The DX7950 is externally almost identical to its predecessor, the 6490, save for a few extra positions on the main mode dial and a new separate power switch. The silver top plate and lens collar have gone to be replaced with a more sober metallic gray, but otherwise there's little difference. The 7590 is very compact for a 10x zoom camera, and feels very solid, despite being almost 100% plastic.
In your hand
Kodak has obviously thought long and hard about how to make a big zoom camera that is as compact as possible without sacrificing handling, and the 7590, like the 6490 before it, gets it just about right. The grip is as large as it can be and - though a little tight for large fingers (the space between the grip and the lens barrel is quite narrow) - I found it to be both comfortable and stable in the hand. Single-handed operation is not just possible, but a real pleasure, with all the important controls falling in the right place and the weight of the battery and grip perfectly balancing the lens on the other side. That said, with a long (380mm equiv.) zoom you will probably want to support the camera with both hands most of the time to avoid camera shake.
The large 1700mAh Li-ion 3.7v battery slips into a slot on the underside of the grip under a sturdy plastic hinged door. There's no catch to keep the battery in place, so be careful when opening the door or it'll end up on the floor. Battery life is excellent - we regularly got over 300 shots on a single charge (though this is using the EVF some of the time as the LCD is a bit power-hungry). Recharging is either via the included charger or the optional docking station.
On the side of the grip sits the SD card slot, under a slightly flimsy (plastic hinged) cover. The 7590 has a beefed up internal memory of 32MB (enough for 8 5MP/fine quality images) and you can copy from the internal memory to an SD card or vice versa.
The huge 2.2-inch LCD is bright and has a 30fps frame rate - and there is not a hint of video lag. Our only complaint is that the preview image looks a little 'fuzzy' - almost as if the resolution of the screen is higher than the video output of the CCD. This can make critical focus assessment a little hit and miss. It works very well in low light, gaining up (brightening) as light levels drop, though this does result in a very grainy preview image.
The newly-improved electronic viewfinder now boasts 311,000 pixels and a wide dioptre adjustment range. It's pretty good too, though it does suffer from noticeable video lag. In terms of detail and color it's hard to fault, especially given the pricing of the 7950.
The main controls of the DX7950 sit on the rear of the camera, to the right of the LCD screen. As with the 6490 a 'joystick' (in the center of the main mode dial' is used to navigate menus.
On the underside of the camera is the now-familiar Kodak docking station port for use with the optional EasyShare Camera Dock 6000 and Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000.There is also a metal tripod mount, which is situated approx. 26mm (1 inch) to the right of the center of the lens.
The 7590's 10x (38-380mm equiv.) zoom lens extends by around 21mm when powered up, after which all zooming is internal (i.e. the lens barrel doesn't move in or out). The Schneider Variogon lens has a maximum aperture of F2.8 at the wide end, falling to F3.7 at the telephoto end. Zooming is fast and quiet, and moves in relatively small increments (it doesn't lurch from one position to the next with each touch of the zoom button).
On the front of the grip sits a control dial used to change exposure settings, as well as to choose and change things like ISO, AE compensation and flash output level, using the on-screen icons.
On the top plate - between the flash and the grip - sit a few more controls. Here you'll find the pop-up flash activation switch, and three buttons controlling flash mode, macro/landscape focus modes and burst mode/AE bracketing.
The pop-up flash sits quite far back on the camera, meaning it is all but useless with very close subjects (the lens blocks the light). On the positive side it is fairly powerful, giving a range of up to 4.9 meters (auto ISO, wide end of the zoom range).
If you want to extend your flash capabilities then you'll welcome (as we do) the inclusion of a standard PC-sync socket for attaching external flash or studio systems. It's not as useful as a real hot shot (you need a bracket if you want to use a standard flashgun), but is a nice and rare touch in a camera of this type.