Kodak's new EasyShare good for beginners

, posted: 12-Dec-2003 22:08

Eastman Kodak's latest consumer-oriented digital camera is easy to use and lets you print high-quality pictures directly from it, making it ideal for beginners. But it has a number of limitations that will put off more advanced users.

The DX6490 has a retail price of $1190, but can be picked up for $930 if you shop around. For that, you get a four-megapixel camera that lets you take pictures in resolutions up to 2408 by 1728 pixels - enough to print out 762 by 508mm sized images. The camera can also take pictures at 3.5, 2.1 and 1.1 megapixels.

Images are stored in either the 16MB of non-expandable internal memory or MMC/SD flash memory cards (a 64MB one is included). The only image format available is JPEG/EXIF 2.2 only, with no control over the quality, an omission Kodak ought to rectify soon.

The DX6490 can also take QuickTime format movies at 320 by 240 pixel resolution, with sound recorded through a front-facing microphone.

Unusual for a camera in this price range is the 10X optical zoom. This is equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on 35mm film cameras, a very good range. Shutter speeds range from 1/1700 to 16 seconds and the camera automatically picks equivalent ISO film between 80-160 (good for daylight and well-lit indoors photography), or you can manually select speeds up to ISO 800.

The DX6490 is reasonably lightweight at around 400g including battery and memory card, and sits nicely in your hand, provided you're not left-handed. The plastic body doesn't feel as solid as some other makes, but saves weight.

Function buttons allow timed shutter release, burst mode and for selecting close-up or landscape shots. The camera comes with a lithium-ion battery that can be charged up to 300 times before needing replacement.

Its EasyShare system lets you print and email pictures straight from the camera and a dial lets you select picture mode - automatic, sport (for moving objects), portraits (for objects that fill the frame) and night-time picture taking modes.

I found the program mode a nice compromise between control and complexity, as it handles the shutter timing and aperture automatically, while allowing you to change the exposure compensation to fix up tricky lighting situations.

On first inspection, I thought this was a traditional SLR camera as the viewfinder looks like a through-the-lens type. But the viewfinder is electronic, and although it shows more pixels (180,000 vs 153,000) than the 2.2" LCD, I found the latter preferable in most situations.

The LCD is bright enough for outdoors use most of the time, but in direct sunlight you'll want to switch to the
electronic viewfinder instead.

An important feature on digital cameras is the "white balance" setting, which compensates for the colour temperature of the ambient light. The DX6490 can set the white balance automatically, which I found pretty good, or you can move manually between daylight, tungsten and fluorescent modes.

In actual picture quality, I was disappointed in the camera's automatic mode. It would take a sharp picture in most situations, but seems to have problems with sharp sunlight bleaching out details. But you could compensate for this by using different exposure metering and manual shutter/aperture modes.

The auto-focus of the DX6490 was indecisive at times, and switching between centre and multizone focusing didn't make a great deal of difference. It was mildly annoying that the camera would go just past the focal point, without giving you an option to hold it there.

The close-up mode was fine with the lens at wide angle, allowing you to be as close as 12cm; but in tele you had to step back between 1.2m and 2.1m to focus on objects.

Kodak's EasyShare system lets you print out and email pictures easily. But given how well Windows XP and Mac OS X work with digital cameras already, EasyShare is a slight enhancement only.

The companion Printer Dock 6000, priced at $349, is a useful add-on. This little dye-sublimation printer produces high-quality laminated four-colour pictures 4" by 6" in size. It has USB and A/V ports (for TVs and video cameras) on one side, and the paper feed cassette sticking out at the front.

On top, you have a connector for the DX6490, making it easy to print from the camera. You can also use the PD 6000 to print out images from TVs and video cameras and, of course, your computer. The printer also recharges the battery in the DX6490 when the camera is connected.

Consumables for the PD 6000 are reasonably priced: a set of 40 sheets of glossy photo paper plus a colour cartridge goes for $49.95, meaning each print costs around $1.25, not counting the cost of the printer itself, which could be a little cheaper.

Although the PD 6000 is a bit slow - each picture requires four passes for each colour plus one for the lamination, taking on average 1 minute 20 seconds to finish, the good quality of the output impresses. Furthermore, the laminated pictures are far sturdier than inkjet equivalents.

Best results are obtained if you set the DX6490 to 3.5 megapixel resolution, which on this camera gives a 3:2 aspect ratio suitable for 4 by 6" paper. Four-megapixel images printed out well, too, despite some quality loss from scaling and cropping.

Kodak DX6490 with Printer Dock 6000

$1190, printer dock $349.


Pros: Easy to use, lightweight, 10X optical zoom, integration with Printing Dock

Cons: Manual exposure control often required for best results, auto-focus hesitates at times, not for advanced photographers.

Rating: 7/10

Other related posts:
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Sony Tablet S reviewed
Nokia N9 reviewed

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