Kodak V603 Review
Building on the success of their popular "V" series line, Kodak adds a new model for 2006, the EasyShare V603. It improves the V550 from last year by increasing resolution to 6-megapixels as well as adding some new exposure modes. Shared features include the same SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH C-VARIOGON 3x optical zoom lens, 2.5-inch LCD display, 640x480 MPEG-4 movie mode with audio, KODAK Color Science image processor and 32MB of internal memory. This is a fully automatic point-n-shoot model that is great for the beginner, and with 22 scene modes and access to exposure settings like ISO, white balance, and metering, it will also allow users to be more creative in various shooting environments.
Ergonomics were good. The V603 is trendy, offering either a black or silver finish. This is a very compact camera, however it did fit well in our hands, and I found one-handed shooting was a snap. The various controls are well placed and functional, and its onscreen menu system is logically organized. Unlike the V550, the V603's 2.5-inch LCD is the only viewfinder. Luckily it is a high-quality display that was a pleasure to use, both indoors and out. Its low reflective surface is great outdoors, even in bright sunlight, and in dim lighting conditions (like your typical living room at night), it "gains up" to help you see your subject. The only issue I had with this LCD was it is very prone to finger prints; so be sure to wipe it off accordingly.
The 3x optical zoom lens offers a typical range for a consumer model, covering 36mm - 108mm in 35mm equivalence. At its 36mm wide angle extreme, the field of view is sufficient for interior and landscape shots, while its 108mm maximum telephoto focal length is effective both for frame filling portraits and to bring your distant subjects a bit closer. Overall, I noticed moderate amounts of chromatic aberration (purple fringing in highlight areas) as well as barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pin cushioning was visible at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
Shooting performance was fairly responsive except for its buffer speed. Power up to first image captured measured 1.8 seconds. Shutter lag measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. Shooting in single exposure, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.1 seconds between frames with or without the flash; most cameras that use Lithium Ion battery packs have a much faster flash recharge time when compared to models that use standard AAs. Burst mode captured 4 images in 1.1 seconds, surpassing their claim of 3fps. It took about 15 seconds to clear a full buffer. The LCD viewfinder displays the last image captured during burst mode, which will help you follow moving subjects; this is when an optical viewfinder would come in handy. All tests were done using a Lexar High-Speed 512MB SD card, using 6.0MP image size, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality was good for a 6-megapixel model in this class. The majority of our samples are sharp and show pleasing exposure. Colors are richly saturated, and the white balance seemed to work well in a variety of different lighting conditions. Noise levels are low for a consumer model, with the exception of the chromatic aberrations we mentioned earlier. Kodak's PERFECT TOUCH technology claims "to help ensure better, brighter pictures". I was surprised at how well this feature works. You can see by looking at our example on the samples page, that this feature made our sample look much better, with almost no visible degrading of image quality. This is one "cool" feature that is sure to be used very much.
The V603 also captures nice portrait images, whether shooting indoors or out. Our portrait samples showed sharp facial detail and pleasing skin tones. When using the flash in low lighting, I found it worked well as long as you stay within the flash's range. Kodak claims it can cover approx. 8.5 feet, and I found it produced good flash exposures from about 5 or 6 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. Thanks to the focus-assist lamp, you'll have no problems focusing in marginal lighting; even complete darkness.
Movie mode produced average results. We saw typical amounts of compression noise (no more than similar models), and the AF system does well when following moving subjects. Unlike most cameras that record audio with movies, you can use the zoom during recording. The AF system does lose focus for just a second while zooming, but quickly zeros in once you have stopped. I also found the image stabilizer really helps reduce camera movement when shooting handheld videos.
Battery life was good when you consider its Lithium Ion pack is rated at only 600mAh. I had no problems capturing over 60 shots and concluding many of our other tests on a single charge. However, we still recommend the purchase of a second pack, and keep it charged and ready.
Bottom line - Kodak has created an appealing digital package with the EasyShare V603. With great image quality, robust performance, and loads of "cool" exposure modes and features, the V603 will make a great choice for anyone who wants a simple to use 6-megapixel model that can be tucked away in almost any size pocket or handbag. And, with a retail price of US$299 or less, it offers great "bang for your buck".
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