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Lifewire / Scott Gercken
Slim, portable design
Quality photos with ease
Impressive digital zoom
Low quality video
Noisy photos in low light
The Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 is a fantastic camera for the budget-conscious buyer, taking quality photos with the ease of a point-and-shoot camera.
Point-and-shoot digital cameras like the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 face some stiff competition in an era where everyone has a decent camera in their phone. There is still a market for entry-level digital cameras, largely because they offer more photography options than you can get on a phone, but it’s constantly shrinking as smartphone cameras get more sophisticated with every generation. We tested the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 to see what this point-and-shoot camera brings to the table, and if it’s still a viable option in the age of ubiquitous smartphones.
The Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 digital camera is surprisingly small, at only 3.5” wide, 2.25“ tall, and 0.62” thick. It’s incredibly slim for a camera, not much larger than most phones and easy to slip into a purse or a pocket when you’re on the go. At the same time, it was a little too thin to fit comfortably in the hand. The front face is a deep red (black or blue color options are also available) with a silver metal ring around the lens and a black rubber grip. The back half of the camera is all black, with three silver buttons for power, video, and shutter control tucked up on the top right of the chassis.
This is an ideal option for the budget-conscious buyer who just wants a cheap, portable camera.
The back side has a 2.7” LCD screen surrounded by several function buttons and a directional pad to navigate additional functions like macro and timer. We found the controls easy to reach and the layout intuitive. While both the battery and the SD card are behind the same battery door, you can open the door without turning off the camera, though if you switch out the SD card the camera turns itself off. When the camera is on, the lens extends out and there are silver rings on the leading edge of each lens cylinder. It’s a nice little flourish that exhibits a welcome attention to detail.
The setup process was straightforward. We inserted the battery, placed the SD card in the slot, and turned the camera on. After inputting the time and date we were ready to go. We should note that the camera doesn’t come with a memory card, so you’ll need to have one of your own to save photos, and the battery door was a little tricky the first time we used it. After we placed the battery and the SD card inside the camera, we tried to close the door several times before it finally took. After we opened and closed it a few times, the problem went away.
The Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 offers resolutions from 640 x 480 to 16 MP. It also has the option to save files with different compression rates: normal, fine, and best. Normal produces the smallest files, but it also degrades the photo the most. To test the photo quality on the PIXPRO FZ53, we took photos in a variety of settings: landscape photos both on a bright day and at night, indoor photos in lighter and darker rooms, and we played with some of the scene modes and got some wide panoramic shots. In great light, the photos are sharp and beautiful. We took some landscape photos of the Chicago skyline on a sunny day. Everything was beautiful, and even with shaky hands the details looked sharp. We tested out the zoom and the digital zoom in similar conditions. The digital zoom is especially impressive. Even at 6x digital zoom we still got sharp images with just a little noise.
At night, it was more difficult. We used the “night landscape” scene mode to shoot the same photos, for which you really need a tripod or some other stabilizer or you lose a lot of clarity. That said, when we did stabilize the camera the night photos looked good. We also tested sunset shots with the “sunset” mode and on auto. Both shots looked good and provided different depths-of-field—“sunset mode” focused automatically on the sun in the background while auto focused on the buildings in the foreground. Photo quality varied when we took shots indoors. A moderately lit room resulted in quality photos, while darker rooms added perceptible grain.
While Kodak claims that the PIXPRO FZ53 takes HD video, the terrible quality might as well be SD. It doesn’t matter how many pixels you have if the final image quality is terrible.
We took some indoor shots of our cats and the quality was quite poor, unsurprising for an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera that’s not designed to capture motion. While the PIXPRO FZ53 doesn’t have the same flexibility as many more expensive cameras, it is tremendously user friendly. It also offers granular control by way of a manual mode that allows you to easily adjust the exposure and ISO for each shot. The exposure ranges from -2.0 to 2.0 by ⅓ increments and ISO starts at 80 and goes up to 1600.
For panoramic shots, the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 has you take individual shots and stitches them together in software. You start with the first shot, and then the display pulls up a transparency of the leading edge of that shot. You match up the transparency with the scene you’re shooting and then take another shot. Unfortunately, the image quality in panoramic shots doesn’t equal normal photos. If you use this mode, make sure the quality setting is on best so the file compression doesn’t degrade the quality of the shot too much.
The Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 takes video at these resolutions: 1280 x 720 at 30 fps, 1280 x 720 at 15 fps, 640 x 480 at 30fps, and 320 x 240 at 30 fps. We tested the highest resolution, and the results weren’t very good. Every movie we took was really grainy and noisy. It wasn’t as noticable when we shot in a well-lit room, but it got really bad as we went into a darker one. Details were quite blurry even at a setting that’s technically HD. While Kodak claims that the PIXPRO FZ53 takes HD video, the terrible quality might as well be SD. It doesn’t matter how many pixels you have if the final image quality is terrible. Even old smartphones will take much better video at the same resolution settings. If you’re looking for high quality, HD video, this camera is not for you.
There are two different primary software functions for the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53: shifting photos to your computer and the in-camera editing and special effects settings. Importing photos into Apple’s iPhoto was really easy with the PIXPRO FZ53—we just connected the USB and turned on the camera. The software immediately connected to the camera and we downloaded the photos. The camera can also connect directly to a printer by USB (with a not-included USB-micro to USB-B cable).
The Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 has some light editing software. You can adjust the color settings, crop and rotate photos, or enable red-eye reduction or HDR. The settings are very limited, though. Unless you really need to get a photo directly from the camera to a printer, it’s much better to do any editing on your computer. There was one fun setting worth mentioning called “sketch” that transforms a photo into a hand-drawn image with a white background and black outlines.
Kodak’s MSRP for the PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53 is $90, in line with other entry level, point-and-shoot digital cameras. While the video quality isn’t very good, the camera makes up for it with quality photos in a low-cost package.
Nikon COOLPIX A10: The Nikon COOLPIX A10 is an entry-level, point-and-shoot camera just like the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53. The COOLPIX A10 has a list price of $75, which puts it in line with the PIXPRO FZ53. The Coolpix suffers from a long delay between taking photos, which is a big problem. It’s also larger than the PIXPRO FZ53, so it’s harder to tuck in a pocket.
Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera: The Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera is very similar to the PIXPRO FZ53. The only distinguishing feature is the bump in megapixels, up to 20.1 MP for the DSCW800/B. The average photographer probably wouldn’t notice the difference unless you’re trying to print large images. Without an intense test, though, it’s hard to distinguish between the DSCW800/B and the PIXPRO FZ53.
An excellent point-and-shoot camera at an entry-level price.
This is an ideal option for the budget-conscious buyer who wants a cheap, portable camera. It takes great photos, it’s easy to use, and it’s inexpensive, so you don’t have to worry about ruining nice equipment if you take it camping or to the beach. As long as you’re not looking to take HD video, this is a great buy.