Kodak C533 Review
Kodak's EASYSHARE C533 is the "little" brother to the 6-megapixel C663, and is one of the next generation models in their "C" series for 2006. The C533 offers some high-end features like a 5-megapixel imager, 3x optical zoom lens, Kodak Color Science technology, 640x480 MPEG-4 movie mode with audio as well as a 1.8-inch LCD display. This model is designed more for those who are just entering the digital age, and want a simple to use point-n-shoot model.
Like the C360 from last year, the C533's ergonomics are good. The body has a well designed feel, and even though the camera is quite compact, the "beefier" handgrip makes it more comfortable to hold. The various controls are well positioned on the body, and fall easily within the reach of your fingertips. I found its 1.8-inch LCD worked well outdoors, however it is very prone to finger prints and still has many angles which reflected the sun. Indoors it "gains up" well, this feature makes framing in marginal conditions much easier. When you opt to use exposure compensation, the display previews the result, darkening or brightening the live image in response to the degree of under/over exposure you've set. There's also an optical viewfinder provided, which is very useful in extreme lighting conditions or to save battery power.
Shooting performance was similar to what we saw with its sibling. Power up to first image captured measured a leisurely 4.8 seconds. Shutter lag measured about 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of images in single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.4 seconds without using the flash and between 2 - 2.5 seconds with the flash on, depending on subject distance, focal length, and battery life. The C533 provides only one mode of continuous shooting, First Burst. Using this mode allowed me to capture 3 images in only 8/10 of a second. It then only takes about 4 - 5 seconds to clear the buffer and continue shooting. The LCD viewfinder displays the last captured image, making it difficult to use while following moving subjects; this would be the time when the optical viewfinder comes in handy. All tests were done using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, using 5.0MP image size, Auto mode, flash off, review off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The overall image quality of its 5.0MP image was ok for a camera in this class. While most of our samples are sharp and show pleasing color saturation, I found that many of our outdoor shots were a bit overexposed. It seemed to do this only when there was very bright sunlight. However, this can easily be remedied with a slight adjustment to exposure compensation. The white balance system did a good job of producing accurate color temperatures in a variety of lighting conditions, as you can see by taking a look at our ambient light shot of the M&M man under very mixed light. Noise levels were typical for a consumer model is this class, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity is increased. We used the Auto setting for all of our samples and found it did well at keeping the ISO as low as possible.
As with almost all consumer models that feature tiny built-in flash units, when shooting indoors or in marginal lighting, you will have to work within the limits of the camera's flash. The C553 is rated to cover a maximum rage of about 11.5 feet at wide angle. While this is sufficient for most interior shooting, it does not have the power to illuminate large open rooms or areas. We shot our indoor flash samples from about 4 or 5 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. When doing so, our portraits showed good flash exposure and pleasing skin tones. The camera's red eye reduction flash mode was effective on most subjects. One feature this model wold greatly benefit from is an AF-assist lamp. I found in low ambient lighting the AF system tends to fail more often than not. Like the C663, the C533 controls its flash well at close range, making it a good choice for macro photography or producing images of small objects for online auction listings.
Movie mode allows you to record video at resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240 with audio. Overall it produced average results for a consumer model. Our outdoor samples showed the AF system does a good job of keeping up with moving subjects, but you can see some compression artifacts and the audio is a bit out of whack. The lawn mower in our example sounds more like a UFO from a Sci-Fi movie.
Power is supplied by either 2 AA-type cells or a single CR-V3 type lithium pack. Using a set of 2500mAh NiMH batteries allowed me to capture many of our samples (about 50 shots and several movies) as well as conclude many of our other tests before having to put in a new set. The actual amount of images you can capture will determine solely on how often you use the LCD and flash.
Bottom line - Kodak's EasyShare C533 is yet another appealing digicam in the entry-level consumer class. Offering average image quality, good performance, and plenty of helpful exposure modes, the C533 will make a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable alternative to disposable 35mm film cameras. With an MSRP of about $179, it offers great "bag for your buck" for a 5-megapixel model.
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