Kodak pours in pixels to tempt camera buyers

, posted: 16-Jul-2004 23:40

The digital camera megapixel war rages on, with photography giant Kodak releasing two new models with high-resolution image sensors. The new LS753 and DX7630 cameras come with Kodak's EasyShare system for printing and sharing pictures easily. We tried the EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 some months ago, and found it capable of producing high-quality glossy prints that could be mistaken for normal film photos at first glance.

Both cameras are equipped with German-made Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon zoom lenses, and have Kodak's Colour Science processing chip inside. They have 32MB of internal memory, meaning it is possible to shoot without additional Secure Digital or Multimedia Memory cards.

The cameras are aimed at very different markets with the LS753 wooing purchasers willing to trade off features for good looks and a small size. Made in China and designed in Japan, the 5.1 megapixel LS753 feels solid and good in your hands, thanks to a sturdy metal body.

When turned off, the lens telescopes into the camera body - there is no need to fiddle with covers, and the LS753 should survive living in pockets and bags. The controls for the LS753 are easy to manage and are located sensibly.

The two exceptions are the zoom lever, which is small and awkward to use, and the thumbwheel for changing shooting modes, which is close to the shutter release and is easily nudged by people with big fingers.

The chunkier DX7630 model is aimed at photographers who want more controls rather than sleek looks. The extra bulk buys another megapixel of resolution, a slightly better zoom lens, six more shooting programmes and better manual control over exposure. The larger body of the DX7630 sits nicely in your hands, and the zoom lever is easier to use than that on the LS753.

However, the rear settings thumbwheel is fiddly to use and the locking button tends to jam, suggesting it won't last for long. The LS753 and the DX7630 produced very good images with, naturally enough, the 6.1 megapixel camera having the edge.

Having been spoilt by 10x to 12x optical zooms, the shorter range on the DX7630 especially is limiting. Both of the new Kodaks produce fairly blotchy images in low light, but the autofocus works well in these conditions,
despite the cameras lacking illumination.

As with the DX6490 that we tested, the autofocus can be indecisive, especially for close-ups. Having an optical viewfinder is nice, but it does mean that no setting or exposure information is available. For that, you need to peek at the LCDs.

These work well in most situations, but the displays do go grainy and monochrome in direct sunlight and very dark rooms. Although neither camera is quick to start up, taking a few seconds each, the DX7630 is a snappy snapper when  running.

The LS753 is less so and often pauses a few seconds when shooting. Oddly, the LS753 can capture 640-by-480 sized video, whereas the DX7630 is limited to 320-by-240 only. On the down side, the LS753 hi-res video mode is limited to 13 frames a second only. Dropping down to 320-by-240 bumped up the frame rate to 20 a second, compared with 24 a second for the DX7630.

The cameras have USB 2.0 ports for quick uploading of pictures to computers, and Kodak's bundled image processing software is actually quite good. However, neither camera can output anything apart from Kodak's heavily compressed JPEG files, which is a pity as you lose image detail.

In conclusion, while the LS753 finds the balance between features and sleekness, we would gladly sacrifice a
megapixel of resolution for the greater optical zoom on the DX7630.

The quoted retail prices for the LS753 and the DX7630 are high, so shop around. A quick search on Pricespy revealed that the LS753 can be had for $730 to $760, and the DX7630 for $740 to $800 including GST. Kodak's warranty is 12 months, with servicing done in New Zealand.

Kodak EasyShare LS753

Price: $899.
Pros: Sleek yet sturdy, easy to use, good images.
Cons: Pauses during shooting, slightly annoying controls, one output format only.
Rating: 7/10.

Kodak EasyShare DX7630

Price: $1099.
Pros: Many shooting modes, fast when running, good images.
Cons: Should have greater zoom range, settings thumbwheel awkward and fragile, one output format only.
Rating: 6/10.

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