Kodak DX4530 Review
As of the writing of this conclusion (Nov 2003), the Kodak DX4530 is the lowest cost 5- megapixel digital camera available with a zoom lens. It proves that the old saying "you only get what you pay for" may not always be true. The DX4530 is an entry-level yet high resolution camera with a quality 3x optical zoom lens. This is a perfect camera for anyone that wants to easily capture sharp and well saturated pictures, indoors or out, with little or no prior experience. And with an average street price of $350 or less you won't need a bank loan to purchase one.
The DX4530, as with most Kodak digicams, produces sharp and richly saturated images, reminiscent of Kodachrome slide pictures. Most pros would say these images are too colorful but it pleases the majority of consumer-class digicam buyers because this is what they expect their pictures to look like. They make gorgeous prints, especially on the matching Kodak Printer Dock 4000, a handy little 4x6-inch dye sub printer that also keeps your batteries charged and makes transferring pictures to the computer a snap. With the Printer Dock 4000 you don't need a computer at all, simply select the pictures you want to print on the camera's color LCD and print them. In about 90 seconds a photo-quality 4x6" print comes out, dry to the touch and protected with the XtraLife laminate coating.
The DX4530 is basically a point-n-shoot automatic but it does have pre-programmed exposure modes for Sports, Night, Landscape and Closeup photography as well as a motion video capture mode for recording 320x240 resolution movies with sound. The movie capture rate is 15 frames per second and the length is limited only by available memory. The camera comes with 32MB of built-in memory and that can be expanded up to 1GB by using optional Secure Digital or MultiMedia Cards. Exposure metering is handled well with a multi-pattern TTL system that did an excellent job ranging from indoors to the very bright outdoor Florida sunlight at the beach. The user can override the metering by +/- 2.0EV with the Exposure Compensation settings in the menu. You can also set the image capture size to 5.0MP for making big prints, 4.5MP is a 3:2 aspect ratio for making "perfect" 4x6" prints with no cropping, 3.0MP for quality pictures that use less memory space and 1.2MP size for email or web page use.
The 3x optical zoom covers a range of 38 to 114mm in 35mm equivalent and allows the attachment of 37mm filters or add-on lenses. There is a 3.3x digital zoom feature too but its use degrades the image quality to some extent. Auto focus is via a multi-zone AF system that worked well in all of our tests. It's reasonably quick with an average AF lock time of around 0.55 seconds in normal lighting conditions. We noticed only a little barrel distortion (edge bending) at full wide angle, the telephoto end was virtually free of any pin cushioning. The Closeup mode yielded excellent results down to 4-5 inches even when combined with the flash and is very useful for photographing small items for auctions or insurance inventory purposes. See the sample photos page for good examples of the DX4530's closeup capability.
The optical viewfinder is quite "loose" and shows only about 78% of the captured image and lacks any kind of dioptric adjustment. The color LCD is more accurate for framing with approx. 95% coverage. Kodak calls it an "indoor/outdoor" display but as we have come to expect, it isn't exactly optimal for outdoor use in the bright sun unless you shield it with your hand. Under most other conditions the color LCD is a good performer and at 1.8 inches in size it's pretty easy on the eyes with a large-icon menu system that's easy to navigate. Playback images had true to life color and the 2x/4x zoom feature lets you check for critical focus or composition.
Power is supplied by either two-AA type batteries or one CR-V3 lithium battery. The camera can be used with a pair of alkaline batteries but don't expect them to go very far if using the LCD much. As always we recommend the use of rechargeable NiMH batteries - they pack 3-5x the power and are reusable up to 1000 times. For the occasional user the CR-V3 battery option is nice as they last even longer than NiMH and can hold their charge for a very long time.
The bottom line on the DX4530 is that it captures very good images in a variety of sizes suitable for email use to wall-size enlargements. It's easy to use and is priced within the budgets of many consumers that previously would have only been able to buy a lower resolution camera. Reasonably priced optional accessories like the EasyShare Camera Dock II and the EasyShare Printer Dock 4000 allow you to expand the camera's capabilities to suit your needs. With gift-giving time right around the corner the DX4530 makes a great stocking stuffer!
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