Kodak EasyShare V603 Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 11/13/06
The Kodak EasyShare V603's smooth, sleek body contains a six-megapixel CCD imager and a Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon-branded 3x optical zoom lens with a fairly standard 36 to 108mm equivalent focal range. For framing images, the V603 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder in favor of a large 2.5 inch LCD display that dominates the camera's rear panel. Images are stored on Secure Digital/MultiMediaCards, or in 27MB of internal memory. The Kodak V603 has a whopping 22 Scene modes to help beginners achieve the results they're looking for without the need to understand subtleties like shutter speeds and apertures.
By default the Kodak V603 determines exposures via a multi-pattern TTL metering system, with center-weighted and center-spot options available. It also offers 2.0EV of exposure compensation in 1/3EV increments. Five white balance settings are available including an auto mode, and ISO sensitivity is controlled automatically or manually, ranging from 80 to 400, with the ability to trade off some resolution for extra sensitivity -- ISO 800 at 1.8 megapixel resolution. The Kodak V603's Movie mode captures VGA or QVGA clips with audio, at a frame rate of 30 fps using MPEG4 compression -- which offers higher quality and better compression than the Motion JPEG compression used in most cameras.
Images and movies captured on the Kodak V603 are transferred to your computer over a USB 2.0 Full Speed connection, rather slower than the USB 2.0 High Speed connections offered on many cameras these days. Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. List pricing for the Kodak EasyShare V603 is set at $299.95.
Kodak EasyShare V603 User Report
Shorter than a credit card, but a bit longer (and, yes, somewhat thicker), the compact size of the Kodak EasyShare V603 is what first attracts you. It doesn't fit in an Altoids tin. I tried. But that's about the Kodak V603's only limitation as a subcompact, point-and-shoot digicam. It's a fun little camera that can perform some impressive tricks.
Sure, I'd love to have manual control but, like most cameras in this class, there aren't a lot of apertures to choose from. My test shots ranged from f/2.8 to just f/4.4. So a Manual mode on a camera like the Kodak V603 would be frustratingly limited.
But with 22 Scene modes, frustration isn't the problem. The problem is what to do first with it. Its 6.1 megapixel sensor has enough detail for 13x19 inch prints, but it can take broadcast quality video, too.
Design. For a subcompact, the Kodak V603 has a remarkably spacious layout. There's room for a large 2.5-inch LCD on the back because there's just a small column of buttons to its left and the zoom lever and navigator on the right. The rest of the buttons are on top in two groups nestled into a very nice V-shaped notch that has the effect of raising them without actually requiring them to protrude past the body outline. Very smart.
The 3x Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon optical zoom takes a second to protrude, but you'll wonder where it's been hiding. It sticks out a full inch from the 3/4 inch body. That was a quick enough startup (and shutdown) for me.
The SD memory card slot is not tucked next to the battery on the Kodak V603 but on the shooter's right side of the camera. It reminds me of a slot-loading CD player, the opening protected merely by foam with a split in the middle for access. No door, but your slot-loading CD player doesn't have one either.
That battery is a marvel, too. It's just 1x1.5 inches, the same as a 35mm frame.
Connections are handled entirely through the dock connector on the bottom, but you don't have to go to the dock to charge it. There's a connection for the included power adapter on the left side of the Kodak V603, which I found very handy for charging while traveling without the dock.
Part of Kodak's EasyShare system, the V603 includes a plastic insert for a Kodak printer/dock and comes with Kodak's free EasyShare software, too. A pretty nice package.
Display/Viewfinder. Like other subcompacts, there's no optical viewfinder on the Kodak V603. The 2.5 inch LCD is the only viewfinder. Its surface is easily smudged and the smudges are not easily removed. But whatever that surface is, it makes the LCD readable even in direct sunlight.
I took a competing digicam with a larger LCD into the sun with the Kodak V603, and side-by-side I could see the V603's image when I couldn't see the competitor's from the glare cast by the sun on the LCD.
As good as it is in direct sunlight, overall the screen is a little soft and displays images at all times with a slight moire pattern. As a result it's a little difficult to confirm focus with the Kodak V603's LCD.
If you press the Up arrow on the navigator in Record mode, you can add a framing grid (to help you keep those horizons straight). Press it again and you get a live histogram in the lower left corner. A live histogram can tell you things about the exposure that the Kodak V603's LCD just can't show.
Of course, that's useless information on a camera designed to work in Auto mode, unless you have easy access to EV compensation so you can cheat the exposure one way or the other. Although it isn't marked (there isn't room to mark it on this very small digital camera), the Left and Right arrows on the navigator adjust exposure. Left underexposes and Right overexposes in 1/3EV steps.
Performance. Digicams with retracting lenses are among the slowest to start up and shut down, but my Quibble Meter didn't register even a tick with the Kodak V603. It's above average power-on time in the lab matched my actual experience with it. I had no trouble turning it off to conserve battery power when I knew I wasn't going to use it again right away. With some cameras you dread that moment because it means a long wait to start it up again.
The fix for that is to let the camera time out. Waking it up takes less time than powering it on again. But the Kodak V603 shuts down when it times out (although the LCD can be set to dim before that), probably to protect the lens. Still, it was fast enough that there was no penalty letting it time out or shutting it down.
Zoom is the bare minimum 3x, but that's not bad in a subcompact, especially when the digital zoom is so good. I've retrained myself to shoot with digital zoom because more and more cameras are doing it better than ever. And I'm rarely disappointed enough to warn you off it anymore. The Kodak V603's digital zoom takes it out to 12x, about the 35mm equivalent of 432mm. Long enough.
A zoom bar on the left side of the display lets you know where you are in the range, with a clear division between optical and digital zoom. Zooming is optically smooth, although the bar's indicator jumps (saving CPU cycles, no doubt).
You can zoom in Movie mode but since you're recording sound, you pick up the zoom motor sound, too. But the Kodak V603 can record MPEG-4 video for up to 80 minutes, if you have a large enough card.
The time you wait for the Kodak V603 to recover after it takes a shot is not short. My tests measured it at slightly over two seconds. But it does offer a Burst mode that can take four quick shots in succession at three frames per second and at full resolution.
One of the biggest thrills of shooting with a digicam is Macro mode, and the Kodak V603 is no slouch at that either. It performed best at wide angle and mid-range, but was able to get very close, within a couple of inches. With its wide apertures, depth of field was shallow, but that can have a dramatic effect often missing in digicam images.
The buttons I raved about for their design also function very smartly, too. It helps a lot that they are easy to find and learn, laid out intelligently and easy to press. On top, you power up the Kodak V603 and right away (if you're me, anyway) turn off the flash, whose button is right between the Power button and the Shutter button.
Shooting modes aren't handled by a dial but by two buttons on top at the other end of the camera. Auto/Scene and Movie buttons access those three modes. Auto/Scene toggles between the two.
Auto works so well, I rarely dipped into Scene. But Scene has some really cool tricks up its sleeve. And they are all displayed on one screen. The bottom of the Scene screen has three rows of icons for each Scene option. The selected option is named at the top of the Kodak V603's screen with a short explanation of what it does right under the name. So you don't have to remember anything.
Among my favorite Scene modes are the two Panorama modes (which automatically stitch the separate images together for you and allow you to shoot at wide angle to take the most in), Text for copying documents (which otherwise takes fiddling around with EV compensation to overexpose), Flower (which knows flowers are not gray but bright things), Museum (to avoid embarrassing flash shots that bring two or three guards your way), and Panning (which blurs the background of moving objects). But that's only a few of the options on the Kodak V603. And one of the others is Custom.
Also on the top deck is the Favorites button. Kodak EasyShare cameras store whatever you like in their internal memory as a Favorite, much like EasyShare software remembers your favorite images in an Album. Press the Kodak V603's Favorites button and you can see them any time.
So how do you see the images stored on the memory card? Just press the Review button to the left of the LCD. And how do you get an image into Favorites? Just press the Share button under the Review button. And if you don't like it at all? Just press the Delete button above them all. Simple. Or should I say, "Easy?"
Shooting. Menu options are easily accessed from the Menu button. You can select among the usual culprits for White Balance (but there's no custom white balance option) and Metering. ISO sensitivity options are 80, 100, 200, and 400; plus 800 if you don't mind going down to a 1.8 megapixel image size.
It's so compact, you can take it anywhere in anything. I always wrap a microfiber cleaning cloth around whatever camera is in my pocket to protect it from scratches, but the Kodak V603 is a hardy little box.
Being able to see the LCD in sunlight is more important than it sounds. There are some cameras I just avoid using in open sun because I can't see what I'm doing. I take a few obligatory shots, but it isn't much fun. The V603 is fun.
Kodak's Perfect Touch Technology makes it simple to enhance a photo in camera, too. If you don't like what you see in Review mode, just press Menu, find Perfect Touch, and let it do its magic. If you like it you can save the new image as a new file or just overwrite the original.
One thing I did miss in the Kodak V603 was a 16:9 aspect ratio, but if you have to give something up in a camera this small, that would be it.
In summary. Kodak's printer docks really make getting 4x6 prints easy. They also make it easy to recharge your camera battery at the same time, and even to transfer images trom the Kodak V603 to your computer. They were the idea that saved the company.
And the company's free EasyShare software has become an excellent tool for organizing your images and taking advantage of Kodak EasyShare Gallery's many merchandising options.
But neither would matter without great EasyShare cameras, and the Kodak V603 is one of them. Its size is its compelling feature, small enough to go anywhere, but it doesn't make you wish you'd bought the model that cost $50 more, because it has all the features you need to capture great stills and movies.
- 6.0-megapixel CCD delivering images as large as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor
- 3x, all-glass Schneider-Kreuznach 36-108mm (35mm equivalent) lens
- 4x digital zoom
- Auto and Scene exposure modes, with 22 preset Scene modes
- White Balance with five settings
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.8, depending on lens zoom position
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,400 to eight seconds, depending on exposure mode
- Built-in flash with four modes
- 32MB internal memory
- SD/MMC card storage (optional, card not included)
- Power supplied by one Kodak EasyShare Li-Ion pack (included), or included AC adapter
- Compatible with optional Kodak EasyShare camera and printer docks
- Kodak EasyShare Photo Frame Dock 2 and Camera Dock inserts included
- Kodak EasyShare software included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Movie mode (with zoom and sound)
- Motion Image Stabilization mode
- Burst photography mode
- Long Exposure mode for shutter speeds up to eight seconds
- Black and White, Sepia, and three color modes
- Sharpness setting
- Automatic Red-Eye correction
- Adjustable ISO from 80 to 800, with an Auto setting
- 10-second, two-second and two-shot Self-Timer for delayed shutter release
- Optional live histogram display
- Three AF area modes, plus Single and Continuous AF modes
- Macro (close-up) lens setting
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility
- PictBridge support
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
In the Box
In the box are the following items:
- Kodak EasyShare V603 digital camera
- Kodak Li-Ion battery pack
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- AC adapter
- Wrist strap
- Software CD-ROM with Kodak EasyShare
- Operating manual and registration card
- Camera insert for Camera and Printer Docks
- Camera insert for Photo Frame Dock 2
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. (These days, 256 to 512 MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity for a 6 megapixel camera.)
- Additional battery pack
- Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock
Kodak's EasyShare digital cameras are not only among the easiest to use of any on the market, but they put the fun back in photography -- and the Kodak V603 is no exception. Its fully automatic exposure control performs surprisingly well in a wide variety of conditions, requiring less exposure adjustment or tweaking than do most competing models. For unusual shooting conditions, 22 preset "Scene" modes extend the Kodak V603's capabilities nicely. And you don't have to remember what they are, either. Kodak presents them on a single screen with icons, names and a short description of what they do. The Kodak V603's 6.1-megapixel CCD captures high resolution images, with plenty of detail to make good-looking 11x14 prints, and a handful of helpful tools such as the Blur Warning, Motion Image Stabilization, and automatic Red-Eye correction are very welcome additions. While sophisticates may prefer more subdued color, most consumers will love the bright, vibrant photos the Kodak V603 produces. Tiny, compact, and super-stylish, the Kodak EasyShare V603 is a perfect choice for novices, as well as more experienced users looking for a capable, yet travel-worthy "fun" digital camera.