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Kodak DC3800

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DC3800 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 10/1/2000

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)

NOTE: We normally include shutter times and aperture values in our tables, for those readers interested in such things (geeks like us ;-). Unfortunately, the JPEG files produced by the DC3800 appear to not include this information, at least not in a form accessible to any of our usual file tools. So... Don't e-mail us, we didn't forget the information, it just weren't there!

Outdoor portrait: (465k)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Kodak DC3800 had a fair bit of trouble handling this extreme tonal range. Since the camera doesn't have any white balance or exposure compensation adjustments, we couldn't really tweak the exposure or change the color balance at all. Most cameras significantly underexpose this shot, given the high overall brightness: This is a good example of where you'd normally want to use exposure compensation to correct for the camera's normal tendencies. There's no exposure adjustment on the DC3800 though, so you have to live with what you get. While it's always preferable to get usable images right out of the camera, we did wonder what this shot would look like with just a very simple tonal adjustment applied to it. Here's the result of a gamma adjustment in Photoshop (465k), which should be pretty equivalent to a combination of contrast reduction and brightening in a consumer-level imaging application. The result is a reasonably well-exposed image, although the areas that were brought up from deep shadow now show a fair amount of noise. To its credit though, the DC3800 made the correct overall exposure choice of leaving just a hint of detail in the strongest highlights, avoiding loss of image information there. The image is a bit softer than those from higher-end 2 megapixel digicams, but there's nonetheless good detail present overall. Also, other than the very dark tone, the color is quite good overall as well. (The skin tones looked quite ruddy in the original, but that was a result of the underexposure. Simply lightening the midtones produced a good skin color.)

Closer portrait: (576k)
Again, the DC3800 has a bit of a hard time with the very high-contrast subject, although less so, now that the model's face fills more of the frame. Now though, it has another problem, in that its wide angle lens distorts the model's features because we had to get so close. - This is quite typical of any digicam with a fixed focal-length lens: Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots. The image again shows good detail, although is still slightly soft. As noted, overall exposure looks slightly better than the wider Outdoor Portrait, though the skin tones still seem a little pink. We also noticed that the color of the house siding looks more accurate.

Indoor Portrait, Flash: (483k)
After the hard time it had with the high contrast/high brightness images shot outdoors in full sun, we were quite surprised by how well the DC3800 did on our indoor shots. In this test, the DC3800's built-in flash does a good job of illuminating the subject while maintaining a nice color balance. A warm cast does persist throughout the image (due to the strong incandescent lighting in the room), but the color balance in the flowers looks pretty good (though the blue flowers are somewhat light). The camera seems to have used a slower shutter speed, apparently contributing to a slight blurring of the model's head. (This might also have been a depth of field limitation, as the flower are sharper.) Still, the shot looks quite nice, with very appealing color: Many much more expensive digicams have a much more difficult time with this test. We also shot with the camera's Red-Eye Reduction (513k) mode, which does a nice job of eliminating the Redeye Effect. One complaint we do have about Kodak's red-eye modes though, is that the delay between the pre-flash and the main flash is quite long. This gives the subject's eyes time to contract their pupils, but also gives the subject time to blink. Our model here had to deliberately not blink, to avoid getting a shot of her with her eyes closed. For some reason, the overall exposure is somewhat darker with this shot, and the model's head is a little soft-focused relative to the flowers.

Indoor portrait, no flash: (567k)
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the DC3800's white balance system does a surprisingly good job. We say "surprisingly" because, even with no white balance or exposure adjustments, the DC3800 produced a very nice shot, with nearly accurate color balance. The skin tones are slightly magenta again, but the white shirt has a nice, accurate white tone, as do the flowers. The entire image is a little noisy, and just like in the flash portrait, the model's head is a little soft-focused. While the exposure here is actually pretty decent, we did try a minor tonal adjustment on the picture, with this (567k) very pleasing result. Overall, a very nice job on a tough shot for this very basic camera.

House shot: (488k)
NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the DC3800 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original (501k) house poster.

The DC3800's white balance system again does a good job with this shot, although the image appears just a hair warm. Overall really excellent color on this image though. In the areas we generally look to see the finest details here (branches against the sky, most notably), the image seems rather soft. On the central part of the house and the shrubbery though, it's a good deal sharper. It seems that the DC3800's lens falls off in sharpness somewhat as you get toward the edges of the frame. A moderate amount of noise is visible in the roof shingles as well as in the shadow areas of the house. (For all our talking about how sharp or soft the DC3800's images are, it's instructive to compare them to a 1.5 megapixel camera: No question about it, the 2 megapixels of the DC3800 make a huge difference!) In-camera sharpening is just barely visible (we noticed about a pixel's worth of a halo effect around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line). The table below shows the full range of resolution and quality settings for the DC3800.

Resolution/Quality series

Far-Field Test (540k)
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 DC3800 does a very nice job with this shot, producing excellent color balance throughout. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range of fine detail viewable in a natural scene from a distance like this. Shot with the lens focused at infinity, this image looks much crisper than the studio tests, as seen in the pine needles and tree branches against the sky. (Although the DC3800's version of this shot is a little hard to compare with those from cameras having zoom lenses, as the fixed-focus wide-angle lens means that we had to move up pretty close to the house, which also meant we were a fair bit below it, looking up.) Fine details in the bricks and shrubbery also look better, though still just a little soft. Corner sharpness is also much better. We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this image, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The DC3800 does a reasonably good job here, though it loses most of the detail in the bright bay window area. Although there aren't very many extreme shadow areas, the DC3800 loses some detail in the darker portions of the trees and shrubs. Overall, another surprisingly good performance from a very simple camera. The table below shows the full resolution and quality series for the DC3800.

Resolution/Quality series

Musicians Poster (470k)
The DC3800's white balance system again did a nice job, producing a fairly accurate color balance throughout the image, although there's a somewhat greenish cast overall. But not too severe: Because the overwhelming amount of blue in this shot often tricks digicams, we're pretty impressed with the DC3800's performance. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is almost right, but appears a little bright (another common problem area for digicams). As with our other test shots so far, resolution looks a little soft compared to higher-end 2 megapixel cameras, though a fair amount of detail is visible in the bird wings and silver threads on the blue robe (as well as in the flower garland of the blonde model and the beaded necklaces of the African-American model). A moderate amount of noise is present throughout the image, mostly visible in the blue background. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series

Macro Shot (575k)
Thanks to its wide angle lens and somewhat large minimum shooting distance, the DC3800 isn't a fantastic performer in the macro category. In this test, it captured 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 (124k) turned on, the DC3800 captures a minimum area of 4.61 x 3.05 inches (117.14 x 77.40 mm). Color balance looks great, though resolution and detail are a little lacking in both images. We did notice that resolution stayed relatively crisp with the digital telephoto enabled. The DC3800's built-in flash (547k) does a great job of throttling down for the macro area, though slightly tricked by the shiny coin.

"Davebox" Test Target (552k)
The DC3800 does a nice job with the color on this shot, although the overall white balance is just a little bit toward the green. The large cyan, magenta and yellow color blocks look pretty accurate, although the cyan and yellow blocks are a little undersaturated. The DC3800 picks up the hue difference between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (a problem area for some digicams, as they try to blend the two colors together into one). Exposure also looks good, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are visible up to the "B" range (another common problem area for digicams). The shadow area of the briquettes shows a reasonable amount of detail, with moderately high noise, and most of the details in the white gauze area are visible as well. Overall a surprisingly good image from this very simple camera. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series

Low-Light Tests
Though the DC3800 had a little difficulty with the extreme low-light shots, from 1/2 of a foot-candle down to 1/16 of a foot candle (5.5 to 0.67 lux), it produced a good image at 4 foot-candles (44 lux), a usable one at 2 foot-candles (22 lux), and at least saw the target at 1 foot-candle (11 lux). Color balance became warmer with less light, and the images much dimmer. Still, given the DC3800's exposure control limitations, we think it did an excellent job with this low light source, managing to keep noise levels at a minimum. To put the DC3800's low light performance in perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle. Thus, the DC3800 should produce good images under even moderately dim indoor lighting, but probably not outdoor scenes at night. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

8 fc
88 lux

4 fc
44 lux

2 fc
22 lux

1 fc
11 lux


Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available.) Kodak rates the DC3800's flash as usable from 1.6 to 8.2 feet (0.5 to 2.5 m), though we found the flash still reasonably effective all the way to 14 feet. We did notice that each image had a slightly warm color cast. The flash was definitely brightest from about eight to 10 feet, then slightly decreased in brightness with each additional foot of distance to the target. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft
9 ft
10 ft
11 ft
12 ft
13 ft
14 ft

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (545k)
With no exposure compensation adjustment, the camera's automatic exposure system renders the white resolution target quite dark. Resolution is a notch below higher-end 2 megapixel cameras we've tested, at 650 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and 600 in the vertical, although detail is visible to 700 lines or so in the vertical direction.

Resolution/Quality series

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the DC3800's optical viewfinder (215k) to be very tight, showing approximately 79 percent of the final image area. The LCD viewfinder (219k) was only a little more accurate, 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 didn't meet our expectations in this area. (Although we admit that the pure point & shoot camera user might be more confused by differences between the two viewfinder types. Tight viewfinder coverage is a common point & shoot design feature, to help keep people from cutting off their subject's heads. - In their photos, that is. ;-) We also noticed that images framed with the optical viewfinder are rotated clockwise about 0.8 degrees. (This is a distressingly common digicam viewfinder defect that the user can learn to compensate for, but which should obviously never be faced with. Our test unit was from a "first-production" factory run, so we don't know whether production units will show this problem or not.)

Optical distortion on the DC3800 is quite low, as we measured only a 0.2 percent barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration is also relatively low, showing about two or three pixels of coloration on each side of the black target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) This is more chromatic aberration than we'd like to see, but it appears to be confined to only the outermost corners of the image, which reduces its severity. Flash coverage looks a little dim overall, although we were surprised it wasn't darker yet, given the lack of exposure compensation adjustment. There's also some falloff in the corners of the image.

Looks like about ~600 lines vertically and horizontally. Moiré patterns seem to start around 600 - 650 lines. Chromatic aberration looks like about two or three pixels on either side.


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