and moulded plastic, it's available in three colour schemes: blue and black, red and black, and all black. It's a very comfortable camera, thanks mostly to the large right-hand grip. The grip is made from plastic, though, and, despite the rest of the body's sturdy quality, it gives the Z915 a fairly cheap look. We like the overall appearance of the camera, but it's definitely not for everyone.
Up front is the camera's main attraction -- an image-stabilised 10x zoom lens. It's not especially wide or fast, but it will get you closer to your subject. On top are the shutter release and zoom ring, dedicated buttons for flash, macro, and timer/drive, a mode dial, and a tiny but easily pressed power button. On the back is a smallish, 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD display, a vertical row of buttons (delete, menu, info and play), a directional pad for setting and menu navigation, and Kodak's 'share' button, which lets you tag photos as favourites or as ones to upload to a favourite Web site for sharing, or both.
The Z915 is powered by AA-size batteries. If you plan to shoot regularly, do yourself a favour and don't use cheap alkaline batteries. Spend more money and get rechargeable NiMH cells, and you'll nearly double your shot count.
The Z915 gives you as much or as little control as you want over shooting, making it a good candidate if you want to step away from fully automatic snapshots or if you're looking for a camera that will suit many different types of users. Except for white balance, you get full manual control, as well as shutter speed and aperture-priority modes. You also get exposure bracketing, colour effects and sharpness adjustments.
You can use the Z915 as a standard point-and-shoot camera too, thanks to its 17 scene modes and Kodak's 'smart capture' mode, which combines intelligent scene detection, intelligent capture control and intelligent image processing. It's a reliable mode if you don't trust yourself, or others, to get a good shot.
Typically, superzoom cameras, especially cheaper models, are slow performers, but the Z915 is surprisingly quick. The time from start-up to first shot is very good, at 1.7 seconds. Time between shots is a fast 1.1 seconds and adding the flash only tacks on another second. Shutter lag in bright lighting conditions is excellent for its class, at 0.4 seconds, and only goes up to 0.6 seconds in dim conditions. The Z915 has a three-shot burst mode too, and it's capable of 1.6 frames per second. One thing worth noting, though, is that the autofocus performance is noticeably slow. This is particularly true in dim lighting, in which it frequently takes a couple of tries to get the subject right.