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Kodak EasyShare V570 Introduction

By: Stephanie Boozer
Shawn Barnett,
and Dave Etchells
Review Date: 04/07/06

The Kodak EasyShare V570 is a compact 5.0-megapixel design that provides a wide spectrum of preset shooting modes, an easy-to-understand interface, and a handful of creative exposure options. Its big feature is its dual lens design which combines a 3x zoom with an impressive 23mm wide angle lens. Part of the Kodak "Pocket Series," the Kodak V570 is very compact, with low-profile controls that won't snag pockets.

Kodak's EasyShare Software is another big part of the story. Especially in its latest implementation, it walks you through every step of uploading, enhancing, and emailing your photos, and has about the most graphically intuitive interface of any consumer imaging software I've seen. It automatically sizes the images for printing or emailing, stores copies, applies simple effects, and allows you to make image corrections, such as color, brightness, and contrast adjustments. The entire line of EasyShare cameras has some of the most goof-proof digital cameras out there, and the V570 and Kodak's latest Picture Software carry on that tradition admirably.

 

Kodak V570 Overview

by Shawn Barnett & Dave Etchells

When you review the sheer number of cameras we do, it's nice when something unique comes along. When it also actually answers a need in the marketplace, it's even better. Kodak's V570 is just such a surprise, from a company that offered up plenty of surprises last year.

At first blush the Kodak V570 is just another small, stylish digital camera with a 5.0 megapixel imager. Closer inspection reveals a 2.5 inch LCD screen, a slim, lightweight body, and a retro, almost console-TV design sensibility. It's when you power the camera up and that lens cover slices out of the way that the uniqueness begins to show. No lens comes out--but that's not unusual. Many digital cameras have folded optics where the entire lens is inside the camera body. The surprise is that there are two lenses. The one on top is not just an artistically-placed optical viewfinder, it's another lens. Two folded optics, each with their own 5.0 megapixel sensor. The Kodak V570's top lens is wide angle, fixed at 23mm, and the bottom lens is a 39-117mm zoom.

Kodak has answered a need that has gone un-met in the point-and-shoot camera world since before the advent of digital: true wide-angle photography in a small space. Before the Kodak V570, the widest you could get in a small camera was 28mm in the larger Canon S60, S70, and S80. 24mm was available elsewhere, but in only in a few, far larger cameras (including Kodak's own EasyShare P880).

How wide is wide?
The numbers themselves don't really convey just how big a difference 23mm makes compared to the more normal 39mm wide end of the zoom range. Here's an example showing the common "self-portrait" trick of holding the camera at arms' length while pressing the shutter. The photo on the left was shot with the zoom set at 39mm, the one on the right with the 23mm lens.
(Both photos courtesy Eastman Kodak Company.)

The EasyShare V570's 23mm is wider than we anticipated. But they didn't just make it wide, they compensated for at least some of its faults (barrel distortion) at the same time that they extended its ability to capture wide vistas with a surprisingly capable in-camera panorama mode. This latter feature has been most impressive. Though it is limited to three shots, it's capable of producing a big, 180 degree panorama, processed in the camera; and with some care in capturing the initial shots, it does a very good job of stitching, removing the need to fiddle with images on a computer. Our first thought when we took our first shots with Kodak V570 was that realtors are going to flock to this camera for its innate ability to capture more of a room than any other. This quick and simple panorama mode makes it even more compelling. (If you're a realtor, you can stop reading now and just go out and buy a Kodak V570: If you need any convincing, just check out the ultrawide and panorama samples below.)

 

How wide is wide, part II
Here's another example of the difference between 39mm (left) and 23mmm (right). Sometimes, you just don't have the option of backing up any further (street traffic, an obstacle, a cliff, etc). The ultrawide 23mm focal length does introduce some perspective distortion (objects closer to the lens appear disproportionately larger than those further away), but if you're dealing with tight quarters, there's no beating it.

Many unique ideas come with unique problems though, and the Kodak V570 is no exception. I think most users needing a very wide angle lens on a small camera will tolerate most of these problems well, but you should know about them before you consider the V570.

 

The problem of duality

Before we go any further, let us share the following important advice: When you buy a Kodak V570, the first thing you should do (after unpacking it and inserting the battery) is to go to the Setup menu, and turn off the digital zoom option. As we'll explain below, this will save you a lot of frustration and possibly very poor image quality when shooting at intermediate wide angle focal lengths. [Note: it is our understanding that after our preview was posted, Kodak decided to ship the V570 with the digital zoom disabled, at least for US models, so you may not need to follow this suggestion.]

As we mentioned, the top lens is the wide angle lens, and it is fixed at 23mm. The fixed focal length is probably to help maintain optical quality and save space in the camera, as it's very difficult to control distortion and optical artifacts in ultrawide zoom lenses, and they tend to be quite bulky as well. Like most digital cameras, the EasyShare V570 starts up at its widest angle, which is too wide for most people shots. You'll need to zoom in. The catch is that in order to make the smooth transition from 23mm to 39mm that people expect, that first bit of zoom has to be digital. Digital zoom means that the 5.0 megapixel image will be cropped and then sampled up, a proposition that always means fuzzier images. For small amounts of digital zoom (say, to an equivalent focal length of 30mm or less), the degradation of the image quality won't be all that noticeable on 4x6 or possibly even 5x7 inch prints. In the range from 30-39mm (before the camera switches to using its optical zoom lens) though, Kodak V570's image quality progressively degrades, and at 38mm or so, it's downright awful. (No surprise really, the camera is cropping the sensors image so much that it's only using 1.78 megapixels to form the images at that point.)

Once you reach the top of the wide-angle digital zoom (marked red on the zoom indicator), the zooming stops. This is to allow you to decide whether you want to switch to the Kodak V570's other lens. You must release the zoom button and press it again to switch to the 39-117mm lens and return to the world of true 5 megapixel images. Honestly, it's a pain. Since we distrust digital zoom, we opt to turn it off on all cameras, including the V570. The idea that we're going to take lower quality images if we just zoom in a bit bothers us, so we prefer to just switch from 23mm to 39mm in a single jump. You still have to release and press again to go from 39mm to 23mm, but that's probably good to keep you from slipping into ultra-wide by accident, and the delay in doing so is strictly minimal.

The other important factor about the 23mm ultrawide lens is that it doesn't change its focus. That makes for faster shot-to-shot times at full wide angle, as well as while in digital zoom mode under 39mm, but it is always a compromise. Kodak is depending on this “hyperfocal” lens's great depth of field to keep everything in focus. (According to the camera's specs, the 23mm lens should render subjects in focus at distances from 31.5 inches to infinity.) This seemed to work for the most part, but we felt that a lot of our closer-range shots captured with the Kodak V570's 23mm lens were less sharp than similar ones from the zoom lens at 39mm. The one careful comparison that we did with the same subject framed similarly with both lenses actually gave a slight edge in sharpness to the 23mm, but that was for a subject 20-30 feet away from the camera.

Again, we don't think the above mentioned items are deal-breakers, but the Kodak V570's operating mode is different, and prospective buyers should consider how--and whether--they can use a camera like this. More to the point, the 39 to 117mm lens is actually a 3x optical zoom lens, and the camera covers the advertised 5x range between 23 and 117mm with either one sizeable jump at the low end or a smooth ramp there, but employing varying degrees of digital zoom. We think that it's unfortunate Kodak chose to bill the V570 as a 5x zoom camera rather than as the 3x-zoom-plus-ultrawide-lens that it is. Calling it a 5x zoom is liable to leave a lot of people dissatisfied with its performance over the range from roughly 30-39mm, because consumers these days pretty well expect the "x" rating of a camera to refer only to optical zoom capability. It would be a shame if people are turned off by the confusing labeling, because the camera really does offer some unique capabilities that are likely to be obscured in the furor over its "zoom" performance.

 

Shooting with the V570

Startup time with the Kodak V570 is a little slower than we've been seeing from some competing models these days, but shutter lag figures are right in line with the rest of the market. The best lag numbers are naturally turned in by the non-focusing 23mm mode, averaging a somewhat variable fifth of a second (quite fast indeed). In the optical zoom mode, the shutter lag goes up to 0.3 and 0.5 second for wide and telephoto settings respectively. Not terrible, about average in a market where most are getting a little faster.

In use, shutter lag is not the noticeable impediment to getting good shots; it's the slow digital zoom. The more we used the Kodak V570, the more annoyed we became when shooting with the digital zoom enabled. As I mentioned earlier, we disable it by default, but this wouldn't be much of a user report without mention of the camera's standard operating mode. Since the camera always starts up at 23mm, you always have to step through the very slow digital zoom to get to the 39mm "real" lens for better composition and higher quality. Quickly composing a shot of kids is difficult when your zoom can't keep up with their rapid changes. Kodak would do well to release a firmware update that allows users to set the 3x zoom lens as the default startup lens, because this would place the camera in its fastest mode, and allow the user to zoom in or out. Starting with the highest optical quality by default would make the V570 much easier to use. Alternatively, do as we did in relatively short order: Turn off the digital zoom via the setup menu option. This will let the camera jump very quickly between 23 and 39mm. That's a pretty big jump in focal length, but in indoor shooting situations, you'll be close enough to the subject anyway that framing by moving closer or further away isn't at all difficult, and takes less time than this very slow digital zoom.

It's also important to note that the Kodak V570's ultrawide lens can only focus as close as 31 inches. That's not too close, so you have to actually zoom out of UW mode to be able to use Macro or Landscape Scene modes. Yet another reason to start out with the 3x lens instead of the ultrawide.

Another quirk we didn't like was how the Kodak V570 behaved between shots. We generally like a camera to have an image preview mode, but we prefer for the camera to abandon the preview when we've pressed on the shutter or started to zoom. The Kodak V570 does the former, but not the latter: If you press the zoom toggle immediately after snapping a shot, the camera will zoom without showing how far, further frustrating us when it's zoomed too far. You can sidestep this by lightly tapping the shutter button to kill the review mode, but really, the camera should do so itself as soon as you touch the zoom toggle.

Image quality-wise, we felt that images from the V570 showed excellent color, but were softer than we'd normally expect from a 5-megapixel digital camera. - We think that its practical resolution (that is, what you actually see in prints) is closer to that of a three or four megapixel model than a five megapixel one. Its noise-suppression algorithms are also prone to obscuring fine detail, particularly when the contrast levels of that detail are low. All digital cameras do this to some degree, but we felt that we noticed it more in the Kodak V570's shots than we're accustomed to.

Shooting panoramas is so easy and fun with the Kodak V570, we found ourselves doing quite a few. In panorama mode, the camera shows you a small rectangular crop of the previous exposure to act as a guide in lining up the next shot. If you're reasonably careful to keep the camera straight and level, and rotate it around the center of its body, this worked quite well. (If you have large enough hands, holding the camera with your thumb and middle finger centered top and bottom on the camera body, and then pivoting it around that axis between shots can work pretty well.) As usual in these types of shots, we had some trouble lining up the shot so that we didn't lose the horizon line. The trick is to keep the camera perfectly horizontal -- Resist the temptation to tilt it up to take in a taller subject, or tilt it down to shoot more of the ground. Rather, to whatever extent possible, adjust vertical framing by raising or lowering the camera, while keeping it level. Better by far is to put the camera on a tripod. The Kodak V570's tripod socket is just a millimeter or two off the centerline of both lenses, which is close enough to perfect centering to produce excellent panoramas. You do have to be fairly accurate when lining up the images, or else you will find a seam or duplicated elements where the camera stitched the images together. But it's still quick enough that we could see ourselves creating more than a few panoramas to show friends and families where we visited, with something more dramatic than a snapshot.

The ultimate Real Estate camera?
At 39mm, you don't see much of the room, even backed up against the far wall. The 23mm lens really opens up the scene, letting you see both sides of the room, from about 8 feet on out.
In a 180 degree panorama, the scene changes completely, revealing a large open entryway and dining area to the right. Without a panorama like this, it would be almost impossible to adequately convey the spatial relationships shown in this photo. There are a couple of minor stitch errors in the image above, but they're really quite unobtrusive (to the point of being hard to pick out). Certainly an excellent job, for having been done entirely in the camera.

Video

Finally, the V570's video is good enough that we used it extensively at the PMA 2006 trade show to record "mini videos" for posting on our site. We used a big Canon camcorder for the produced pieces, but I found it very efficient to run around with the Kodak V570 and capture small product videos. The two lenses allowed for in-camera cropping that would have been impossible with any other camera. I usually started at 23mm and then zoomed in when the presenter started talking about the product. All of these videos were done in one take and just drag-and-dropped up on the site. Phanfare, the site we used for posting all this material, then converted the very good quality MPEG4 output into very good quality Flash, and the video began streaming as the show went on. There were some pops introduced into the video that seemed to appear after I switched sensors, which leads me to believe that Kodak didn't really intend for the camera to be used this way; so be warned. Otherwise, video quality was excellent, and the 23mm lens was great for tradeshow pictures. Go to http://pma2006.phanfare.com to see some of the images and videos we made with the Kodak V570.

Dock and other features

Accompanying the Kodak EasyShare V570 is a round, and likewise very thin, Photo Frame dock that escapes the boxier designs of previous EasyShare docks. The Photo Frame dock turns the camera into a picture frame when attached, displaying captured images either as a slide show or individually. (The dock also provides the same battery charging and image downloading functions as the standard EasyShare camera docks.) The Kodak V570 boasts a 5.0-megapixel CCD and very large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor, with a very user-friendly point-and-shoot format. Measuring a mere 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches (94 x 56 x 22 millimeters), and weighing only 5.71 ounces (162 grams) with the card and battery, the V570 is quite at home in a shirt pocket or tiny purse, excellent for travel.

The camera's autofocus mechanism uses a multi-zone system to "find" the primary subject closest to the lens. The AF area is highlighted in the LCD display with a set of brackets. You can change the AF area to read only the center of the frame through the Record menu. Additionally, you can choose between Continuous and Single AF modes. The Kodak V570 has a maximum aperture ranging from f/3.9 to f/4.4 on the 3x zoom lens, depending on the zoom position, and a maximum setting of f/2.8 on the 23mm lens. Focus ranges from 24 inches (60 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, with a Macro mode ranging from 2 to 28 inches (5 to 70 centimeters). (The minimum Macro focus distance depends on the zoom setting.) A Landscape focus mode fixes focus at infinity, for distant subjects and scenery. Because of the V570's very wide 23mm lens, a Distortion Compensation feature is available through the Setup menu, which attempts to reduce the amount of barrel distortion visible. In our testing, the Distortion Compensation feature reduced the amount of barrel distortion at the 23mm lens setting from 1.4% to 0.7%, about half. In addition to the total 5x optical zoom, the Kodak V570 also offers as much as 4x digital zoom, which effectively increases the camera's zoom range to a total of 20x. Keep in mind though, that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it just stretches the center pixels of the CCD image. For composing images, the V570's 2.5-inch color LCD monitor is clear and bright.

The Kodak V570 offers Auto and SCN (Scene) exposure modes, with the SCN setting offering no less than 22 preset shooting modes. Auto mode is best for general photography, leaving all of the exposure decisions up to the camera. The 17 preset shooting modes are accessible by pressing the SCN button on top of the camera until the Scene menu appears, and include Panoramic L-R, Panoramic R-L, Sport, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Manner/Museum, Party, Children, Backlight, Panning Shot, Candlelight, Sunset, Close-up, Text, Flower, Self-portrait (for pointing the camera back at you), and Custom. The available scenes appear at the bottom of the LCD display upon entering the mode, and the Multi-Controller selects the scene. The Custom option lets you save a bank of exposure settings, for recall later. Though the Kodak V570 doesn't offer any manual exposure control, you can access a Long Exposure mode through the Record menu, for exposures as long as eight seconds.

The Kodak EasyShare V570 employs a Multi-Pattern metering system, which bases the exposure on several light readings taken throughout the frame. Also available are Center-Weighted and Center-Spot modes. You can increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Open Shade settings, which take advantage of Kodak's proprietary Color Science technology to achieve an accurate color balance under most lighting. An ISO setting offers equivalent settings of 64, 100, 200, 400, and 800 (with the 800 setting only available at the 1.8-megapixel resolution). An Auto setting is also available, and ranges from 64 to 160. The Kodak V570 also offers a range of color settings (High, Natural, and Low color), as well as Black and White and Sepia modes. You can also adjust the in-camera sharpening. The built-in flash is effective from 2.0 to 7.9 feet (0.6 to 2.4 meters) depending on the setting of the zoom lens, and features Auto, Fill, Red-Eye Reduction, and Off operating modes. A 10-second Self-Timer mode provides a delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the shutter actually opens, so you can get into your own shots. The Kodak V570 also provides an optional histogram display, which reports the tonal distribution of the image, so that you can graphically see any areas of over- or underexposure.

In addition to its still photography modes, the Kodak EasyShare V570 also offers a Movie recording mode for capturing moving images with sound. Recording stops and starts with a brief, full press of the Shutter button, but if you hold the button down for more than a second or two, the camera will automatically stop recording when you let it back up again. As you record, the duration of the movie appears in a running counter on the LCD monitor. Maximum movie lengths can be set through the Record menu. (The 32 megabytes of internal memory will let you record movies up to two minutes and 18 seconds in length at the lowest quality setting.) Movies can be recorded at 320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixels, at 30 frames-per-second. A 640 x 480 (Long) setting is available as well, which records at a lower quality to increase recording time. Also available for movies is an image stabilizer mode, which reduces the amount of blurring from slight camera movement. (A tripod is still recommended for the most steady shots, however.) A Burst photography mode lets you capture as many as four frames in rapid succession while you hold down the Shutter button. The four-frame maximum number applies regardless of resolution, but may be hindered depending on how much available space is on the memory card or internal memory. An interesting feature on the Kodak V570 is the camera's Blur Warning setting. If enabled, the camera reports via a series of color-coded shaking hand icons whether an image will be sharp enough for a 4x6-inch print. For example, green indicates an acceptable sharpness level, while a red icon indicates that the image is too soft.

The V570 is compatible with Kodak's EasyShare camera and printer docks, which offer hassle-free image downloading and printing. You simply put the camera into the dock and press a button to connect the camera and initiate image downloading. Included with the Kodak V570 is the EasyShare Photo Frame Dock 2, which, when connected to the camera, essentially turns the camera's LCD monitor into a picture frame. The dock also allows you to transfer images to a computer, and serves as an AC adapter and in-camera battery charger. Built into the V570 is 32 megabytes of internal memory, but the camera also features an SD/MMC memory card slot so you can expand the camera's memory capacity. I highly recommend picking up at least a 256MB card right away, given the camera's 2,576 x 1,932-pixel maximum resolution size, though cards are available as large as 512MB. For power, the V570 uses a Kodak EasyShare Li-Ion battery pack, or the optional AC adapter. Since the camera does not accommodate AA-type batteries, I highly recommend picking up a spare battery pack and keeping it on-hand and freshly charged. It is noteable, however, that one does not need the dock to charge the V570; just plugging the power supply into the side of the camera begins the charging process, great for traveling. Also packaged with the Kodak V570 are USB and AV cables, as well as a software CD loaded with the EasyShare software for downloading and managing images.

Like the rest of Kodak's EasyShare line, the V570 boasts a simple-to-understand user interface that keeps the fun in point-and-shoot digital photography. The Kodak V570's unique, stylish design should please most fashion-oriented folks, and its tiny size is perfect for anyone on the go. The V570's edge in the marketplace is its dual-lens design, offering a very wide lens setting at 23mm (35mm equivalent). Featuring a full complement of preset exposure modes, an Auto setting, and the flexibility of a long-exposure mode, the V570 is perfect for point-and-shoot enthusiasts who don't want to worry over exposure decisions. With the range of preset shooting modes, the Kodak V570 produces good exposure in almost any situation. Like Kodak's other EasyShare cameras, when combined with the included camera dock, the V570 ranks among the easiest digital cameras I've seen; the integrated 23mm lens is the standout feature, bringing the advantages of wide angle to the EasyShare crowd.

 

Basic Features

 

Special Features

 

In the Box

In the box are the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Very wide lens setting, 23mm (great for realtors)
  • Panorama stitching feature really works, is a great "plus"
  • Vibrant, appealing color
  • Good skin tones
  • Auto white balance handles a wide range of lighting well
  • Good exposure accuracy
  • Very good shutter response
  • Excellent video mode
  • Excellent camera styling
  • Very simple user interface, but more advanced exposure options also available
  • Accurate LCD viewfinder
  • Good low light capability (But only in Night Landscape mode)
  • Case design fits both large and small hands well
  • Just a fun camera to use!
  • Images are soft, look more like those from a 4-megapixel model
  • Only average speed from shot to shot and Continuous mode
  • A little slow to clear the buffer memory, and very slow shot to shot after buffer fills
  • High ISO shots are quite soft, with very strong noise
  • Contrast is a little high, tends to lose highlight and shadow detail under harsh lighting
  • Some users may find the highly saturated color unnatural
  • Strong blurring in the corners throughout the zoom range
  • High barrel distortion at Ultra Wide Angle, though Distortion Compensation does help

 

The Kodak V570 presents an interesting problem for us. It's a camera with a lot in the plus column and a lot in the minus column; yet it still nets out as a positive experience. We really like the camera for its unique dual lens arrangement that includes a surprisingly useful 23mm wide angle lens, but its image quality really isn't as good as it could be for a 5 megapixel camera. Its fully automatic exposure control performs very well in a wide variety of conditions, requiring less exposure adjustment or tweaking than do most competing models. Auto white balance wasn't quite as good as it could be, however, and shot-to-shot speed didn't break any records. But for more difficult shooting conditions, a wide range of preset "Scene" modes extends the camera's capabilities nicely, perfect for the target market. The V570's video capabilities are also very good, both sound and video quality are quite good. While sophisticates may prefer more subdued color, we suspect that most consumers will love the bright, vibrant photos the V570 produces. But there's still that quandary. The V570 has a 5x zoom that's really a 3x plus a fixed 23mm; and it has two 5 megapixel sensors that produce images that really look more like they came from a 4 megapixel sensor. But we still really like the camera, so if you know these "exceptions" and still like the camera as we do, you'll be very happy with the performance and quality you get from the Kodak EasyShare V570. At the end of the day, we had more outright fun with the V570 than any other camera we've reviewed for a long while. Tiny, compact, and super-stylish, the Kodak EasyShare V570 is a perfect choice for novices, as well as more experienced users looking for a capable, yet travel-worthy "fun" digital camera that can give them a wider view than ever before. All things considered, the Kodak V570 earns a Dave's Pick.