Kodak V570 Review
Taking over from the V550 as the top of Kodak's pocket series of consumer digicams, the V570 continues to live up to its EASYSHARE family name. Designed with the beginner in mind, it combines point-n-shoot simplicity with a 5-megapixel imager, brilliant 2.5-inch LCD and a unique dual lens system into a very stylish, pocketable body.
The V570's trendy black metal body is both attractive and functional. Equipping such a small body with a 2.5-inch LCD left little room for the camera controls, but Kodak positioned them well. With no room for a mode dial, the V570 has a set of small recessed buttons on the top of the body to select shooting mode; I found them a bit difficult to use, requiring a great deal of pressure to activate. The rest of the controls are arranged around the LCD, well positioned to avoid accidental activation. Because of the control layout, using the V570 is a two-handed operation.
The V570's 2.5-inch LCD display was a pleasure to use, brilliant enough to be usable outdoors even in bright sunlight and providing enough "gain-up" to be usable in dim lighting. In review mode, the LCD's wide angle of view was very effective when sharing your shots with friends. When using exposure compensation, the LCD viewfinder previews the result, darkening or brightening the live image in response to the degree of under/over exposure you've set. Unfortunately, there's no optical viewfinder on the V570, an apparent victim of the wide-ranging focal lengths of its two lenses. The V570 used its small battery efficiently, capturing about 140 shots before a low battery warning. Because the V570's Li-ion battery is a proprietary design, I suggest that you obtain a spare, keeping it fully charged to avoid the disappointment of finding a dead battery during a unique photo op.
The V570's unique feature is its dual SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH lenses. It has a fixed focal length 23mm ultra wide angle lens AND a 39-117mm optical zoom lens, each with its own 5-megapixel image sensor. The camera's zoom control selects between the two lenses, and changes the focal length of the optical zoom. The zooming operation is not seamless, however; there's a noticeable jump in the live viewfinder image when changing from the 23mm ultra wide lens to the optical zoom's widest setting of 39mm. The zoom control also pauses when you switch lenses, requiring that you release and re-depress it to continue zooming. On balance, the V570's zoom control does a good job of managing the dual lenses.
The 3x optical zoom lens of an average consumer digicam is a compromise between providing useful magnification at the telephoto end and wide field of view at the wide angle end; the typical consumer digicam's focal length range is an the area of 35-105mm. But many photographers find that 35mm just isn't wide enough for outdoor scenic images or indoors, where their backs were pressed against a wall in an effort to get everyone in the shot; the V570's ultra wide lens solves those problems, while the camera still provides the standard zoom range with its other lens. The V570's dual lens solution is both clever and effective.
The 23mm ultra wide lens is a fixed-focus type, its depth of field providing an in-focus range of 31.5 inches to infinity. Barrel distortion is quite evident; Kodak provides an in-camera Distortion Compensation function that reduces, but does not eliminate it. Distortion Compensation is enabled in the V570's setup menu; its default setting is On. The use of Distortion Compensation compromises image sharpness, however; shots taken with that feature disabled were marginally sharper than those with it on. Most users will appreciate the reduction in barrel distortion more than they will miss a small margin of image sharpness. Chromatic aberrations were fairly well controlled, with noticeable purple fringing only in very high contrast areas.
Complementing the 23mm ultra wide lens is the V570's Panorama Scene mode. It uses an in-camera process to stitch a sequence of two or three shots into a single panoramic image. After you take the first shot, the V570 provides a guide to composing the next shot in the form of an overlay from the first picture. The panoramic sequence is ended by depressing the OK button, or continued by taking the third shot; the stitching process then begins automatically. While it is not a threat to panoramic imaging software, the V570's in-camera process is both easy to use and effective for creating panoramic images of up to 180-degrees field of view. The use of a tripod is recommended for best results, but surprisingly good images can be obtained hand-held. See our Sample Photos for an example of a 180-degree hand-held panorama.
The 39-117mm optical zoom lens produced somewhat soft results throughout its range. There was a bit of pin cushion distortion at full telephoto, but images were essentially distortion free at the 39mm wide angle end of its zoom range. Chromatic aberrations were well-controlled, with only a slight amount of purple fringing in high contrast areas. The zoom control has only 6 steps between 39mm and 117mm, adequate for most shot composition needs.
The V570's shooting performance was fairly responsive except for its buffer speed. Power up to first image captured measured 2.5 seconds. Shutter lag measured 2/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 of a second including autofocus; those times include the approx. 1/10 second delay in the live image of the LCD viewfinder. Rapid shooting in single shot mode captured 4 images at 1.1 second intervals, with subsequent shots coming at 3 second intervals. With flash, the capture interval ranged from 1 to 11 seconds depending on subject distance, but subsequent shots could be taken even though the flash was not recharged and ready.
Burst mode captured 4 images in 1.4 seconds, with subsequent images coming at 3 second intervals as the camera's buffer remained full; it took a leisurely 16 seconds to write the full buffer to the SD memory card. The LCD viewfinder displays the last captured image during burst image capture, helping you follow a moving subject, but some will miss the presence of an optical viewfinder in this mode. All test were done using a Lexar 32X 1GB SD card, using 5MP image size. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
While it is clearly targeted to the beginner, the V570 allows the photographer some control over its otherwise automatic operation; exposure compensation, white balance, ISO speed, color mode and sharpness can be set via a simple but effective menu system. Those settings can be saved and later recalled by using the V570's Custom scene mode.
I was happy with the V570's image quality. Outdoor shots were consistently well-exposed and richly saturated, and auto white balance reproduced colors accurately. The V570's images were essentially noise free at sensitivity settings of ISO 64 and 100. At ISO 200, noise is present in shadow areas, and at ISO 400 noise is evident throughout the image. A sensitivity setting of ISO 800 is also available, although image resolution is limited to 1.8-megapixels and the noise level is fairly high; none the less, ISO 800 will produce usable images when shooting conditions require it.
Indoors, the flash range with the zoom lens (7 feet) is limiting. Its 10 foot range with the ultra wide lens will allow you to capture images of sizable groups, but the flash will not illuminate a large room. Flash coverage is good with the zoom lens, but there's noticeable falloff in illumination at the edges of shots taken with the 23mm ultra wide lens. The camera's red eye reduction flash mode was effective on most subjects, but there is a delay of 8/10 second when using it, during which the LCD viewfinder goes blank. The V570's AF system worked quite well with the zoom lens in low ambient light, helped by its focus assist lamp. Because the 23mm ultra wide lens is fixed focus, AF is not used with it, and everything 31.5 inches and further from the camera will be in focus. The V570 controls its flash well at close range, making it a good choice for producing images of small objects for online auction listings.
The V570's movie mode suffers from aggressive compression. At 640x480 and 30fps, the V570's movies consume about 500-kilobytes per second, efficient from a memory perspective, but the resulting moving images have a very noticeable graininess caused by compression artifacts. While you can use the optical zoom during movie recording, the audio track will contain some very unusual noises of the zoom mechanism at work; it's best to compose your movie before, not during recording. Review mode offers several useful movie editing features, including saving of a still image index, creating a single still image, and splitting the movie into two parts.
The Kodak EasyShare system is a tempting solution for families wanting point-n-shoot simplicity and ease of home printing. The V570's automatic and scene modes produce pleasing, although somewhat soft, 5-megapixel images without any fuss. Its greatest appeal will be to those who shoot primarily indoors, the class-leading 23mm ultra wide lens providing a field of view that makes shooting in cramped interiors a breeze. The 5-megapixel V570 is a bit pricey at an MSRP of $399, but if style, simplicity and wide field of view matter to you as much as image quality, the V570 is a reasonable value. Combined with Kodak's Printer Dock Series 3, it will produce a lot in terms of quality and fun for under $550.
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