Some cameras are built up to reach a certain quality; others are built down to reach a certain price. It's not hard to guess into which category a 10x super-zoom tipping the scales at under £200 might fall.

Despite its pocket money price point, the Z710 looks surprisingly classy clad in its matt silver plastic housing and boasting an effective rubberised right-hand grip.

It's smaller and lighter than Kodaks of old, although some controls will be familiar; notably the rotating control dial and slightly sloppy push-to-select joystick.

Buttons for macro/ infinity focusing and self-timer/drive are sensible enough but it's frustrating that the pop-up flash is completely manual, even in full Auto mode. It's even more annoying that changing flash mode is managed on a different control altogether, which combines to make night shooting more work than it ought to be.

The 2-inch LCD is small and grainy by today's standards, although at least it's sharper than the tiny, distorted EVF. This is further handicapped by a zoom rocker that's mounted so nearby that you push your nose away from the camera when selecting wide angle. An Info button pulls up aperture and shutter speed settings and can add a minuscule histogram too.

Thankfully, the digital interface has been well thought out. In PASM modes, it takes only moments to adjust exposure settings, add exposure compensation or switch to full Auto.

The Kodak will flash the aperture and shutter speed in red to warn of camera shake but there's no image stabilisation on offer here - a painful lack on such a light camera. The lens is also noisy and slow to focus, and there's no manual focus option.

Sense and sensitivity

A host of scene modes adds little real functionality, and if you want the maximum ISO 800 setting, you need to drop to just 1.9MP resolution. This is weak when the likes of Fujifilm and Canon are delivering usable images at ISO 1600 and beyond, and even ISO 400 images from the Kodak suffer from significant levels of chroma noise and noise reduction.

Kodak is also behind the curve on processing speed. Shutter lag isn't too bad (under a second) but the lacklustre Burst mode manages just three frames, in a shade under two seconds, before locking up.

You get similar problems in single shooting mode, thanks to the Z710 taking over ten seconds to save a single JPEG. Keep your shooting speed slow and sedate to avoid that dreaded 'Processing...' hourglass from popping up.

Kodak has shaved a few more quid off the build price by omitting a rechargeable battery, allowing the Z710 to use two standard AAs or one lithium CRV3 (supplied) instead. This is a sensible and eco-friendly cutback, as most keen snappers should already own a cheap charger and AA rechargeable batteries.

Image quality also reflects the Z710's price. The 10x lens is really very average, with a restrictive maximum wide-angle setting of just 38mm serving up lashings of purple fringing and a distressing quantity of softness towards the edges of the frame. The telephoto end is a little better, if you can shoot in sufficiently bright conditions to minimise camera shake.

The Z710 takes an unsubtle approach to colours, with bold primary tones but little tonal discrimination. Highlights blow out early and shaded areas sink swiftly to black. Skin tones are well captured but there's very little detail captured in complex areas like hair.

While there's nothing catastrophically wrong with the Kodak, it under-performs in so many areas that it's difficult to recommend. If you need a really cheap manual exposure super-zoom, take a look. Otherwise, dig a little deeper and invest in a camera with better overall performance.

Via PhotoRadar