Kodak EasyShare C875 Overview
by Dan Havlik
Hands-on Preview: 1/05/2007
Given its reputation for making some of the easiest digital cameras around, a new compact model from Kodak is always a good chance to evaluate what kind of entry-level cameras are being marketed to soccer moms and dads these days. With the new Kodak EasyShare C875, that would mean a small but solidly built, 8-megapixel digital camera with an impressive 5x optical zoom and 21 scene modes including an incredibly easy-to-use Panorama setting which has been appearing on most of Kodak's recent consumer models. The Kodak C875's 5x zoom is equivalent to a 37 - 185mm lens in 35mm format.
Other features packed into this sub-$300 silver model include a new smart scene function which automatically picks the best scene mode depending on the shooting circumstances. This is a great idea for any user who has clumsily fumbled with a digital camera's multiple scene modes only to find out that all their fumbling has caused them to miss the shot. The Kodak C875 also sports a large 2.5-inch LCD (but with only 115,000 pixels of resolution); a VGA-quality movie mode that lets you uses the camera's 5x optical zoom while filming; Kodak Perfect Touch technology for enhancing images after they're captured; and a manual "PASM" mode that lets more adventurous users select ISO levels, shutter speed, and apertures just like the pros do.
Kodak EasyShare C875 User Report
Cute and Comfortable. Though it's not the most stylish compact camera on the market, there's something cute and comfortable about the all-silver Kodak EasyShare C875. Made largely of polycarbonate, the Kodak C875 has metal accents and buttons to give it a more luxurious feel. With dimensions of 3.6 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches (91 x 63 x 37mm) and weighing in at 7.87 ounces (223 grams) with the two AA batteries and SD memory card installed, the camera is light, but it still has enough heft and balance to help you keep it steady when shooting at the 5x end of the zoom. And you'll need that extra weight and balance since there's no image stabilization -- optical or digital -- on this model.
Buttons and dials on the Kodak C875 are large enough for even big fingers to press and clearly labeled in plain English so beginning users won't need a glossary to decipher their meaning. (I still love the fact that Kodak simply labels the trash button with the word "delete" and the playback button as "review.")
My only major gripe with the Kodak C875's controls is that the zoom rocker is so tiny. If they had made it just a little wider, toggling between the full zoom and wide setting would not require you to take your thumb off the rocker, making the process smoother. I also did not like that the Kodak C875's Automatic and PASM (Program, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Manual) modes are separated by the "Off" setting on the mode dial. If you want to switch between auto and manual and don't turn the dial fast enough you will accidentally shut the camera down, which can be a real pain if you're in a hurry, and a real battery waster. On the other hand, I liked the Kodak C875's mini metal joystick on the back. It was great for easy scrolling through menus and adjusting settings. You can also use the joystick for reviewing images, a plus since they speed by fairly quickly in review mode.
In another recent camera review, I complained about manufacturers getting rid of paper versions of their advanced manuals in favor of placing the manual on an enclosed CD as a pdf file. Well, Kodak goes one step further by listing a web address in the C875's basic user's guide where consumers can find an "extended user's guide" for the camera. Since the C875 support site they listed appeared to be down when I tried to access it, I had to visit the online Kodak EasyShare Center and then choose my camera from a pull down menu, and then download a pdf of the full manual. Talk about inconvenient!
So-So Screen. Though the Kodak C875 has a large 2.5-inch LCD screen on back, resolution is only at 115,000 pixels which produces mediocre playback of images and so-so live preview. There also isn't an easy way to adjust screen brightness on the camera, and the LCD had a tendency to wash out in bright outdoor light turning a lot of my mid-afternoon shots into "Hail Marys." Like an increasing number of compact digital cameras these days, there is no optical viewfinder on the Kodak C875.
The menu system on the Kodak C875 -- like it's well labeled buttons and controls -- is very easy to read and navigate, perfect for the beginning users that this camera will attract. The camera's joystick -- while quite small -- provides a good way to wheel around the camera's basic settings and make simple adjustments. I also liked that if users are confused about some of the camera's settings, all they need to do is hit the "I" button on the back to call up additional info.
Pokey Performer. The Kodak C875 is a relatively pokey performer, powering on and extending its lens fully in about three seconds while showing shutter lag of 0.34 second at the wide-angle lens setting, according to our tests. If you pre-focus by half-pressing the shutter, the lag will decrease to a much more manageable 0.11 second, which is perfectly fine for basic snapshots of friends, family, and vacation photos.
Shot to shot, the Kodak C875 was average for a camera in its class, taking about 2.8 seconds per shot over 20 shots, according to our tests. The camera's 5x zoom is also quite slow and noisy, which becomes even more evident in movie mode where the whir of the optical zoom can be clearly heard during playback. Though the Kodak C875 has a sports mode, I certainly wouldn't recommend this camera for anything too intense, though it might work at a kid's soccer game.
Flying Colors. Image quality in daylight was very good for an entry-level compact model. While the Kodak C875 boasts an 8MP imaging sensor, there's so much hype about megapixels in digital cameras these days, it's nice to see one that actually takes advantage of all that resolution. The Kodak C875's 8MP sensor and all-glass 5x Schneider-Kreuznach optical zoom lens produced great color and fine detail in images I shot in bright afternoon light.
I often take pictures of a converted warehouse in my neighborhood that allows graffiti artists to decorate the exterior with colorful designs. This warehouse -- known as 5 Pointz -- is a good acid test on how digital cameras interpret dense information. I'm happy to report that the Kodak 875 passed with flying colors. In several shots I took at 5 Pointz I could clearly make out the cracked flecks of peeling paint in my pictures. Sharpness was pretty solid edge-to-edge as well; a good performance for a consumer lens. These images also printed out very nicely on my Canon i9900 at home, maintaining the rich detail and color I saw on screen.
Mixed in low light. When shooting indoors, and during an overcast day outdoors, however, the Kodak C875 did not fare quite as well. Noise levels were pretty well controlled when shooting at 400 and above on the Kodak C875. When I zoom in onscreen on a computer it looks pretty bad, but the prints up to 8x10 are remarkably good. Where the camera really struggled though was in its flash performance which was seriously underpowered. Many shots I took indoors and outdoors under dull lighting were barely illuminated by the C875's flash, with plenty of vignetting.
Overall, the camera had difficulty producing any decent indoor shots for me on a recent rainy afternoon here in New York City. Try as I did to adjust lamps and overhead lights and fiddle with the camera's flash, many of my shots of a pair of cats and assorted still life objects were flat, muddy, and often blurry. The Kodak C875 is definitely a camera much more suited to fair weather.
A Real Scene Stealer. I generally enjoyed the smart scene function on the Kodak C875 which automatically picks the best scene mode depending on the shooting circumstances. While I personally love all the scene modes that are offered on compact digital cameras these days, I often wonder if anyone besides me actually uses them. The idea behind the smart scene mode is you don't have to make the decision to use them -- the camera literally decides for you. Just turn the mode dial to the basic "On" position and the camera picks the best scene mode for your surroundings once you press the shutter button half-way.
While the concept is great, I found the scene choices somewhat curious. For instance, in several afternoon shots I took of rows of apartment buildings, the Kodak C875 kept selecting the Beach scene mode, influenced, most likely, by the bright sun that was hitting the windows of the buildings. In another instance the camera wisely chose the Backlight scene mode which saved a shot from becoming too much of a silhouette. While it's not perfect -- and it would be nice to integrate the automatic Face Detection that is appearing on some competing models -- I like the idea of harnessing the digital camera's brain to make split-second adjustments that otherwise would be missed by the user. (Now if I could just figure out how to turn Smart Scene mode off.)
Speaking of scene modes, I continue to enjoy Kodak's Panorama mode which is the easiest method I've tried for making a gloriously wide panoramic shot. First chose the direction you want to pan -- either Left to Right or Right to Left -- and take your first picture. The LCD will then display an overlay of the first picture allowing you to compose the second picture so it matches up. Complete this process through up to three shots, press OK and the pictures will be automatically stitched together in-camera as one massive panoramic shot. Great fun if you're on vacation at a scenic place like the Grand Canyon.
Another extra worth noting is Kodak Perfect Touch technology, carried over from Kodak film. The technology is a basic brightness adjustment that's made in your images after you capture them. My results using the feature were mixed, with Kodak Perfect Touch doing a decent job of adjusting exposure on images in need of minor tweaking in the shadows, but it overexposed pictures that had high contrast, especially those shot at ISO 400 and above.
The Kodak C875 takes AA batteries, but I recommend using either Lithium AA batteries or NiMH rechargeables over basic alkalines with this model. The Kodak C875 tore through several pair of Duracells I bought at a local drug store, even though I had taken less than 100 shots. In the online manual to the C875, Kodak notes that it does not "recommend or support alkaline batteries." It's easy to see why.
The Bottom Line. With the EasyShare C875, Kodak's reputation for making decent-quality, entry-level cameras remains unsullied. While anyone who has had any experience with digital cameras should look elsewhere (the C875's low-light issues will be too frustrating for anyone above total beginners), for someone who wants to get their feet wet in digital photography, the Kodak C875 is a pretty good choice at a relatively low price. Add in the fact that this camera works with Kodak's excellent EasyShare printer docks and the choice becomes even clearer. Image quality in daylight from the camera's 8MP sensor and 5x optical zoom lens were excellent and perfectly suited for basic snapshooting purposes. Its high ISO performance was remarkable. Though detail look smooshed out at ISO 800, the resulting prints are quite good at 8x10.
Extras like the smart scene mode function and the easy to use Panorama mode should also be appealing to novices, though advanced users will likely cringe at the C875's low light issues and pokey all-around performance.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Kodak EasyShare C875 digital camera
- Wrist strap
- Getting started guide with software
- Kodak Oxy-Alkaline AA battery
- Cables for USB and video
- Insert for optional Kodak EasyShare docks
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card, 1GB to 2GB preferable
- Soft camera case
- Additional NiMH rechargeable batteries or Lithium AA batteries
The Kodak EasyShare C875 is the kind of camera I would only recommend to beginners. While it does offer advanced manual control in the PASM settings, this is really a model designed for people who don't want to think too much about how to take pictures, and just take them. The Kodak C875's smart scene mode function is a great concept that produced nice if sometimes curious choices, with the camera often picking unexpected scene modes that, for the most part, helped capture better images.
During the day in good sunlight, the Kodak C875's 8 megapixel imaging sensor and 5x optical zoom lens produced very good quality images with robust color, fine detail, and good sharpness all the way to the corners. In more challenging lighting conditions however, such as when shooting indoors or under overcast skies, the Kodak C875 struggled with an underpowered flash. It surprised us with its good high ISO performance, though.
The Kodak C875 was also a bit slow to operate, which might frustrate anyone who's used a faster model. If you're a beginning photographer, though, you might be happy with this easy-to-use camera and its generally good quality images.