Digital Cameras - Kodak DC280 Test Images
|Outdoor portrait: (448k) The outdoor portrait shot captured by the DC280 shows the excellent color we've come to expect from Kodak cameras, with bright, pure primary colors, as seen in the blue, red, and yellow flowers. Skin tone is slightly "hot", but well within acceptable limits. Exposure is also surprisingly good, as the "high key" content of this subject generally causes problems for cameras' autoexposure systems. The default exposure (432k) of the DC280 indeed came out somewhat dark, but the main shot here (448k) required only a half-stop (+0.5 EV) of exposure compensation to result in an excellent balance of highlight and shadow detail. Pushing on to a full stop of compensation (+1.0 EV) resulted in this (484k) rather blown-out shot. Resolution is very much on a par with other 2 megapixel cameras we've tested. Overall, a very fine performance.|
|Closer portrait: (428k) As usual with this shot, as the model's face fills more of the frame, the default exposure becomes more accurate, to the point that our choice for this shot was the one taken with no exposure compensation. The 280's zoom lens is a real help for portrait shots like this, as the longer focal length at the telephoto end of the zoom doesn't distort facial features (such as the nose) the way a fixed-focus, wide-angle lens would. Color is again very good, although again we note that the flesh tones are just a bit "hot" for our taste. Resolution is very good as well, although some detail is lost in the low-contrast regions of the model's hair.|
|Indoor portrait, flash: (356k) This shot is remarkably tricky for most digital cameras, due to the vastly different color balance of the flash and household tungsten lighting. The fairly bright incandescent lighting means relatively little flash is needed, which generally results in some odd colors in the final picture. The DC280 did quite a bit better than most here, producing excellent color, and very little of the bluish highlights we normally find. Based on this shot, we'd highly recommend the DC280 for indoor flash work: This is much better than we're accustomed to seeing! (Another note: The DC280 uses only a single flash of the strobe to capture the picture, meaning it should be easy to sync with an external flash unit, using a conventional slave unit.)|
|Indoor portrait, no
flash: (328k) This subject is a very tough
test of a camera's white-balance capabilities, given the strong yellow cast
of the household incandescent lighting it's shot under. The DC280's auto
white balance performed exceptionally well here, producing natural colors,
while leaving just enough of the warm cast to preserve the mood of the incandescent
lighting. We generally find that the cameras' default exposure settings
produce rather dark images, but the 280 did very well with no exposure compensation,
as shown in this shot (3166k).
Here are a couple of more shots, each taken with a half-stop (0.5 EV) more
exposure, or compensation adjustments of +0.5EV
328k), and +1.0 EV (324k).
This shows the value of playing with the exposure compensation adjustment:
Of the series, the +0.5 EV sample 328k)
is the best, a smaller amount of compensation than this shot typically requires.
(This mirrors the DC280's autoexposure performance in the outdoor portrait
test: It appears that its exposure system is more accurate than most with
high-key subjects like this.) We also shot a series of exposures with the
white balance set to "incandescent", but found the results virtually
identical to those obtained with the automatic setting. Both sets of images
are arranged in the table below. Finally, we tried a shot with the "Automatic
ISO" adjustment (428k) feature selected,
but saw virtually no visible difference between it and the other shots in
the series. Examining the file header with Cameraid though, showed a shutter
speed of 1/11, vs. about 1/6 for the standard shot with Tungsten white balance.
This is evidence of a roughly 2x increase in effective ISO speed. Examining
the images closely in Photoshop(tm) showed that blue-channel noise was higher
in the auto-ISO exposure, but certainly less than we've seen in other cameras
running at their default ISOs. Overall, the "auto ISO" function
looks like a winner, greatly helping shutter speeds for lower-light shooting.
(But as you can tell from the slow shutter speeds just cited above, you'll
still want to use a tripod whenever possible!)
House shot: (932k) Our standard House poster is one of our strongest tests of detail and resolution. Here, the DC280 responded quite well, showing only slightly less detail than the highest-resolution cameras we've tested to date. Color again was very good, with only a slight yellowish cast detracting from a perfect score. The main picture (932k) here was shot using the auto white balance setting, while this smaller one (336k) was taken with the "Daylight" setting. There's almost no discernible difference between the two, although the daylight version is very slightly more blue.
For this test, we shot a series of images, showing the camera's performance
at each of its resolution/image quality settings. The results are arranged
in the table below for your perusal.
Far-Field shot: (820k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. 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.
The DC280 did exceptionally well here, right at the top of the range among 2 megapixel cameras we've tested to date (early August, 1999). Color is also very good, with a beautiful bright, clear sky color, and just the right color in the bricks on the front of the house. (Our main shot (820k) was taken with the "auto" white balance setting: Here's a smaller version (296k) shot in "daylight" mode.) This shot was taken on a hazy summer day, with a rather bright sky overall: This led to the washing-out of some detail in the branches shot against the sky, an area we generally examine to evaluate resolution and detail. Turning to other parts of the picture though, detail in the bricks and green foliage is exceptionally good. The relatively flat tints of the shingles however, seem to produce some noise which we at first took for a loss of detail. When we sat back slightly from the screen though, we noticed that we could actually see more of the detail in the shingles than with other 2 megapixel cameras we compared the 280 to. Bottom line? It probably depends a bit on your picture usage: Very tight crops of low-contrast subjects displayed on the 'web will show this flattening of detail. We suspect that full-frame printed output will look better than competing cameras. (For the real "bottom line", download equivalent images from cameras you're considering, and compare output from your own printer.)
As with the House poster shot, we've also taken a series of pictures
here, exercising the camera's various resolution and image-quality modes.
The results are in the table below.
"Musicians" poster: (612k) While this is just a picture of a poster, the color values for the various skin tones are pretty representative of the three ethnic groups represented. Skin tones are tough for digital cameras, both because the Caucasian skin color is so sensitive to over-saturation, and because all of the tones are "memory colors:" People are so familiar with the range of "correct" colors that any deviation is immediately obvious. In this test, the DC280's automatic white balance was fooled a bit by the bluish cast of the background, and the strong blue of the Oriental model's robe. (A very common reaction to this image, among digicams we've tested.) The result was a rather warm tone, as shown in this auto white-balance (248k) VGA-resolution shot. Using the "daylight" manual white-balance setting, the excess yellow was removed from the images, with the excellent results shown in our main image (612k). With the manual "daylight" white-balance setting, the DC280 did a really excellent job here, among the best we've seen (and even better than the previous "winner" for this shot, the DC240): Skin tones are nicely balanced, yet color saturation in the model's costumes is high, and color overall is very accurate. Excellent job!
Again, we have a full series of resolution/image quality samples available, shot with both the daylight and automatic white-balance settings, arranged in the tables below.
|Macro shot: (600k) - With its zoom lens run out to the telephoto end of its range, and the camera set for "macro" focusing, the DC280 does a decent, if not stunning job of close-up photography. The minimum focusing distance of 9.8 inches (0.25 m) combines with the 2x optical zoom range to result in a "looser" minimum viewable area of 4.2 x 6.4 inches (108 x 162 mm). Although not specified by Kodak to work that close, we were also pleased to see that the onboard flash works quite well down to the minimum 9.8 inch focusing distance, as shown in this shot (632k), although the illumination is rather uneven at that close an approach|
"Davebox" test target: (352k) Wow! We've come to expect excellent color from Kodak digital cameras, and the DC280 certainly upholds this tradition. Edging out its sibling the DC240 (the previous holder of the "excellent color" crown), the DC280 clearly shows some of the best color-handling we've found in any camera, at any price point! All colors are accurate, strong primaries are clean and well-saturated, yet the subtle pastels of the Q60 target at bottom center are perfectly preserved as well. Highlight detail is excellent, and shadow detail is moderate. For this shot, the automatic white balance was slightly more accurate than the "daylight" manual setting, which produced a very slight yellowish cast, as shown in this VGA-resolution shot (152k) Overall an excellent performance!
Once more, we have full resolution/image-quality series shot with both
automatic and daylight white-balance settings, for those interested in
the camera's performance in other operating modes.
Daylight white balance
Low-Light Tests (NEW!)
Although it did well in our fairly well-lit "indoor portrait"
(EV 12) test above, low-light shooting isn't a forte of the DC280. Kodak
rates it at an ISO of 70, and that plus the specs for maximum aperture
and shutter time would suggest a minimum usable light level of roughly
EV 10 (approximately 8 foot-candles, or 88 lux). This rating in fact agreed
quite well with our own low-light tests, which produced a good image at
EV 10 (364k), but a
very dark one at EV 9 (484k),
and nothing usable at levels lower than that. We found virtually no effect
on the ultimate low-light performance as a result of engaging the "Auto
ISO" function, which apparently only serves to increase shutter speeds
at higher lighting levels. The table below shows the results we obtained
at several lighting levels.
Flash Range Test (NEW!)
In response to several reader requests, we've begun testing the usable working range of the on-board flash units of digicams. We don't have a real formal procedure for this, but mainly want to determine whether the manufacturer's ratings are reasonable or not. In the case of the DC280, we're happy to report that the flash unit appears to be fairly conservatively rated: Kodak rates it to only 7.9 feet in telephoto mode, and we found the picture it took at that distance to be quite bright, as shown here (400k). We backed up to 10 feet, still in telephoto mode, and snapped this shot (424k), which left us feeling that the flash in fact worked quite well out to that distance.
ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (416k) (Technoids only) Visual resolution of the DC280 in this test approaches 800 lines per picture height vertically, and 650-700 horizontally, well on a par with other 2 megapixel cameras we've tested. It appears that the DC280 renders high-contrast objects very well, but slips somewhat when the scene is characterized by lower contrast, as was the case with the model's hair in the outdoor shots. This scene shows the excellent resolution the camera is capable of though...
Again, we've provided a full resolution/quality series here for those who might be interested:
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: We were pleased to
find the viewfinder on the DC280 as accurate as it was. The optical viewfinder
shows a well-centered view of about 89% of the final image area at the
wide-angle end of its range (116k),
and 85% at the telephoto end (136k),
a bit more accurate than most. (Note that the apparent rotation of the
image in the wide-angle view is actually due to a misalignment that was
our fault: We had the camera slight off-center to the right, producing
a perspective distortion, with the left side of the image narrower than
the right. Thus, the top of the image slants down to the left, while the
bottom is level. The viewfinder itself has no rotation in it, as evidenced
by the perfectly square image taken in telephoto mode.) As with essentially
all other Kodak cameras we've tested, the LCD viewfinder is 100% accurate
at both wide-angle (116k)
and telephoto (128k)
focal lengths, a real help in some of the critical studio shots we take.
Overall, the DC280 has one of the more accurate viewfinder systems we've
found to date on rangefinder-style digital cameras. Flash uniformity is
excellent at the telephoto end of the lens' range, very good at the wide-angle
end. The lens shows virtually no geometric distortion, at either
the wide-angle or telephoto end of its zoom range. (Along with that of
the earlier DC240, one of the more distortion-free lenses we've seen...)
The table below contains samples shot at both the telephoto and wide-angle
end of the lens' range, with both the optical and LCD viewfinders.
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Kodak DC280, or add comments of your own!
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