GE A830 Review
The A830 and G1 are the first digital cameras we have seen so far from GE, who just recently entered the consumer digicam world. The A830 is the big brother to the A730, and features almost identical specs to the G1, with increased resolution. This compact and stylish model offers users an 8- megapixels imager matted to a 3x optical zoom lens, electronic Image Stabilization, Face Detection AF mode, 2.5- inch LCD, MPEG4 640x480 (30 or 15fps) video, etc. This is a simple to use entry-level model that features Auto and 15 pre-programmed scene modes for beginners, and there's also a Manual mode that lets users grasp a bit more of the exposure process with settings for ISO, White balance, etc.
I was pleased with the A830's ergonomics. This is a compact model that can be tucked away in a large pants pocket or small purse. However, thanks to the enlarged right-hand side, it fits well in your hands and offering a nice comfortable feel. The various controls are well placed over the body, and it's menu system is easily navigated. The A830 features a 2.5-inch LCD, which is the only viewfinder on the camera, and is used for composing your shots, reviewing captured images and navigating the menu system. This display occupies a large portion of the back of the camera, and like the G1, I found it worked Ok outdoors> however, There are several angles which reflect the sun, and the display's coating is also very prone to finger prints. When shooting in bright sunlight, I found it was difficult to see the subject. Indoors, the display "gains up" very well, which is crucial when composing your shots in these marginal lighting conditions.
Shooting performance was average. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 3.6 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing the image, was 1/10 of a second wen pre-focused, slowing to 9/10 of a second including autofocus time. Rapid shooting in single drive mode captured images at intervals of 2.3 seconds without flash, and between 3.4 and 4.5 seconds with flash, depending on your subject's distance. GE claims the Burst or Continuous capture mode allows you to capture images at 1.8fps. Using the 5 Shot mode, I was able to capture 5 Large/Best images in 2.5 seconds. It cleared the buffer almost instantaneously, allowing me to quickly capture another sequence. 5 Shot last mode continuously captures images at approx. 2fps and saves the last 5. The LCD viewfinder briefly displayed the live image between frames, which will help you follow a moving subject; this is where an optical viewfinder would be nice. All tests were done using a fast Lexar Professional 133x 2GB SD card, Auto recording mode, 8M/best size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was a bit disappointed with the overall image quality of our 8M Best samples. Outdoors many of our shots were a bit under exposed (dark), and image noise is very noticeable in areas of contrast (open blue skies, shadows, etc) at as low as ISO 80. You can see for yourself by looking at our examples on the samples page. The A830's 3x optical zoom covers a typical range of 36 - 108mm (in 35mm equivalence). At the 36mm wide angle extreme, you'll be able to produce nice landscapes as well as most interior shots. The 108mm telephoto end is great for filling the frame with your subjects face when shooting close-up portraits, just don't expect it to bring distant subjects up close. I noticed moderate amounts of barrel distortion, and slight pincushioning at the wide angel and telephoto extremes, respectively. Chromatic Aberrations (purple fringing) were well controlled with small traces around brightly lit objects. I also saw noticeable amounts of purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) around brightly lit objects.
When shooting in marginal lighting, like indoors, you will have to work with in the limits of the tiny flash unit. GE claims the G1's flash will cover up to 15.1 feet at wide angle (ISO 400). This is an average range that I found is sufficient for most interior shooting. It however, does not have the power to illuminate open rooms. Our close-up portrait shots turned out Ok, however the flash is a bit intense causing images to be a bit overexposed. The Face Detection AF mode is activated by pressing the dedicated button on the back of the camera. I found it worked well, quickly finding and locking on the subjects face, and it helped produce nice sharp facial details.
Like all consumer digicams these days, the A830 allows you to record video. There are two resolutions to choose from 640x480 or 320x240, with a selectable frame rate or 30 or 15fps. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during recording, however, you can preset it before starting. Like the G1, our movies were Ok, showing average amounts of compression noise.
Power is supplied by a two AA type batteries, which means you can use alkalines, NiMH rechargeables or one-use lithium cells. According to GE, you to capture up to 100 shots with alkalines or up to 400 with a set of 2500 mAh cells. We always recommend NiMH batteries, they last longer and will save you money in the long run. Using a set of 2700 mAh batteries allowed me to capture all of our samples (about 65 shots) and conclude our other tests.
Bottom line - the GE A830 is a mixed bag. While offering some appealing features (8-megapixels, Face Detection AF, etc.) image quality was not that great, which is the most important aspect of a camera in my opinion. That said, with an MSRP of US$149, I feel the A830 offers an Ok value, but you'd be better off looking at some other models in this category, even if resolution is less (6 or 7-megapixels.)
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