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Kodak DC3800

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 10/1/2000

Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Kodak DC3800's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the Kodak DC3800 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the Kodak DC3800 performed better than we expected for such a simple camera with essentially no exposure controls. The camera produced very good color balance throughout most of our testing, and was also up to the challenge of some of our more difficult lighting situations. (Most particularly the indoor portrait shot, taken under strong incandescent lighting: Most cameras have a very hard time with this shot, but the DC3800 did very well.) The camera's white balance system produced nearly accurate results most of the time, though we noticed a slightly warm cast in some of the images. The DC3800 accurately reproduced the large color blocks in the Davebox test target, and tonal handling also looked good, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target were visible up to the "B" range. Despite the slightly warm color cast, the DC3800 did a great job with color balance.

Resolution on the Kodak DC3800 was slightly below average for a two megapixel digicam, with a resolution value that we "called" as between 600 and 700 lines per picture height in the horizontal and vertical directions respectively. Still, when you look at other cameras that will likely be close to the price of the DC3800, you'll find a lot of 1.3 to 1.5 megapixel models, which the DC3800's resolution far exceeds.

The DC3800 operates in automatic exposure control at all times, with no exposure control available to the user (with the exception of the flash mode). Most of the time, this isn't a problem , but for high-key subjects (very bright overall), it has severe difficulties: Our outdoor portrait shot came out very dark (as it usually does when no exposure compensation is applied). This sort of shot isn't terribly common, but if you spend a lot of time at the beach, or want to shoot winter scenes with snow, the DC3800 wouldn't be your first choice.

The DC3800 performed reasonably well in our low light tests, as we obtained bright, useable images as low as four foot-candles (44 lux). We were impressed with color balance and detail, and the very minimal amount of noise in the images. To put the DC3800's low light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot candle, so you'll find it most useful in reasonably well-lit indoor scenes.

The DC3800's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only about 79 percent of the final image area. The LCD viewfinder produced only slightly more accurate results, showing approximately 83 percent of the final image area. Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DC3800 falls a short of our expectations in this area, although there's a good argument for tight viewfinders on point & shoot cameras: They help keep people from cutting off subjects' heads in the resulting photos! The close match between optical and LCD viewfinders is also good for a point & shoot camera, as it will be less likely to confuse users than the more usual combination of an accurate LCD with a tight optical viewfinder. We also noticed that images framed with the optical viewfinder appear slanted towards the lower right hand corner of the frame (this could be due to a shifted CCD in our test unit, which often results in a slanted image though the optical viewfinder appears square on the target).

The DC3800 performs less well than average in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 9.22 x 6.09 inches (234.28 x 154.79 mm) at the normal macro setting. With the 2x digital telephoto turned on, the DC3800 captures a minimum area of 4.61 x 3.05 inches (117.14 x 77.40 mm). This is enough to let you get reasonably close to small objects, but the DC3800 wouldn't be your first choice if you like pictures of itty bitty bugs, small jewelry, etc. Color balance looks great, though resolution and detail are slightly soft in both images. We did notice that resolution stayed relatively crisp with the digital telephoto enabled. The DC3800's built-in flash does a great job of throttling down for the macro area, though slightly tricked by the shiny coin.

Even though the DC3800 doesn't provide any exposure control (with the exception of flash mode) we were still impressed with the results of our tests. Color balance looked good in most cases, and the camera's white balance system did a good job of matching our light sources. We would like to see more accurate optical and LCD viewfinders, as well as a zoom lens, but a zoom would admittedly add dramatically to its cost. Our biggest criticism is that even a camera intended for point & shoot users really needs an exposure-compensation control: This wouldn't have added significantly to the camera's complexity, but would have brought big benefits to users. Overall though, the DC3800 does a surprisingly good job in a surprisingly wide range of conditions. Compared to a 1.3 or 1.5 megapixel camera with similar features at close to the same price point, it should be an easy choice.

With its fully automatic exposure control, and basic uncomplicated design, the DC3800 is perfect for those consumers who don't want to mess with exposure settings to take good pictures. The extremely compact design makes it one of the most portable cameras we've seen, and the smooth, curvy design is perfect for single-handed operation. However, if you fancy yourself a "prosumer" shooter, you may miss the exposure override features found in many of today's digicams. The only exposure option you have is to set the flash mode. We suggest using Fill flash for the majority of images, as it will help fill in shadows and reduce contrast in bright sunlight. Don’t expect great results in a dark room or for nighttime photography. The camera's flash does not have the capacity or power. But for picnics and birthday parties, where you want a tiny camera you can just drop in your pocket as you're going out the door . . . shoot on!

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