Price: £699.99 including VAT
Kodak’s DC4800 is based on a new 3.1 megapixel CCD (2,160-x-1,440 pixels). This is Kodak’s own CCD, whereas nearly all competing cameras apart from Fuji FinePix models use the 3.34mp Sony CCD. The DC4800 is smaller, lighter, prettier and technically better than the lumpy DC260/290 models it replaces. The previous software operating system and Digita scripting is abandoned in favour of conventional, faster, embedded electronics. Kodak has realized that users don’t want oodles of on-screen features, because you need to set a camera in a hurry to capture that magic photographic moment. If you have to remember which menu/shift/enter button combination is needed while wading three screens deep, the baby will have stopped laughing and the puppy will have licked the cream off its nose. So with the DC4800, you get dials and buttons for the most important settings. While there is an on-screen menu, it’s fairly simple and mostly confined to things you’d want to set up in advance. The main dial on the top is labelled with aperture settings for the lens – f/2.8, f/5.6 and f/8, as well as playback and settings options. It’s a pity there aren’t more apertures, but it’s a good start. However the aperture ratio grows smaller as you zoom the lens towards the telephoto end. The real figure appears on the LCD display, but the mismatch can be confusing at first. The automatic exposure is aperture priority only, with a choice of centre-weighted, spot or multi-pattern metering. Next to the main dial is an exposure override dial that increases or decreases the shutter speed by up to two stops in half stop increments. If you use this, the display shows the actual shutter speed and aperture selected. If that’s not enough control, you have to go into the menu screen and switch to manual, which lets you select shutter speeds between 16 seconds and 1/125th. Three other dedicated buttons control self-timer/multi-exposure, macro focus (down to 2cm) and flash. The back panel has the LCD display with a couple of menu selection buttons and a four-way rocker button, plus the lens zoom control. Less praiseworthy is the 1.8 inch LCD display. Kodak still can’t get this right – its earlier models used to update so slowly that you couldn’t follow moving objects. This one is fast enough, but very grainy in artificial light. On the other hand, the camera’s focusing and response to the shutter button are faster than many consumer models. The lens is a 3:1 zoom equivalent to 28-84 mm (plus a 2x digital zoom). It’s not the sharpest in its class, but not the worst either. A tiny pop-up flash is built in, with an anti-redeye setting. There’s a standard socket to plug in an external flash cable, though you’d have to source a third-party bracket to support the gun itself as there’s no hotshoe. Kodak uses a GUI for playback options, which doesn’t work too well on a tiny screen. The screen displays thumbnails plus icons for zoom-in to wastebasket/deletion, automatic slide show and print ordering (using the DPOF system). A 16MB CompactFlash card is supplied. The single lithium-ion rechargeable battery had a very good lifetime on my model. The mains adaptor recharges the battery inside the camera. USB and video-out cables are supplied. The Kodak software supplied for Windows and the Mac OS includes a utility to mount the camera as a desktop disk, plus PicturesNow software for viewing, downloading, simple enhancement and printing of images. It can also control the camera directly. ArcSoft Panorama Maker 2000 is also included for stitching overlapping images. Kodak’s design approach shows careful thought, which mostly comes off, though keen photographers might feel limited by the three fixed apertures and no shutter priority. Image quality is fine, though a bit noisier than 3.34mp models even with minimum compression. Overall, this makes a good camera for photographers who want to explore beyond point-&-shoot work. However, the same money could buy the excellent Olympus Camedia 3030Z, with a superb lens and more exposure controls, while £500 scores you a Casio QV-3000 with a great lens but no external flash support.