• Price: 298

  • Company: Kodak

  • Pros: A high-resolution camera at a low price, with a good screen, reasonable optics and full manual controls.

  • Cons: A mere 3x zoom, fiddly manual controls and over-zealous JPEG compression.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

Arriving too late for our compact camera round up (see Digit 75), the DX7630 looks like nothing more than another point-&-shoot digital compact, but glance beneath the bonnet and you’ll find features designed to please those demanding more control. The question is: can Kodak’s top-of-the range compact camera compete with others in this sportier class? A maximum output resolution of 6.1mp, full manual exposure control and Schneider optics promise much – though the 3x optical may be disappointing for some.

It’s a traditional shape, and from the front it resembles many 35mm cameras. For those not looking for the latest brushed chrome gadget, the DX7630 has the advantage of sitting well in the hand in either landscape or portrait orientation. The first thing to catch the eye is the 2.2-inch, 153,000-pixel LCD screen. The screen doesn’t pivot of swivel, but it does provide a clear image, even in strong sunlight, and has a good viewing angle range. Unlike some, the screen provides a full-CCD view of the subject.

It’s light, but the camera feels well made. The buttons, though small, have good tactile response and moving parts are sturdy – with the notable exception of the jog-wheel. Used for manual and custom settings, this important control is fiddly and flimsy. Too large to qualify as a pocket-compact, the camera does boast the convenience of a zoom lens that retracts fully into the body.

Thumb through

As a point-&-shoot, the camera is easy to use, with a well-designed thumb-wheel and joystick. The user-interface is clear and easy to use, with key features no more than a couple of moves away. As well as full-auto, program, and 16 scene modes including close-up, the camera offers aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual mode. The DX7630 has all the manual controls anyone could need, except for focus and white balance. The main menu gives easy access to exposure bracketing (up to one stop), choice of three metering modes, and choice of focus zones.

To use the camera in aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual mode is fiddly indeed. Your thumb is forced to abandon the thumb-wheel for the tiny, flimsy jog-wheel, in order to access aperture, shutter-speed, exposure compensation, flash compensation, and ISO settings. The impression is very much of an auto camera with manual exposure control tacked on as an after-thought.

Schneider has a reputation for quality lenses, and the 39-117mm equivalent, f2.8/f4.8 to f8 lens on the DX7630 is no exception, with little evidence of fringing or aberrations. The major complaint is that even on the fine setting the images are over-compressed, with obvious artifacts. Skin tone reproduction is acceptable, and the multi-pattern metering handles most situations well, including backlit subjects. The lack of image stabilization is a drawback.

The Kodak DX7630 is a well-specced digital compact camera for those not needing a long zoom lens, at a competitive price. If you regularly use manual controls, consider a camera more specifically designed for that purpose. However, if you generally shoot in auto, but would appreciate the option of manual overrides, the DX7630 is a good contender.