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Kodak PIXPRO AZ651 Review

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Nightcat loves photography and has been a hobbyist for decades who enjoys talking to other photographers and comparing rigs and photos.

The PIXPRO AZ651, shown here with an ND2 filter.

The PIXPRO AZ651, shown here with an ND2 filter.

An Excellent Bridge Camera

I've always loved Kodak cameras. Never mind the fact I have had other brands as companions, Kodaks were, are and always shall be the camera of the masses. The camera for snapshots and silliness and having fun. Like everyone else I went into mourning when Kodak stopped making cameras. But 2014 was the dawn of a shining new era and Kodak cameras roared back onto the photography scene in triumph.

So which of the PIXPRO line lovelies did I get? First, consider this neat fact, because it's relevant. I paid less than a third in the modern equivalent for my camera what Eastman's first cameras cost 1885. So think of it. Over a century later I have a rig Eastman could have only dreamed of.

He comes to us from JK Imaging Limited who bought licensing rights to the trade dress and Kodak name (they can use them but Kodak still owns them), and this camera not only carries on the Kodak tradition of reliability, he does so much more than I expected.

For those who want the goods before we go further he has a zoom lens that is the equivalent of a wide 24mm up to an impressive 1560mm and 20 megapixels. So like any bridge camera he is going to snuggle into the gap between compact point and shoots and true DSLRs nicely. There's a 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor on board, and the ability to grow beyond auto and even shoot in RAW. Ready to learn more?

Please Note: I tried to cover the areas I want to know most about when looking at cameras. But if there is something you'd like to see me cover that I didn't please let me know.

PS All photos of my PIXPRO for this hub were taken on my Kodak Easy Share DX6490. She's been with me for eleven years as far as I can reckon. I believe she needs a new SD card, so please don't blame the camera!

And if you want to see more photos, including edited RAW results for this camera, please feel free to visit me on DA.

More Settings To Set Your Photography Free

The three settings for the function ring and the function ring itself.

The three settings for the function ring and the function ring itself.

The Lens Function Ring

The lens function ring around the barrel of the lens has three basic settings which can branch off into more depending on what mode you have the camera set in. But to keep things simple and not just recite the user's manual here goes:

MF is manual focus. This setting combined with manual means the function ring controls the zoom lens. You can set up the camera to do that in other ways, but it is nice to have and give you complete control over focus in situations where the camera is stumped. This also means that you, not the camera decide when the picture is in focus, so it is a way around auto focus when extreme low light or flat surfaces puzzle any camera. To access this shoot in one of the PASM modes. See? A reason to grow beyond auto!

Smart can also do this neat trick, but if set to manual will control the functions the camera usually does in auto. Meaning the ISO (just like old films speeds), shutter speed (how fast a camera blinks) and aperture (measured in f-stops this is how wide the camera opens its iris, works just like your pupil, neat, huh?). It controls more than that, but those are the main ones you'll be using in manual.

ZOOM/AF Does just what you expect it to do, controlling the zoom with the lens function ring, but allowing the camera to auto focus for you. This allows you to be precise with what is in the shot, but the camera takes the worry of focusing from you.

Overall I love the feel of this lens function ring. The camera lens and functions are responsive to it and it is ridged for a secure grip. I've had no problems getting it to work with gloves on either, so there's no excuse not to get out there in nippy weather.

Impressive Lens Capabilities

The film may be gone, but the cameras live on.

The film may be gone, but the cameras live on.

The 65x Optical Zoom Lens: 24mm (Wide) -1560mm (Telephoto) Equivalent

Forget the numbers. Where a bridge camera really snuggles in between a pocket-sized point and shoot and a true DSLR is not only size and price, but the lens. This lens has more range than even the most ambitious pocket-sized compact, meaning you have more creative options without having to buy multiple lenses as you would with a true DSLR. Making this bridge camera the prefect travel companion for the photography enthusiast.

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There is also optical image stabilization on board to lessen camera shake, though you can and should use a tripod for times when you're zoomed all the way out. But none of that matters if you don't like what you see through the lens (via the electronic viewfinder or LCD) and I love what I see with this lens. Photos are crisp and clear, and there's no visible distortion even zoomed out to the maximum optical length.

There is also an eerie feeling of looking through a traditional SLR lens with this camera. And the more I use it, the more pronounced it is. It feels and responds like a traditional lens, not an optical zoom, and it's one of those hands-on things you have to try to believe.

Instead of throwing all the specs you can get in the user manual at you I'd say the lens is one of the reasons this is the flagship of the PIXPRO line. Did I mention it does a fine job with macro or the very nice range of F2.9 to F6.7 depending on whether you're shooting at a wide angle or telephoto?

I've also noticed the camera selecting f-stops and even speeds not listed in the manual, just one of the hidden surprises some digitals can offer.

Three Inches of LCD

In the final position it works just like a traditional LCD, but it has many angles to choose from.

In the final position it works just like a traditional LCD, but it has many angles to choose from.

Three Inch Vari-angle LCD

When you first unbox your camera this screen will be tucked neatly into the body to prevent damage. It can then be swung out to have a viewscreen like a movie camera (I prefer this position) and from there can tilt up or down for doing overhead shots to get above the crowd or to shoot from a lower angle without stooping.

Those two angles might sound like you'll never use them, but I've already held the camera high above my head seeking the perfect shot and held it at waist level to shoot the world's shortest movie.

If you keep going upward when it is out and away from the camera it will turn completely around giving you a position perfect for admiring yourself (try it for a giggle) before you put it back into the camera. So yes, you can use this camera for selfies as has been mentioned in other reviews. Or pretend to be taking selfies and get sneaky spy shots or something. It is actually for filming videos, I believe, but if you aren't into the video side of things you tend to forget that.

You can also change the brightness by a generous amount either way, and coupled with the ability to tilt the screen it provides clear viewing in any sorts of conditions. This LCD is one of the reasons I'd say it is a camera where the only restrictions are how mature the photographer is. Age doesn't matter if the first instinct is to make to screen go in a direction it wasn't engineered to. That said, it is a sturdy screen and you can go by feel if you forget which way to turn the screen.

Electronic Viewfinder

This camera's electronic viewfinder will show you the light that is in the area you are shooting, not what your human eye can be fooled into seeing. You might not notice the yellow or bluish cast to the light sources in the area, but this camera does and will record them faithfully. You can either adjust your white ballance (easy to find in the menu) or edit using your favorite editing software on your computer.

This of course is where an inexpensive set of filters to balance out different types of lighting such as incandescent and fluorescent can be helpful. But the bluish, yellowish or other cast you are seeing is not a defect in the camera.

It does have a backlit feel to it, sort of like a mini light box, so the feeling of being back to a time when we all shot film may take a while to get to you, but it will come eventually.

Color Effects







i Button Function Menu

If there was ever a reason to go beyond auto the Kodak PIXPRO AZ651 knows how to lure you there. In one of the PASM modes press the i button and you'll find a whole new world of shooting possibilities thanks to the color effects. (Provided you are shooting in jpeg, sorry RAW lovers.) Twenty one of them ranging from normal, which is what you are already shooting in, to extremes like Punk or Negative which most definitely show a pronounced effect.

This is where the camera goes from being serious to downright silly and is clearly meant for family fun or breaking the stress of a long day of shooting. And it is also done in-camera, so the few seconds you wait are more than worth it to me. And for you nostalgic camera people out there there is KODACHROME film, EKTACHROME film and KODACOLOR film effects. And as the camera honestly gives you the Kodak look and feel already these just add to the sweetness.

I love these effects because I have the terrible tendency to get way too serious about my photography. To become a grouchy fauxfessional that hates everything she sees, grumble, grumble, growl. These effects remind me, more than anything that photography is supposed to be fun. No seriously, if the joy is missing from your photo expedition these effects will put a smile on your face.

Which I should have expected from a camera that sings to me (he plays a cheery jingle every time he turns on or to say goodbye when you turn him off) and has the cheekiness to put a smiley face emoticon on the screen when he asks you to please wait for a second while he processes a shot.

Owners are Excited, And They Should Be

Mode Dial: Going Beyond Auto

Knowing what your mode dial does can help you grow as a photographer.

Knowing what your mode dial does can help you grow as a photographer.

The Mode Dial

Firstly, I love the feel of this mode dial. Easy to grip and turn and going around the dial has it's advantages. And please remember photography literally means painting with light. This is art, not science class so have fun and don't sweat the tech stuff!

Auto Mode: The red camera. Here the camera automatically makes setting decisions for you such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Works best for shots where you only get one chance and one chance only, and will get you darn near perfect results 99.9 percent of the time. Also perfect for first time photographers, handing off your camera to pose for a vacation photo and nothing to be ashamed of. I shoot in auto most of the time myself.

Program AE: The P of PASM. Under different scene setting you can set your ISO and EV settings manually, the camera takes care of the rest. Perfect for getting a faster or slower ISO that suits what you want the end result to look. This controls how much light hits the sensor. Higher numbers are great for low light and lower for sunny days, but don't be afraid to keep experimenting.

Aperture Priority: The A of PASM. You control the aperture via f-stops. These vary a bit from wide to telepohoto but the camera makes the rest of the decisions for you. Remember this is how wide the camera opens its iris just like your pupils growing bigger or smaller in different lighting.

Shutter Priority: The S of PASM. Let's you control the shutter speed, the camera takes care of the rest. How fast the camera opens and closes the shutter. Slow for a slight blur superfast to catch a hummingbird in motion.

Manual: The M of PASM. Let's you have full control over shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

Face Beautifier: The face. Make that portrait pretty with skin softening and eye brightening.

Wi-Fi Mode: Wi-Fi Icon. Allows you to send photos to compatible W-Fi capable devices.

Scene Mode: SCN Give you a choice of fourteen preset scene types and effects. Scenes include Auto where the camera chooses, Snow and Sport.

Movie Mode: Movie camera icon. Record videos in a variety of sizes.

Custom Settings: Have a mode and shooting parameter you've fallen in love with? Set it as a custom mode for quick and easy access.

Still confused on PASM? See a great video on uses here.

52MM filters are a fun way to broaden your photography horizons.

52MM filters are a fun way to broaden your photography horizons.

Adding a lens hood can further expand your enjoyment.

Adding a lens hood can further expand your enjoyment.

Kitting The PIXPRO AZ651 Out

While your lens will always remain the same, here is some gear to consider.

Tripod or Monopod: With patience and practice these handy devices can produce much sharper photos. The Kodak PIXPRO AZ651 features a sturdy metal tripod socket.

Camera Bag: To me an essential: A lightly padded bag is all you need. Look for one just big enough to secure your camera without it jostling around, but make sure you can also tuck in any filters or goodies you might need. Make sure there is enough padding to protect your camera from slight bumps as well. An alternative is a backpack designed just for cameras.

52mm Filters: Filters come in an endless range of abilities and prices. I choose low end filters just to protect the lens or balance out light. That filter you see in the photos is an ND2 I have a strong attachment to. It cost all of six bucks. Much cheaper than a new camera if you crack it instead of the lens, yes?

52mm Lens Hoods: You know that super-annoying flare you get in some shots? That isn't a camera defect, but comes from shooting into a super bright light source. A good hood of your choice can prevent this, and there are many options out there from rugged low end ones to ultra-pricey pieces of plastic. Again, choose what makes you happiest. These have the added bonus of providing a little more protection to your lens with or without the filter.

Cleaning Gear: I use a soft cloth for camera lenses or brushes, but there are a ton of products out there. No matter what type of camera you have at the very least consider a soft, clean brush or camera friendly cloth to keep your lenses and camera nice and clean.

Memory Card: An essential, this camera works with SD/SDHC cards from 4GB to 32GB. I use the 32GB SDs and I'm happy with my results. These usually have to be purchased separately, just like film used to be purchased separately, but unlike film SD cards can act as permanent storage or be reformatted in the camera to use again.

Unboxing Video! Not mine, but lovely

Temp and Humidity Ranges

The downloadable instruction manual lists a temp range of 0-40C and humidity 0-90%. What in the heck does that mean? These are the safe ranges the PIXPRO AZ651 can operate in before potential problems could arise. Temps would be 32 to 104 in Fahrenheit, so they go from from freezing to the point where the photographer is sweating buckets.

But I've already had the Pixopro AZ651 out in pounding thirty mile per hours winds on a seventeen degrees Fahrenheit day and although we were out for several hours the camera did quite well snuggled up underneath my fleece jacket.

Keep in mind that when you do things like going beyond the camera's specified temp range, several things can happen. Cold weather drains batteries faster and you can have mild problems like a foggy lens to extremes like condensation inside the camera. There is a list of steps to prevent damage here.

Humidity also presents challenge. But being able to go from zero percent which you may briefly reach in Antarctica to ninety percent, around the humidity of a rainforest means that the photographer will likely back down before the camera will.

Did I void my one year limited warranty when I took her outside of the specified temp range? More than likely. And if you do live in an area where frigid temps are the norm or humidity soars over 90 percent a large part of the year you may want to keep those ranges in mind. That said? He has also been out in pounding rain wearing a fetching raincoat made out of a one gallon freezer bag with his lens poking out and under an umbrella.

Part of photography, after all, is deciding what risks we feel our rigs can handle to get that perfect shot. So I'd say feel free to shoot in any kind of weather, keeping in mind the acceptable ranges given by Kodak, but that a camera can always venture a wee bit outside these safety zones so long as the photographer takes proper care of her rig.

One Year Limited Warranty

If you look at your warranty card you'll notice the word limited. Then a bunch of things they will not cover which must sound downright discouraging to new photographers. Why limit it at all? Because any camera can only handle certain conditions. And while the PIXPRO AZ651 is certainly a fit beast, it is not fair to the camera to do things commonsense tells you not to and expect miracles.

If you decide to become an underwater photographer you just voided your warranty. Ditto that lively game of camera toss where you missed catching the camera or deciding to take your camera apart because you can fix it yourself. Double ditto deciding you can only get the perfect shot by streching your monopod out over Niagara Falls then watching it let go of your camera which can then plunge to an untimely demise.

So the warranty is actually pretty fair on JK Imaging's part. It covers possible defects in workmanship or materials because mistakes can happen. And if these don't show up in the first year of normal use they likely aren't going to.

Warranties, by the way, usually don't cover such things as sand, water and impacts because most cameras simply aren't built to withstand them. Again, that isn't a defect or a sign of an inferior camera. It's all part of being a responsible photographer and realizing there are limits to even the most beloved camera.

And it honestly shouldn't bother you how long a warranty is. It reminds me of a terrific second-hand camera dealer my father used to take me to. Steve's Cameras. His last location was on the other side of Pittsburgh from us so maybe some of you know it. There were lots of friendly photographers like Al there, and others, weathered by decades of experience with one camera. As one put it about new cameras: "You come back to me in two decades, then you can tell me about the camera." And barring disaster this camera should be around that long. But it will take us two decades to find out.

Please keep in mind that many stores or online sellers also offer warranties though what they cover and for how long varies.