Kodak V610 Introduction
by Shawn Barnett
Review date: 07/20/2006
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 Kodak V610 and its included Picture Software carry on that tradition admirably.
Kodak V610 Overview
The Kodak EasyShare V610 is based on the twin-lens design concept that first debuted in the EasyShare V570 -- a camera that included both a 39-117mm optical zoom lens, and a 23mm fixed focal-length lens, each coupled to their own five megapixel CCD image sensor. The Kodak V610 takes that idea a step further, featuring not one, but two optical zoom lenses. A 38-114mm equivalent lens provides a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto, while a second 130-380mm equivalent lens offers a moderate telephoto all the way out to a fairly strong telephoto. Each lens is coupled to its own dedicated six megapixel CCD image sensor.
The 16mm gap between the two lenses' focal length ranges is unlikely to be an issue, given that compact camera lenses tend to have predefined steps in their ranges anyway, rather than allowing perfectly smooth zooming throughout their range. The combination of lenses results in an impressive 10x effective optical zoom range; and indeed in its marketing materials, Kodak is describing the V610 as the "world's smallest 10x optical zoom camera." One zoom lever and one LCD display are together used to control both lenses and imagers, with the camera switching between the lens/imager combos as necessary depending on the zoom range requested by the user.
Two lenses coupled to two sensors aren't the only feature helping the Kodak V610 stand out from the crowd, however. The company has also managed to shoehorn integrated Bluetooth wireless connectivity into the V610 (something we've only seen in a handful of digital cameras until now). And this isn't just "plain old" Bluetooth either. Bluetooth lets you wirelessly transfer data to and from other Bluetooth devices, for example letting you swap photos with other V610 owners, send photos to cell phones or PDAs, or print to some printers and photo kiosks -- all without any annoying, bulky wires. Kodak's V610 implements the new Bluetooth 2.0 EDR standard, which was ratified late last year and offers almost triple the speed of previous Bluetooth implementations (although still nowhere near the speed of 802.11a/b/g wireless lan, better known as WiFi).
As well as the speed boost, Bluetooth EDR offers the possibility of increased battery life over an older Bluetooth device -- even though power consumption is technically higher. This is because Bluetooth devices switch to a low-power mode when not actively transferring data, and since the EDR devices can transfer data faster, they spend more time in the low-power mode. You can also save a little more transmission time (and hence power) courtesy of the Kodak V610's ability to resample images in-camera to 1024x768 pixels if you're making 4x6" prints, or 320x240 pixels for viewing on a handheld device such as a cellphone. As a Class 2 Bluetooth device, the Kodak V610 has a range of just ten meters (30 feet) -- significantly less than WiFi devices, but with lower power consumption. Further security comes in the form of a PIN number that's required to access the V610 from another device.
Compared to the V570, Kodak has also boosted the size of the LCD display in the Kodak V610 by a third of an inch, to a whopping 2.8" display that dominates most of the rear of the camera's sleek, stylish body. Other interesting features include Kodak's "Perfect Touch" technology, which lets you correct exposure after the fact, and preview results side-by-side to confirm them on the camera's LCD -- all while only affecting the underexposed areas of the image, and leaving the correctly exposed areas alone. There's also an anti-blur mode (which doesn't use any form of mechanical stabilization, but rather boosts the camera's ISO sensitivity and aims for a faster shutter speed in the first place). The unusual (and rather fun) panorama mode from the original V570 also returns, letting you stitch up to three images together in-camera with an on-screen template helping you position the shots. Finally, the Kodak V610 offers the unusual ability to extract JPEG images from videos captured on the camera, as well as to save 4, 9, or 16 equally spaced frames from a video as a single (tiled) image, ideal for analyzing your golf swing or tennis serve.
Kodak V610 User Report
by Mike Pasini
It's not just compact, it's sleek. It's not just a big zoom, it's the world's smallest 10x zoom. It's not just wireless, it's the new speedy Bluetooth. As Mom said when I showed the Kodak V610 to her, it's "nifty."
That applies to almost any digicam in Kodak's Pocket series. But the Kodak V610 has a much shorter list of compromises than its siblings. It does make compromises, but they seemed smart tradeoffs to me. That isn't always the case.
Let's take a closer look.
Design. A few years ago, Kodak developed a lenticular (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenticular) plastic card that could display a series of images as you changed the viewing angle. I have one made from 12 shots of a NASCAR race in 1997. As I rotate the top of the card toward myself, one car passes another to win.
The Kodak V610 uses a circular lenticular pattern as a faceplate and it's quite attractive, catching the light like a CD without the psychedelic effect. No NASCAR races, but I'm glad all the R&D wasn't wasted.
The second thing that struck me about the Kodak V610's design was how thin it is. It's about as thick as a pack of cards, nothing special there, but its elongated frame led me to expect a little more heft. It's surprisingly more compact than the EasyShare-One, in fact, although the V603 is smaller still.
Kodak's concept of modes is evolving toward the idea that you are either shooting Stills, Movies, or looking at your Favorite images, stored in the camera. I like that simplicity even though it ignores Playback as a concept.
It also ignores manual shooting, which always disappoints me. But it's quite normal for a point-and-shoot where Auto with Scenes serves the most customers.
The design feature that I had the most trouble with, hilariously, was the non-protruding behavior of the zoom lenses. Like the V570 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/V570/V570.HTM), each lens on the Kodak V610 has its own sensor, and like all folded optics, the lens zooms internally with the sensor tucked into the side of the camera, finally seeing the world through a reflex mirror, much like a periscope. So neither lens protrudes, reducing the likelihood of lens damage.
Two other design features also deserve a little applause: The tripod socket is well away from the battery compartment door on the bottom, so you don't have to upset the apple cart just to get fresh power. And the Dockability of the Kodak V610 is no small convenience, either.
Kodak saved the company with its dockable EasyShare printers that require you to do no more than plop the camera on top of a cute little box to get pro-quality 4x6 prints. At the same time, the box recharges your camera. And, for extra credit, you can even transfer images from the Kodak V610 to your computer (or even run a slide show on a TV) without touching the camera.
Bluetooth. The only thing better than a printer that smart would be wireless operations. Nothing quite compares to the Kodak EasyShare-One when it comes to wireless. It isn't just its Wireless-B transmission (which Canon matches and Nikon exceeds with Wireless-G) but what you can connect to: EasyShare Gallery. You can view your Gallery albums on the EasyShare-One's large LCD and even tell Gallery to email an image from your One. And, of course, upload images anywhere you find a WiFi hot spot.
The Kodak V610 can't do that. It isn't a WiFi device. But it can print and transfer images wirelessly --just like your camera phone -- using the new, faster, improved Bluetooth 2.0+EDR protocol. I liked that.
Transferring a 624K, 6-Mp image to a PowerBook (one of the first computers to include Bluetooth 2.0+EDR) took about 14 seconds. That would be about 42 seconds to a Bluetooth 1.x device like the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3.
Compare that to the Nikon P1, which can send a 2.6-MB file in eight seconds using Wireless-G, and you might think that the Kodak V610's Bluetooth is too slow for words. But even at 42 seconds, the V610 can feed the Series 3 data before it gets printed, so that's moot. And while transferring files wirelessly to a computer using Bluetooth may seem like watching spilled milk evaporate, raise your hand if you've ever forgotten to pack a USB cable or PCMCIA card. It can come in handy.
Then again, there's nothing quite as simple as Bluetooth. I don't find WiFi all that much more complicated, but I find nobody bothers to enable things like passwords on their routers (let alone consider the relative security of various protocols). If a Bluetooth device is open, your Kodak V610 can connect. If you want to store the host device in the camera, you just have to enter the device passcode, like any other Bluetooth device.
Long Zoom. There's no substitute for a long zoom. Getting 10x the focal length (from 38mm all the way out to 380mm) changes the image far beyond the crop of a 3x or 4x zoom. Starting from 38mm may not seem like a wide-enough angle, since it's very near to the normal range, but I didn't feel cramped when shooting with the Kodak V610 in a small room.
Even more surprising was the detail the 40x digital zoom maintained. I'm used to seeing things wash out and become grainy in digital zoomland, but apart from atmospheric haze, this wasn't bad at all. That's in spotting scope range. Not near spotting scope range, but in it. So the Kodak V610 actually puts a spotting scope in your pocket, something that should intrigue bird watchers and relatives with bad seats at graduation ceremonies.
The dirty secret about long zoom is how hard it is to hold the camera steady. A 40x zoom seems to magnify hand shaking about 120 percent. It can be hard to keep the subject inside the Kodak V610's 2.8-inch LCD, in fact.
LCD. This is a slightly bigger LCD at 2.8 inches than the 2.5-inch LCD on the V570, and a slightly smaller one than the EasyShare-One's 3-inch LCD. But it has enough resolution to evaluate the images.
The LCD's glossy surface is not easy to keep clean, though. Touch it and it leaves a fingerprint. Cleaning the fingerprint off takes a good buffing.
Shooting. I really did enjoy shooting with the Kodak V610. It was quick enough on the draw, and the large LCD made it easy to compose images. But it also seemed designed to make its special features particularly accessible.
One of the biggest aids to successful Auto mode shooting is mastering EV settings. Cheating, in other words, a little over or under the exposure Auto prefers. Unfortunately, most digicams hide this feature as if it embarrasses them. Kodak, to its credit, puts it right up front on the V610. The navigator's Left and Right buttons allow you to under and over expose by adjusting the EV setting, giving you instant feedback in the LCD monitor as you click through the progression.
Add the Kodak V610's live histogram to your display (using the Up button) and you've got all the clues you need to optimize the Auto exposure. I don't know why live histograms aren't standard, because they are indispensable. Bravo, Kodak!
Auto can't do everything because everything sometimes goes beyond shutter speed and aperture settings to include flash and other settings you wouldn't have time to consider. That's where Scene modes come in.
On most cameras, navigating Scene modes and their colorful but meaningless icons and terse but technical text descriptions can make them almost unusable. Kodak has addressed this by putting three rows of monocolor icons on the bottom half of the Kodak V610's screen to represent every Scene option at once. As you scroll from one Scene mode to another, the top half of the screen explains what each does. Sort of what you'd tell yourself if you remembered them.
Probably for no other reason than the mode was so easily accessible, I decided to shoot in Sport mode one afternoon waiting for a bus on a four-lane road where vehicles typically shoot by at 50 mph. The composition of these shots wasn't interesting enough in their own right to include them in the gallery, but I was shocked at how setting the Scene to Sport let me catch speedy Hondas and BMWs without blurring them. Part of the shock was how responsive the half-pressed shutter was, but the Kodak V610's Sport mode did the job.
With the Scenes displayed, though, I was able to find an alternative called Panning Shot. "Use for expressing speed of subject in motion," said the Kodak V610. Well, that would be nice too, let's try it, I thought. I panned along with the cars and shot, capturing a sharp vehicle against a blurred background.
That's probably the first time I was ever able to play with Scene modes rather than examine, test, try, and forget them. The Kodak V610's simple one-screen layout with full descriptions made it possible.
One of the more incredible Scene modes (well, two of them actually) is the Kodak V610's Panorama mode. There are two: one if you're going to shoot left to right and the other right to left. You can take up to three shots in succession, with the edge of the previous shot overlaid on the scene to help you align the next shot. A lot of digicams can do that for you, but Kodak goes further.
When I wrote up a few tips for taking panoramas for the newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS), I came up with a set of rules. Six of them, actually. Some of them were a bit of work.
For example, I recommended you use the same exposure for each shot by locking the automatic exposure so it won't change when you move from the brighter side of the scene to the less bright. If you leave it on Auto, the sky won't be the same brightness at the edges you want to stitch together. But the Kodak V610 handles that automatically.
Or take my advice to avoid wide angle settings that distort the horizon. The Kodak V610 doesn't mind if you back out to 38mm and make a 180-degree panorama in three shots.
But nicest of all, the V610 itself stitches the three images together in just a second or two. You can evaluate the result immediately. And you won't be disappointed. It does a remarkable job.
Quibbles. We cabled the Kodak V610 to our Quibble Meter for a quick evaluation and did get a few things of note on the printout. The smudges on the LCD were the worst of them, though.
Less significant and perhaps just a review unit issue was the loose battery compartment cover. I found myself using that corner to hold the camera steady, so any little wiggle was unnerving. Oddly enough, just testing it now to confirm, it seemed a good bit better. But check yours.
Conclusion. I loved this nifty little digicam. The Kodak V610's 10x zoom let me go places I hadn't been before, and the 40x digital zoom even more so with surprisingly little dropoff in quality. Bluetooth transmissions would not go unused here, either, providing a handy protocol for sharing images between devices. The controls were easy to get used to and well laid out, the was screen large enough for immediate gratification, and the special features were actually useful.
No, it isn't the best image quality. But the problem is more a technical limitation due to such small 10x optics than the substitution of cheap parts. The wide angle zoom is softer than the telephoto, there is some blur in the corners, and luminance is a bit contrasty even at the Natural color setting for me.
But, you know, I got some great shots with the Kodak V610. And that's the bottom line.
- 6.0-megapixel CCD delivering images as large as 2,832 x 2,128 pixels
- 2.8-inch color LCD monitor
- Dual lens design includes a 38-114mm and a 130-380mm Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon lens
- 4x digital zoom
- Auto exposure mode, plus 22 preset Scene modes
- Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, and Center-spot metering modes
- White Balance with five settings
- Maximum aperture of f/3.9-4.4 (38-114mm lens) depending on zoom position, or f/4.0 (130-380mm lens)
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,200 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 optional AC adapter
- Compatible with optional Kodak EasyShare camera and printer docks
- Kodak EasyShare software included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Bluetooth 2.0 EDR wireless transfer technology
- Perfect Touch image enhancement technology
- Movie mode (with sound) with VGA quality at 30-fps
- Image Stabilization in Movie mode
- Burst photography mode
- Custom exposure mode for saving frequently-used settings
- Long Exposure mode for shutter speeds up to eight seconds
- Black and White, Sepia, and three color modes
- Adjustable ISO from 64 to 800, with an Auto setting
- Self-Timer with 10-second, 2-second and two-picture settings
- Optional live histogram display
- Auto picture rotation
- Sharpness setting
- Multi-zone and center spot AF area modes, plus Single and Continuous AF modes
- Macro (close-up) lens setting
- Optional live histogram display
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility
- ImageLink support
- PictBridge support
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
In the Box
In the box are the following items:
- Kodak EasyShare V610 digital camera
- Kodak Li-Ion battery pack KLIC-7001
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- 5V AC adapter with power cord for in-camera battery charging
- Wrist strap
- Small carry case
- EasyShare Camera and Printer Dock insert
- EasyShare Photo Frame Dock 2 insert
- EasyShare Software CD-ROM
- Operating manual and registration card
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. (These days, 128 MB to 512 MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
- Additional battery pack
- Battery charger
- Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock (which doubles as a battery charger)
The Kodak V610 is a delight to use. The 40x digital zoom will take you places you haven't been before with surprisingly little dropoff in quality. Bluetooth provides a handy wireless protocol you'll never leave at home for sharing images between devices. The Kodak V610's controls are easy to get used to and well laid out, the screen is large enough for immediate gratification, and the special features are actually useful, adding to the fun this camera delivers. Pop the Kodak V610 on a camera or printer dock and the fun continues, with easy 4x6 printing and image transfers to Kodak's easy-to-use EasyShare software on your computer. We wish it had better high-ISO performance, and a bit sharper corners to its images when shooting with its wide-angle zoom lens, but overall the Kodak EasyShare V610 is an easy Dave's Pick.