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Kodak EasyShare DX3215 Zoom Digital Camera

 
Camera QuickLook
Review Date
05/22/02
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point-and-Shoot
Picture Quality
Moderate, 1.3-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6 or 5x7 inches
Availability
2001
Suggested Retail Price
$199


Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion

Eastman Kodak Company has a long history of bringing professional imaging processes to the everyday consumer. Kodak's EasyShare System is the company's digital equivalent to its turn-of-the-century Brownie box camera, which came with preloaded film and no manual controls (once users shot all their film, they simply sent the boxes back to Kodak for processing and printing). While the first two Kodak EasyShare digicams, the DX3500 and DX3600, were much more sophisticated than a Brownie, they did feature the same "just press the button" simplicity, with fully automatic controls and an optional docking station that takes all of the guesswork out of digital image manipulation, management, and sharing. As Kodak has evolved the line, they've introduced more advanced cameras that do offer a few user options. The subject of the current review though, is the EasyShare DX3215, a bare-bones 1.3 megapixel design that reverts to the "one button" roots of the line, offering little in the way of user controls, although it does offer a 2x optical zoom lens.

The "Picture Software" Kodak bundles with these cameras is also extremely easy to use -- walking you through every step of the uploading, enhancing, and emailing process -- and has a more graphically intuitive interface than almost any other 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. In the DX3215, Kodak's created a bare-bones 1.3 megapixel "snapshot" camera that still manages to snap good photos under a surprising range of shooting conditions.


Camera Overview
Roughly the same size as a traditional, point-and-shoot film camera, the Kodak EasyShare DX3215 Zoom has a comfortable feel. The slightly chunky body style is substantial enough for a good hold on the camera, while the all-plastic body keeps it light weight and portable. The camera's protruding lens barrel will keep it out of average shirt pockets, but it should fit into larger coat pockets, purses, and backpacks with ease. The DX3215 is pretty purely a point & shoot camera: Minimal exposure controls make camera operation easy and quick, and a short LCD menu covers only the most basic functions (such as file size, macro mode, etc.). The DX3215's 1.3-megapixel CCD delivers images that'll make decent snapshots, printed as large as 5x7 inches, but probably looking better at 4x6 size. A lower resolution setting is also provided for more email-friendly files. Like the rest of the EasyShare line, the DX3215 is compatible with Kodak's optional EasyShare camera dock, which acts as a battery charger, AC adapter, and PC connection tool wrapped into. A plastic insert that mates the bottom of the DX3215 snugly to the camera dock is packed with the camera.

The DX3215 is equipped with a Kodak Ektanar 30-60mm optical zoom lens, with a maximum aperture of f/3.8 -f/4.5, depending on the lens zoom position. Focus ranges from 2.5 feet (75 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 0.8 to 2.5 feet (25 to 75 centimeters) in Macro mode. In addition to the 2x optical zoom, the DX3215 also offer as much as 2x digital zoom. Though it effectively increases the DX3215's zoom capabilities to 4x, I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality in direct proportion to the magnification, because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. For that reason, don't count on the extra magnification of the digital zoom option to be useful for any images you intend to print. For composing shots, the DX3215 has both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.6-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor's information display includes basic camera information, including the current battery charge level, zoom setting, quality setting, flash mode, and number of available images. In my testing, I found the optical viewfinder to be very inconsistent in its coverage as the lens zoomed from wide angle to telephoto. It covered an area much smaller than the lens captures at wide angle, but came close to being accurate at telephoto. By contrast, the LCD viewfinder was very accurate regardless of the zoom setting.

To keep things simple, as the EasyShare name implies, the DX3215 offers only fully automatic, point-and-shoot exposure control. Kodak doesn't report the DX3215's shutter speed range, but the camera handled average, reasonably well-lit shooting situations fairly well in my testing. A Mode switch on the back panel puts the camera in either Record, Playback, or Setup modes, and the LCD menu is only available in Setup mode. The DX3215 has an ISO sensitivity range from 100 to 140, with the specific setting automatically selected by the camera depending on the exposure conditions. White balance, exposure compensation, and metering are also all automatically controlled, leaving the user with only the flash, image quality, and macro modes to manage. A Flash button on the back panel selects either Auto, Fill, Off, or Red-Eye Reduction flash modes, and an icon for each mode appears on the LCD display.

The DX3215 has eight megabytes of internal memory, meaning you can snap a fair number pictures without needing a memory card. The camera does have an SD / MMC memory card slot though, so you can plug in up to a 128 MB card if you like. (128 meg is the current limit, 256 MB SD cards are supposedly coming by the end of 2002.) Even with the 20-shot capacity of the internal memory, I still recommend purchasing a larger card. Memory cards are cheap enough that even a 32 MB card costs only a small amount, and you'll find the added capacity very handy on longer photo excursions.

The camera is powered by either two AA-type batteries or one CRV3 battery for power. A Kodak CRV3 battery comes with the camera (though the manual notes that some cameras may ship with a set of lithium AA batteries). If you purchase the accessory camera dock, a set of two NiMH rechargeable batteries are included, and can be charged in the camera while the camera is in the dock. Regardless of whether you buy the dock or not, I strongly advise getting an additional set of rechargeables, and keeping a freshly-charged set on-hand. - With only two AA cells for power, the DX3215's battery life is rather short. This is helped somewhat by the camera automatically shutting itself down after a brief period of inactivity to save battery power, but you'll find yourself running through batteries awfully quickly, particularly if you use the LCD panel much. Take my advice and buy yourself several sets of high-capacity cells and a good charger. (Click here for my NiMH battery shootout page, or here for a review of my favorite NiMH battery charger.)

The DX3215 features a USB jack for downloading images to a computer, though you can also connect the camera to the dock (which is in turn connected to a computer) to download files with just the press of a button. A software CD accompanies the camera, loaded with Kodak's Picture Software, compatible with Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP and Macintosh OS 8.6-X. For connecting to a television set, the DX3215 has a Video Out jack and US versions come with an NTSC video cable (I assume the European counterpart ships with the appropriate PAL cable, given the availability of a PAL setting in the camera menu). The DX3215 is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, and you can set the number of prints for each photo in Playback mode, for subsequent printing on a DPOF-compatible printer.


Basic Features

  • 1.3-megapixel CCD.
  • 1.6-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • Glass, 2x, Kodak Ektanar 30-60mm lens, with maximum aperture from f/3.8 to f/4.5.
  • 2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Automatic ISO rating of 100 and 140.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes.
  • SD / MMC or internal 8MB memory storage.
  • Power supplied by two AA batteries, one CRV3 battery, or optional AC adapter via camera dock accessory.

Special Features

  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • Compatible with the Kodak EasyShare camera dock, for quick connection to a PC or printer.
  • Video Out jack for connection to a television set.


Recommendation
A truly point & shoot digital camera, the DX3215 is a good choice for novice digicam users who just want decent pictures with as little hassle as possible. Its fully automatic exposure offers hassle-free shooting, since you only need to frame the subject and click the shutter. The only adjustable controls are flash mode, zoom, and resolution, making camera operation very simple and uncomplicated. The 1.3-megapixel CCD captures snapshot quality images, adequate for printing up to about 5x7 inches and good for vacation shots, birthdays, and other special events. The accessory camera dock and Kodak's excellent software simplifies downloading images, making the DX3215 a very user-friendly camera all the way around.


Design
Though its body is a bit bulky in places, the DX3215 is compact enough for travel, either fitting into a large coat pocket or small camera bag. Measuring 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.8 inches (121.2 x 69.5 x 45.8 millimeters), the DX3215's all-plastic body is light weight at just 7.76 ounces (220 grams, without batteries or memory card).The all-plastic construction contributes to a somewhat "plasticky" feel (no surprise there), but it does seem to be reasonably rugged. It fits well into the hand, and an included wrist strap secures your hold. I do recommend picking up a small, padded camera bag for travel though, even though the DX3215 is fairly rugged.

 

 

The DX3215's front panel divides its space between the lens, flash, optical viewfinder window, and light sensor. The lens barrel protrudes from the camera front a bit less than an inch, and the telescoping lens itself extends an additional quarter inch from the camera body when powered on. A small, plastic lens cap protects the lens surface when not in use, and tethers to the camera body via a small strap. The front hand grip consists of only a very slight bulge, but features a soft, rubbery pad to provide a better grip for your fingers.

 

 

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the memory card compartment, battery compartment, Video Out jack, and USB jack. Both connector jacks are uncovered, making them easily accessible, but also exposing them to dust and other environmental hazards. The battery compartment door slides toward the front of the camera before opening on hinges, and the pressure of the door keeps the batteries locked securely in place. The SD / MMC memory card slot opens from the back panel, sliding outward before flipping open.

 

 

The left side of the camera is plain and smooth, with no features or controls.

 

 

The top of the DX3215 contains only the matte silver, oblong Shutter button.

 

 

All remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. An eyelet for attaching the wrist strap is in the lower right corner of the back panel, just below the door of the memory card slot. The DX3215's optical viewfinder has a fairly high eyepoint, so most eyeglass thicknesses should be accommodated, but the edges of the field of view are rather poorly defined, particularly as your eye gets further away from the eyepiece. This makes it a little hard to tell just what's in the frame and what isn't. A small LED next to the viewfinder lights to indicate the camera's status, such as when focus is set or the flash is charging. Camera controls are limited to the Power, Flash, Select, and Delete buttons, as well as the Four Way Arrow pad and Mode switch.

 

 

The DX3215 has a flat bottom panel, which holds the dock connector jack (protected by a sliding plastic cover) and slightly off-center plastic tripod mount.


Camera Operation
With only a few control buttons and a very limited LCD menu, the DX3215's user interface shouldn't take long to master. Flash and zoom are about the only options offered, and are both controlled externally. File size and macro mode can be adjusted through the LCD menu. A single LCD menu, accessible only via the Setup mode, controls Record, Playback, and basic camera setup functions, making settings changes pretty straightforward. The Mode switch on the camera simplifies operation as well, offering only three modes (Record, Playback, and Setup). Even with a only cursory glance at the instruction manual, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get the DX3215's operation down, great for impatient novices. ;-)


External Controls


Shutter Button: The smooth, elliptical shutter button protrudes just slightly from the camera's top panel. Pressed halfway, it triggers the autofocus and exposure mechanisms. A full press fires the shutter.


Power Button: The uppermost button on the back panel, this turns the camera on or off.


Flash Button: Diagonally to the right beneath the Power button, this button controls the flash operating mode. Pressing it sequentially cycles through Auto, Fill, Flash Cancel, and Red-Eye Reduction modes.


Select Button: Just below the Flash button, this button controls the LCD display in Record mode. Pressed once, it activates the LCD. Pressed pressed again, it removes some of the information normally displayed on the screen, to provide a clearer view of your subject. Pressed a third time, it turns the LCD off again.

In Playback mode, this button controls the information overlay display, turning it on or off.

In Setup mode, this button confirms menu selections.


Delete Button: Directly beneath the Select button, this button calls up the Delete menu in playback mode, with options of deleting the current image, all images, or no images. If the LCD is on in capture mode, or if the "QuickView" option is enabled, the camera shows the just-captured picture on the LCD briefly after each shot. While the image is displayed, pressing the Delete button will discard the image. (Don't worry about accidental deletions though, when you press it, you get a confirmation screen where you can choose once and for all whether you want to save or delete the image.)


Four Way Arrow Pad: Situated on the far right side of the back panel, this large button toggles either left and right or up and down. In Playback mode, the left and right arrows scroll through captured images on the card. If an image you're viewing in playback mode is located on an external memory card, the up and down arrows select the number of prints to be made from it on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) printer.

In Setup mode, the left and right arrow keys navigate through menu selections, while the up and down arrows highlight choices.


Mode Switch: Just below the Four Way Arrow pad, this switch controls the camera's operating mode, placing it into Record, Playback, or Setup modes.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Designated on the Mode switch by a small camera symbol, this mode configures the camera for capturing still images. The user can adjust flash mode and lens zoom in this mode, but little else. No menu is available in this mode.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images saved on the memory card or in the camera's internal memory, as well as erase them. If the images are located on a removable memory card, the user can set the number of DPOF prints to be made. No menu options are available in this mode either.

Setup Mode: The final position on the Mode switch, this mode displays the camera's settings menu, which is divided into several categories. A series of icons along the bottom of the screen specify the type of setting, and are navigated with the right and left arrow keys. Within each screen, individual options are selected via the up/down arrow keys and by pressing the Select button when the appropriate choice is highlighted. The following options are available:

  • Language: Sets the camera's menu language to English, Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese.
  • Date/Time Set: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock. There is also an option to stamp the date and/or time on recorded images.
  • Review: Offers two Review mode options:
    • Slide Show: Plays back all images on either the memory card or saved in the internal memory as an automatic slide show. You can select the time delay between shots, from five to 60 seconds.
    • Video Out: Sets the camera's video-out signal to PAL or NTSC timing.
  • Capture: Displays the following Record mode options:
    • Image Quality: Sets the file size/quality to Best / Snapshots (1,280 x 960 pixels) or Good / Email (640 x 480 pixels).
    • Macro: Turns the Macro shooting mode on or off.
    • Quickview: Turns the automatic Quickview function on or off, which automatically displays the most recently captured image for a few seconds after capture.
  • Copy: (Only appears when an external memory card is in the camera.) This lets you copy images from the internal memory to a memory card. Images cannot, however, be copied from the memory card to the internal memory.
  • About Camera: Displays the camera's firmware information.
  • Format: Formats either the internal memory or SD / MMC memory card, which erases all files.

 

Sample Pictures
See my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

Not Available 
House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.


Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


Test Results

  • Color: The DX3215 produced very nice color throughout most of my testing, both outdoors and under the studio lighting. The camera's automatic-only white balance system handled the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash) fairly well, although those photos had a somewhat warm, greenish cast. The DX3215 also produced good color on the test targets under the studio lighting, even with the difficult Musicians poster (the large amount of blue in that shot often tricks digicams into producing a warm image). The blue flowers of the Outdoor Portrait were nearly accurate, with only slight purple tints. Skin tones also looked good, both indoors and out. The large color blocks of the Davebox were about right, though saturation was slightly weak from overexposure.

  • Exposure: The DX3215 did a great job of calculating the exposure in most cases, especially given its complete lack of manual exposure adjustments. The camera exposed the difficult outdoor portraits and house shot well, capturing bright midtones with good detail. Dynamic range was somewhat limited, as the camera lost the extreme highlight details in the outdoor house shot. The DX3215 just barely picked up the subtle tonal variations of the Davebox, a difficult area for many digicams, although it did overexpose that target a fair amount. Indoors, the 3215 somewhat underexposed the indoor portrait shot when shooting without the flash, but when I turned it on, the flash brightened things up nicely without blowing out highlight detail.

  • Sharpness: Most of the DX3215's shots were rather soft, with its 1.3-megapixel CCD producing only moderate detail and definition. (It's a bit softer than even other 1.3 megapixel cameras I've tested.) In the case of the House poster, details were very soft throughout the frame, as well as on the Davebox target. Optical distortion was moderate at the wide-angle lens setting, but chromatic aberration in the corners of the image was practically nonexistent. Bottom line, you'll probably be happy with the DX3215's images at 4x6 print sizes, but larger than that and the softness of its photos starts to show. You can probably stretch it to make 5x7 prints, but 8x10 will be completely out of the question for most users.

  • Closeups: Macro shooting is one area where the DX3215 reveals its "basic point & shoot" roots - It captures a much larger than average minimum area of 7.3 x 5.5 inches (186 x 140 mm). Detail is only moderate. The flash throttles down very well for shooting up close, but its illumination is quite off-center. Probably not the camera to get if you need to photograph coins or stamps for eBay.

  • Night Shots: The DX3215 really didn't do well at all in the low-light category, as it captured bright, clear images at light levels only as low as eight foot-candles (88 lux) with good color. The color was good and noise fairly low, but this isn't a very dark light level. Since average city street lighting at night equates to about one foot-candle, night exposures will definitely require the built-in flash.

  • Battery Life: In part because it relies upon only two AA batteries for its power, the DX3215's battery life is rather short. Based on my measurements, projected battery life is only 48 minutes in capture mode with the LCD on, a bit over an hour in playback mode, or up to two hours in capture mode with the LCD turned off. All of these times are shorter some competing models using two AA cells, not to mention drastically shorter than units using four cells. My standard recommendation that you purchase a good charger and several sets of high-capacity batteries thus applies doubly to the DX3215. The Kodak dock kit includes a rechargeable battery pack with fairly decent capacity, but for the best run times, check my NiMH Battery Shootout page for the latest on actual battery performance, and my review of the Maha C204F to see why it's my favorite charger.


In the Box
The DX3215 arrives with the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • Lens cap with strap.
  • CRV3 lithium battery.
  • USB cable.
  • NTSC video cable (US models).
  • Dock insert (for use with accessory camera dock).
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual, software guide, and registration kit.


Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SD / MMC memory card.
  • Dock kit (which includes rechargeable batteries).
  • Additional set of high capacity rechargeable batteries. (!)
  • Soft case.


Conclusion
Fairly compact and reasonably light weight, the DX3215 is a point-and-shoot digicam that will bring home good photos from a wide range of common shooting situations. It's not the best choice for night or macro shots, but its limited user controls make camera operation uncomplicated, and the 2x optical zoom provides some framing flexibility. The camera's 1.3-megapixel CCD and full automatic exposure control are best suited for snapshots, making the DX3215 a good option for novice photographers or busy families who want to document special events, but a poor choice for folks interested in lots of 8x10 prints or more sophisticated picture-taking abilities. Probably the biggest drawing card for the DX3215 is its great ease of use, helped considerably by Kodak's excellent Picture Software, that makes it easy to get your photos out of the camera, into your computer, and then back out again as either prints or emails.


 

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