Digital Camera Chronology
1st. Kodak Z740 5MP 10x optical. (10/05)
2nd. Kodak Z612 IS 6MP 12x optical. (2/07)
Current: Kodak Z812 IS 8MP 12x optical. (11/07)
I chose Kodak because of a hands on trial, a personal referral and the #1 ratings from JD Powers. They use reputable German SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH glass. I love the super-zooms too. I wasn't afraid of them for video cameras have had amazing clarity with their tiny built-in super-zooms for many years.
My strategy in digital was to buy short term for great upgrades occur every year. I paid between $200-$250 for my first two cameras and resold them for $100, so I basically rented evolving technology for a year for a very reasonable price. The Z740 was even a refurb.
PROS: Kodak camera optics are really sharp. I have performed hours of follow-up research to see what other brands were offering. Sites Digital Photo Review, Imaging Resource, Steve's Digicams and offer great hands on reviews, sample photos, etc and Kodak held its own or was better then all comparable cameras. I also searched PBase by camera model to view the images.
Great controls allow for many one touch overrides and corrections on the fly. A lightweight camera, convenient zoom and shutter controls allow for one hand operation. This is perfect for me since I usually have a dog pulling on his leash with the other hand.
AA Batteries can be used in a pinch but the best ones are CRV3 rechargables.
Easyshare software - Great tool for quick photo editing fixes.CONS: Battery Hog. When I shoot a lot, I exhaust a battery about every 1.5 outings. I have 4 total rechargeable batteries to offset this short coming. I don't use the image preview screen either. Very hard to handle high contrast scenes. I've read that about other cameras in this group as well, but I lose details in the shadows because of it.
High ISO 800+ produce very grainy results. 400 ISO passes with low grades though.
Easyshare software - It's pretty invasive and once installed cameras can only move shots via USB when Easyshare is running.
WISH LIST: Wider angle lens (36mm on z812). Filter Mount (I would love to add a polarizer or neutral density). RAW format. Fovian sensor. Face Detection.
Follow-up on 9/27/08: Coincidentally, I just checked Kodak and they offer a new Z1015 with 28mm wide, 3" screen, and RAW image option with "new" smart capture. Sounds like my next upgrade is awaiting.