Kodak P880 Review

Steve's Digicams

Kodak EasyShare P880

Steve's Conclusion

The P880 is Kodak's top of the line EasyShare camera and the "big brother" of the Easyshare P850 we recently tested. The P880 is distinguished from its sibling by its higher resolution, 8 versus 5 megapixels, and its high-quality 24-140mm wide-angle zoom lens. The P880 retains the broad appeal of Kodak's EasyShare family, satisfying beginners with its point-n-shoot automatic mode, intermediate users with its wealth of scene modes, and experts with its wide range of exposure controls in Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program modes. This is a camera that everyone in your family can enjoy using.

The Schneider-KREUZNACH VARIOGON 5.8x zoom lens is a very high-quality piece of glass. It is also versatile, offering a wider field of view than most prosumer digicams at 24mm and a useful telephoto focal length of 140mm; this lens fits what most digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) users describe as their "walk-around" lens. Its variable aperture is a relatively fast f/2.8 at the 24mm wide angle extreme, but slows to f/4.1 at the 140mm full telephoto focal length. The lens produces sharp results throughout its zoom and aperture ranges, but with a slight amount of edge softness at wide angle with small aperture settings, and at telephoto focal lengths with small and large aperture settings. Chromatic aberrations were well controlled, with only a very slight amount of purple fringing present in high contrast areas. The lens exhibits a moderate amount of barrel distortion at wide angle, and slight amounts of pin cushioning at moderate and telephoto focal lengths. If your need more magnification than the P880's 140mm focal length provides, Kodak offers the SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH XENAR 1.4X Telephoto Lens, extending the maximum focal length to 196mm; this lens was not tested.

I enjoyed using the lens' mechanical zoom ring, a great improvement over the motor-driven zooms of most consumer digicams. Like the zoom controls of dSLR lenses, the P880's enables you to move quickly and directly to the focal length needed for your shot composition. The lens is also equipped with a fly-by-wire manual focus ring. Manual focus is a breeze thanks to the MF assist function, which enlarges the viewfinder image as you turn the focus ring. The quality of the viewfinder image, enlargement of the focus area and intensification of the viewfinder image in dim lighting contribute to a manual focus arrangement which betters that of many dSLR's.

The P880's single image shooting performance was average. From power-on till the first image was captured measured about 2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured less than 2/10 second when pre-focused and 6/10 second including autofocus. The shutter lag times include the approx. 1/10 second delay present in the live viewfinder image of both the LCD and EVF. Rapid shooting JPEG/Fine in single-shot mode yielded 9 images at 1.8 second intervals; 26 seconds elapsed as the camera's buffer emptied before subsequent shots could be taken. RAW images could be captured at 10 second intervals. The P880 captured flash images at intervals of between 2 and 5 seconds, depending on subject distance.

The camera has two burst modes: First Burst captured 7 JPEG/Fine images at 1.25fps, far slower than Kodak's claimed 2fps; Last Burst capture rate slowed to 1fps, again slower than Kodak's claimed 2fps. The P880 flushes its buffer full of JPEG/Fine images in an agonizingly slow 26 seconds, during which neither review mode nor the menu system are accessible. RAW images can not be captured in either Burst mode, but can in 3-shot Bracketing mode - the P880 captured 3 bracketed RAW images at 1/2 second intervals, a rate faster than First Burst with JPEG images! The viewfinder (either EVF or LCD) briefly displays the last captured image in either Burst mode, providing a bit of assistance in following a moving subject. Measurements were made shooting 8MP Fine images with a SanDisk Extreme 512MB SD memory card installed.

RAW image support in Kodak's EasyShare software is a bit weak. The .kdc image file can be opened and edited, but White Balance is difficult to fine tune, offering only pre-sets and an eye dropper tool to identify a gray area of the image; there is no provision to adjust by color temperature. The image can be sharpened, but EasyShare lacks the fine adjustment tools that are expected of a RAW image editor. The JPEG compression level for saving images is specified as a global Preference, and not invoked in a dialog while saving each image; the default compression setting is lower in quality than the in-camera Fine setting.

We were happy with the P880's results shooting indoors. The wide field of view afforded by the 24mm end of the lens zoom range makes shooting in small areas a breeze. Its built-in pop-up flash has an adequate range of 13 feet and an effective red eye reduction mode that can be combined with an in-camera auto red eye fix process. You won't be illuminating a banquet hall at your niece's wedding, but your living room shots and portraits of moderate-sized groups will please. Make sure to remove the P880's lens hood when using the flash; it will create a shadow at wide angle focal lengths if you don't.

The P880 proved to be very effective in conditions of low ambient light. Both its Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and large LCD "gain up" the live viewfinder image, and its focus-assist lamp's effective range exceeded 15 feet even in relative darkness. The camera was also able to squelch its flash at close range, making it a good choice for shooting close-up images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings. If you need more power than the P880's internal flash can provide, Kodak's P20 Zoom Flash will provide a range of 30 feet at ISO 100.

We were also pleased with our outdoor test shots. The P880's lens and accurate AF system combined to produce sharp results, and the exposure system produced nicely saturated colors and accurate exposures. The versatile lens produced pleasing landscapes at wide angle, and its 140mm telephoto focal length gets you closer to distant subjects and to your child's sports activities. The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and LCD were both quite usable in bright sunlight. I especially liked that the P880 remembers the EVF/LCD modes of shooting and reviewing independently. I prefer to use the EVF for shooting and the LCD for reviewing; with those settings made, the P880 switches viewfinders with a touch of the Review button. The only thing we didn't like was the LCD's resolution is fairly low with only 115,000 pixels - that's only half the number of pixels used in its EVF display. The LCD is covered with a non-glare finish which is something I'd like to see on every camera.

As effective as the LCD and EVF are, they do have their shortcomings. The live image smears or blurs when panning with a moving subject. Both viewfinders go blank between shots in continuous capture mode, only briefly displaying the last captured image. The viewfinders also blank during the pre-flash in red eye reduction flash mode, a critical period of about 1.2 seconds just before the shot is taken. The P880's viewfinders also introduce a delay of about 1/10 second in the live image, making it difficult to capture action shots with precise timing.

Image quality is very good at low sensitivity settings. Noise is essentially absent at ISO settings of 50 and 100. Noise is detectable at ISO 200, and some fine detail is lost to the in-camera noise reduction processing. At ISO 400 noise is present throughout the image, but not to a degree that makes it unusable. ISO settings of 800 and 1600 limit the P880 to an image size of 1024x768.

The movie mode produced high-quality 640x480 or 320x240 clips. Because of the lens mechanical zoom ring, you can zoom during recording. Although the P880 allows the use of Continuous AF during movie recording, the noise produced by the AF system results in an unusable audio track; I suggest that you use Single AF. 640x480 clips consume nearly 1-megabyte per second of recording, and you can produce enormous files if you're not careful. The P880 allows you to specify a clip length of 5, 15 or 30 seconds, helping you manage the consumption of memory. If you do record a long clip, review mode provides editing functions that allow you to trim, cut or split the video. The P880 also offers two unique editing features - Merge, which joins two video files into one, and Make Picture, which creates 640x480 still images from individual movie frames.

The P880's body is well designed from an ergonomic perspective. Its deep handgrip provides a secure feeling, allowing the camera to be operated with one hand. Its many buttons and other controls are well-placed on the body, making them easy to use while also reducing the possibility that they will be accidentally activated. The menu system is well-organized, and the 2.5-inch LCD displays very readable text even in bright sunlight. Considering its resolution, lens and image quality, the P880 is relatively small and light; it is surely not pocketable but, weighing only one pound five ounces completely equipped, it is easy to carry for long periods of time.

The P880 uses a proprietary KLIC-5001 battery which recharges out of the camera in the supplied charger. Battery life was quite good, capturing more than 300 images on a single charge. Despite its long life, it's wise to purchase a spare battery and keep it fully-charged, ensuring that you will not miss that once in a decade photo op.

The optional Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3 both charges the battery and produces high- quality 4x6-inch prints using a 4-pass, dye sublimation process. These prints are the equal of any that you can get from your local photo finisher. Be sure to use the P880's 7.1MP (3:2) Picture size setting - this mode creates images with a 3:2 aspect ratio which yields perfect 4x6" size photos with no cropping. When it's placed in the printer dock, the camera is turned on and printing can be initiated by simply depressing one button. The camera's LCD is used to preview and select images for printing. With a Kodak EasyShare camera and the printer dock, you'll have the modern equivalent to the old Polaroid system but with much better image quality. Click here to view our EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3 mini-review.

With 8-megapixels of resolution and an excellent lens with a versatile zoom range, the EasyShare P880 promises a lot to the advanced user. While its image quality largely fulfills that promise, the shooting performance does not. A camera advertised as a member of Kodak's "Performance Series" should be capable of capturing more than 1.25 images per second, and should clear 7 images from its buffer in much less than 26 seconds; the P880's shooting performance is disappointing.

But if you rarely capture action shots, the P880's high resolution, image quality, low light performance and wide angle zoom lens may be just what you need for shooting family portraits, vacation landscapes and short movie clips. While its advanced features will appeal mainly to the experienced photographer, novices will easily produce terrific images using the automatic and scene modes and grow their skills by experimenting with its versatile features. With a street price of under $500, the P880 is a very good value for an 8-megapixel camera.

Easyshare P880 firmware update v1.02 provides the following improvements:

Reduced Shutter button lag for better picture taking performance.
Improved Auto Focus.
Improved Auto Exposure performance.
On camera red-eye reduction in review mode.

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