Kodak’s range of digital cameras has grown over the past year or so into a very competent selection of products. As technology has advanced, which it’s prone to do in this fast-developing marketplace, Kodak has kept pace and the company’s latest camera utilises what the box refers to as ’2.0 Megapixel’ CCD technology. This effectively means that you can take pictures at up to a huge 1760 x 1168 resolution. Although the resulting downloaded images are many megabytes in size, it does mean that they approach the image quality of scanned photographic prints, particularly when outputting on high quality inkjet or dye-sublimation printers. Pictures taken with the DC280 can withstand very close scrutiny at high magnification levels before the pixels (and JPEG encoding artefacts) become apparent.
The DC280 is different from many others in Kodak’s range, such as the DC265, in that it’s not chunky. In fact, although it’s still far from compact, it looks very much like a traditional 35mm point-and-click camera. The only clue giving away its expensive and therefore highly thievable digital credentials are some small words printed below the main logo on the front.
Although you get a quite tremendous amount of control over the camera’s settings, including many professional options such as exposure compensation and effective ISO film speed, the DC280 works best in a point-and-click manner. You can either frame the picture in the 1.8in TFT screen – not too advisable because of the battery draining potential – or use the viewfinder and put up with some minor parallax error. Just next to the shutter release button is a Telephoto/Wide rocker switch which moves the lens between an 35mm-equivalent 30 and 60mm focal length. This is wider than many 35mm zoom cameras and offers more potential with landscape shots, for example. There’s also a 3x digital zoom which uses software interpolation to get even closer to your subject, although this does compromise image quality.
The images you get out of the camera are very good indeed. Apart from excellent sharpness and clarity, the colours are particularly vibrant and the DC280 is able to cope with a variety of lighting conditions. Used in a darker corner of our office, for example, we achieved a great picture without bothering to use the flash. Exposure compensation is also available to make up for poor conditions, as is centre-weighted light metering, which may be useful in situations where bright reflections could make the camera’s automatic settings overexpose, for example.
We found Kodak’s built-in menu system difficult to navigate. To supposedly make it easier, Kodak use icons for the camera functions but neglect to provide a text description. However, these icons are often difficult to figure out and take some getting used to. The manual suffers from the same approach – it’s so eager to take you through picture taking step by step that finding out specific details quickly, such as how to set the camera for very best image quality, can be difficult.
USB as well as serial port connectivity is provided, with the USB option providing the faster picture transfer (you’ll also need Windows 98 or 2000 for this to work). TWAIN drivers are provided, enabling the camera to be used in virtually every image editing package, although a user-friendly Kodak-authored program is also available for those new to it all. You also get Adobe PhotoDeluxe 1.0 and PageMill 3.0, for comprehensive image editing and putting together web pages around your pictures (amongst other things). Batteries are either rechargeable using the bundled recharger and batteries, or you can use standard AA cells. This could be useful if you’re ever caught short, so to speak, out in the field. A 20MB CompactFlash card also comes as standard and can hold 32 highest resolution images and up to 245 images at the lowest 896 x 592 quality settings.
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