Kodak V803 Review
|Dimensions:||4.1 x 2.1 x 1.0 in.
(103 x 55 x 25 mm)
|Weight:||5.0 oz (142 g)|
Kodak EasyShare V803 Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 6/05/07
The Kodak EasyShare V803 features a Kodak Retinar-branded 3x optical zoom lens, 2.5-inch 150,000 pixel LCD display (but no optical viewfinder), a high ISO mode that offers a maximum sensitivity of ISO 1,600 equivalent, and a whopping 23 scene modes.
The Kodak V803 includes user-friendly functions such as in-camera digital red-eye removal, a blurry picture warning, and a new "Maintain Settings" menu that lets the user store their preferred settings such as flash, white balance, ISO, and resolution for use each time the camera is powered on.
Other Kodak V803 features include 4x digital zoom, three metering modes (multi-pattern, center-weighted, or center-spot), +/- 2.0 EV exposure compensation, 2, or 10 second self-timer, and a Movie mode that produces QuickTime MOV (MPEG-4) files with audio at 640 x 480, or 320 x 240 pixel resolution at a rate of up to 30 frames per second.
Like other Kodak EasyShare models, the V803 uses SD/MMC memory cards, and comes with 24MB of internal memory available for image storage. V803 interfaces include USB 2.0, A/V (NTSC, or PAL), and Kodak Camera Dock/Printer Dock connections. Power is provided to the EasyShare V803 via a Kodak KLIC-7003 Li-Ion rechargeable battery.
The Kodak EasyShare V803 is available in a variety of colors including Golden Dream, Pink Bliss, Cosmic Blue, Red Shimmer, White Glaze, Mystic Purple, Midnight Black, and Silver Essence.
Kodak EasyShare V803
by Mike Pasini
Intro. Though it's easily mistaken as a camera for anyone, Kodak made no secret that the EasyShare V803 was made with the female photographer in mind. Not only does it come in eight colors including Pink Bliss, Kodak announced the V803 with a gaggle of accessories designed to appeal to women, including purses and beaded camera straps.
An ordinary camera by any measure, the usual brick is smoothed into soft, rounded corners with chrome accents. The V803's main feature, according to Kodak, is that you can accessorize it with purses, clutches, beaded straps, and more until your camera becomes "undeniably you."
No need for adolescent skins. You can select among any number of "fresh" colors. Golden Dream, Pink Bliss, Cosmic Blue, Red Shimmer, White Glaze, Mystic Purple, Midnight Black, and Silver Essence. What color are you?
And the kicker sticker? The V803 is under $200!
You get an 8-megapixel sensor and a 2.5-inch LCD with that. Even a 3x zoom that actually turns out to be a pretty nice lens. You also get the EasyShare operating system so you don't have to read anything to use the Kodak V803.
But that's about it. It won't take long to get extremely annoyed with the slow startup time and the sluggish shutter response (even half pressed). I thought those days were over. Not for $200, apparently.
The Kodak EasyShare V803 is not an unattractive camera or a particularly feminine one at that. It has a bit of style (and looks sturdy enough for the tool box). Kodak sent us a black one, without a beaded strap, so apparently they're not that hot to promote it as only for women.
Design. I do find the V803 a very attractive camera design. It's actually smaller in the hand than it might appear. And the smooth lines are just the ticket for slipping into a pocket. The V803 is very easy on the eyes.
I also like the Kodak V803's weight. It's average among digicams of its class, but heftier than the featherweights that are just impossible to steady as you press their unusually stiff shutter buttons.
The Shutter button on the Kodak EasyShare V803 is just right, large enough to find and easy to half-press and fully press, too. What's not just right is the Power button. That has to be held down for a count before the camera takes you seriously. I'm used to my commands being instantly obeyed, so I never got used to this subversive behavior. I'd have really liked a switch.
The other problem control for me is the joystick. I like joysticks, I really do. But it was very easy to accidentally engage this one. I took pictures that were quite underexposed because I inadvertently pressed the joystick to the left, setting EV to -1.3 (as on the cityscape shot below). And I just as easily found myself in Macro mode from pressing the Kodak EasyShare V803's joystick down. The cure is to rest your thumb on the Zoom lever, not the joystick. The joystick means business; unusual for a joystick.
I do like the control layout, though. The top buttons are mode buttons and the side buttons are shortcuts. Easy to get familiar with, all of them.
What's missing on the Kodak EasyShare V803 is a Playback mode button. Instead, there's a Review button on the back that switches to Playback mode, or the Favorites mode button on top that shows you what's stored in the Favorites album on internal memory. But to see your images without extending the lens, you have to press Favorites and then Review, waiting while the card is read. I'd prefer a Review mode button with a Favorites shortcut to switch to my permanent collection because mostly I want to see what's new.
The instant review is good for that, of course, and recent graduates from camphone school will use that almost as much as a mirror to see what they and their friends look like.
Display/Viewfinder. Keeping the price below $200 means restricting the LCD to 2.5 inches, but that's not small. It just isn't huge like those 3.0 inch LCDs on cameras that cost twice as much.
There's no optical viewfinder on the Kodak EasyShare V803, but that's not unusual. And this camera's owner is likely to be engaged with the subject, not a detached observer.
Although it's just a 154K pixel display, the LCD does show off your images nicely in Playback mode. The angle of view isn't very generous, however. Even slightly askew, the colors shift and the image disappears. There will be a lot of looking over the shoulder during playback.
And there will be a lot of wrist twisting, too. The Kodak V803 doesn't have an orientation sensor ($200 limit, right) so images aren't rotated by the camera. You'll have to do that yourself.
I had a hard time composing images in sunlight with the Kodak EasyShare V803's LCD. It just wasn't bright enough, and the shiny surface reflected my gold chains and sunburnt chest. When I composed a panorama shot at Twin Peaks (Y100_0821.HTM in the Gallery), I couldn't see well enough to line each shot up -- and there's a bad slice as a result. You can kick the brightness up at the expense of battery life, but you have to be able to see the screen to find the menu option.
Performance. Power on and shut down both take a count or two as the lens moves out or in. The lens is quick, but there's also a delay before you hear the little tune that tells you the camera is ready to shoot.
When you zoom, the lens steps through the zoom range, so precise composition isn't possible. It isn't bad enough to annoy you, but it isn't smooth, either.
It isn't a quick camera by any measure. Focus takes a long time, so while the shutter seemed more responsive than our test show it to be, you really can't catch the moment. In Burst mode, the LCD lags way behind the shutter, so you have no idea what you're capturing. Stuff like this can really spoil the fun, even if you buy the beads.
Kodak's Scene modes are handy helpers, and their presentation makes them especially accessible. They appear in three rows across the bottom half of the screen with a text description on the top half. They're fun to experiment with (particularly the in-camera Panorama stitching). If you need help with menu items, just press the Telephoto end of the zoom lever, and a help screen will pop up explaining each item.
The 4x digital zoom isn't the best we've seen, but it isn't bad, either. It certainly delivers usable results, if not the sharpness of optical zoom. Macro works well. You can get quite close to your subject. Forget about using the flash with Macro, though. The flash wasn't engineered to fire that close. Distortion wasn't excessive either at wide angle or telephoto, either. The 3x optical zoom doesn't comprise optical quality. That goes for chromatic aberration and sharpness, too.
What sets the V803 apart from its competitors (if we ignore the accessories) is what sets Kodak digicams apart in general: EasyShare. It starts with Favorites and easy docking to optional printer docks to make 4x6 prints, but it extends to Kodak's free EasyShare software that can import your images when you attach the camera to your computer with a USB cable. And it goes even further to Kodak Gallery, a free online service where you can share your images and turn them into prints and many types of gifts. EasyShare is the really valuable accessory that comes with every Kodak digicam.
The V803 does include some in-camera editing functions like Kodak's Perfect Touch, which displays the automatic enhancement in a split screen view so you can decide whether to keep it or not. You can also crop pictures in the camera. And you can edit video, too, saving a frame as a still or trimming the video of unwanted segments. You can add video bookmarks to skip to interesting places in a movie and you can make a grid of 4, 9, or 16 images from video frames.
The lithium-ion battery charged quickly and kept its charge, so we were never without power. But Kodak only rates it for 200 shots, which is surprisingly below average. Buy a second battery before you spring for the beads.
Charging is done via the dock, or through a power jack on the side. The small AC adapter's prongs fold into the body for easier transport, and the three function buttons on top shine blue in sequence to indicate charge status. This is a smart charging method that we'd like to see other manufacturers adopt.
Shooting. The V803 seems intended for casual shooting. Outdoors with friends, inside at parties, the kids at the playground. But we found it good at the kind of shots the typical user may never take.
On the downside, its daylight shots were high contrast and overly saturated. This is most apparent in the blue skies of outdoor shots, which are really much too blue. But you can also see it in our low light shot of a stick shift, where the colors are really just too intense.
The fire hydrant shot shows the contrast problem, blowing out the white hydrant in full sun and losing the leaves in the shadows. If you download the image, take a look at the histogram. The calla lily faired much better, but it was shot in the shade.
Macro shots were among our favorites with the V803. In our Full Exif Display you can confirm a shot was Macro by looking at the SubjectDistanceRange field. The clown, flowers and backup light are good examples. We got nice detail and the color wasn't unreal, either. Although the yellow begonia, shot in direct sun, is mysteriously underexposed. The clown, too, is underexposed.
Our low light shots in straight Auto weren't very impressive, though. Apart from the saturation, there's no help with slow shutter speeds. Our drugstore shot at 1/20 second is blurry and ISO in Auto mode didn't go higher than 160 to help. You have to hold the camera very still in low light.
I did try a few flash shots. Range was short (around the table not across the room) and even then the shots were underexposed. Our flash test shots are all constrained to ISO 100, but Kodak kicks the ISO up to 160 and 200 in its scheme, one reason the 2.5 second recycle time is so quick. Even then, it just wasn't enough light.
With ISO 1600 available, I tried my doll shots. There's no image stabilization, but I got fairly sharp shots at 1/25 second at ISO 1600 and even 1/8 second at ISO 400 in the late afternoon. The color and detail was not much different between the two either.
Appraisal. While it's an attractive design at an irresistible price with fun accessories designed to appeal to women, the V803's shutter lag and oversaturated image capture really disappoint. As a fashion accessory it has the goods; it's only missing the diamonds. But as a camera, it just doesn't measure up.
- 8.0 megapixel sensor
- Kodak Retinar 3x optical zoom lens (26-108mm 35mm equivalent) with 4x digital zoom
- Anti-blur mode
- 23 Scene modes
- 2.5-inch LCD
- VGA movies at 30-fps with sound and video bookmarking
- 32MB internal memory of which 24MB is available for picture storage
- Available in a wide range of colors
- Kodak Perfect Touch Technology
- Kodak Color Science image processing
- Accessories include bags, skins, beaded straps, and fashion bags
- On-camera Share button
- EasyShare Software
In the Box
The Kodak EasyShare V803 ships with the following items in the box:
- Kodak EasyShare V803 zoom digital camera
- Kodak lithium-ion rechargeable digital camera battery KLIC-7003
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- 5V AC adapter with power cord for in-camera battery charging
- Getting Started Guide with Kodak EasyShare Software
- Custom camera insert for optional Kodak EasyShare camera docks and printer docks
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. These days, a 1GB or 2GB card is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
As much as I liked the design and feel of the V803, I was disappointed in its real-world performance. Much of that can be explained away by the $200 price tag, but it was so hard to read the LCD and "catch the moment" with this camera that I quickly put it aside. Focus was very slow and shutter lag consequently horrible. And when I did look over the images, they were far too saturated with too much contrast in sunlight.
It did manage to capture a few things well. I liked the Macro shots I took and I liked the ISO 1,600 captures, too. Neither of those pluses, though, are likely to be appreciated by the user Kodak hopes this model attracts. For them, the casual shot is most likely going to get away while the V803 tries to find focus.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.
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