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Kodak DC260 Test Images

 

In our normal fashion, we're posting a partial set of test images for the DC260 as soon as they are available. We'll update with the rest of the pictures and the full review as they become available, so check back often. (We hope to have these images patched into the Comparometer(tm) by Monday, 6/8/98, so you can readily compare with other cameras.)

Several readers have requested that we include more examples of cameras operating in their lower-resolution modes, and we have responded in this set of test images by exercising all the permutations and combinations of image size and compression level in key test scenes. This is a LOT of work, especially for the '260, which has 3 different image sizes and 3 different compression levels! Please let us know if you like having the broader range of image, or if you feel we could get by with full sets of only one or two images.

This test also marks the addition of two new images, again in response to reader requests. First, we've added a close-up to the outdoor portrait shot, responding to a request for something that would better show portrait performance. (We don't have the resources or time to set up a true studio portrait system, but this should at least give some idea of attainable detail.) Second, we've added a "live" version of the house shot, to test far-field lens performance. This goes against our philosophy a bit, in that the picture is obviously going to change drastically over time, with the weather, seasons, and growth of the landscaping. Some elements will nonetheless stay the same, and we believe the shot will give at least a reasonable indication of optical performance at infinity.

Outdoor portrait: (386k) In our experience, the Kodak digital cameras tend to have excellent color, and the DC260 is no exception. Notice the rich, saturated colors in the flowers! The image as a whole has a slightly warm cast compared to some of the other cameras we shot with on this particular day, but the result when printed looks more natural to our eyes than those which fully neutralized the warm tone of the full sun. Excellent retention of both highlight and shadow detail. Kodak appears not to do any in-camera sharpening, so the image appears slightly soft relative to some others in the megapixel-plus category. On the other hand, the image takes sharpening in Photoshop(tm) particularly well, and there are no pixel artifacts whatsoever. Unlike most cameras, the DC260 (and it's little brother the DC220) can rotate "portrait"-format shots inside the camera, meaning this image did not require rotation in Photoshop to display correctly - a nice touch.
 

Closer portrait: (348k) This is one of the new test shots we mentioned above. Bottom line: The DC260 would make a great portrait camera! It's slight softness is flattering to models' complexions, and the external flash sync uniquely suits it to studio shooting. We saw slightly less detail in the hair here, as the '260 seems to flatten fine detail in areas of lower contrast. The yellowish cast of the wider shot is more noticeable here, but we felt the camera performed very well under this challenging lighting.  

Indoor portrait, flash: (394k) Flash operation on the DC260 is extremely flexible for a sub-$1,000 digital camera: Not only do the on-camera controls give you a fair degree of control over the balance between ambient light and the built-in flash, but an industry-standard "PC" contact is provided to connect external strobe units. Our standard tests don't exercise this capability, as essentially no other cameras in this price range (other than Kodak's own older DC120 model) support the capability. We *did* test the sync operation with an external flash unit, and found it to work very well indeed. (You can set the lens f-stop for flash operation anywhere from f3 to f22.) We mentioned that you have a fair amount of control over flash/ambient light balance: The main shot was taken with the white balance set to "daylight", and the EV compensation turned down a half an EV-unit. As you turn down the EV compensation, the ambient lighting diminishes in effect, with the flash becoming more dominant. This sequence shows the effect of EV compensation settings of none (392k), minus 1/2 (394k), and minus 1 (408k) EV. Notice how the incandescent room lighting becomes less apparent as the EV compensation is turned down. When shooting with flash on the DC260, you'll generally want to explicitly adjust the white balance to the daylight setting, to match the color balance of the flash. Here's an example of what happens if you leave the white balance set to "incancescent."(386k) The slight bluish cast that results is typical of many digital cameras operating in this condition: We liked the ability to manually set the white balance to match the flash.  

Indoor portrait, no flash: (399k) While it was capable of producing a bright image with good color balance, the '260 seemed to struggle somewhat with our incandescent-lit portrait. (Illumination level is about 12EV.) The production model of the camera seemed to correct some of the noise problems we observed in shadow areas with the pre-production unit we initially tested.. The main shot (399k) here was taken with the white balance set to "incandescent", and the exposure adjusted upward by 1 EV. Here is an image captured under the same conditions without EV compensation (412k).Color balance and tone are still quite good, just darker overall.  

House shot: (825k) Excellent color on this shot (among the best we've seen for this image), good detail. Highest resolution shows no compression artifacts whatever, "better" mode slight artifacts, "good" mode relatively severe. This is one of the images we shot in all size and compression modes (all nine of them!), so you can see how the various sizes compare for final image quality. The entries in the matrix below refer to image size/compression level. ("Large" is 1536x1024, "Medium" is 1152x768, and "Small" is 768x512.)


Large/Good (306k)

Large/Better (549k)

Large/Best (825k)

Medium/Good (189k)

Medium/Better (318k)

Medium/Best (444k)

Small/Good (120k)

Small/Better (208k)

Small/Best (280k)

 
 

Far-Field shot: (691k) This is the second of the new shots we mentioned above. It is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. The DC260's optics appear to perform as well at infinity as up close, but NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.  

"Musicians" poster: (563k) The warmer tone of the sunlit outdoor shots became more neutral under studio lighting. Color is quite natural, although "cooler" colors appear more saturated than do warmer ones, and flesh tones are slightly flat. Very good detail, no compression artifacts at all in "Best" compression. As with the "House" shot above, we ran a full matrix of size/compression:


Large/Good (210k)

Large/Better (357k)

Large/Best (563k)

Medium/Good (151k)

Medium/Better (252k)

Medium/Best (354k)

Small/Good (100k)

Small/Better (169k)

Small/Best (230k)
 
Macro shot: (290k) While the DC260 lacks an explicit "macro" mode, the 12 inch (30 cm) minimum focusing distance makes for very respectable macro performance. While the resulting image is predictably softer, the digital zoom produces a very tight shot (322k), even at the 12 inch working distance. We didn't try combining digital zoom with smaller image sizes, but suspect the DC260 could make a great macro camera for web work, particularly in light of the external flash sync, which would allow use with studio strobes for product shots. (Main shot here was taken with compression set to "Better" mode.  

"Davebox" test target: (228k) Excellent color, excellent tonal range. Color saturation is excellent in the strong primaries of the MacBeth chart, yet the delicate pastels of row "B" of the Q60 target are maintained. Highlight detail is excellent, shadow detail good to very good. (The '260 discriminated between steps 17 and 18 of the large gray scale, but noise and compression artifacts were very noticeable that far down the tone curve.) Highlight detail in the layered gauze was preserved very well. In this shot, we didn't go to the extreme of providing every combination of image size and compression, but did include images captured with each of the three different compression levels, so you could assess how the compression affects color rendition.


Large/Good (140k)

Large/Better (141k)

Large/Best (228k)
 

"WG-18" resolution target: (370k) The tester went a little berserk on this one! Here, you'll find full size/compression matrices for both the tele and wide-angle ends of the lens focal length range. Overall, we found the lens to be slightly sharper at the wide-angle end of its range than at the tele end. Visual resolution at the wide-angle setting was over 750 line pairs/picture height both vertically and horizontally. In tele mode, this dropped to about 700 horizontally, and 750 vertically. The camera is almost totally free of color artifacts at all focal lengths though, and we also found almost no geometric distortion across the full focal-length range. (Many cameras we've tested show some geometric distortion at the wide-angle end of their zooms.) Herewith the size/compression matrices:

Telephoto

Large/Good (170k)

Large/Better (252k)

Large/Best (338k)

Medium/Good (118k)

Medium/Better (167k)

Medium/Best (221k)

Small/Good (85k)

Small/Better (121k)

Small/Best (153k)

Wide-Angle

Large/Good (181k)

Large/Better (269k)

Large/Best (370k)

Medium/Good (124k)

Medium/Better (180k)

Medium/Best (235k)

Small/Good (88k)

Small/Better (127k)

Small/Best (164k)

We also shot the resolution target with the "Digital Zoom" enabled at both Large and Small image sizes.

 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: Viewfinder accuracy and flash uniformity on the DC260 were both excellent. The optical viewfinder follows common practice, showing an area about 13% smaller vertically and horizontally than that captured by the CCD. The area actually captured was also shifted to the left by about 4% on our test unit. Where Kodak really shines though, is in the accuracy of their LCD viewfinders. On most digital cameras, the LCD is somewhat more accurate than the optical viewfinder, but they generally still crop the image area somewhat. In the 260 though, we found we could rely absolutely on the LCD as an accurate indication of what would be captured by the CCD. We include here shots taken with both telephoto and wide-angle lens settings, using both the optical and LCD viewfinders. Herewith: wide-angle/optical (131k), wide-angle/LCD (128k), telephoto/optical (129k), telephoto/LCD (124k), and Digital Zoom/LCD (114k). (Keep in mind in viewing these shots that the DC260 images have a 3:2 aspect ratio. In our testing, this means that we set the bold horizontal lines exactly at the top and bottom of the frame, and centered the image so the inner set of dashed, diagonal lines exactly intersected the corners of the viewfinder.)  

 

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