Polaroid PDC3350 Review
The Polaroid PhotoMax PDC3350 is a good entry-level camera for those starting
out in digital photography. Its three-megapixel images will let you make up to
letter size (8.5 x 11 inch) photos on today's inkjet printers and it won't
cost you an arm and a leg to own it. The Auto mode makes it an easy to use
Point-n-Shoot, anyone can pick it up and start taking pictures without
reading a manual or knowing much about photography. When you want to take
more control you switch it into Manual mode - it's really another automatic mode but
allows you set the ISO speed, white balance, EV compensation or select a slow shutter
speed for low light shots.
The PDC3350 is no race horse but it is a steady performer. It takes about six seconds to be ready to take the first shot after pressing the power button. The shot to shot time is about five seconds without the flash and about eight seconds when using the flash. There is no sequential exposure mode. The movie mode works surprisingly well for an "economy" camera and is better than some of the more expensive cameras that we've reviewed. It records motion at 15fps with sound and the only limit on the length of these movies is the amount of available memory space. Movies can be played back in the camera but it's without sound. When played back on the computer you will hear the recorded sound portion. You can't use the zoom while recording a movie but it can be preset to any focal length before you press the shutter button.
The zoom lens appears to be a good quality set of optics. It exhibits only the slightest amount of barrel distortion in wide angle and has a reasonably fast F2.6 maximum aperture. I didn't notice any pin cushioning problems in full telephoto and I couldn't find any chromatic aberration (purple fringing of highlights) problems either. The motorized zoom mechanism is smooth and fairly quiet and has many inbetween step points. The auto focus system is fairly quick in average to bright lighting conditions and works surprisingly well in lower light conditions given that it lacks any kind of AF-assist lamp. It was able to lock the focus in some lighting conditions that I've seen much more expensive cameras fail in.
The camera can be powered by a pair of AA batteries or a one-use CR-V3 type lithium battery. You can use alkalines but if you use the color LCD much I'd highly recommend the use of rechargeable NiMH batteries. These batteries provide 3 to 5 times the power of alkalines and are reusable up to 500 times so they save you money and free up some space in your local landfill. And speaking of the color LCD, this camera has got a nice 1.5" screen with an excellent refresh rate and color rendition. Even in lower light levels the screen refresh rate is quick enough to eliminate the herky-jerky motion seen on other cameras. And another feature that's left off many economy-priced cameras is Video Out which allows you to show your pictures on a TV set by plugging in the supplied cable. The video format is user selectable for the NTSC or European PAL timing in the Setup menu.
Image quality is always the bottom line of any digital camera and this is best illustrated by what you'll find on our sample photos page. The PDC3350 creates sharp and colorful images, maybe a little over-saturated but that seems to be the way that most non-professional users like their pictures. It has a tendency to overexpose flash pictures if your subject is too close to the camera. Overall I think it does a good job in a wide variety of lighting conditions and handled the extremes of our white sand beaches at noon time without blowing all the highlights.
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